This popular North Carolina tourist destination is hailed for its southern hospitality, vibrant culture, and rich history. For those visiting Charlotte for the first time, the options can seem overwhelming. Regardless of your family makeup and size, the following destinations within this distinctive city are sure to please.
A few of the top things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina are:
- UNC Charlotte Botanic Gardens
- Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture
- NASCAR Hall of Fame
- Discovery Place Science
- Mint Museum Uptown
- Freedom Park
- McDowell Nature Center and Reserve
- Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
- U.S. National Whitewater Center
Read on to learn more about each of these attractions and whether Charlotte, NC is the place for you on your next family adventure.
1. UNC Charlotte Botanic Gardens
Located on the expansive campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC), these manicured gardens burst with all the life that the natural flora of North Carolina has to offer. If you are planning your visit to Charlotte during the springtime, don’t pass up the opportunity to experience the gardens in full bloom.
The UNC Charlotte Botanic Gardens are open every day from dawn until dusk. Make sure to stop by the McMillan Greenhouse, which is open 9 am to 4 pm and features even more botanical species.
Admission is free, so the affordability of this incredible attraction can’t be beat!
2. Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture
No visit to Charlotte, NC is complete without immersing yourself in this celebration of African American arts, artists, and culture in this incredible museum. Check the recent program and exhibit list to see what exhibits will be on display during your visit.
3. NASCAR Hall of Fame
This museum is for diehard NASCAR fans and the casually interested alike. With interactive exhibits, ride simulators, and authentic artifacts from some of NASCAR’s greatest racers, this unique museum celebrating the tradition of American racing offers fun for all ages.
Forgot lunch? No problem. Grab a bite to eat at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Cafe and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for a one-of-a-kind souvenir before you go!
4. Discovery Place Science
This hands-on science museum provides immersive fun for children of all ages. Interactive exhibits help foster a love of learning while adults will also have fun learning about the mysteries of science. Enjoy the wonder of nature with the indoor rainforest and butterfly pavilion.
For locals, Discovery Place Science offers summer camps. It is also an ideal place for your child’s next birthday party. You can even visit the IMAX theater inside the museum for an additional charge.
When planning your visit to this interactive museum, make sure you have 2 – 3 hours to devote to it, since the museum has a lot to look at and explore. Besides, you won’t want to rush through this incredible attraction!
5. Mint Museum Uptown
This architectural wonder is five stories tall and roughly 145,000 square feet filled with unusual exhibits unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Explore the Mint Museum Uptown’s collection of modern, contemporary, and historical art.
Fun educational opportunities provide adults and children alike the chance to learn more about each exhibit and the motivation behind each unique piece.
Mint Museum Uptown is located in Charlotte’s city center and is part of the sprawling cultural campus of Levine Center for the Arts, which includes several other museums and attractions.
6. Freedom Park
This park is a place of unparalleled natural beauty, and locals and visitors alike will cherish the time they spend here. Perfect for relaxing after a long day of sight-seeing, Freedom Park is pet friendly and offers playgrounds, jogging trails, and large fields for playing ball or kite-flying.
7. McDowell Nature Center and Preserve
Enjoy all the scenic beauty and native wildlife that Charlotte has to offer at the McDowell Nature Center and Preserve. The oldest wildlife preserve in Mecklenburg County, this nature center has a lot to offer – explore the walking and hiking trails through wooded terrain along Lake Wylie.
Make sure to bring along binoculars so you can catch a glimpse of some of the area’s native wildlife. At the reserve, there are 119 bird species, 21 species of mammals, 21 reptile species, and 14 amphibian species.
Shaded playgrounds and picnic areas provide fun for the kids, and campsites – with RV hookups and primitive tent sites – are available for those who don’t have the heart to leave this beautiful reserve after a day trip.
8. Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
While modern art can be a polarizing subject, its uniqueness alone warrants a visit to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Take a look at one-of-a-kind art pieces from the striking to the sublime, and everything in between. The collection includes works from the famed modern artists Jasper Johns and Edgar Degas.
Open every day but Tuesday, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is definitely worth a visit, located in the Levine Center for the Arts.
9. U.S. National Whitewater Center
For thrill-seeking families who aren’t afraid of getting wet, the U.S. National Whitewater Center offers an unparalleled whitewater rafting experience, complete with rapids and kayaks. While it’s an artificially created whitewater environment, you won’t be able to tell the difference once you are rafting through the spray.
If whitewater rafting isn’t your thing, or if you have smaller children too young for the rapids, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to do at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and ziplining.
Thrill seekers will rejoice at this 105-acre theme/water park that straddles the border of the Carolinas. Look forward to some classic family fun with its diverse selection of live entertainment and rides for all ages.
Take your smaller children on the charming, musical carousel with its stable of colorfully painted horses, and if you’re feeling brave enough, take a ride on Carowinds’ famous roller coasters.
The water park area is perfect for beating the summer heat – just don’t forget to pack sunscreen to shield yourself and your family from that bright southern sun!