Top 12 Attractions in Charlotte

Last Updated on February 16, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As North Carolina’s largest city, Charlotte captivates visitors through dynamic contrasts between modern skyscrapers and historic homes, professional sports drama and tranquil gardens, diverse culinary adventures and family-friendly museums. NASCAR races, financial fortunes, craft breweries and southern hospitality blend uniquely here.

Billy Graham LibraryChronicles the life of the evangelist with galleries, films, and memorabilia.
Freedom ParkA city park offering interactive fountains, sports courts, and a rock amphitheater.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + CultureArt and cultural center with a focus on African American experiences and history.
US National White Water CenterOffers outdoor activities like white water rafting, zip-lining, and mountain biking.
Carowinds Theme ParkAn amusement park straddling North and South Carolina with rollercoasters and waterpark.
Daniel Stowe Botanical GardenFeatures 370 acres of gardens and a Victorian conservatory near Lake Norman.
Charlotte Motor SpeedwayA major racing venue hosting NASCAR events and offering track tours.
Discovery Place ScienceA science museum with interactive exhibits for all ages in Charlotte and its surroundings.
Mint MuseumArt museum with a diverse collection ranging from American to contemporary art.
Romare Bearden ParkA park honoring artist Romare Bearden with gardens, water features, and an amphitheater.
Concord Mills MallA large outlet shopping mall offering a variety of brand name stores and entertainment options.

With so much to experience across Charlotte’s distinctive neighborhoods, choosing top things to do poses challenging fun. But make sure to take time appreciating these 12 attractions revealing authentic Queen City character visitors return for again and again.

Billy Graham Library

Name and Location: The Billy Graham Library is a public museum and library in Charlotte, North Carolina located at 4330 Westmont Drive.

History and Significance: Opened in 2007, the library honors the life and legacy of evangelist Billy Graham, who was born and raised on a dairy farm outside Charlotte. State-of-the-art exhibits relay the story of his influential global ministry.

What to Expect: Visitors take an inspirational walking tour through innovative galleries depicting Graham’s journey in a rotating 40-foot barn theater, 15-foot video walls, and interactive displays. The library houses Graham’s papers.

Visitor Information: Open Monday-Saturday 9:30AM-5PM, year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, closed Sundays. Admission is free, donations accepted.

Legacy of beloved Christian evangelist Reverend Billy Graham permeates the extraordinary Billy Graham Library chronicling his humble heritage, evangelical Calling and global humanitarian impact across interactive galleries filled with archival films, manuscripts and memorabilia from Graham’s six-decade public ministry. Walk through inspirational recreations of the family dairy farm where Billy grew up before witnessing his dynamic global crusades preaching hope inside a rotating multimedia showcase. Outdoors, wander the Prayer Garden alongside Ruth’s gravesite and see the Graham childhood home moved on-site alongside a larger-scale replica of the famous Beverly Shea barn where Graham first studied scripture. For religious and non-religious visitors alike, Reverend Graham’s stirring story gives hope.

Freedom Park

Name and Location: Freedom Park is a 98-acre urban park located at 1900 East Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina within the historic Eastover neighborhood.

History and Significance: Established in 1999 to celebrate Charlotte’s heritage, Freedom Park encompasses the grounds of a military encampment and an early 1800’s gold rush site. It honors the city’s history and cultural diversity.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy walking trails, gardens, a fountain area, playgrounds, ball fields, volleyball and tennis courts, relics from Charlotte’s past, and sites for community events. A branch of the County library is also located here.

Visitor Information: Freedom Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset free of charge. Parking areas and information kiosks are placed throughout the grounds.

This dazzling city park situated alongside Little Sugar Creek Greenway between trendy high-rise condos and the hospital corridor contains interactive fountains for kids to splash amidst skyline views, wide-open fairways for discs to sail, bocce and volleyball courts encouraging friendly competition, plus a rock amphitheater showcasing free outdoor concernts from jazz to indie rock. Leashed dogs happily explore wooded trails along the creek banks as joggers pass by. Beam with pride at the prominent 22-foot high archway sculpture spelling “Freedom” in copper letters with granite walls listing donor names of service members killed defending liberty. People watching simply doesn’t get better than Freedom Park for soaking up Charlotte’s easygoing vibrance.

