Earlier this year, I made my way to Charlotte, North Carolina, where hidden gems are waiting to be discovered around every corner. I had been to different cities in North Carolina before, but this was my first time going to Charlotte. Nestled in the heart of the state, Charlotte offers an eclectic blend of history, culture, and southern charm.
Aside from the Carowinds Amusement Park, Charlotte is known for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Of course, my purpose for going wasn’t to just see the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but to see everything Charlotte has to offer.
From exploring the thriving arts scene to indulging in mouthwatering cuisine, Charlotte is a playground of possibilities.
Whether you’re a local looking for new experiences or a visitor seeking adventure, I’ve got you covered. From shopping at the Park Road Shopping Center to visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame, here are some must-try activities in Charlotte.
Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina
In this guide, we will unveil the top 15 must-try activities that will take you off the beaten path and allow you to truly immerse yourself in the essence of this dynamic city. So, get ready to step outside your comfort zone and embark on a journey of unforgettable moments in Charlotte, North Carolina. Let’s dive in and uncover the hidden gems together!
Shopping and dining experiences in Charlotte
Shop till you drop at the Park Road Shopping Center
Visit the Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte’s first open-air shopping center. It’s more than just shopping with restaurants, a beautiful hidden garden, photo ops, and more. Don’t forget to grab some donuts while you’re there!
Grab a bite to eat at Amelia’s French Bakery
This charming French bakery is perfect for a quick snack or a leisurely meal. The menu features both traditional French fare and American classics with a French twist. Aside from that, the decor at Amelia’s French bakery is absolutely gorgeous and they also have a few locations around Queen City.
Must-visit landmarks and attractions in Charlotte
Visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame
I’m not much for NASCAR, but if you’re in Charlotte, you might as well visit this Hall of Fame. After all, Charlotte is known for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Located in Uptown Charlotte, the museum celebrates the history and heritage of NASCAR.
Get your adrenaline fix at The US National Whitewater Center
One of my best adventures was when I went Whitewater Rafting. This is definitely not for everyone, but if you are adventurous, this is something you should try. The Whitewater Center is designed and operated as an outdoor center offering over 30 different recreational activities. Aside from Whitewater Rafting, they also have Ice Skating, Ziplining, Climbing, Yoga, and much more.
Hidden Gem Activities in Charlotte
Grab a coffee and book at Julia’s Cafe & Books
As someone who loves coffee and books, I absolutely fell in love with this place! The first thing you’ll notice when arriving at Julia’s Cafe & Books is that it’s connected to Habitat for Humanity. That’s because all the money earned at Julia’s Cafe & Books goes to Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte.
Not only would you be getting coffee and books, but that money goes to a good cause, which works to provide opportunities for affordable housing for families in the area.
This bookstore has a great selection of books with very affordable coffee! There are also tables and couches, so you can spend hours there enjoying the atmosphere.
Uncovering the History of Charlotte
Visit The Mint Museum Uptown
There are two Mint Museum locations. The Mint Museum in Uptown houses the internationally renowned Craft + Design collection, as well as outstanding collections of American, contemporary, and European art. This is a much more modern collection compared to the Randolph one. When you purchase your ticket for either, you also get a ticket for the other location, so it’s a good idea to check out both.
Visit The Mint Museum Randolph
Unlike the Mint Museum in Uptown, the Mint Museum Randolph offers a more sophisticated collection of art from the ancient Americas, ceramics and decorative arts, and European and African art, among other collections. The Mint Museum Randolph also opened in 1936 in Charlotte’s Eastover neighborhood as North Carolina’s first art museum.
Family-friendly activities in Charlotte
Spend the day at the Lazy 5 Ranch
About a 50-minute drive from Uptown Charlotte, the Lazy 5 Ranch has all sorts of exotic animals. You can walk around the petting zoo and you can also drive-thru with your vehicle to learn more about the animals. You’ll get to see Giraffes, Antelope, Equines, Cattle, and more.
Walk around The Duke Mansion’s Gardens
Now, this is definitely a hidden gem! If you’re looking to do something different than what you see on travel guides, this is it. The Duke Mansion is the most charming bed and breakfast I have ever seen, but you don’t need to stay here to enjoy their gardens. The Mary DBT Semans Gardens is free to the public and open during daylight hours. Since they do have weddings and events from time to time, it is recommended to give them a call before stopping by.
The Gardens consist of a welcome garden, a children’s garden, a prayer garden, and more. It is 4.5 acres of grounds and gardens, so expect to be here for 1-3 hours depending on what you end up doing. You can also take a tour inside the Duke Mansion, which is quite spectacular.
Exploring Charlotte’s vibrant arts and culture scene
Explore the Billy Graham Library
The Billy Graham Library is a public museum and library documenting the life and ministry of Christian evangelist Billy Graham. The bookstore offers rare and special editions written by Billy and Ruth Graham as well as an extensive selection of Bibles. What makes this place so unique is that this 40,000-square-foot library is in a barn-shaped building.
Take in Some art at the Bechtler Museum
Right next to the Mint Museum in Uptown, the Bechtler Museum offers visitors several floors of art. The 36,500-square-foot museum has a dedicated space for the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art. If that’s not enough, there is also an amazing view from the top of the beautiful Uptown.
Enjoy Gourmet Donuts at Your Mom’s Donuts
Located in Park Road Shopping Center, Your Mom’s Donuts has a cute, little kiosk with a variety of donuts to choose from. What makes this place different from other donut shops is that Your Mom’s Donuts is a family-owned business and the donuts are made fresh daily with locally sourced ingredients.
Outdoor Adventures in Charlotte
Take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country. It’s a great way to see some of Charlotte’s stunning scenery.
Stroll through Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
If you have 40 minutes to drive back and forth, then check out Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. This may take about 40 minutes to get there, but the Botanical Garden will give you plenty to see! The best part is that if you go during the holidays, you’ll get to see their Holidays in the Garden, which is nicely decorated with all the fun lights and ornaments.
Some of the things you’ll see in the garden are the Cottage Garden, Lost Hollow, Orchid Conservatory, and the Garden Trails.
Soak up some sun at one of Charlotte’s many parks
There are plenty of great parks to choose from in Charlotte. Whether you are there to play disc golf, walk the dog, or go on a picnic, Charlotte has a variety to choose from. This is a great way to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Whether you’re a Charlotte native or just visiting for a few days, there’s always something to do in this vibrant city!