Charlotte, North Carolina, known as Queen City, is home to great attractions like Carowinds theme park, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and a vibrant city center. The heart of downtown Charlotte is the neighborhood known as Uptown, home to many of the best attractions in Charlotte, making a weekend visit very easy to plan. The top things to do in Charlotte involve the arts, the great outdoors, and incredible museums.
Carowinds: Charlotte For Thrill Seekers
Thrill-seekers should consider a couple of days at Carowinds, located at 14523 Carowinds Blvd, just off I-77 in Charlotte. Carowinds is where the Carolinas come together for fun and is the only theme park in the country to straddle the border of two states. The entrance sits on the edge of North and South Carolina, with a sidewalk marker that traces the state line.
The park’s theme highlights the unique culture and food of the Carolinas – right down to southern-style rocking chairs to relax. With close to 60 world-class rides, Carolina Harbor water park, live entertainment, Camp Snoopy, and downhome Carolina cuisine, thrill-seekers and families have plenty to enjoy for a day or a weekend. Vacation packages, meal packages, and discount multi-day tickets are available.
For a more “natural” thrill-seeking adventure, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a world-renowned whitewater rafting center, home to the world’s largest manmade whitewater rafting river. The center offers a variety of experiences for novice to experienced rafters. The Whitewater Center also offers kayaking and SUP water activities, mountain biking, rock climbing, jumping, ropes courses, and ice skating, taking full advantage of this beautiful region of the state.
Best Museums in Charlotte
The museum district is located in Uptown, aka downtown Charlotte. The area is easily walkable, with numerous hotels and a variety of restaurants.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is probably the best-known museum in Queen City. More than a museum, the NASCAR Hall of Fame preserves the history of this racing motorsport developed in the Carolinas.
The family-friendly hall of fame and museum offers guided tours on select dates for die-hard fans. Interactive exhibits, kid-favorite Lightning McQueen, and an onsite restaurant add to the experience. Several ticket options are available, as well as money-saving memberships for NASCAR fans.
Bechtle Museum of Modern Art
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art displays 20th-century modern art in a 4-story building filled with natural light in the heart of Uptown. The museum is wheelchair accessible and family-friendly. Special events throughout the year bring music and art together for a multisensory experience. Free museum admission is offered every Wednesday from 5-9 p.m., and parking discounts are provided to those who park in the Levine Center for the Arts garage.
Gantt Center for African American Arts
A block away, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture, locally called the Gantt Center, is at 551 S Tryon Street. The Gantt Center was created to offer the public access to African American culture through its exhibitions, the performing arts, and interactive educational programs. The Gantt Center works with the people of Charlotte and the UNCC college community to stay relevant and engaging. Those who park in the Levine Center for the Arts garage can get a parking discount – just ask at the admissions desk.
Charlotte is Rich in Museums
The Mint Museum Uptown at the Levine Center for the Arts is one of two locations for the Mint Museum. The Mint Museum has two locations, and each site offers different collections. The uptown location features the Craft + Design collection and American, contemporary, and European art. Tickets to the Mint Museum are valid for two consecutive days and can be used at both locations. The Mint Museum Uptown also participates in Wednesday Night Live, with free admission from 5 to 9 p.m.
While not located downtown, the Mint Museum Randolph, located at 2730 Randolph Road in Charlotte, is the original museum location. It opened in 1936 in what was once a United States Mint facility. Today, it houses art collections of the ancient Americas, ceramics and decorative arts, and European and African art. Like the Uptown location, the Mint Museum Randolph offers free admission on Wednesday nights.
This location is set in a park-like setting and hosts special events on the grounds. Parking at the Randolph Road location is free. Both Mint Museums have extensive programming for kids, with free kids’ activities available at the admission desk.
Top Things for Families
Charlotte’s got a lot of family-friendly attractions that offer space to run, play and discover.
Tucked in among the shiny high-rise buildings of Uptown is “The Green,” at 425 South Tryon Street. This whimsical park is a green space with park benches, fountains, and fun art installations. Winding paths make it a great place to unwind after visiting museums all day.
Discovery Place Nature and Science
Discovery Place Nature, next door to Freedom Park, brings nature to the city. This museum introduces kids to wildlife, insects, and underground animals native to the region. Nature trails and the “Fort Wild” playground inspire curiosity. This museum is open from Friday to Monday and has free on-site parking. Purchase tickets online for greatest convenience.
Discovery Place Science brings science to life for kids and families. The Thinker Space Lab lets kids discover what it takes to turn an idea into reality, whether with traditional tools like woodworking, sewing, and soldering or with modern technologies like 3D printers. Other exhibits and live presentations, plus an IMAX theater, provide a variety of ways to discover science. The museum has its own paid parking and offers discount tickets when purchased online.
Freedom Park, a gem in the city’s heart, is a large park just a few miles south of the Uptown neighborhood that offers hiking trails, tennis courts, and a children’s playground. A small lake with a paved walkway and picnic areas provides a quiet place to relax and unwind. The park is a gem in the heart of the city.
Whether visiting Charlotte for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, attending a Carolina Panthers NFL game, or playing at Carowinds, stay a while and explore some other top things to do in Charlotte.
Article written by Karen Dawkins of Family Travels on a Budget.
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