14 Great Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina (According to the Locals)

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Sometimes known as “Queen City,” Charlotte is the largest and most populous city in North Carolina. Its fascinating (recorded) history traces back to 1567 when the Spanish listed the Catawba Native American peoples as its first inhabitants. It was later settled by European colonists around 1755 and became the chief producer of gold in the US until 1848, when pioneers headed West. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Charlotte is still a hub for finance and commerce, hosting heavy hitters like Bank of America, Honeywell, Duke Energy, and several more Fortune 500 companies.  

But Charlotte is much more than a hub for movers and shakers! It’s also known for its exciting arts and culture scene—and it’s a haven for sports fans, with professional teams including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. The city also hosts major sporting events like the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament and the NASCAR All-Star Race. 

This dynamic, growing city has a lot to offer its visitors, and its residents are more than happy to pass on suggestions for exciting things to see and do in Charlotte. Keep reading, and we’ll share some of the top things that Charlotte locals love to do in their hometown! 

1. Spend the day at Carowinds 

Shawn Gerald, realtor and founder/managing partner of Lifestyle International Realty, suggested we break out our comfiest walking shoes and some sunscreen and check out Carowinds Theme Park. “Carowinds has the best roller coasters in the South!” he says. “For example, you’ll find Fury 325, one of the world’s tallest and fastest roller coasters, and Intimidator, a high-speed coaster inspired by NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt.”  

Not only does the park feature a wide range of thrill rides, but it also has plenty of family-friendly attractions, entertainment options, and even a water park. The park hosts special events and concerts throughout the year, including fun seasonal Halloween and holiday events.  

Good to know: Carowinds is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 10 pm. Carolina Harbor is open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 6 pm. 

2. Go outside and play at the US National Whitewater Center 

Gerald also had an excellent suggestion for people who’d rather find their thrills in nature. “If trails, zip lines, or rafting are your thing, then you will love the US National Whitewater Center,” he says. Situated on over 1,300 acres along the Catawba River, the center offers a vast range of activities for adventure-seekers of all ages. One of the main attractions is the whitewater rafting course, but they also have rope courses, climbing walls, ziplines, free-fall platforms, and over 40 miles of trails where you can bike, hike, and run. They also have festivals and concerts on the weekends, and you can even attend yoga classes there to commune with nature while you find your Zen! 

catawba river in charlotte

3. Relax and unwind in South End 

“I also love to go hang out in South End,” says Gerald. “Located just south of Uptown, you’ll find Sycamore Brewing with its amazing assortment of locally brewed beers and an amazing two-story deck overlooking the rail line. From there, we love to take a short walk over to Jeni’s Ice Cream and get a ‘lemon bar’ (my favorite nondairy option) in their made-from-scratch waffle cone.” 

4. Kick it with the cool kids in NODA 

“Take a short ride to the North side of Uptown, and you will run into NODA, a very trendy area with its amazing shops, incredible food, and local artists showcasing their talent,” says Gerald. “While there, you have to try Benny Penello’s Pizza, where they boast the largest pizza slices in the city, or Haberdish, where they have the best chicken and waffles in the city! Overall, the uptown Charlotte area is amazing—from art museums to the Charlotte Knights and Panthers Stadiums (where you can also catch a Charlotte FC Soccer Match) to Hornets Arena. There are lots of food options and plenty of friendly people that make it feel just like home!” 

uptown charlotte nc

5. Check out the local music scene 

“When visiting Charlotte, be sure to check out the local music scene!” says Christina Hussey, a commercial and editorial photographer based in Charlotte. “We have amazing artists that play at Petra’s Bar, The Underground, The Neighborhood Theatre, and The Evening Muse. Notable bands to watch for would be BENTON, Thousand Dollar Movie, Jude Moses, and the local 80s cover band, Cassette Rewind.” 

6. Explore South Charlotte/Ballantyne 

“While you’re in Charlotte, be sure to take a look at all the new stuff the South Charlotte/Ballantyne area has to offer,” says Hussey. “The Bowl right behind the Ballantyne Hotel, Old Mecklenburg Brewery, Harriet’s Burgers, Fly Kid Fly Coffee, and Bossy Beulah’s are just a few of the restaurants and coffee shops worth checking out there!” 

