101 Fun Things to Do in Charlotte
Experience Charlotte like a local with our list of 101 (or maybe a few more) fun things to do in and around the Queen City.
by Kristen Moore
Whether you’re looking for unique culinary or brewery experiences, museums, live music, shopping, sports, outdoor adventure or family fun, Charlotte’s got it going on. Check out our ultimate list of fun things to do around town.
History & Tours
2. Retrace Charlotte native and Christian evangelist Billy Graham’s dynamic journey from a North Carolina dairy farm to stadiums across the globe at The Billy Graham Library. Admission is free (closed on Sundays).
3. Learn about the nation’s 11th U.S. president on a tour of his birthplace, the President James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville.
6. Follow Uptown’s Charlotte Liberty Walk, a series of bronze plaques and monuments that detail the city’s vital importance during the American Revolution, or the Trail of History on Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which highlights the key people who’ve contributed to the area’s growth. Don’t miss the Captain James Jack statue. Legend has it, he carried the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to the 1775 Continental Congress. The city still celebrates every year on May 20, aka Meck Dec Day.
7. Tour Center City and neighboring historic districts your way: in a horse-drawn carriage with Charlotte Center City Carriage Tours, on a Segway or bike with Charlotte NC Tours, by lantern with Carolina History & Haunts, during Funny Bus Comedy City Tour's BYOB stand-up routine or during an adventure with C-Charlotte Tours or Queen City Rides.
Food & Drink
9. Order popular plates from the kitchens of James Beard-nominated chefs, including Joe Kindred ofKindred Restaurant in Davidson and Hello, Sailor in Cornelius, Gregory Collier of Leah & Louise at Camp North End, Paul Verica of The Stanley, or Bruce Moffett of Stagioni, Good Food on Montford and Barrington’s in Charlotte.
10. Experience the flavors of the region’s bounty by stocking up on locally grown produce and goods at popular area farmers markets, like the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Uptown Farmers Market, North End Farmers Market, South End Market at Atherton Mill, Kings Drive Farmers Market, Davidson Farmers Market and more.
12. Feast on authentic Southern cuisine like fried chicken, flavor-packed down-home sides and desserts, and savory meat-and-threes at local favorites like at La’Wan’s Soul Food Restaurant, Mert’s Heart and Soul and Soul Central.
15. Taste innovative cuisine from the kitchen of “Top Chef” alum Jamie Lynch at La Belle Helene and 5Church; experience seasonal, sustainable fare from chef William Dissen at Haymaker, who beat Gordon Ramsay on an episode of “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted” on National Geographic; or order what Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host Guy Fieri did at spots like JJ’s Red Hots, Cabo Fish Taco, Bang Bang Burgers, Pinky’s Westside Grill and more.
16. Go meatless at the city’s creative vegetarian eateries. Living Kitchen offers raw foods in locations throughout the city, while Fern, Plant Joy, Oh My Soul, VelTree and Bean Vegan Cuisine are local favorites.
17. Explore the world’s flavors at the city’s international hot spots. Taste African dishes at Enat Ethiopian Restaurant, Latin American nosh at Machu Picchu Peruvian Cuisine & Bar or Eastern specialties at Grand Asia Market.
20. Dine aboard the Catawba Queen Mississippi riverboat or Lady of the Lake luxury yacht on Lake Norman on a dinner cruise with Queen’s Landing Sightseeing & Dinner Cruises.
22. Get a jolt of caffeine at a local coffee haunt. Not Just Coffee, Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery or HEX Coffee are just a few of the popular spots that offer eclectic energy-infused beverages.
23. Savor the creamy goodness of freshly churned ice cream from local favorites like Two Scoops Creamery, Elizabeth Creamery or La Michoacana.
24. Check out what’s on tap at any of the region’s 60-plus breweries. Try German varieties at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, organic brews at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. or award-winning pours at NoDa Brewing Company.
25. Hop on the Trolley Pub or Pedal Pub Charlotte to see the sights while you sip, or go from brewery to brewery with City Brew Tours.
29. Spend a day exploring the Charlotte-area wine country on the Swan Creek Wine Trail, which boasts four vineyards only 5 miles apart, or Childress Vineyards, Shelton Vineyards or Treehouse Vineyards, where you can sip wine in a rented treehouse.
30. Relax with a refreshing and different kind of adult beverage from one of the city’s cideries. Taste real North Carolina apples brewed in Red Clay Ciderworks’ varieties, try “heirloom-apple” ciders at GoodRoad CiderWorks or sip fresh-pressed pours at Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill.
