Known as The Queen City, Charlotte has undergone accelerated growth in the past two decades and has become the most densely populated in the state of North Carolina. Although it has a steeped history, Charlotte is a modern city and has become a major commercial hub. It also has a prevalent racing culture given that the city is home to NASCAR. The humid sub-tropical climate makes Charlotte a great place to visit all year round, and there are plenty of activities and attractions to offer visitors. Here is our pick for the top 10.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Charlotte is often referred to as the Home of NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) and there are plenty of reasons. For starters, the roots of the sport began throughout the southeastern United States, primarily in North Carolina. Today, the city is home to the majority of NASCAR’s teams and their race shops, as well as Charlotte Motor Speedway. So, it makes sense that the NASCAR Hall of Fame is located here as well.
Attached to the Charlotte Convention Center, this 86,500-square-foot facility honors drivers who have shown remarkable skill and success in the sport. It also pays tribute to noteworthy owners, crew chiefs, and broadcasters. Visitors can tour the Hall of Fame to see all the inductees and have access to racing simulators, interactive experiences, dozens of exhibits like firesuits and championship cars, High Octane Movie Theater, artifacts, and more. Plus, the gift shop offers up NASCAR merchandise and collectibles.
Visit the website HERE for hours, ticket prices, and additional information.
Carowinds is a 407-acre amusement park located adjacent to Interstate 77 in Charlotte. Interestingly, the park straddles the border between North and South Carolina. With a mix of adult and children’s attractions spread across the park and the accompanying waterpark, called Carolina Harbor, visitors can look forward to a total of 56 rides. This includes 14 amazing roller coasters.
The park also contains 32 eateries, including restaurants and treat outlets, plus live entertainment and seasonal events. Lodging options are available along with vacation packages. For ticket information, park hours, and an events calendar, visit the Carowinds website HERE.
Created to entertain all ages but largely targeted at kids, Discovery Place is a science and technology museum located in Uptown Charlotte. A fun yet educational experience awaits with exhibits often seen in many museums but made to be uniquely interactive.
Areas of exploration include a two-level Amazon rainforest with exotic plants and birds, and an impressive aquarium featuring sharks, jellyfish, sea horses, and more. The main science area houses a wide variety of hands-on exhibits that highlight science and engineering. Plus, visitors can enjoy presentations on a massive IMAX screen in the one-of-a-kind Accenture IMAX Dome Theatre.
US National Whitewater Center
Set on 1,300 acres, the US National Whitewater Center provides visitors with access to the great outdoors and 30 different activities. Whitewater rafting and kayaking take place on the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, though there are options for flatwater activities as well, including paddle boarding.
For landlubbers, there are obstacle courses, mountain biking, and zip lining, plus rappelling, rock climbing, hiking, and more. There are also instructional classes that can be taken for many of the activities, plus yoga classes, outlets for food and beverage, and an Outfitters Store for adventure apparel and gear. Visitors can also look forward to events, festivals, competitions, and live entertainment.
Weather permitting, the center and trails are open daily from dawn until dusk. However, activities operate at different hours so it’s best to check the website HERE to plan your visit.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Located in Concorde, approximately 13 miles outside of Charlotte, visitors will find Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 1.5 oval track with an additional road course built into the infield. Most notably, the track hosts NASCAR racing including the celebrated Coca-Cola 600, which runs on Memorial Day weekend, and the Bank of America Roval 400 which runs in October during the playoffs. There are also NHRA races and so much more.
The track also offers speedway tours, racing schools and experiences, a go-kart track, and a wide variety of events, including Speedway Christmas – a driveable light show presented during the holidays. Camping is available for race weekends. For more information, visit the website HERE.
To read NASCAR news and race information, visit our sister site Go TrackHopper HERE
Race Shop Tours
In the 1950s, NASCAR’s Ford team relocated its racing shop to Charlotte and soon many other race teams followed suit. Today, you can visit a race shop for almost every team in NASCAR to take a look behind the scenes. See trophies and winning cars on display, glimpse the garages where the cars are built, and find out how teams prepare for race day. Depending on when you visit, you might catch sight of your favorite driver, a team member, or possibly the owner. Visit the team shop for racing merch and memorabilia.
