If southern living has eluded you and you’re curious as to what the fuss is about, Charlotte, North Carolina, is the perfect place to visit to experience authentic southern living.
Charlotte has many things to offer. From entertainment and athletics to art, there’s so much to enjoy in this beautiful city. We’ll show you our 23 favorite things to do and why we love each.
23 Best Things to Do in Charlotte, NC
Charlotte, NC boasts a rich and diverse culture and history; their storied arts directly reflect the city’s immense cultural diversity. The town has a bevy of entertaining attractions that is sure to captivate the attention of any man, woman, or child visiting the city.
1. Go for a Ride at Carowinds
Carowinds is the thrilling outlet that you and your family need. Nestled on the North Carolina-South Carolina border, this exhilarating and family-friendly attraction features more than 100 attractions and rides, the likes of the daunting yet enthralling Drop Tower.
Apart from the numerous rides, there’s a wealth of water slides, gentle rides, and restaurants situated throughout the theme park. If you have the little tikes in tow, attractions such as Snoopy and the Peanut gang are sure to put on some live performances for them to enjoy!
2. Interact With Animals at Zootastic
Zootastic Park is conveniently located 35 miles north of downtown Charlotte, and it happens to be one of North Carolina’s biggest attractions when it comes to excitement.
Here animals are not merely something to experience visually, from a healthy distance that is. Zootastic Park takes it to another level, facilitating a host of animal encounters where guests can carefully and safely feed and touch various animals.
The list includes lemurs, kangaroos, armadillos, baby spider monkeys, etc. Incorporated into the festivities are informative, educational programs. Enjoy the safari-like drive-through attraction and family-friendly atmosphere!
Read Next: The Best Zoos in the United States in 2023
3. Learn About Science at Discovery Place
Here science is not reduced to mundane experiments and monotonous explanations which will only serve to bore a child. At Discovery Place, science is brought to life in a fascinating way.
With the help of cutting-edge IMAX Dome films, science is fun and able to keep the attention of children of all ages. Children have the opportunity to catapult objects into the air, observe the human body’s life cycle or even have the unique experience of laying on an unnerving amount of nails.
World’s Alive is something that you can’t miss. Here the little ones can learn about many different species with dramatic photography and hands-on labs included.
4. Enjoy the Attractions at the Whitewater Center
Suppose you and your crew are thrill-seekers, then a trip to the Whitewater Center will be more of a rewarding experience than you think. The attractions feature over 30 different recreational activities to try, so there will most certainly be something there for everyone to enjoy.
Here you all can do a little bit of everything, including mountain biking, yoga, hiking, ziplining, whitewater kayaking, a ropes course, ice skating, climbing, and more.
There are also some great restaurants located directly on the property, so you won’t have to worry about what to do when it’s time to feed the family.
You can catch some live performances at the center; they happen throughout the year, so chances are you’ll have the opportunity to witness one during your visit.
5. Have a Blast at Frankie’s Fun Park
Frankie’s Fun Park features over 100 different arcade games, a two-story laser tag zone, bumper cars, 24 bowling lanes, and a fun three-story playhouse for the kids.
Uniquely, Frankie’s Fun Park features computer-generated experiences, which are among their newest attractions.
Try out an immersive game such as The Dark Ride that gives you the sensation of actually being in the movie and a part of the acting rather than merely watching it.
6. Relax at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is an excellent opportunity to relax and align with nature. Here you will witness elegant fountains, charming gardens, and a conservatory designated for orchids and other tropical plants to be enjoyed visually.
Additionally, nature trails and a useful garden store will be there to take advantage of.
There’s even a children’s garden here for the kids to explore and enjoy. There are perennial and annual displays, rotating exhibits, and other events throughout the year.
7. Visit the Freedom Park
Freedom Park is a massive park that encapsulates a 7-acre lake. The park features athletic fields, a playground, and paved trails for hikers and bikers.
There’s a steam engine here, and as you can imagine, the kiddos will love to observe it and walk into the accessible cab. If you’re ever in town in late September, make sure that you experience the Festival in the Park.
This vast arts and crafts festival includes excellent food, family-friendly fun, and live music. This festival has been providing entertainment and indelible memories since 1964.
8. Check Out the NASCAR Hall of Fame
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a great place to visit whether you’re a NASCAR fan or not. People of all ages, including children, can enjoy the 150,000 square foot Hall of Fame venue that happens to be state-of-the-art.
Although this site is dedicated to fans of the sport, there are interactive exhibits like racing simulators that will entertain even people who know nothing about the sport.
There’s even a cutting-edge theater for your entertainment capable of holding just under 300 people. Suppose you and the crew get hungry at the facility; stop by your on-site Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.
You can buy and take home a souvenir or two from the NASCAR Gear Shop. This venue truly pays homage to the icons from the past, from drivers, and crew members, to team owners or the sport!
9. Explore the Billy Graham Library
This is an intriguing venue for anyone interested in learning more about Billy Graham, perhaps one of the most famous pastors in North America. The 40,000 sq ft free entrance library is where you will learn of his life and rich legacy.
