Free and Cheap Things to Do in Charlotte
Having fun in the Queen City doesn’t have to break the bank. All these activities are under $10
by Rosa Sprinkle
Budget friendly? Never fear. Charlotte has plenty of activities that don't cost a dime. We've curated a list of free and cheap things to do in the city. Everything listed here is priced under $10, meaning you can focus on making memories, not money.
1. Charlotte is home to farmers' markets both large and small. From the airport to Uptown, Dilworth to Camp North End, find the market nearest to you and discover the season’s freshest fruits and vegetables, flowers, plants and local crafts.
2. For a more hands-on experience with your fruit and veg, there are many farms and orchards nearby that offer pick-your-own opportunities. Hunter Farm in Weddington, Hodges Family Farm in east Charlotte, Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail, The Ivy Place in Lancaster and Windy Hill Orchard in Fort Mill are just a few of the places you can pick tomatoes, apples, pumpkins, berries and more.
3. Use this interactive guide to create your own Charlotte Mural Tour. Bookmark the murals you want to see or select an area on the map to visit and appreciate the variety of Charlotte’s artists making our buildings brighter.
4. Put on your best walking shoes and learn about Charlotte on foot by joining a Walking Tour.
5. Many of Charlotte’s finest museums offer free days to tour. Wednesday Night Live features Mint Museum Uptown, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and The Harvey B. Gantt Center and often includes live entertainment and programming.
6. Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries host free events such as family storytimes, author lectures and film screenings. Search by location to find an event that piques your interest.
8. Charlotte has a plethora of parks. Whether you’re looking for playgrounds or pickle ball courts, nature trails or dog runs, you can find the one that fits your fancy and make a day of the outdoors.
9. When the days are long and hot, nothing cools off quite like the inside at a bowling alley. Kids are eligible for free bowling at many of Charlotte’s alleys.
10. You can laugh until your ribs ache and not bust your budget when you take a class or attend a show put on by CATCH Improv.
11. Spend a day taking selfies in front of Charlotte’s Public Art.
12. Have yourself a Light Rail Day. Start anywhere along the line and hop off anytime you see something that catches your eye. Hop back on to keep exploring.
13. Grab your bike, scooter or running shoes and use the CLT Trail Guide to navigate Charlotte’s greenways and trails full of wildlife, history and sculptures.
14. See where some of your local television shows are made by taking a PBS Charlotte Studio Tour.
16. Visit the Faerie Village and create your own faerie houses at Latta Nature Preserve along the Audubon Trail.
17. Enjoy live music at one of the many free concerts and music shows Charlotte has to offer during the summer.
18. Pack a basket and blanket and find a perfect picnic spot for you and your friends, family or special sweetheart.
19. Gather your team and choose a night to test your knowledge, as Charlotte boasts multiple Trivia Nights throughout the city, including Mondays at Sir Edmond Halley’s, Tuesdays at Common Market South End and Wednesdays at Tipsy Burro.
20. Choose your own adventure on the U.S. Whitewater Center Adventure Trail and pay only the parking fee for a full day of fun.
21. Bring your mountain bike or hiking shoes and explore the beautiful 2,100 acres of Anne Springs Close Greenway.
22. For just a few dollars, enjoy a night of live music at The Evening Muse on Monday Open Mic Night.
23. Mingle with the alpacas and take selfies with the llamas on a tour of Good Karma Ranch.
24. Lend a hand by volunteering. Organizations like HandsOn Charlotte and Share Charlotte offer hundreds of opportunities, searchable by interests, locations and skills, that connect you with causes that need a hand.
25. Treat yourself to gardens full of lush flowers, bushes and trees, all planted to attract birds at Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary.
26. You don’t need to lay out a bunch of bills to have a good time at Pins Mechanical Company. Many activities (patio pong, giant Jenga, skee-ball and arcade games, to name a few) are always free.
27. Retrace Billy Graham’s dynamic journey from humble farm boy to “America’s Pastor” at the Billy Graham Library.
28. Explore the cool mines and try your hand at panning for gold at Reed Gold Mine.
29. Take a guided tour of the James K. Polk Historic Site, including log cabins, nature trail and 18th century cemetery, as you learn about our country’s 11th president.
30. Take the kids to the library created just for them. ImaginOn has activity spaces that encourage kids of all ages to explore and learn.
31. A popular spot for families, photographers and plane enthusiasts, the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Overlook will give you a free front-row seat to watch airplanes take off and land.
32. Explore all 10 acres of one of Charlotte’s prettiest outdoor gardens at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens.
33. Many breweries in the Charlotte area have started offering free tours again. Contact your favorite one for a behind-the-scenes look.
35. Dig deeper into Charlotte’s history and learn how residents influenced the American Revolution on a Charlotte Liberty Walk.
37. Charlotte hosts many parades and festivals that are free or low-cost. Ones not-to-miss are Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas, Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, Festival of India, Festival in the Park and Yiasou Greek Festival.
38. There’s always something interesting happening at Camp North End. This 76-acre converted industrial complex hosts regular vendors, cafes and art installations along with pop-up art, markets, food trucks and festivals. It’s free to wander around, play games and snap pictures, so take your time taking in the sights and history of this unique campus.
40. Take a Joy Ride, a pedal-assist electric bike that makes exploring easier. Zip along one of the many nearby sections of the Carolina Thread Trail, tour the beautiful Johnson C. Smith campus, meander through Uptown or wind your way through Freedom Park.