Popular Charlotte Activities Every Visitor Should Try Once

This city has long been known for its banking industry, however Charlotte also delivers fun in big doses. In fact, kid-friendly Charlotte has ranked among the best family vacation destinations, according to TripAdvisor. The region also appeals to friends, couples and solo travelers. What makes it so special? These Charlotte activities, of course. Keep reading to find the top things to do and major attractions in this thriving region.

Charlotte Activities: Things to Do on Vacation in North Carolina

charlotte activities brewery tour

Sample Local Beer

Charlotte is no stranger to beer. The city’s 30-plus breweries provide a place for beer lovers to gather and indulge in area flavors. The Charlotte beer scene has become so popular guests even find festivals, classes, and relaxing hot spots to take family and friends.

Visitors are welcome to select a couple breweries or explore them all. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to sample local beer is scheduling a local beer tour. Charlotte Brewery Tours ranks among top-rated options with its teal and purple bus and local guide. A few stops include NODA, Catawba, Triple C and Bold Missy.

See Sites and Museums

Charlotte also has other sites and must-sees. Nicknamed Queen City – after King George III’s wife when the city was chartered in 1768 – the city offers a mix of modern amenities paired with Southern history. Today, greater Charlotte serves among the largest financial centers in the U.S., but also welcomes visitors to witness the history that helped develop the area.

Start by exploring different museums specializing in art, history, sports, aviation and nature. In addition, families will find kid-friendly attractions and places to learn and play together. A few favorites include Billy Graham Library, ImaginOn, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Mint Museum Randolph, Carolinas Aviation Museum, Wells Fargo History Museum, and Discovery Place Science, to name a few.

In addition to museums, Charlotte has points of interest. Historic homes and plantations tell the story of Southern history and industry. Meanwhile, area churches and cathedrals display the importance of faith and religion. Then explore farms, cemeteries and public art.

charlotte sports nascar

Watch Big Names in Sports

Ranked among the top Charlotte activities, the city’s sport scene has put the region on the map with professional and collegiate fans. Cheer for favorites in NBA, NFL, NASCAR, rugby, soccer and more. BB&T Ballpark hosts Charlotte Knights, a minor league baseball team. Watch NFL’s Carolina Panthers play Bank of America Stadium and NBA’s Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. Other arenas include Ovens Auditorium, Bojangles Coliseum and Charlotte Convention Center.

However, one of the most popular is Charlotte Motor Speedway. This track hosts NASCAR Cup Series events as well as local up-and-comers. Racing fans also enjoy cheering at zMax Dragway, GoPro Motorplex and The Dirt Track. For an in-depth look at the sport, don’t miss North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Mustang Owner’s Museum, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Petty Museum.

Explore Outdoors

Outdoor enthusiasts also find an abundance of popular Charlotte activities. The area offers dozens of parks, family-friendly hangouts, and nature preserves perfect for hiking, biking and wildlife watching.

To see Charlotte’s four-season weather, head to McDowell Nature Center and Preserve. Hike trails, use public boat ramps, fish – which requires a NC State fishing license – and bird-watch. Other outdoor attractions include Freedom Park, UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens and the popular Lake Norman.

charlotte things to do lake norman

Photo: Josh Duncan on Unsplash

Don’t Miss Lake Norman

One of the area’s biggest draws is Lake Norman, the largest man-made body of fresh water in the state. It offers 520 miles of coastline perfect for boaters, jet-skiers, anglers and sailors. The lake is located a short drive from Uptown and has marinas, rentals and gear.

In addition to the lake, the area also provides ways to have fun on land. Live performances and festivals bring everyone together for good times and tasty food. Or check out Lake Norman’s nightlife, shopping, spas and wine tastings.

Get Chills and Thrills

For thrill rides and slides, head to Charlotte’s amusement and water parks. Three attractions welcome all ages to ride and play. Start at Carrowinds, which has roller coasters, thrill rides, family favorites and laid-back options for young children.

When visiting Carrowinds, spend time at Carolina Harbor – one of the top water parks in the South. This outdoor attraction features multiple slides, lazy river, rapid pools, splash pads and wave pools.

Ray’s Splash Planet offers a different experience. This must-see operates an indoor water park with slides, a lazy river, current pools, and play area suited for families with children. After playing at these attractions, join the fun at Great Wolf Lodge Water Park and Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium in nearby Concord, North Carolina.

charlotte things to do vacation

Dine and Shop

No matter where visitors end up, they need a place to recharge. This is where the city’s dining and shopping scenes deliver. The Queen City has 20 distinct neighborhoods and districts with shops, restaurants, and events.

Known as the heart of the city, Uptown serves as the thriving downtown area. Its skyline has high-rises, upcoming developments, landmarks and services. If exploring other neighborhoods — such as Midtown, South End or University City — pick up souvenirs and ask for local hot spots.

For retail therapy, shoppers select from outlet malls, public markets and outdoor centers with big names in fashion, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and services.

Outside Charlotte Activities: Head to Nearby Asheville

If these Charlotte activities aren’t enough to keep everyone entertained, consider a day trip. The city provides easy access to Blue Ridge Parkway and Asheville, North Carolina. Blue Ridge Parkway, a.k.a. America’s Favorite Drive, runs from Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. No big trucks are allowed on the Parkway, and the speed limit is only 45 mph. Plus, there’s only one way to explore it – at a slow, laid-back pace.

While driving Blue Ridge Parkway, stop in Asheville. This city houses Biltmore Estate – America’s largest home – as well as Biltmore Gardens, a thriving local art scene, historic sites and raved-about shopping.

Read more about the area and find Charlotte vacation rentals. Then find more things to do in North Carolina.