There are several tour operators in Charlotte that offer tours of numerous shops, and some teams have tour info included on their websites. Visit the shops of Team Penske, Stewart-Hass, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), RFK (Roush-Fenway Keselowski), Richard Childress Racing (RCR), and Jr. Motorsports (JRM) to name just a few. The Hendrick Motorsports Museum is open but campus tours are currently unavailable.
Camp North End
A military depot and the Ford Motor Company once stood where the property of Camp North End exists today. The automotive factory has since been converted into a home for Charlotte’s most creative and ground-breaking businesses, all set on 76 acres and waiting to be explored.
This multi-use space is divided into districts – The Boileryard, The Mount, and Keswick – and contains a variety of outlets that range from unique shops and public art displays to assorted eateries with a wide variety of food options, including vegan and farm-to-table, as well as snacks like gelato and baked goods. Bars offering craft cocktails and craft beer are also in the mix at Camp North End, along with hammocks and firepits, and several activities such as ping pong and cornhole. This truly unique space also offers live entertainment, vendor markets, and seasonal events.
Levine Center for the Arts
Levine Center for the Arts is one of Charlotte’s major cultural destinations and is home to several attractions all located on the same property.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art features 1200 works of art assembled by Andreas Bechtler and his family, including works by the most influential artists of the mid-20th century including Miró, Picasso, Hepworth, Warhol, and many others. Four floors and 45,000 square feet are dedicated to the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture, which is a mix of a gallery, classroom, and administrative space. The John S. and James L. Knight Theater is the venue for the performing arts, with a seating capacity of 1,193. And the Mint Museum Uptown features hundreds of collections showcasing art and design from around the world.
Due to Duke Energy’s construction of the Ford Dam between 1959 and 1964, Lake Norman was created as a result of flooding. The lake became North Carolina’s largest man-made body of fresh water with 520 miles of shoreline. The scenic area boasts a multitude of impressive homes, many of which belong to prominent athletes including NASCAR personalities. It is also home to watersports and celebrated fishing, along with unique shops and restaurants gracing the historic main streets.
Visitors to Lake Norman can enjoy a day on the lake thanks to numerous rental companies in the vicinity offering jet skis and a variety of different boats. Some also have rentable paddle boards, tubes for water tubing, and water skis available. If you’re renting a boat, make sure you have a valid license. Or, leave the driving to a knowledgeable captain and opt for a boat tour. There are plenty in the area. Click HERE for information. If you plan to fish, there are plenty of guides available. Catch and release methods are encouraged on Lake Norman.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway
For a leisurely stroll, an energizing run, or a peaceful bike ride, venture to Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which is part of the Carolina Thread Trail. This paved pathway is currently 10 miles in length but when completed will stretch 19 miles worth of trails and land connectors, from Toby Creek Greenway to Cordelia Park just north of uptown.
Freedom Park, Central Piedmont Community College, and Charlotte Nature Museum are all connected via this scenic greenbelt of urban walkway, which conveniently contains benches for relaxation along the way. It also passes by a selection of public art pieces and playgrounds, as well as shops and eateries.
NASCAR Hall of Fame – Tad Caudill on Pexels
Carowinds – Courtesy of Carowinds
Discovery Place – Courtesy of Discovery Place
Charlotte Motor Speedway – NASCAR
Race Shop Tours – Hendrick Motorsports – Wikimedia by tequilamike – License CC Attribution 2.0 Generic
Camp North End – Courtesy of Camp North End
Levine Center for the Arts – Wikipedia by License CC BY-SA 3.0
US National Whitewater Center – Wikimedia by the US National Whitewater Center License CC Share-Alike 4.0
Lake Norman – Wikimedia by LakeNormanMike License CC 4.0 International
Little Sugar Creek Greenway – Wikipedia by Katy Warner License Public Domain