23 Day Trips Within a 2-Hour Drive of Charlotte
Want to explore the greater Charlotte region? Discover these attractions within a day’s drive of the city.
by Beth Castle
Drive 30 minutes north of Uptown, and you’ll find community theater troupe Davidson Community Players, who stage productions such as “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and “Steel Magnolias” in Armour Street Theatre and on the Davidson College campus. With downtown Davidson nearby, there’s plenty to eat (read: Kindred) and do before the show.
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 the public at select times throughout the warmer months. Every swimmer must either wear a life jacket—more than 300 are available on-site—or pass a swimming test.
Reserve a kayak trip with Catawba River Expeditions, who coordinate gear and self-guided tours of the river for a variety of skill levels. Calm and light rapids as well as wildlife make these trips serene.
First poured in 1917, the “nectar of North Carolina,” or Cheerwine, is still rooted in its birthplace, Salisbury. Capture a photo in front of the pop’s iconic sign, or stop by the company’s headquarters for some flavorful sips. Visit on May 19 to take part in the Cheerwine Festival, the town's day-long celebration of the beloved drink.
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.
Book picnic space on Lake Wylie’s 14-acre Copperhead Island, or turn your day trip into an overnighter with camping reservations. The six-site isle is a natural haven for families and fisher-folk alike.
Located 30 miles west of Center City, Crowders Mountain State Park draws outdoorsy folk who enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing and canoeing. Pack a lunch so you can picnic while taking in the view of Uptown from the summit.
Belmont’s 380-acre paradise, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, is about 20 miles from Charlotte. Linger over brews from the beer garden, and on Thursday nights, sip and stroll to the tune of live jams. Hungry? Venture into the city itself to enjoy dinner at The String Bean or Nellie’s Southern Kitchen.
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.
Stay and play at the Great Wolf Lodge, a family-friendly resort in Concord that offers indoor and outdoor activities. A water park, mini golf, a ropes course and more await adventurers big and small.
Sip lakeside at Hello, Sailor, Joe and Katy Kindred’s Cornelius restaurant. With an outdoor tiki bar serving sweet and savory cocktails, this culinary newcomer is a Caribbean vacation just 30 minutes down the road.
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.
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 gathering place for everyone from hikers and boaters to picnickers and horseback riders. History lovers, stop into the Federal-style home on the grounds for a true blast from the past.
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. Book a behind-the-scenes Zoofari trip to make that region an unforgettable adventure.
Relax on Lake Norman with yacht service 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 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 Center City, the site offers guided tours of underground tunnels, glimpses of historic mining equipment and 800 acres of grounds to explore.
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, ropes courses, team-building activities, 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. 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. 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.
Pick your own produce at Wise Acres Organic Farm, Indian Trail’s seasonal strawberry and pumpkin patch. Wagon rides, a petting zoo, organic treats and made-to-order, wood-fired pizzas keep you entertained and energized all day long.