Fun Things to Do in Charlotte
Experience Charlotte like a local with our list of 101 (or maybe a few more) fun things to do in and around Queen City.
101 Fun Things to Do in Charlotte
Experience Charlotte like a local with our list of 101 (or maybe a few more) fun things to do in and around Queen City.
by Kristen MooreU.S. National Whitewater Center
Whether you’re looking for unique culinary or brewery experiences, museums, live music, shopping, sports, outdoor adventure, or family fun, Charlotte’s got it going on. Check out our ultimate list of fun things to do around town.
History & Tours
1. Peek into Charlotte’s past at the Levine Museum of the New South, The Charlotte Museum of History (home to the county’s oldest-surviving structure, Hezekiah Alexander Homesite).The Billy Graham Library – Photography by Kate Magee
2. Retrace Charlotte native and Christian evangelist Billy Graham’s dynamic journey from a North Carolina dairy farm to stadiums across the globe at The Billy Graham Library. Admission is free (closed on Sundays).
3. Learn about the nation’s 11th U.S. president on a tour of his birthplace, the President James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville.
6. Follow Uptown’s Charlotte Liberty Walk, a series of bronze plaques and monuments that detail the city’s vital importance during the American Revolution, or the Trail of History on Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which highlights the key people who’ve contributed to the area’s growth. Don’t miss the Captain James Jack statue. Legend has it, he carried the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to the 1775 Continental Congress. The city still celebrates every year on May 20, aka Meck Dec Day.
Funny Bus Comedy City Tour
7. Tour Center City and neighboring historic districts your way: in a horse-drawn carriage with Charlotte Center City Carriage Tours, on a Segway or bike with Charlotte NC Tours, by a lantern with Carolina History & Haunts, during Funny Bus Comedy City Tour’s BYOB stand-up routine or during an adventure with C-Charlotte Tours or Queen City Rides.
Food & Drink
9. Order popular plates from the kitchens of James Beard-nominated chefs, including Joe Kindred of kindred Restaurant in Davidson and Hello, Sailor in Cornelius, Gregory Collier of Leah & Louise at Camp North End, Paul Verica of The Stanley, or Bruce Moffett of Stagioni, Good Food on Montford and Barrington’s in Charlotte. Charlotte Regional Farmers Market – Photography by Kyo H Nam
10. Experience the flavors of the region’s bounty by stocking up on locally grown produce and goods at popular area farmers markets, like the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Uptown Farmers Market, North End Farmers Market, South End Market at Atherton Mill, Kings Drive Farmers Market, Davidson Farmers Market and more.
12. Feast on authentic Southern cuisine like fried chicken, flavor-packed down-home sides and desserts, and savory meat-and-threes at local favorites like at La’Wan’s Soul Food Restaurant, Mert’s Heart and Soul and Soul Central.
Midwood Smokehouse – Photography by Kyo H Nam
15. Taste innovative cuisine from the kitchen of “Top Chef” alum Jamie Lynch at La Belle Helene and 5Church; experience seasonal, sustainable fare from chef William Dissen at Haymaker, who beat Gordon Ramsay on an episode of “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted” on National Geographic; or order what Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host Guy Fieri did at spots like JJ’s Red Hots, Cabo Fish Taco, Bang Bang Burgers, Pinky’s Westside Grill and more.
16. Go meatless at the city’s creative vegetarian eateries. Living Kitchen offers raw foods in locations throughout the city, while Fern, Plant Joy, Oh My Soul, VelTree, and Bean Vegan Cuisine are local favorites.
17. Explore the world’s flavors at the city’s international hot spots. Tasty African dishes at Enat Ethiopian Restaurant, Latin American nosh at Machu Picchu Peruvian Cuisine & Bar, or Eastern specialties at Grand Asia Market.
18. Order fare with flair from one of the city’s hosts of beloved food trucks like Another!? Food Truck, The TIN Kitchen, Romeo’s Vegan Burgers, Yummi Banh Mi or Detour Coffeebar.Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen – Photography by Jamey Price
20. Dine aboard the Catawba Queen Mississippi riverboat or Lady of the Lake luxury yacht on Lake Norman on a dinner cruise with Queen’s Landing Sightseeing & Dinner Cruises.
Amélie’s French Bakery – Photography by Kate Magee
22. Get a jolt of caffeine at a local coffee haunt. Not Just Coffee, Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery, or HEX Coffee are just a few of the popular spots that offer eclectic energy-infused beverages.
