What are the best activities to do in Charlotte?

Blake Miller

Luckily for Charlotteans, the mild weather here allows for ample time to spend outdoors yearround. For those who love to get outside, an absolute must is the U.S. National Whitewater Center. This 400-acre park just outside the city is a playground for the ultimate adventure lover. Ride the rapids in one of the 8-person whitewater rafting boats or opt for a single-person kayak. Afterwards, dry off and head to the Adventure Course where you’ll maneuver from one obstacle to another 20 feet in the air or opt for the Canyon Zip Line, each of which are 200 feet long.

A less active option is to take a stroll down Queens Road West in Myers Park, which boasts some of the most impressive homes and architecture in the South. Centuries-old oak trees tower over the sidewalk-lined streets providing a massive canopy, which allows for a comfortable walk even in the heat of the summer. A few turns off Queens Road West will bring you to the famous Duke Mansion. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the impressive all-white home was built in 1915 and was tripled by its most famous owner James Buchanan Duke. Since then, The Duke Mansion has been home and host to leaders of the 20th century not to mention a popular venue for weddings and events.

  • On June 30, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best free museums in Charlotte?

    While there is a cost of admission for most of Charlotte’s top museums, there are a few places where you’ll find interesting exhibits at no cost—and a few more where you can get in free, if you know the right time to go.

    Tuesday Nights at The Mint Museum
    Charlotte’s most well known art museum, The Mint, features internationally renowned artists in both its new Uptown location and Randolph Road original location. You’ll find American Art, fashion, Native American art, and more at both locations. And on Tuesday nights from 5 to 9 admission is free.

    The Light Factory
    This photography and film museum located uptown in Spirit Square is always free. Here you’ll find summer film series and self-guided tours of rotating photography exhibits (with notable names like Ansel Adams and Diane Arbus), as well as numerous classes and lectures.

    Duke Energy EnergyExplorium
    Grab the kids and head to this fascinating nuclear station located on the shores of Lake Norman. At the McGuire station you can take a virtual tour of the station, play educational games to learn how to use energy, check out a movie about the lake and its electricity, and explore the lake on a mile-long nature trail—all for free.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the most unusual dining experiences in Charlotte?

    Forget just sitting down to dine. With these three experiences, there’s much more to entertain you than simply what’s on your plate.

    Studio Movie Grill
    Located in Uptown’s popular EpiCentre complex, this large space is part movie theater, part restaurant. Here, you can order up dinner and drinks while you catch a feature flick. The menu is casual—and family-friendly—which means that while you and the kids are watching the latest Pixar production, they’ll be chowing down on pizza and chicken tenders. 

    Tour de Food Uptown
    Held every Saturday at 2 p.m. through the end of November, this food-lovers event features the chance to hear stories about and get behind-the-scenes looks at some of the city’s top culinary purveyors as you walk around Uptown. And, of course, there are plenty of samples of some of the city’s finest fare.

    Food Truck Friday
    The food truck trend has hit Charlotte hard and nowhere is that more evident than on Friday nights in the South End neighborhood. You’ll find folks lined up to purchase everything from gourmet grilled cheese to decadent cupcakes, all from trucks from around town.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best steakhouses in Charlotte?

    Charlotte has long been known as a steakhouse city when it comes to dining. And while new, locally-run and chef driven restaurants have entered the scene in recent years, you’ll still find top chain steakhouses featuring opulent dining rooms and elegant menus, where some of the city’s biggest deals go down.

    Del Frisco’s
    In the Piedmont Row area of the SouthPark neighborhood, this renowned steakhouse is known for its see-and-be-seen crowd. On many nights you’re likely to spot a famous face at the crowd around the spectacular bar or coming down its curving staircase. The steaks, of course, steal the show though most nights and are considered some of the best in town.

    BLT Steak
    A relative newcomer to the scene, this restaurant is located off the lobby of Uptown’s Ritz-Carlton. With a more modern and sleek look than most of the city’s steakhouses, it’s been a fast favorite for locals seeking to enjoy an after work cocktail at its small bar. And while its steaks and a la carte sides like jalapeno mashed potatoes, are worth a visit, if you’re short for time, drinks like the rosemary margarita and appetizers like the tuna tartar make are perfect for a light bite.