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Culture + Arts

Name and Location: The Harvey B. Gantt Center is located at 551 S. Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte, NC.

History and Significance: Named for Charlotte’s first African American mayor, the Center opened in 2009 to highlight African American stories and contributions in the region and beyond through exhibits, programs, and community event space.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore six galleries of rotating exhibits displaying visual arts, artifacts, multimedia experiences illuminating black history and culture. Public events are also offered here.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Saturday 10AM–5PM, until 8PM on Thursdays. General admission is $10, discounts for youth, students and seniors.

Named for Charlotte’s first African American mayor, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture provides visitors impactful artistic perspectives and empowering educational programming promoting cultural diversity across the community. Their standout permanent collection THE POWER OF COLOR showcases internationally renowned modern painters like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and local Charlotte mixed-media artist David Wilson highlighting the black experience across American history. Expect emotionally stirring special exhibitions too like 2015’s memorable Ferguson, Missouri protest photographs demanding racial justice after Michael Brown’s death. For lasted creative voices engaging social change, Gantt Center inspires.

US National White Water Center

Name and Location: The U.S. National Whitewater Center is an outdoor recreation and athletic training facility located at 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

History and Significance: Founded in 2006, the USNWC is the world’s premier whitewater rafting and outdoor center featuring over 300 acres of woodlands trails and an advanced pumped water system for rafting, kayaking, climbing and more.

What to Expect: Visitors can experience climbing towers, ropes courses, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, whitewater rafting on rapids from Class II-IV, hiking, biking, ziplines, meals and local brews. Equipment rentals and instruction available.

Visitor Information: The Center is open daily for programmed activities. Day passes run $59 for a Basic Pass to $99 for an All-Sport Pass to access facilities. Reservations recommended.

Just beyond Charlotte city limits near the airport, experience Class IV rapids without needing extensive travel at the U.S. National Whitewater Center along the artificial Catawba River winds carved into granite banks where Olympic paddlers train daily beside amateurs seeking adventure. Beyond paddling its mile-long rapids circled by hiking trails under canopy foliage, the expansive Center further trhills families through zip lines across teal lagoons before mountain biking rugged wooded terrain or sampling local craft brews at their expansive Wrenched Bines Beer Garden playing tunes on an outdoor stage. With onsite camping beside the river offering access to sunrise yoga atop stand-up paddleboards too, consider the whole weekend recreating at this architectural triumph marrying extreme sports and accessible nature just minutes from Charlotte attractions.

Carowinds Theme Park

Name and Location: Carowinds Theme Park is a 407-acre amusement park located off I-77 at 14523 Carowinds Blvd in Charlotte, NC, right on the state border with South Carolina.

History and Significance: Open since 1973, Carowinds features over 60 rides and attractions themed around the Carolinas across 14 rollercoasters, thrill rides, family rides, water park and kids area. It draws visitors from around the Southeast.

What to Expect: Park visitors can experience record-breaking rollercoasters, live entertainment and seasonal events like Grand Carnivale, Halloween mazes and holiday lights. Dining, shops and premium experiences like Fast Lane and early entry are available.

Visitor Information: Carowinds is open late March through early November. Single day tickets start at $50 but discounts on multi-day tickets are available online in advance.

Straddling state lines between both North and South Carolina, Carowinds amusement park provides seasonal thrills for families and coaster enthusiasts across 400 acres filled with record-breaking rollercoasters, gentler kiddie rides, stage shows, a 20 acre waterpark and even a luxury hotel immersed in imaginative theming. Test g-forces approaching 5Gs ripping across 5,300 feet of steel track about the iconic blue-hued Fury 325 billed as one of the world’s tallest and fastest gigacoasters inspired by Carolina’s natural curving peaks. Gentler attractions like plants vs. zombies laser tag, bumper boats and character meet-and-greets balance intensity for pint-sized riders. When seeking screams under Carolina skies just 10 miles south of Charlotte, Carowinds serves maximum-octane entertainment.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Name and Location: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a 400-acre botanical garden located at 6500 South New Hope Road, Belmont, NC, 15 miles west of Charlotte.

History and Significance: Established in 1999 by Portfolio magazine founder Daniel Stowe, the gardens have become one of the Southeast’s most renowned display and specialty gardens with over 110,000 visitors annually to its site.

