The official travel resource

Beyond City Limits

Just a short drive away, you'll find high-speed thrills, scenic parks, peaceful vineyards and lots more.
Get up close and personal with a zebra at the Lazy 5 Ranch, a drive through park and safari in Mooresville, NC.
Get up close and personal with a zebra at the Lazy 5 Ranch, a drive through park and safari in Mooresville, NC.

If you have time to explore beyond Charlotte city limits, here are some ideas for short day trips and excursions.

Just Beyond Charlotte

U.S. National Whitewater Center – This popular outdoor recreation center is only about a 15-minute drive from Charlotte proper. You can easily spend an entire day rafting, hiking, ziplining and eating at the Center’s on-site restaurant. Many events are held here, from Olympic trials to live music shows.

Crowders / Kings Mountain – Fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing and more outdoor activities are available at these parks, just a short drive from Charlotte.

Carowinds – On the border of North and South Carolina, this is the area’s biggest and best theme park. One of its newest roller coasters is NASCAR-themed and named after Dale Earnhardt. There’s also an adjacent water park, Boomerang Bay.

Historic Brattonsville – Experience living history, including the African-American story, at this 775-acre Revolutionary War site. Explore the Bratton Plantation, owned by three generations of the Bratton family.

Lake Norman – The largest man-made lake in the Carolinas, Lake Norman is a great spot to rent a boat, go out on the lake and enjoy a leisurely summer day.

Reed Gold Mine – Kids and adults can enjoy panning for gold, taking guided tours of the restored underground tunnels and stamp mill, looking at gold and mining equipment in the visitor center, and watching a film on the North Carolina gold rush. A picnic area and trails on the property make it a perfect way to spend the whole day.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden – This garden is beautifully landscaped, with 380 acres of fountains, paths and flowers. It also features an Orchid Conservatory glass house, seasonal displays, exhibits and special events, along with classes on wildlife, photography, fine art, floral design and more. You can bring a picnic lunch and spend the day here.

Historic Latta Plantation – This site is located in nearby Huntersville. Costumed interpreters, historic displays and hands-on activities show visitors what life was like for the planters, yeoman farmers and enslaved African-Americans of the North Carolina backcountry in the early 19th century. See the home of James Latta, built ca. 1800, as well as original and replica outbuildings and historic farming practices and livestock. There are regular events and workshops.

Carolina Raptor Center and Latta Equestrian Center – These popular attractions are located on the grounds of the Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve. Go horseback riding, and see the bird of prey at the Raptor Center, along with daily demonstrations.,

Lazy 5 Ranch – North of Charlotte, the Lazy 5 Ranch is a privately owned exotic animal drive-thru park that offers a 3.5-mile safari, petting areas, a black smith shop, gift store, horse barn, play ground and picnic areas. 

Ballantyne Spa & Golf – This luxury hotel property in South Charlotte offers a great escape with a full spa and 18-hole championship golf course.

Charlotte Motor Speedway and race shops – The speedway is in Concord, about a 15 or 20-minute drive away, but you could spend all day touring the speedway and visiting local race shops, many of which host their own behind the scenes tours. Race shops include Michael Waltrip Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Hendrick Motorsports, etc.

NASCAR Hall of Fame’s “Ultimate Fan Experience” bus tour – This full-day tour conveniently starts in Charlotte with a visit to the Hall of Fame. Merchandise discounts and transportation to the speedway and area race shops are included.

More Than an Hour from Charlotte

Vineyards and Tours – Wineries and tastings are about an hour to hour-and-a-half drive away. If you go through a tour company, you can easily stop by several in one day. Popular vineyards include

North Carolina Zoo – The zoo is on 500 acres with 1,100 animals and 40,000 plants along five miles of shaded pathways. There are multiple picnic areas, a playground, dining options and more. About 1 hr 40 mins away.

Grandfather Mountain – The highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountain range and a globally recognized nature preserve, the mountain offers amazing 360-degree views and a mountaintop visitors center. About 2 hrs 20 mins away. 

Linville Caverns – Very close to Grandfather Mountain (about a 25-minute drive), Linville Caverns features cool cave tours where you can see ancient stalactites and stalagmites.

Chimney Rock Park – Another great hiking destination, this park features great views and a waterfall. It’s about 2 hours away near Lake Lure.