7. Catch a game at Truist Field 

Marie Jackson, professional organizer and owner of Charlotte-based company Organized Marie, recommends enjoying the nation’s favorite pastime in one of the most exciting stadiums the Southeast has to offer. “Truist Field is easy and accessible,” she says. “The Charlotte Knights play here and they’re a lot of fun to watch if you come during baseball season. If you come during the Holiday season the stadium turns into a Winter Wonderland!” 

view from first ward park fountain

8. Enjoy some quiet reflection at the Billy Graham Library 

If it aligns with your values, check out the Billy Graham Library. “This is an incredible exhibit exploring the teachings of the Bible through Billy Graham,” says Jackson. The library features exhibits that tell the story of Graham’s life, from his humble beginnings in North Carolina to his worldwide impact as a preacher and spiritual leader. Visitors can check out photos, artifacts, and multimedia displays documenting his career and a replica of the farmhouse where Graham grew up. The library also has a prayer garden for quiet contemplation, a bookstore, and a dairy bar for the kids and the kids at heart.  

Good to know: Regular hours at the museum are Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.  

9. Meet up with friends at the Dilworth Tasting Room (DTR)  

“DTR is a cornerstone of culinary excellence in Charlotte,” says Mandy Idol, founder and chief marketing officer of Charlotte’s Indigo Collective Group. “What began as a modest wine retail shop has blossomed into a beloved dining destination! Food enthusiasts gather at DTR to indulge in gorgeous Mediterranean dishes prepared with fresh ingredients and innovative culinary techniques. Whether you opt for one of their signature small plates (like the delectable flatbreads and savory salads) or explore their diverse array of entrees, every visit promises a fantastic experience.” 

“And to complement its outstanding menu, DTR provides an atmosphere that is both lively and intimate,” says Idol. “This makes it the perfect backdrop for hosting a diverse variety of occasions—from a sophisticated luncheon to a special occasion blowout with friends over cocktails!” 

Good to know: There are two locations already open (Dilworth and SouthPark) and one more (Plaza Midwood) is scheduled to open in the summer of 2024.

10. Enjoy the nightlife in SouthPark

“For those seeking to explore beyond DTR’s doors, Charlotte offers a variety of venues and events that cater to diverse tastes,” says Idol. “The nearby SouthPark area boasts upscale shopping destinations like SouthPark Mall, perfect for a day of retail therapy. The South End neighborhood is also renowned for its vibrant nightlife scene, featuring trendy bars and breweries that offer a lively atmosphere for socializing!” 

11. Get lost in the Mint Museum

“I, of course, think visiting The Mint Museum is a top thing to do when visiting Charlotte,” says Michele Huggins, associate director of marketing and communications at The Mint Museum. “When visiting any city, checking out the local art museum is at the top of the list of attractions, and The Mint Museum is one of Charlotte’s must-see art museums!” 

mint museum charlotte nc

“It boasts one of the largest collections in the Southeast with works by artists from around the world,” she says. “Expect to see a mix of contemporary and old-world works of art. And don’t miss the Craft + Design collection that features glass, fiber art, metal, studio jewelry, design, studio furniture, wood art, and clay works. Also, the Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts is part of a cultural campus that includes the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Knight Theater, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture.” 

Good to know: “Everyone can enjoy free museum admission from 5 to 9 pm Wednesday evenings, and students in grades K-12 are always admitted free,” says Huggins. “And be sure to check out The Mint Museum Store on the ground level of Mint Museum Uptown for a great selection of artsy gift items, including jewelry, pottery, scarves, puzzles, and so much more!”

12. Join the excitement at a Panthers Game

Julie Peak, professional home organizer at The Precise Place in Charlotte, had a few suggestions for fun things to do in the city. “Charlotte offers a perfect blend of thrill and relaxation for an unforgettable weekend, starting with an NFL Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium,” she says. “The excitement is palpable there!” 

view of bank of america stadium with panthers

13. Rent a boat on Lake Norman

Peak recommends a relaxing day on the lake if you’re in the mood for something more chill. “Slow down by renting a boat on Lake Norman,” she says. “You can enjoy the serene beauty of the lake; it’s perfect for a leisurely day on the water.” There’s excellent fishing, paddle boarding, and waterskiing, but the shores along the lake also offer fascinating historic sites, family attractions, entertainment, antiquing, and plenty of parks for picnicking!

view of lake norman

14. Unwind at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

“Finally, end your weekend at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery,” says Peak. “There, you can savor a wide variety of craft beers made in the Reinheitsgebot tradition and delicious, authentic bratwurst in their cozy Biergarten. The brewery hosts tours, movie nights in the Biergarten, live music, and, of course, Oktoberfest celebrations!” 

Get comfortable in Charlotte 

Many who visit say they feel very much at home in the bustling but welcoming city of Charlotte, and we hope we’ve inspired you to get out and explore this beautiful place from a local’s perspective. Prepare to be charmed by Charlotte—the food is fantastic, the culture is exciting, and there’s always something to do for people of all ages and interests! See you soon! 

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Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart.

Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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