What to Expect: Visitors stroll through specialty gardens like the Orchid Avenue mist garden, Canopy Boardwalk, Lost Garden rubble maze and Wildflower Meadow across eight major garden areas connected by brick walkways and trails.

Visitor Information: The gardens are open Tuesday to Sunday – hours vary by season. Entry runs $14 for adults, $6 kids 4-12. Tram tours offered seasonally for $5 riders.

Escape greater Charlotte’s urban pace enjoying 370 acres of meticulously cultivated specialty gardens showcasing the Piedmont region’s natural beauty at the stunning Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens located about 30 minutes north near Lake Norman. The preserve’s namesake Victorian conservatory and orchid greenhouse anchor 22 themed gardens like wildflower meadows rolling beneath oak canopies and formal gardens lining fountains. Visitors explore jungle trails through tropical foliage, stroll paths winding the butterfly house and watch sunset colors illuminate a glass gazebo carved into a softly winding hillside overlooking symmetry. Season by season, the Botanical Gardens entrance through striking design celebrating regional horticulture and peaceful reflection.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Name and Location: Charlotte Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile race track and motorsports complex located at 5555 Concord Parkway South in Concord, NC, 20 miles northeast of Charlotte.

History and Significance: Opened in 1960, CMS hosts prominent NASCAR races like the Coca-Cola 600 and Bank of America ROVAL 400. Its first World 600 race took place in 1961 and has continued annually over Memorial Day weekend.

What to Expect: Race fans can visit the track for NASCAR, INDYCAR and NHRA events. Behind the scenes experiences like speedway tours, race team shops, ziplining and go-karts are also offered year-round at the venue and complex.

Visitor Information: Event tickets and tour schedules can be booked online. Standard tours cost $15-25 for adults. Planning ahead is suggested as many experiences sell out for race weeks.

Even non-race fans feel adrenaline by walking the enormous grandstands looking down on America’s Home for Racing, Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the fastest stock cars on the planet rip through high banks with earth-vibrating echoes during iconic races like the Coca Cola 600 and Bank of America Roval 400. On non-race days, visitors soak up the speedway aura with track tours spotlighting key areas like champion Victory Lane or the garages where mechanics tune $200,000 motors. Drive your own vehicle too during Richard Petty Driving Experiences granting supervised wheel time cruising at high speeds you choose. But for full spectacle, camp infield alongside 80,000 fans during May and October NASCAR races witnessing the excitement firsthand during marathon events running deep into starry Carolina nights.

Discovery Place Science

Name and Location: Discovery Place Science is a science museum located in the heart of Charlotte at 301 N Tryon Street in the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus.

History and Significance: First founded in 1946 as a nature preserve, Discovery Place has grown into one of the top hands-on science museums in the region, focused on STEAM education across diverse exhibits, programs and IMAX Dome Theatre.

What to Expect: Visitors of all ages explore interactive galleries and activities focused around themes like health, energy, earth processes, transportation, space, aviation and the human body. Feature exhibits change periodically.

Visitor Information: Open Mon-Sat 10AM–4PM, Sun 12–4PM. Ticket prices vary by age, discounted memberships available. Some special limited-capacity exhibits require timed tickets.

With imaginative interactive exhibits spread across location in Charlotte, Huntersville and Rock Hill engaging minds of all ages, Discovery Place Science constantly delights families through inspirational STEM encounters with reptiles, physics phenomena and design challenges. Budding aerospace engineers launch various spacecraft designs from the NASA lab then analyze flight diagnostics. Innovative energy exhibits let kids harness lightning to power homes while others manipulate fvalves controlling massive indoor winds. Discovery Place Science connects scientific principles to playful curiosity for lasting educational impact across exhibits curated specifically for young exploratory minds that parents equally enjoy.

Mint Museum

Name and Location: The Mint Museum has two locations in Charlotte – the Mint Museum Uptown at 500 S. Tryon Street and the Mint Museum Randolph at 2730 Randolph Road.

History and Significance: Founded in 1936, the Mint Museum is North Carolina’s oldest art museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums for its distinguished regional and global collections spanning over 7,000 years from around the world.

What to Expect: Visitors explore expansive galleries of decorative arts like ceramics and furniture along with paintings, sculpture and photography at the Uptown location while Randolph focuses on local artists, craft and design.

