Our Favorite Things to Do in Charlotte (from a Local)

All the best things to eat, see, and do in Charlotte, North Carolina for family outings, date nights, and day trips from a local.

The Duke Mansion Charlotte NC
The Duke Mansion Bed & Breakfast

There’s a slight possibility I will be raked over the coals for this blog post by other Charlotte locals, but I’ll come out and say it. The Charlotte area is the BEST place to raise a family. I’m only slightly biased being raised here myself. Wink wink.

Transplants from all over the country are flocking here for good reason. It’s 3-4 hours from the beach, 2 hours from the mountains, has the bustling urban scene, quiet suburbs, and sprawling countryside all within minutes of each other. We have all four seasons (but with only maybe a day or two of snow, if we’re lucky).

Not to mention… there’s that Southern hospitality as the cherry on top.

We’re able to drive 2 hours to the Great Smoky Mountains pick out a Christmas tree from the local tree farms.

Frosty's Choose & Cut Tree Farm - Jefferson, NC
Frosty’s Choose & Cut Tree Farm – Jefferson, NC

And we’re able to road trip 3.5 hours to Charleston and Myrtle Beach in the summer.

Murrells Inlet, SC
Murrells Inlet, SC

There is SO much to do, see, and eat in the Charlotte area! And since I’ve received a huge influx of Instagram messages and emails lately from people ready to travel again, it’s time to spill all of our family’s favorite spots.

Fahrenheit Charlotte Skyline View
Fahrenheit Charlotte Skyline View

Fun Things to Do, See, and Eat in Charlotte (and Surrounding Areas)

Fair warning: Robert, the girls, and I live in the outskirts of Charlotte (about 30 minutes south from Center City), so my experiences are likely way different from someone who lives the single life in Uptown. If you’re married and have kids, our list is likely more geared toward you. 

NC Transportation Museum - Spencer, NC
NC Transportation Museum – Spencer, NC

Best Things to Do in Charlotte with Kids

  • U.S. National Whitewater Center – Always a fun day if you’re in the mood for an outdoor adventure like ziplining, rock wall climbing, kayaking, and rafting. The food is great, and they sometimes have live music and fireworks shows.
  • NC Transportation Museum – Trains, planes, and automobiles… literally every kind you can imagine! Our kids love the railway turntable and riding the train up the track.
  • Carowinds Amusement Park – A definite must if you’re a roller coaster fanatic. The Fury will blow your mind.
  • Discovery Place Science – Great for an educational, hands-on learning museum day with the kids.
  • Discovery Place Kids – If you have kids 5 and under, this place is a blast. It’s like “playing house” on steroids.
  • Lazy 5 Ranch – A safari-style drive-through animal park. We love getting extra up close and feeding the animals by the horse-drawn wagons. 
  • Great Wolf Lodge – The indoor waterpark is especially a blast for cold or rainy days. 
  • Concord Mills – This mall is crazy huge and has an arcade, movie theater, speed park, and aquarium. 
  • Billy Graham Library – If you’re a Christian, this museum centered around the Gospel and life of Billy Graham is very moving. 
  • Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens – Beautiful in every season. The Christmas lights tour is a must for us every year. 
  • Historic BrattonsvilleThe Patriot was filmed here, but more than that it’s filled with history of the area dating back to the Revolutionary War.
  • The Duke Mansion – A historical grand bed & breakfast quietly tucked inside the heart of the city. 
  • Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill – The Rusty Gold hard cider and cinnamon apple doughnuts are a must here in the fall!
  • Charlotte Knights Games – One of our favorite family activities in the summer is going to watch this Triple-A team. There’s often fireworks shows after the games too.

Spectrum Center Charlotte
Spectrum Center Charlotte
Carowinds Amusement Park - Charlotte, NC
Carowinds Amusement Park – Charlotte, NC

Best Charlotte Date Spots

  • Queen Park Social – A lively spot with food, drink, bowling, shuffleboard, and games. 
  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewery – One of our favorites for having a pint and listening to live music in the beer garden. 
  • PNC Music Pavilion – One of the main spots for large live concerts that come to town. 
  • Blumenthal Performing Arts Center – So many good shows + the Charlotte Ballet and Charlotte Symphony. Broadway shows pass through here often.
  • AvidXchange Music Factory – A major hub for concerts, events, restaurants, and bars. 
  • The Comedy Zone Charlotte – The best date nights full of laughter!
  • Epicentre – If you love nightclub hopping, this is the place to be. 
  • Farenheit – Even though it’s a restaurant, this one made the date night list purely for the amazing view of the skyline. 
  • Treehouse Vineyard – A quaint place for a wine tasting. And you can even rent a treehouse! 
  • 10 Park Lanes – Another great bowling spot and in walking distance to several great restaurants (see below) 
  • The Spa at Ballantyne – Definitely the best place for a pampering sesh in Charlotte. 
  • Abari Game Bar – If you’re a grown up who loves arcades and craft beer, this is the place to be.
The Duke Mansion - Charlotte, NC
The Duke Mansion – Charlotte, NC
The Duke Mansion - Charlotte, NC
The Duke Mansion – Charlotte, NC

