Charlotte, North Carolina is a cross between classic Southern charm and a burgeoning business and financial center. For the perfect mixture Southern hospitality, with a city vibe, and a dash of NASCAR, a trip to the beautiful Charlotte, NC can’t be beat.
Whether you’re planning your first visit to the city of Charlotte or you’ve been to the area several times in the past, there’s no shortage of enjoyable, family-friendly activities to keep you busy. We’ve rounded up 25 top-rated activities – including both free and paid activities – to help you plan a fabulous trip below.
1. Three Hour Southern Food Bicycle Tour
Experience the beautiful city of Charlotte, NC while stopping at some of the best restaurants the city has to offer on this three-hour bike tour. An expert guide will lead your group around the city while stopping by local favorite restaurants – both on and off the beaten path. Experience the super trendy Sauceman’s, for instance, which was rated as one of the best restaurants for a taste of delicious southern barbecue. Charlotte is known for its comfort food, including fried chicken, barbecue, chicken wings, and cornbread, and this tour promises to please your taste buds.
2. Charlotte Curling
The Charlotte Curling Association has a new facility ready to teach you about the Olympic sport of curling and raise awareness about this underrated sport both in Charlotte and throughout the Southern United States. The Association has grown to over 150 members since being founded during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and has lessons and events catering to everyone from first-timers to professionals. Youth lessons even start as young as 6 to train the next wave of Olympic athletes.
Cost: $25 for a lesson
3. Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has been one of the most popular hotspots for art enthusiasts since 2010, with a great main exhibit and a world-renowned slate of artists on view. The museum doesn’t shut down after dark, featuring regular after-hours sessions where you have a more intimate view of the art on display. Prior to the opening of the Museum, the main collection was held privately by the Bechtler family of Switzerland with only a few ever being on display in the U.S.
Cost: Adult $8, Senior $6, Students $6, Youth (11-18) $4
4. SEA LIFE Charlotte Concord Aquarium
The Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium is a popular destination for both children and adults alike with a brand-new Turtle Shelter, awesome behind-the-scenes tours, and even great birthday party options. You can observe the feeding of the various animals such as sharks, rays, octopus, and more that happen all throughout the day, an experience included with the cost of admission. For those who would like to learn more about the day to day life of an aquarist at Sea Life, there is a behind-the-scenes tour that takes about 20 minutes and happens every 30 minutes.
Cost: Adult $15.95 online, Children $10.95 online
5. Self-Guided Charlotte Scavenger Hunt
Put on your walking (or running) shoes to see the best parts of Charlotte with the Self-Guided Charlotte Scavenger Hunt. You’ll take about 2 hours to walk around 2.4 miles and learn about the history of Charlotte, from the modern days of NASCAR to the old Elmwood Cemetery and more. Great for any size group, the unique challenges will ensure everyone in the group can participate in trivia and photo challenges and maybe even top the leaderboard. The start and end times are totally up to your group, so it’s great for a fun way to see the city on your own schedule.
6. Charlotte Comedy City PG-13 Tour
Located on 7th Street in downtown Charlotte, NC, the Charlotte Comedy City PG-13 Tour is a 90-minute comedy-themed bus tour through the historic Queen City. The tour guide will show you the most famous landmarks and make sure that you have fun and laugh while you’re at it. The family-friendly, PG-13 version is offered on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Oh, you can also bring your own beer and wine for an extra-good time.
7. Biltmore Estate and Wine Tasting from Charlotte
A breathtaking 8,000-acre winery and gorgeous estate-style manor located just outside Charlotte, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate and Winery is a must-see for any wine enthusiast who finds themselves in the area. Try one or a few of over 20 award-winning wines and enjoy the majestic scenery, with a bite of handcrafted cheeses and local truffles. Make sure to visit during the holidays to see their amazing Christmas decorations, guaranteed to get you in a festive mood.
Cost: $375 for two guests
8. Charlotte Museum of History
Located in East Charlotte, NC, the Charlotte Museum of History and Hezekiah Alexander Home Site resides on an 8-acre campus. The beautiful and historic buildings seek to bring memory to the unique and awe-inspiring history of the Carolinas, specifically the events surrounding the American Revolution. Earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hezekiah Alexander House is a must-see; it was built in 1774 and still stands on its original site.
Cost: Adults $10, Children 6-17 $6, Seniors 47, Military $5
9. NASCAR Hall of Fame
Publicly-owned by the City of Charlotte, NC, officially licensed by NASCAR, and situated in the Uptown Charlotte region, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a high-tech and interactive attraction that any NASCAR fan is guaranteed to love. Opened in 2010, it contains lots of artifacts and race car exhibits, as well as boasting a theater, gift shop, and even a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.
Cost: Adult $25, Senior (65+) $22,Military and Youth $18, Children (3-7) $12
10. Discovery Place Science
Part of a network of four interactive museums in the Eastern Carolina region, Discovery Place Science seeks to educate and inspire children by engaging them in the wonders of STEM fields. Discovery Place Science is a high-tech and impressive museum in Uptown Charlotte, NC, which underwent an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation in 2010 to become one of the leaders in STEM youth education.
Cost: Adult $17, Children $13, Seniors $15
11. Mint Museum Uptown
Located within the Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte, NC, the Mint Museum Uptown is an art museum that houses several historic and iconic collections of fine art and culture from around the world. They are currently showcasing the Craft + Design collection, as well as boasting an impressive display of American and European arts and artifacts.