Visitor Information: Both locations open Wed-Mon 11AM–6PM, closed Tuesday. Admission runs $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, free for children under 5.

Charlotte’s renowned Mint Museum divides between two locations showcasing over 14,000 works spanning American art pottery to contemporary African pieces and pre-Colombian archaeological artefacts to European masters. Downtown, the stately Beaux-Arts Charlotte Mint building itself proves beautiful hosting internationally acclaimed traveling shows inside former gold sorting halls like 20th century designer jewelry against American Studio Craft masters contrasting handcraft against commercialism. Uptown, the Mint’s Modernist Randolph location built inspired by famed artist Georgia O’Keefe’s New Mexico villa delivers provocative fashion exhibits too like retrospectives on haute couture’s Alexander McQueen that make art intimating again. Expect memorable encounters with creative vision any time of year visiting Mint Museum’s thoughtfully curated galleries.

Romare Bearden Park

Name and Location: Romare Bearden Park is a public park located at 300 South Church Street in the heart of Charlotte’s Uptown district.

History and Significance: Dedicated in 2013 and named after renowned Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden, the park was designed as an urban oasis and community gathering space for residents and visitors to enjoy in Uptown.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy cascading waterfalls, gardens and lawn space popular for picnics, public concerts and events like yoga classes, chess games and holiday celebrations in this 5.4 acre park. Food trucks often park nearby.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily with typical hours from 6AM to 11PM. Entry is free. Limited free parking available at meters on neighboring streets.

Commemorating Mecklenburg County’s first prominent black photographer and visual artist whose collage works document overlooked dimensions of African American culture in the American South, vibrant Romare Bearden Park honors its namesake visionary’s legacy through dynamic public spaces encouraging human connections. Pathways guiding visitors through gardens and oak groves past a manmade waterfall cascade open into a 5,000 person amphitheater regularly scheduling free concerts across all music genres to encourage community. Interactive water jets, vibrant play courts and local food truck meetups further the fun times. Today Romare Bearden Park marks an intentionally designed “artful oasis” respecting its muse’s creative spark expanding Charlotte’s communal richness at harmony with nature.

Concord Mills Mall

Name and Location: Concord Mills is a large outlet and value retail shopping mall located north of Charlotte at 8111 Concord Mills Boulevard in the city of Concord, NC.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1999, Concord Mills fast became one of the top visitor and shopping destinations in North Carolina. It is home to over 200 brand name stores attracting around 24 million annual visitors as the state’s largest tourist attraction.

What to Expect: Shoppers browse big savings at popular stores like Nike, Coach and Disney alongside attractions like Dave & Buster’s arcade, the Sea Life aquarium and a 24-screen AMC Movie theater.

Visitor Information: Concord Mills is open 7 days a week Mon-Sat from 10AM to 9PM and Sundays 11AM to 7PM. The mall offers multiple entrances and parking lots across its 1.2 million square foot space.

While certainly not high art, Concord Mills mega outlet shopping mall still amazes through sheer immensity drawing 26 million visitors annually from across both Carolinas towards over 200 discount brand name stores stretched across 1.4 million square feet of retail village so expansive, shoppers ride a Merry-Go-Round to navigate quicker between opposite ends. Weary shoppers catch second winds downing classic Carolina pulled pork sandwiches before conquering harder bargaining across outlet favorites like Nieman Marcus Last Call, Under Armour, Kate Spade Surprise and American Girl Boutique. Nearby bass pro shops and waterslides further entertain when arms tire from holding shopping bags filled with too many irresistible deals found nowhere else locally. For seriously sensational savings seekers, Concord Mills Mall promises bargain hunter nirvana.

Between revitalized postmodern cityscapes and cultural nods towards enduring southern tradition, Charlotte attractions capture complex heritage while celebrating North Carolina’s progressive economy through family-friendly discovery gateways to the greater world beyond. From botanical gardens to stock car legend, civil rights history and community creativity, vibrant Queen City invites engaging encounters around every corner. Just beware interactive fun turns so nonstop that rejuvenating downhome meals or craft brew breaks occasionally restore energy bouncing between them because Charlotte’s diverse experiences find everyone’s bliss point then accelerate straight past!

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