The venue is situated on 20 acres of beautiful landscape, and it is intriguingly located very near where the pastor grew up. You can explore the grounds by yourself or for a sensible fee you can take an hour and a half guided tour.
10. Watch a Baseball Game at BB&T BallPark
BB&T BallPark is a legitimate baseball stadium that hosts the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A International League minor league baseball team. This is a fantastic place to take the family out for a great time.
As you sit in the stands, you also can witness beautiful skyline views.
There is no shortage of local food vendors, and parking is not a hassle whatsoever. If treating the family to an unforgettable time is the goal, buying premium tickets to access suites may be worth your while.
11. Watch Live Performances at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Blumenthal Performing Arts Center opened in 1993 and is the perfect place to witness some special performances during a musical or a play.
The theater features comfortable seats designed with fantastic acoustics to optimize your experience. All seats within the theaters offer a great vantage point to view the stage.
Although there are no places to eat on their premises, if you show your tickets before and after the evening’s entertainment, you will receive a 10 percent discount from the restaurants who partner with them.
12. Go on a Secret Mission at Black Out
This is an out-of-the-box adventure that you and the family can enjoy together. Black Out takes friendly competition and emphasizes skill and strategy to gain the upper hand.
As a Black Agent, you’ll be tasked with completing a top-secret mission on par with James Bond’s exploits.
Spend time deciphering codes to save the world from an impending zombie apocalypse and solving clues to escape a prison. This immersive venue is an excellent experience for the family to enjoy together.
13. Take Your Kids to ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center
ImaginOn is regarded as the Children’s Theatre. It also serves as a fun library with additional attractions designed for the children’s enjoyment.
There are many activities for your children to get into, including a Lego playing area, magnetic poetry wall, board games, and touch screen activities. Let your children’s imaginations run wild at this exciting venue.
There’s an open market next door where hunger becomes an issue. There are vending machines in the venue, should someone need a snack or two to quiet the hunger.
14. Jump to Your Heart’s Content at DefyGravity Charlotte
DefyGravity is a trampoline sports park and is the ideal place for children with lots of energy to burn some of it off while jumping and running around this fantastic facility.
This place features trampolines from wall to wall, and the building is an impressive 26,000 sq ft. It has a large Trampoline Dodgeball cage and a sprawling Olympic Foam Pit designed to induce tremendous fun.
This is a popular venue within the city. It’s partly an entertainment site and partly a gym. Allow your little ones to run around and have some fun that they won’t forget for a long time afterward.
15. Eat Delicious Fruits at the Hall Family Farm
The Hall Family Farm is a beloved activity in Charlotte. The farm has been in business for more than seven decades, and you’ll get to go out there and hand-pick plump and juicy pumpkins and succulent, sweet strawberries.
You get to go out on a hayride and enjoy covered picnic tables. Kids love the multitude of available activities to keep them engaged all day.
The best part? It’s a free event that lets you keep your hand-picked goods for a sensible price. The game also sells jams, bread, ciders, salsa, hot drinks, and salsa.
16. Go Shopping at the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
The Sleepy Poet Antique Mall takes shopping to another level of enjoyment, hosting over 200 different booths where you can find jewelry, pictures, vintage clothing, books, antique furniture, and more.
Those who love to shop for antiques will appreciate this mall having more than 50,000 square feet of space, making for an enjoyable adventure.
The aisles can accommodate parents with babies, who might be using a wagon or a stroller, and there are tons of food trucks throughout the mall in case the kiddos get restless. Cupcake Delirium is among the most popular snack stops to keep their attention if they get restless!
17. Go Birdwatching at Wing Haven
One of the most underrated activities to engage in while in Charlotte, NC, is to relax at Wing Haven. If you love birds or appreciate a quiet space to regroup and collect your thoughts, the serenity of Wing Haven is perfect.
This unique location was created to provide a special nesting place for bites to obtain food and water. You can also find other wildlife here within the walls of the sanctuary.
In addition to various bird species, there’s incredible plant life, and the walls keep everything protected. It’s an excellent place to take children also.
18. Cool Down at Romare Bearden Park
Romare Bearden Park is a public park spanning five acres, and the locals love it! A local artist named Romare Bearden received the honor of having this park named after him, and it features plenty of places for children to roam around and play.
There’s also a lot of sitting space and playground toys to keep kids entertained. Additionally, there’s a welcome waterfall fixture where you can cool down when it’s really hot outside.
The lush green grass and shrubs make for a lovely family picnic space, and if you come out in the evening during the summer, it’s like a concert.
19. Splash Around at Ray’s Splash Planet
Boasting nearly 30,000 square feet of space, Ray’s Splash Planet is a must for the whole family. As the largest water park in the city, you’re guaranteed hours of fun.
They have a whirlpool, slides, a fitness center, inner tube rides, a dance studio where you can practice aerobics, and more. Essentially, there’s something for everyone.
One aspect that families love is that it doesn’t matter how well you swim when you come to visit Ray’s. The options for each level are decorated in different areas of the park.