Best Uptown Charlotte Restaurants

Favorite Restaurants Surrounding Charlotte

  • Fort Mill, SC – Local Dish – Located in the nostalgic downtown area of Fort Mill. The chicken and waffles are to die for. 
  • Fort Mill, SC – The Improper Pig – Two words: BBQ Nachos. Do it. 
  • Fort Mill, SC – The Flipside Cafe – For being healthy, their warm asparagus salad has no business being so darn good. 
  • Rock Hill, SC – Kounter – This chef is a genius. The fried ribs and smoking tuna poke will hook you for life. 
  • Rock Hill, SC – Burgers & Barley – Feels like a dive bar… food like a culinary burger genius. The Brinner burger makes you wonder what 5 year old had a field day in the kitchen but it works! 
  • Rock Hill, SC – The Flipside Restaurant – The braised short ribs are like a hug in a bowl. 
  • Rock Hill, SC – Knowledge Perk – Without a doubt the best coffee around roasted right in house.
  • Rock Hill, SC – The Pump House – Located riverfront in an old pump house, the shrimp & grits will knock your socks off.
  • Lake Wylie, SC – Copper Premium Pub – Our go-to spot after a boating day on Lake Wylie. Redneck egg rolls and bang bang shrimp tacos are out of this world. 
  • Belmont, NC – Old Stone Steakhouse – We love downtown Belmont and this place is always amazing. 
  • Belmont, NC – The String Bean – The food is nuts (in a good way) but browsing their unique wine & beer section will win you over. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Charlotte

What are the best neighborhoods in Charlotte?

I love driving around Myers Park, Elizabeth, Dilworth, and Foxcroft. Their stately, historical homes are hands down the best for house gazing. NoDa is a vibrant, funky area of town rich in culture with a thriving arts scene. Ballantyne and South Park are both the best neighborhoods for shopping but are quiet at night. South End has a great nightlife scene with a more industrial feel thanks to many old warehouses and mills being turned into pubs and night clubs. 

Where are the best antique stores in Charlotte?

I’m a big fan of The Depot at Gibson Mill in Concord and Sleepy Poet Antique Mall on South Blvd. Both are massive! I’d plan a full day to browse each one. 

Charlotte locals, got any others you’d add to the list? These are all just based on my personal experiences over the years, but I know there are so many more great spots all over our area.

If you’re not local, do you love where you live?! I’d love to hear all about the great places to visit all over from you guys!

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19 Comments

  1. We are transplants from New Hampshire which is a beautiful place to live but very expensive! We’ve been in Charlotte for seven years now and have no plans to go back. I’m impressed that we’ve already been to a lot of places on your list but you’ve given us quite a bit more to try! Thanks!

  2. Fabulous and well detailed list. The next time I am in that neck of the woods, I will make sure to checkout your list. Thank you so much.

  3. I live in Orlando, FL – the happiest place on earth! While we obviously have the theme parks, there are only so many coasters one can ride. We have many other hidden gems that the locals are more privy to. One of my favorite things to do when family and friends come to town is the Winter Park Boat Tour, where you get to see the many of the beautiful, ornate houses/small mansions and Rollins College on the chain of lakes. The house that THE Mr. Rodgers lived in is on the tour as well! Central Florida has plenty to do off the beaten path – if you’re bored here it’s your own fault 🙂

  4. As a lifelong Charlotte native, I love your list! I would also add Fenwick’s on Providence (not far from the Duke Mansion and more of a brunch/lunch spot) and Open Kitchen on Morehead. Beef and Bottle is our go-to for birthday, anniversary and most any celebratory dinner!

  5. Don’t forget Panthers football (or whoever they happen to be playing on game day!)
    As another NC native, we really are very fortunate to have so much nearby.

  6. Crossings on Main is my favorite place to shop in Fort Mill❤️❤️❤️! And if you find yourself in Fort Mill, we love to stop into The Peach Stand.

  7. Having lived in Charlotte 16 years, I like your list, but 2 restaurants I miss the most are Ilios Noche and Miro. And I sure miss the Blakeney Shopping center.

  8. I attended Queens College (now University) in the Queen City back in the 70’s when it was all female. Of course Davidson College was nearby and was everything to us!! Loved my college’s location and will always have a fondness for Charlotte.

  9. SweetWater – LW
    MaMa Ricotta’s – Kings Avenue CLT
    WingKing – south CLT
    Webb Custom Kitchen – Gastonia

    These came to mind. Loved your lists!

  10. My husband and I just took a long weekend to Charlotte (from SW VA). He surprised me with a hang gliding session in Lenoir, NC. So. Much. Fun! We also met up with a local magician for a one-on-one experience; I found him on AirBnB and he was fantastic–highly recommend.

    1. Please source me your hang gliding experience. My husband was an instructor back in the day in Boone. Always says he would like to try it again!

      1. We booked with Thermal Valley and they were great! I believe they only offer tandem experiences. They take you up tied to an ultralight and release at around 1,500ft and glide back down. We loved it!

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