Nightlife & Entertainment
31. Grab a spot under the water tower for live music at Camp North End. Explore more than a dozen food and drink spots, shops and art collectives, 50+ murals, and stay awhile at the outdoor seating across 76 acres.
33. Head to District 57 to explore 20,000 square feet of food, libations, games and challenges to feed your soul and test your skills.
34. Make it a night out at the AvidXchange Music Factory at dining, music and nightlife hotspots like The Fillmore Charlotte, The Comedy Zone, VBGB Beer Hall & Garden, The Underground, World Nightclub, La Revolución and Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre.
35. Hang at one of Charlotte’s hidden gems of nightlife. With a cobblestone walkway as its signature feature, Brevard Court is home to Courtyard Hooligans, The Cotton Room at Belfast Mill, Day & Night Exotic Cereal Bar, Valhalla Pub & Eatery, French Quarter Restaurant and more.
37. Trade your briefcase for a jam session at the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s River Jam concert series. In the spring and fall, spend Thursday nights at Sunset at The Metropolitan. Or catch an open-air concert at PNC Music Pavilion.
38. Relish stunning skyline views at Charlotte’s best rooftop restaurants and bars. Fahrenheit , Nuvolé Rooftop TwentyTwo, Cloud Bar by David Burke and Merchant & Trade in Uptown, Whiskey Warehouse in Plaza Midwood, and The Gin Mill in South End are all Instagram-worthy options.
39. Experience an intimate concert at the historic Visulite Theatre in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood. For an art gallery ambiance, try The Evening Muse, which features original artists in a wide variety of genres.
Outdoors & Adventure
41. Take on the class II-IV rapids by raft or kayak at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, home of the largest man-made whitewater river in the world.
42. Ride the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, the 325-foot-tall Fury 325, at Carowinds amusement park.
43. Stroll through the tranquil grounds at Charlotte-area gardens like Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, McGill Rose Garden, Wing Haven Gardens & Bird Sanctuary or UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens.
44. Make a splash at any of Charlotte’s water spots. Paddleboard, canoe or kayak on the Catawba River, Lake Norman and Lake Wylie. Or take a dip in The Quarry at Carrigan Farms.
45. Take in the city’s protected wilderness at Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve, McDowell Nature Center and Preserve, Latta Nature Preserve or Anne Springs Close Greenway.
46. Rent a four-person paddleboat from Dave’s Paddle Boats at The Shoppes at University Place.
47. Explore Charlotte’s urban parks—The Green, Romare Bearden Park or First Ward Park. During the warmer months, spend the afternoon playing in the parks’ fountains.
48. Grab a cozy blanket, prepare a yummy lunch and pack up the family for a picnic at Freedom Park or Park Road Park.
49. Rent an electric two-wheeler from Charlotte Joy Rides, one of the largest urban bike-sharing systems in the Southeast, or a "dockless" scooter from Lime, Bird or Spin, and explore Uptown and surrounding neighborhoods.
50. Roam the Charlotte Rail Trail. Along the way, cafés, bars, galleries, artists at work, impromptu concerts and more bring the streetscape in South End to life.
51. Get a glimpse the Charlotte skyline from the top of Crowders Mountain State Park. The 25-mile view is your reward for traversing the park’s extensive trails.
58. Tee off at one of Charlotte’s recognized golf courses: the wetland-shrouded 15th hole of Rocky River Golf Club or the private Quail Hollow Club (if you have a connection), which has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship and the PGA Championship.
59. Explore the region’s auto racing roots at Charlotte Motor Speedway, home of NASCAR’s only 600-mile race. The speedway hosts the Coca-Cola 600, and the Bank of America Roval 400. In Uptown, the NASCAR Hall of Fame clinches the fan experience with racing simulators, pit crew experiences and tributes to NASCAR’s legends.
60. Feel the adrenaline rush during high-speed driving experiences with Richard Petty Driving Experience and NASCAR Racing Experience. On a smaller (though no less thrilling) scale, race go-karts at The SpeedPark at Concord Mills,Victory Lane Karting, K1 Speed or GoPro Motorplex.
61. Don your seersucker and sundresses for the prestigious Queen’s Cup Steeplechase, the Charlotte area’s only horse-racing event, held annually in April.
Shopping & Spas
62. Find some of the most sought-after, luxurious brands around at SouthPark Mall. Anchored by Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, the mall carries cult favorites like Lululemon, Burberry, Tory Burch and American Girl.
64. Explore the local shops and designer boutiques sprinkled along vibrant East Boulevard in Dilworth. Offerings include Revolution Clothiers & Co., Vestique, One Twenty Two Boutique, Abode, Paper Skyscraper and more.