23. Savor the creamy goodness of freshly churned ice cream from local favorites like Two Scoops Creamery, Elizabeth Creamery or La Michoacana.NoDa Brewing Company – Photography by Kyo H Nam
24. Check out what’s on tap at any of the region’s 60-plus breweries. Try German varieties at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, organic brews at Lenny Boy Brewing Co., or award-winning pours at NoDa Brewing Company.
25. Hop on the Trolley Pub or Pedal Pub Charlotte to see the sights while you sip, or go from brewery to brewery with City Brew Tours.
29. Spend a day exploring the Charlotte-area wine country on the Swan Creek Wine Trail, which boasts four vineyards only 5 miles apart, or Childress Vineyards, Shelton Vineyards, or Treehouse Vineyards, where you can sip wine in a rented treehouse.
30. Relax with a refreshing and different kind of adult beverage from one of the city’s cideries. Taste real North Carolina apples brewed in Red Clay Ciderworks’ varieties, try “heirloom-apple” ciders at GoodRoad CiderWorks, or sip fresh-pressed pours at Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Camp North End – Photography by Justin Gollmer
31. Grab a spot under the water tower for live music at Camp North End. Explore more than a dozen food and drink spots, shops and art collectives, 50+ murals, and stay a while at the outdoor seating across 76 acres.
33. Head to District 57 to explore 20,000 square feet of food, libations, games, and challenges to feed your soul and test your skills.
The Fillmore at the AvidXchange Music Factory
34. Make it a night out at the AvidXchange Music Factory at dining, music, and nightlife hotspots like The Fillmore Charlotte, The Comedy Zone, VBGB Beer Hall & Garden, The Underground, World Nightclub, La Revolución, and Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre.
35. Hang at one of Charlotte’s hidden gems of nightlife. With a cobblestone walkway as its signature feature, Brevard Court is home to Courtyard Hooligans, The Cotton Room at Belfast Mill, Day & Night Exotic Cereal Bar, Valhalla Pub & Eatery, French Quarter Restaurant, and more.
37. Trade your briefcase for a jam session at the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s River Jam concert series. In the spring and fall, spend Thursday nights at Sunset at The Metropolitan. Or catch an open-air concert at PNC Music Pavilion.
Nuvolé Rooftop TwentyTwo
38. Relish stunning skyline views at Charlotte’s best rooftop restaurants and bars. Fahrenheit , Nuvolé Rooftop TwentyTwo, Cloud Bar by David Burke and Merchant & Trade in Uptown, Whiskey Warehouse in Plaza Midwood, and The Gin Mill in South End are all Instagram-worthy options.
39. Experience an intimate concert at the historic Visulite Theatre in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood. For an art gallery ambiance, try The Evening Muse, which features original artists in a wide variety of genres.
Outdoors & Adventure
Charlotte Joy Rides – Photography by Kyo H Nam
41. Take on the class II-IV rapids by raft or kayak at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, home of the largest man-made whitewater river in the world.
42. Ride the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, the 325-foot-tall Fury 325, at Carowinds amusement park.
43. Stroll through the tranquil grounds at Charlotte-area gardens like Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, McGill Rose Garden, Wing Haven Gardens & Bird Sanctuary or UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens.
44. Make a splash at any of Charlotte’s water spots. Paddleboard, canoe or kayak on the Catawba River, Lake Norman and Lake Wylie. Or take a dip in The Quarry at Carrigan Farms.
45. Take in the city’s protected wilderness at Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve, McDowell Nature Center and Preserve, Latta Nature Preserve or Anne Springs Close Greenway.
46. Rent a four-person paddleboat from Dave’s Paddle Boats at The Shoppes at University Place.
47. Explore Charlotte’s urban parks—The Green, Romare Bearden Park or First Ward Park. During the warmer months, spend the afternoon playing in the parks’ fountains.
48. Grab a cozy blanket, prepare a yummy lunch and pack up the family for a picnic at Freedom Park or Park Road Park.
49. Rent an electric two-wheeler from Charlotte Joy Rides, one of the largest urban bike-sharing systems in the Southeast, or a “dockless” scooter from Lime, Bird or Spin, and explore Uptown and surrounding neighborhoods.
50. Roam the Charlotte Rail Trail. Along the way, cafés, bars, galleries, artists at work, impromptu concerts and more bring the streetscape in South End to life.
