20 Picture-Perfect Day Trips in the Charlotte Region
Want to explore the greater Charlotte region? Discover these attractions within a day’s drive of the city.
by Beth Castle
Per a COVID-19-related Mecklenburg County health directive issued Jan. 12, 2021, please note that some businesses may have modified their hours of operation and changed procedures in order to comply with CDC and Mecklenburg County Health Department guidelines. Please wear a mask, limit any non-essential activities and refrain from gathering with anyone outside of your household.
Given our current COVID-19 landscape, there’s a limited amount of activities that Charlotteans and the state of North Carolina are able to do. However, taking a road trip with your household is a great way to change scenery and safely get away. Discover everything from drinking vino at a local vineyard to feeding giraffes from the comfort of your own car.
Brave the 25-foot jump at The Quarry at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville. Mined in the late 1960s, the natural, spring-fed swimming hole is open to groups of any size that make an advanced reservation. When on the property, all groups must social distance from others not in their party. Every swimmer must either wear a life jacket—more than 300 are available on-site—or pass a swimming test.
Lunch and lounge at Lexington’s Childress Vineyards. Owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Childress, the space boasts 72 acres of vineyards as well as daily tours and tastings. Make a reservation at the bistro to enjoy seasonal selections and wine flights. All NC COVID safety measures are in place while on the property. This includes wearing a mask in high traffic areas, social distancing from those not in your party, and limiting parties to groups of six or less.
As North Carolina’s largest outlet and value retail shopping destination, you and your family can choose to safely shop from over 200 stores – ranging from Nike to Michael Kors. Customers are encouraged to continue social distancing and wear facial coverings as you shop. Curbside pickup is available for shopping and dining.
Located 30 miles west of Uptown, Crowders Mountain State Park draws outdoorsy folk who enjoy hiking. Pack a lunch so you can picnic while taking in the view of Charlotte from the summit. The lake and lake trail are currently closed for construction. Group rock climbing activities are also currently not being offered.
Belmont’s 380-acre paradise, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, is about 20 miles from the Queen City. The gardens are currently open for members only and all visitors must adhere to COVID safety measures including mandatory masks and keeping six feet between people not in your group.
Drive to Winthrop University in Rock Hill to try your hand at the school’s premier disc golf courses. The 18-hole Lake Course is ideal for beginners, while the Gold Course is one of the most challenging in the area. In fact, the U.S. Disc Golf Championships are held on this 9,800-foot course every year.
Take racing culture out for a spin at GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville. While rounding the 0.7-mile, 11-turn karting track, you’ll reach speeds of 55 mph—a mere cruising speed for this day’s drive.
Sip lakeside at Hello, Sailor, Joe and Katy Kindred’s Cornelius restaurant. With an outdoor tiki bar serving sweet and savory cocktails, this culinary delight is a Caribbean vacation just 30 minutes down the road. All indoor dining is limited to 50% capacity.
An hour from Charlotte, the four-story Hickory Furniture Mart is more than a token of the town’s industrial heritage; with thousands of pieces on display, it’s a mecca for deal-hunters and home designers. Shop top brands, then grab lunch at a local favorite like Highland Avenue. Masks are required while in retail spaces and building occupancy has been limited.
Escape to Huntersville’s cotton plantation turned scenic nature preserve. Latta Plantation Nature Center & Preserve, a 1,460-acre property adjacent to Mountain Island Lake, is a great escape for everyone from hikers and boaters to picnickers and horseback riders. Currently, the nature preserve is only open for walk-in or bicycle access. Parking lots and indoor centers are closed until further notice.
Who knew the world’s largest natural habitat zoo was just an hour and a half down the road? In Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo is home to more than 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants. Stroll covered paths at a relaxed pace to take in each expansive enclosure, especially the one dedicated to Africa, which takes about two hours to explore. You must purchase a time entry ticket in advance or make a reservation online. Walk-up entry is currently not allowed. Several habitats and amenities are also closed. It is best to check the website prior to purchasing your ticket.
Relax on Lake Norman with yacht service with Queens Landing. Book a two-hour sightseeing tour, offered twice a day Thursdays through Sundays. (Add boxed lunches for an extra fee.) Or schedule a romantic three-course dinner cruise on The Lady of the Lake on select Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Pan for gold at Reed Gold Mine, the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. Located in Midland, a 40-minute drive from Uptown, the site offers guided tours of underground tunnels, glimpses of historic mining equipment and 800 acres of grounds to explore. Interactive exhibits and animal live animal programs are currently closed. Current NC COVID safety measures must be followed.
Pedal away the hours at South Carolina’s 250-acre Rock Hill Outdoor Center. Although the center boasts activities fit for both field and stream, its cycling venues—a BMX Supercross track, a recreational- and competitive-use course, and the ultra-competitive Giordana Velodrome—are its bread and butter.
Withdraw to the 11 wooded acres of Sacred Grove Retreat Center in Gold Hill, about an hour from Uptown. The secluded enclave encourages revitalization through meditation, yoga and more. Leisurely strolls through the butterfly garden, sans cell phone, are encouraged.
In the late 1700s, potters in Seagrove, a town 90 miles northeast of Charlotte, began molding North Carolina’s rich red clay into fashionable earthenware. Discover the craft’s roots at the North Carolina Pottery Center, then pick up a souvenir at one of the many local studios nearby. The town is currently following all NC COVID safety measures. Bonus: Many potters allow guests to watch as they work.
Treat yourself to a getaway just miles away. At The Spa at Ballantyne—part of luxury hotel The Ballantyne—soothing lavender treatments, massages, facials and more offer unparalleled relaxation. Masks must be worn during most spa treatments. Follow your spa session with dinner at Gallery Restaurant, which serves seasonally inspired contemporary American fare.
In York, South Carolina, is Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill, a veritable apple paradise. Enjoy apple picking, hard cider tastings, homemade doughnuts, live music and other seasonal events throughout the year. Windy Hill will reopen on August 14 for the fall 2020 season.
Pick your own produce at Wise Acres Organic Farm, Indian Trail’s seasonal strawberry and pumpkin patch. Reservations for picking must be made in advance.