65. Spruce up your digs after a trip to North Carolina’s only IKEA, home of modern décor with Swedish ingenuity.
66. Channel your inner interior designer in South End, which is becoming the Queen City’s prime design distict. Whatever your pleasure—used or new, contemporary or traditional—find it at stores like LaDonna Antiques & Interiors, South End Exchange, Amodernary Furniture Designs, Karen Saks Showroom and Cowbridge Furniture.
67. Discover vintage wonders and reclaimed relics at area antique and consignment shops. Find consignment goods at Dilworth’s Sweet Repeats and J.T. Posh and antiques at Sleepy Poet Antique Mall on South Boulevard and Classic Attic at Park Road Shopping Center.
Arts & Culture
70. Snap a picture in front of the phoenix-like Firebird, designed by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, on the plaza at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
71. Download the Arts & Science Council’s Public Art Walking Tour to explore the unique public art in the Queen City, including several frescoes painted by North Carolina native Ben Long, or explore murals and more on a Charlotte ArtWalk.
72. Admire the awe-inspiring exhibits that fill the Mint Museum Uptown and Randolph locations and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. Or get a Levine Center for the Arts Access Ticket for 48-hour admission to these museums plus the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
73. Catch an award-winning Broadway show during the Blumenthal Performing Art’s PNC Broadway Lights Series each year or cheer “Bravo!” at a performance by Opera Carolina, the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas.
74. Enjoy the melodious sounds of the Charlotte Symphony, led by nationally acclaimed conductor Christopher Warren-Green and resident conductor Christopher James Lees. In the summer, enjoy a picnic-style show during Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops series at Symphony Park at SouthPark Mall.
75. Discover the passion of performance when the Charlotte Ballet takes the stage at Knight Theater, Belk Theater or the Patricia McBride & Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance.
78. Collect your artistic earnings at the original branch of the U.S. Mint at the Mint Museum Randolph.
79. Enjoy a themed dinner and Broadway-style Christian musical, featuring live animals and inspiring music, at NarroWay Theater.
81. Quote a scene from one of the many classic productions performed at Theatre Charlotte, the state’s oldest active community theater.
82. Find innovative ways to interact with science: Cross a daring rope bridge at Discovery Place Science (home to the largest IMAX Dome Theatre in the Carolinas), let your imagination come to life at Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville and see stars at Discovery Place Nature’s planetarium.
83. Take the little ones to play with the Peanuts gang at Camp Snoopy, a section of Carowinds that’s filled with kid-friendly rides, attractions and animated characters. While at the park, stop by the Carolina Harbor water park, home to the 400,000-gallon Tidal Wave Bay.
84. Beat the heat (or cold) at Great Wolf Lodge, a resort with an indoor water park that features a huge water fort tree house, a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket and more.
85. Find more than 5,000 sea creatures at SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium in Concord.
Festivals & Events
89. Keep the taps flowing at Charlotte beer festivals held throughout the year, including the Queen City Brewers Festival, Moo and Brew Craft Beer and Burger Festival, and North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival, among others.
90. Experience the revelry of the British Isles during Center City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Charlotte Goes Green Festival in March and Huntersville’s Rural Hill Scottish Festival and Loch Norman Highland Games in April.
93 Show your pride for the city’s LGBTQ community at the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade, which draws a diverse lineup of drag, dance, comedy and musical acts to Uptown.
94. Sample fare from the Queen City's finest at the annual Taste of Charlotte festival in June or Queens Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week in January and July.
95. For knee-slapping fun with a Queen City spin, get a front-row seat to see Charlotte Squawks in full comedic force each summer. Picture “Saturday Night Live” meets Broadway.
96. Celebrate Independence Day in Charlotte with a July 4 festival at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, fireworks at Truist Field, Charlotte Symphony performances and more.
97. Explore the heritage, traditions and cuisine of more than 50 different nations each fall at University of North Carolina Charlotte's UNC International Festival or celebrate the various international cultures in Charlotte at festivals throughout the year like the Greater Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Festival, Festival of India, Yiasou Greek Festival, Hola Festival or Festa Italiana.
98. Chow down on a giant turkey leg as you explore medieval customs during the Carolina Renaissance Festival in the fall.
99. Add the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade to your Turkey Day traditions. Local dancers, choirs and marching bands have marched down the streets of Uptown since 1947.
100. Join thousands in perusing lifestyle and decor events hosted by Marketplace Events: Greater Charlotte Home & Landscape Show, Charlotte Home & Remodeling Show and Southern Christmas Show, as well as Southern Shows’ Southern Women’s Show.
Tell us as you mark items off the list. Share photos of your adventures using #charlottesgotalot.