51. Get a glimpse the Charlotte skyline from the top of Crowders Mountain State Park. The 25-mile view is your reward for traversing the park’s extensive trails.
Sir Purr – Photo courtesy of Carolina PantherCarolina Panthers Fan FestAHL Finals – Photo courtesy of Charlotte CheckersCharlotte KnightsCharlotte Motor Speedway – Photography by Kyo H Nam
GoPro Motorplex – Photography by Jamey Price
58. Tee off at one of Charlotte’s recognized golf courses: the wetland-shrouded 15th hole of Rocky River Golf Club or the private Quail Hollow Club (if you have a connection), which has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship and the PGA Championship.
59. Explore the region’s auto racing roots at Charlotte Motor Speedway, home of NASCAR’s only 600-mile race. The speedway hosts the Coca-Cola 600, and the Bank of America Roval 400. In Uptown, the NASCAR Hall of Fame clinches the fan experience with racing simulators, pit crew experiences and tributes to NASCAR’s legends.
60. Feel the adrenaline rush during high-speed driving experiences with Richard Petty Driving Experience and NASCAR Racing Experience. On a smaller (though no less thrilling) scale, race go-karts at The SpeedPark at Concord Mills,Victory Lane Karting, K1 Speed or GoPro Motorplex.
61. Don your seersucker and sundresses for the prestigious Queen’s Cup Steeplechase, the Charlotte area’s only horse-racing event, held annually in April.
Shopping & Spas
SouthPark Mall – Photography by Kate Magee
Charlotte Premium Outlets – Photography by Kate Magee
Paper Skyscraper – Photography by Kate MageeThe Ritz Spa, Charlotte – Photography by Jamey PriceThe Spa at Ballantyne – Photography by Jamey Price
62. Find some of the most sought-after, luxurious brands around at SouthPark Mall. Anchored by Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, the mall carries cult favorites like Lululemon, Burberry, Tory Burch and American Girl.
64. Explore the local shops and designer boutiques sprinkled along vibrant East Boulevard in Dilworth. Offerings include Revolution Clothiers & Co., Vestique, One Twenty Two Boutique, Abode, Paper Skyscraper and more.
65. Spruce up your digs after a trip to North Carolina’s only IKEA, home of modern décor with Swedish ingenuity.
66. Channel your inner interior designer in South End, which is becoming the Queen City’s prime design distict. Whatever your pleasure—used or new, contemporary or traditional—find it at stores like LaDonna Antiques & Interiors, South End Exchange, Amodernary Furniture Designs, Karen Saks Showroom and Cowbridge Furniture.
67. Discover vintage wonders and reclaimed relics at area antique and consignment shops. Find consignment goods at Dilworth’s Sweet Repeats and J.T. Posh and antiques at Sleepy Poet Antique Mall on South Boulevard and Classic Attic at Park Road Shopping Center.
Arts & Culture
The Firebird at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art – Photography by Cody Hughes
70. Snap a picture in front of the phoenix-like Firebird, designed by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, on the plaza at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
71. Download the Arts & Science Council’s Public Art Walking Tour to explore the unique public art in the Queen City, including several frescoes painted by North Carolina native Ben Long, or explore murals and more on a Charlotte ArtWalk.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
72. Admire the awe-inspiring exhibits that fill the Mint Museum Uptown and Randolph locations and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. Or get a Levine Center for the Arts Access Ticket for 48-hour admission to these museums plus the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
73. Catch an award-winning Broadway show during the Blumenthal Performing Art’s PNC Broadway Lights Series each year or cheer “Bravo!” at a performance by Opera Carolina, the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas.
74. Enjoy the melodious sounds of the Charlotte Symphony, led by nationally acclaimed conductor Christopher Warren-Green and resident conductor Christopher James Lees. In the summer, enjoy a picnic-style show during Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops series at Symphony Park at SouthPark Mall.
75. Discover the passion of performance when the Charlotte Ballet takes the stage at Knight Theater, Belk Theater, or the Patricia McBride & Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance.
78. Collect your artistic earnings at the original branch of the U.S. Mint at the Mint Museum Randolph.
79. Enjoy a themed dinner and Broadway-style Christian musical, featuring live animals and inspiring music, at NarroWay Theater.
81. Quote a scene from one of the many classic productions performed at Theatre Charlotte, the state’s oldest active community theater.