    The Capital Grille
    Known for its private rooms, where many of the city’s biggest banking deals are said to have gone down, this center city spot is typically filled with a working crowd. The service here is impressively well done and the only thing on the menu that may get more attention than the steaks are the perfectly fried calamari and peppers.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best adventure outings in Charlotte?

    If you’re looking for a taste of adventure, you’re in the right town. Charlotte offers a variety of offerings for those looking for a thrill. Here are three to get you started:

    Skydive Carolina
    Board an airplane, climb to 14,000 feet, and then jump out with just your instructor and a parachute. You’ll free fall for a full minute—and trust us, this is plenty long to get a rush, especially when you’re going at speeds of up to 120 mph.

    Richard Petty Driving Experience
    Get a serious taste of local NASCAR culture—and the thrill of speed—at this popular driving experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway. You’ll ride shotgun for three laps going at 160 mph—and hold on tight.

    US National Whitewater Center
    Whether you’re rafting the rapids, kayaking the river, hitting the ropes course, or speeding down the zipline, this center to the west of town is packed with ways for adrenaline junkies to get their fix.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are some things to know before visiting Charlotte?

    If you’re visiting Charlotte for the first time, here are three tips for making it a great trip that runs smoothly.

    1) Rent a car. Unless you are staying Uptown and are only in Charlotte for a brief period of time, this is a city in which it is useful to have a car. Some of the best parts of the city are its neighborhoods to the south and east, which you’ll want to explore if you have the time. From Uptown, you can hop on the LYNX light rail into South End, but at this point there is only one line so your options are still somewhat limited. Uptown, however is easy to navigate without a car. Cabs, bike rentals, the light rail, and even a free trolley system offer trips around town.

    2) The city features dynamic neighborhoods, all with distinct differences. Here are a few to check out: Uptown encompasses the center city area surrounded by I-277. It’s primarily businesses (which are primarily banks), but also offers top restaurants, nightlife, hotels, museums, and some retail.  Directly to the south is South End, a popular historic neighborhood that was formerly mills and warehouses. Now, you’ll find a fast-growing section of town full of restaurants, breweries, design shops, and art galleries. Further to the south is SouthPark, which hosts the region’s top shopping mall filled with high end, internationally renowned shops. To the east of town you’ll find Plaza Midwood and NoDa, two edgier neighborhoods filled with concert venues, nightlife, and some of the city’s most iconic restaurants.

    3) Don’t plan on barbecue. While North Carolina is famous for its ’cue, you’re more likely to find the good stuff in small towns like Lexington or Shelby. When you’re visiting Charlotte, take advantage of the city’s growing locavore movement and indulge in restaurants like Uptown’s Harvest Moon Grille where the owner/chef/farmer creates inventive—and tasty—dishes all from items grown or raised within 100 miles.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What is the weather like right now in Charlotte?

    Charlotte tends to have very agreeable weather. With four true seasons, it’s the kind of place where you’ll find snowy winter days and very hot summer ones, but, in general, the weather is mild and pleasant.

    During the summer, it can be very warm (highs in the 90’s) in Charlotte though, and July and August are definitely the toughest months. Like many Southern cities, humidity is also an issue, especially in July when summer storms roll through the region many nights.

    However, one of the great things about Charlotte is its proximity to the nearby—and always cooler—North Carolina mountains. Many weekends in the summer, locals flock to either the mountains or the beach to cool down. Or, even closer, you’ll find Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, both offering acres of refreshing water for swimming, boating, and sporting while keeping cool.

    So, while right now a walk around the city may leave you craving air conditioning, Charlotte is still a top spot to find yourself in the summer time.
  • On June 27, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best antique shops in Charlotte?

    While Charlotte is full of fantastic antiques stores, there are two that stand out the most. The first is Sleepy Poet Antiques Mall. Though this massive, 55,000-square-foot warehouse full of antiques and collectibles ranging from as early as the 18th Century to the 1980s can be a bit overwhelming at first, one pass through with a good eye will land you some great pieces. Collectibles such as vintage children’s books (which go for $250+ on shopping sites such as Gilt) can be found for just $9 for a set of six while slightly-weathered wingback chairs (perfect for recovering in a designer fabric), crystal chandeliers and Tiffany-like lamps, milk glass dishware, and collections of old records and vintage clothing can be found throughout. The best part is that no price is set in stone—each seller is open to negotiating the price so scoring a deal on an antique is likely.