There’s a shallow pool for toddlers and deeper pools with water sports like basketball and volleyball. With reasonable admission fees, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Splash Planet.
20. Go on a Tour at Rosedale Plantation
Sometimes it’s fun to take a trip back in time. During the 1900s, it was a simpler time, and the Rosedale Plantation gives you a taste of that life. Nearly nine acres of hundred-year-old trees and well-kept grounds make this a fantastic place to explore history.
Archibald Frew built the house in 1815, and it is currently thought of as one of the most architecturally exquisite buildings in North Carolina. Public tours are always available, as constant restoration takes place in the gardens.
21. See the Artwork at Mint Museum Uptown
If you’d like to see European, American, and other contemporary art pieces, the Mint Museum Uptown is an excellent place to check out unique works.
The craft and design of the art are notable throughout the city, and you have the chance to see the wood and glass artwork developed over the years. The most popular is the Lewis Family Gallery. One of the best aspects of the museum is that they constantly change the exhibits.
That makes it so that everyone sees new artwork and doesn’t get bored with the same pieces each time they visit. Depending on the season, you could see a different lineup from the previous visit.
Also, they have a fantastic restaurant on the premises where you can drop by and enjoy a meal after your tour through the museum. Lastly, the gift shop has some intriguing souvenirs to take with you on your way home.
22. Go on an Adventure at Codescape
Similar to an escape room, Codescape lets guests delve into solving puzzles and cracking codes. If you and your friends or family love a good crime adventure, you’ll enjoy Codescape.
One example of the type of interactive activities they host is Shipwrecked. You and your group will pretend to be archaeologists and attempt to get the treasure first.
There are also cool space adventures where you’re trying to figure out who’s the alien, all while cracking codes and solving challenging puzzles. It’s a fun experience working with others to beat the game; teenagers take quite a liking to Codescape!
22. Hike at the McDowell Nature Center and Preserve
The McDowell Nature Center and Preserve features an outdoor amphitheater, an exhibit hall, and native animals, and it’s a premier location that educates visitors about the natural ecosystem.
The nature center is a fantastic place to take your family, as you’ll find numerous simple trails to navigate.
There are also multiple playing areas for children, a lake for canoeing excursions and fishing adventures, and a water fountain for canines. Better yet, there are even camping facilities so you can turn it into a fun weekend with nature activities.
Things to Consider
When you visit Charlotte, there are a few things to know that will help you get the most out of your vacation:
For starters, the rush hour traffic in Charlotte can be unbearable. Between 7:30 AM and 9:00 AM, you’ll want to avoid the roads as much as possible. The same is the case during rush hour from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM.
If you have attractions that you want to participate in that start during these timeframes, make sure to leave well in advance so that you’re not late.
Charlotte’s temperatures are average in the respective seasons. You’ll experience 32°F temperatures in the winter and over 90°F during the summer. You’ll be pretty hot if you visit in summer, so plan accordingly in terms of activities and clothing, and sunscreen.
While Uptown is one of the more popular parts of town (which is actually downtown Charlotte), ensure that you venture out to see other neighborhoods.
The brewery district, for example, has a lot of great bars and restaurants, and the arts district is fantastic as well. Go out and explore the city! You’ll likely need a car to travel through Charlotte or take public transportation.
It’s not as walkable as some other smaller cities. Some neighborhoods are explorable by foot, but for many, you’ll need the public light rail or local bus. The best option is to get your rental car.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions about entertainment in Charlotte, NC:
When is the best time to visit Charlotte?
It’s best to plan your trip to Charlotte from March to May or September to November. These are the months when the hotels aren’t as expensive, and the city isn’t so crowded.
Is Charlotte worth visiting?
Charlotte is a great city to visit with its historic architecture, southern charm, urban bars, and restaurants. There are plenty of family attractions, couples attractions, and events you can attend, even if traveling alone. It’s a city worth visiting!
How far is Charlotte from the beach?
It’s about a three-hour drive to get to one of the nicer beaches in the state, known as Carolina beach. The waters are clear, and the sand is golden. It’s an excellent opportunity to take a quick road trip if you’re visiting Charlotte.
What food is Charlotte known for?
While there are many foods that people love to sample when they come to Charlotte, BBQ is one of the most popular foods associated with the city. Ensure that you schedule a trip during the summer when you can get some of the tastiest barbecue lamb, chicken, and pork ribs on the East coast.
Is Raleigh better than Charlotte?
If you’re trying to decide which city to move to, it’ll come down to your preferences. Charlotte is a big city with lots to do, more action-filled, whereas Raleigh gives more of a suburban feel with plentiful job opportunities. Charlotte is the better option for attractions and events in terms of vacations.
Over to You — Book Your Charlotte Adventure Today!
The best thing to do in Charlotte, NC, depends on your interests, how many people you’re with, whether small children are in tow, and your budget!
There are free activities such as venturing to the beach or a local park and paid events like theme parks and museums that aren’t expensive.
With a city as rich in history, culture, and diverse activities as Charlotte, you’re sure to find something fun and creative to do during your time in town.