Cost: Adult $15, Senior $10, Student $10
Whether you’re after amusement park rides, shows and entertainment, fine dining, games, or holiday celebrations, Carowinds has something for the whole family to enjoy together. Located in southeast Charlotte, NC, it’s a must-see for any traveler. Boasting an impressive collection of rides, Carowinds also brings the holiday cheer with their Winterfest Celebration. Tickets are under $40, making it an affordable family-friendly activity.
13. Carolinas Aviation Museum
With incredibly-affordable admission for everyone ($12 for adults, $8 for children), it’s never been easier to discover a passion for flying than at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, NC. With an extensive collection of all types of aircraft, from military planes and helicopters to small planes and commercial jets, everyone can learn about the innovations that changed the world and brought us all closer together.
Cost: General $12, Seniors $10, Students and Active Military $8, Veterans $9.00
14. Levine Museum of the New South
Located on 7th Street in Downtown Charlotte, NC, the Levine Museum of the New South is an interactive museum that educated and informs visitors about the history of the South following the Civil War. Learn about the Reconstruction Era and the people of the South, as well as civil and social issues that continue to persist to this day, as well as learning how you can get involved and make a difference.
Cost: Adults $9, Seniors and Students $7, Children $5
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to experience firsthand the feeling of being trapped by a bad guy, needing to escape a dangerous place or rushing to uncover an artifact? Located on Louise Avenue in Downtown Charlotte, NC, Codescape can show you exactly what it feels like to be a character in a movie. They specialize in interactive and themed escape rooms, where you and your friends can work together or compete in thrilling adventures. Book a slot today.
16. Historic Rosedale Plantation
Visit the beautiful grounds of the Historic Rosedale Plantation to be transported back to a time when blacksmith shops and stone floors were abundant, around 200 years ago. While the grounds themselves are a treat all their own, the twice-daily tours of the home, one of the oldest in Charlotte, really makes this trip stand out. Everything from the period clothing to the artisan demonstrations to the beautifully restored house will bring you back to the Charlotte of old, and you won’t want to miss it.
Cost: Adults $10, Students and Seniors $8
17. Lost Duffer Miniature Golf
The Lost Duffer Miniature Golf course is a beautifully maintained 18 holes and suitable for the whole family to enjoy. The course will challenge the veteran golfers in the group while also remaining super accessible to the younger, or less golf-inclined members. This course is part of the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation system and takes you on an adventure through a gold mining camp of the 19th century, including a water wheel where more than a few veteran mini-golf players have lost their golf balls.
18. Doc Porter’s Owner Guided Distillery Tour
The Distillery Tour at Doc Porter’s is an attraction that can’t be missed. You’ll learn all about how they make vodka, gin, and bourbon with grain grown on a farm a mere 40 miles away, and you’ll also have the opportunity to sample the exceptional spirits. The under-21 crowd can still join; however, they aren’t able to partake in the sampling. If, at the end of the tour, you’re interested in taking home some of the tasty liquors, you’re able to buy up to five bottles, but no more than five in a year to any one person – so choose wisely.
Cost: Mini tour $7, Owner tour, $15
19. Mint Museum Randolph
The Mint Museum Randolph is named for the original outpost of the U.S. Mint and has inhabited the space since 1936. The Museum showcases art from Europe and Africa, as well as ancient American art. On top of the main exhibits, the event catalog is jam-packed with ways to learn more about the exhibits, view touring exhibits, and even hear from world-renowned lecturers from around the world.
Cost: Adults $15, Students $10, Children $6
20. Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary
Ridgewood Avenue in Charlotte is one of the meccas for old Southern garden history, and Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary showcases the best of nature ranging from beautifully kept plants to birds and other wildlife that call the sanctuary home. You can wander the gardens by yourself, take a tour, or even join an event to learn even more about the sanctuary. The Wing Haven Gardens features content that’s great for both young visitors and adults to learn from renowned horticulturists from across the nation.
21. Hall Family Farm
The Hall Family Farm has been family-owned and operated for over 70 years. Bring the whole family to get an in-depth look at family farm life. Get in touch with nature and enjoy strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the fall. They also have hayrides through a corn maze. And, snacks abound with funnel cakes, ice cream, donuts, and more.
Cost: $8 for corn maze
22. Charlotte’s Historic South End Food Tour
Charlotte is a foodie’s dream city. You can find everything here from amazing barbecue to gourmet fare from the farthest regions in the world. So, if you’re a food nerd, then this is the food tour for you. It’s a walking tour, so you can burn some of those calories and work up your appetite. You’ll also meet the chefs behind the meals and learn more about their background and techniques. Not to mention, you get a first-hand perspective of the historic south end of uptown Charlotte.
Metalmorphosis is a stunning piece conceived by Count Riprand Arco, Founder and Chairman of American Asset Corporation. It is located at the Whitehall Corporate Center and features a water element and choreographed movement. Have a seat and watch metalmorphosis for a few minutes for an experience you won’t soon forget.
24. Hendrick Motorsports Complex
Hendrick Motorsports is owned by Rick Hendrick who has a passion for NASCAR. In fact, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 12 car owner championships within NASCAR’s premier division. Visiting the team store is free of charge. You can learn about the the history of Hendrick Motorsports, and take in the state-of-the-art facilities.
25. The Billy Graham Library
If you’re a fan of America’s Christian history, then you should check out the Billy Graham library. Billy Graham is one of the world’s most famous televangelists. He’s also served as a religious minister for several American presidents. Even if you are not a Christian, it’s interesting to see the library and its history. There are changing displays, family activities, and more. The library is open Monday through Saturday and closed on major holidays.
As you can see, you’ll have plenty to see, do and eat in Charlotte. Whether you’re visiting a museum or participating in engaging activities, the fun goes on and on.