10 Ways to Experience the Queen City
Ten unique things to do on your next adventure in Charlotte.
by Beth Castle
There are a wealth of ways to experience the Queen City. Whether you’re a thrill seeker in need of a rush (see No. 2 and No. 5) or an expert shopper (No. 8 and No. 10 are for you), Charlotte will keep you rocking around the clock.
Experience the thrill of racing from start to finish. In the heart of Center City, this museum features relics from famed NASCAR drivers—cars, fire suits, trophies, helmets and more—as well as interactive exhibits. Walk through a hauler, practice a pit stop or test your skill in a racing simulator. Don’t forget to pay your respects in the Hall of Honor, the exhibit dedicated to NASCAR’s legends and Hall of Fame inductees.
Spend a fun-filled day at the city’s largescale amusement park. Seated on the North and South Carolina state line, this amusement park is home to Fury 325, the world’s fastest and tallest giga coaster; Carolina Harbor water park; and numerous thrill rides, live shows and events. Take the little ones to Planet Snoopy for family-friendly fun, visit County Fair to experience 1950s fanfare or race into Victory Lane on the Intimidator, an 80-mph coaster inspired by racing legend Dale Earnhardt.
Learn about the far-reaching impact of Charlotte native Billy Graham, a noted evangelist who, during more than 55 years of ministry, reached millions through radio and television broadcasts, films, literature, training, events and more. Designed to mimic Graham’s humble beginnings, the 40,000-square-foot library, seated on 20 landscaped acres, features The Journey of Faith tour, which details Graham’s upbringing and rise to international ambassador through video clips and memorabilia. A replica of Graham’s boyhood home also sits on the property.
Enjoy an all-access pass to Charlotte’s vibrant arts collections. Purchase a $20 ticket from the Levine Center for the Arts, located in Uptown off South Tryon Street, and you’ll have 48 hours to explore the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for the African-American Arts + Culture, and the Mint Museum Uptown at your own pace. In addition to popular permanent exhibits, the museums also feature speakers, film festivals, monthly jazz ensembles and more.
Home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, this 1,300-acre haven is a wet-and-wild introduction to the great outdoors. In addition to Class II to IV rapids, the center offers kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour, mountain biking and 30-plus miles of trails. Before you go, check out the center’s events and special offers: Adventure Dining, a summer concert series and annual festivals draw locals and visitors year-round.
Tee off without breaking a sweat in one of TopGolf’s climate-controlled hitting bays. At this premier golf entertainment complex, you’ll hit real golf balls into a state-of-the-art outfield while Bay Hosts (Topgolf’s wait staff) keep you fed and watered. With a variety of difficulty levels to choose from, a varied menu, more than 200 HDTVs, and a rooftop terrace and fire pit, the facility is ideal for families, friends and coworkers alike.
Take in the city’s architecture, landmarks and more on a guided Segway tour of the city. While cruising through Uptown or one of the surrounding neighborhoods, you’ll learn how each inlet came to be and what makes it unique today. Specially tailored tours even dive into the city’s food scene, with stops (and tastes) at mainstay Charlotte restaurants. And nightly haunted exhibitions detail the city’s spookiest spots.
Just off the LYNX Blue Line light rail, this beloved urban market offers gourmet sandwiches, fine wine, craft beer, artisan pizza and more. Pick up a souvenir at CLT Find, which sells city-inspired swag, or let your stomach do the shopping: It’s Poppin Gourmet Kettle Corn comes in inventive flavors such as fried chicken and cotton candy, and Zia Pia Imports, Orrman’s Cheese Shop and The Gâteau Baking Company package tasty treats that are, to put it simply, good enough to eat on the spot.
Discover the South’s diverse history at this hands-on museum in Center City. In addition to hosting a variety of temporary works, the museum features a cornerstone exhibit that details Charlotte’s and the South’s development since the Civil War. With mock houses, farms, shops and churches, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” invites guests to see, hear and, yes, even touch the South through 1,000-plus artifacts, images, video and music clips, and oral histories.
Flex your spending muscles at Charlotte’s premier retailers. Anchored by Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, SouthPark Mall offers high-end shopping at Tory Burch, Tiffany & Co., Lilly Pulitzer and more. Charlotte Premium Outlets, on the other hand, is a bargain hunter’s paradise, with deep discounts at sought-after brands such as Kate Spade. For a literal one-stop shop, check out Concord Mills, which, in addition to shopping, has an in-house aquarium and a movie theater. Leave room in your wallet for boutique shopping, too; small-scale retailers in Dilworth and Myers Park pack a big punch.