    Nearby in South End is LaDonna Antiques and Interiors. One of the best-kept secrets among interior designers in Charlotte, this small, off-the-beaten path antiques shop is chockfull of classic 18th- and 19th-century antiques as well as Midcentury pieces, and an eclectic mix of Scandanvaian, French, Italian, and other European finds and prints. The unassuming store is so carefully edited—thanks to the eye of proprietor and designer LaDonna Harris—that famed designer Charlotte Moss shops there when in town.
  • On June 22, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    Where is the best outlet shopping in Charlotte?

    Concord Mills is easily the closest (and best) option for outlet shopping in Charlotte. About 40 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, Concord Mills is home to outlet outposts of Coach, Crocs, Nike, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, GAP, Banana Republic, Bose, and much more (including the soon-to-be-opened Vans outlet store). Because it’s such a popular destination not only for out of towners but also locals, the best time to visit Concord Mills is midweek in the morning when there are few people shopping leaving more deals for you to take advantage of.

    Closer to town is the relatively new Nordstrom Rack. Here you can score deals on pieces from Rag and Bone, Burberry, and Tory Burch. The selection of kids’ shoes, though, is a hit with parents, who want to nab serious discounts on Crocs, Nike, New Balance, and more for their little ones.
  • On June 22, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best outdoor activities in Charlotte?

    With its mild weather, Charlotteans love to be outside year round, even during the heavy heat of the summer months. To escape the hot temps, residents head to one of the two local lakes nearby, Lake Norman near Davidson and Mooreesville and Lake Wylie just over the North Carolina/South Carolina border. Rent a pontoon boat or Jet Ski and sail the water before docking up at the Rusty Rudder or Blue Parrot Grille, two of Lake Norman’s top lakeside restaurants. If you’re on Lake Wylie, consider stopping by T-Bones, where the outdoor patio features a fantastic view of the action on the lake.

    For adventure seekers, head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center where you can cool off by riding the rapids or work up a sweat mountain biking the 20 miles of scenic trails on property. If relaxing is more your speed come to the Whitewater River Jam series, which takes place every Thursday evening, from 7 to 10 p.m., May through September, or Saturdays 7 to 10 p.m., June through August. You can grab a draft beer and some appetizers from River’s Edge Bar & Grill and enjoy the music by local and regional acts.

    Charlotte is also home to fantastic golf courses including the Golf Club at Ballantyne at the Forbes Four Star Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. The public, championship PGA course is open year round.
  • On June 22, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best day trips near Charlotte?

    Because of its proximity to the beach and the mountains, there’s no shortage of fantastic day trips from Charlotte. Just under two hours from the Queen City is Blowing Rock, North Carolina. This mountain town—so popular that many Charlotteans have second homes there—features galleries, cafes, candy stores, and fantastic festivals including the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival held every spring. Blowing Rock is also home to the luxurious Westglow Resort & Spa, which boasts the best view of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the peak leaf peeping weeks of late September and early October.

    Another smaller town just under two hours is Pinehurst, home to the Forbes Four Star Pinehurst Resort & Spa. Located in the Sandhills, the town of Pinehurst has a lovely downtown full of galleries, great storefronts, and restaurants and bars. The true attraction here, though, is the resort itself. Spend the day at the Forbes Four Star Spa at Pinehurst or tee off on one of Pinehurst’s famed courses (course No. 2 will host the men’s and women’s U.S. Open in 2014). Finish off the day trip with dinner at 1895 Grille, Pinehurst Resort’s upscale dining option featuring Lowcountry fare.
  • On June 20, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best boutique hotels in Charlotte?

    The Forbes Four-Star Ritz-Carlton Charlotte is easily the best boutique hotel in the city while the Forbes Four-Star Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge in Ballantyne—just 20-plus minutes from the city center—is the best boutique property in the suburbs.

    The Ritz-Carlton has a more urban feel and being that it’s centrally located in uptown, it has also become the go-to accommodation for business travelers. Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge exudes southern charm with its traditional décor and location in the stunning Charlotte suburb of Ballantyne.

    Both properties boast luxury amenities including impressive spas, fine dining (BLT Steak and Bar Cocoa at the Ritz; Gallery Restaurant & Bar at Ballantyne), impressive (and popular) bars and lounges (the Ritz’s Urban Sip has become a hot spot for city dwellers; the Gallery’s bar is the go-to area for business drinks and post-golf games), and amenities such as a pool, in-room WiFi, and state-of-the-art fitness facilities.