From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Known for its modern and striking city skyline set against the greenery of parks, Charlotte in North Carolina certainly is a place on many people’s travel list. It’s the most populous city within the state, with almost 900,000 Charlotteans calling it home. It’s also the third-fastest-growing major city in the United States and serves as an important cultural, economic, and transportation center for the region.
With its abundance of outdoor recreation, must-see attractions, and award-winning restaurants, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in and around the city. If you don’t already call Charlotte home, a day spent wandering around this bustling city may just make you reconsider…
Ready to discover the best of Charlotte, North Carolina? Let’s get started!
Looking to leave the bustling city streets behind in favor of stunning natural scenery? Thankfully, there are plenty of parks and national preserves within the region for you to soak up all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Crowders Mountain State Park : Less than 30 miles from Charlotte is this stunning and popular state park, which is famous for its companion peaks, The Pinnacle and Crowders Mountain. Here, rock climbing opportunities are boundless, plus there’s plenty of challenging hikes and a visitor center with museum-quality exhibits to keep you entertained.
Uwharrie National Forest : Just over an hour’s drive out of the city is the Uwharrie National Forest, which covers over 51,000 acres of public forest lands. Here, you can partake in outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, biking, and rock climbing, as well as paddling or kayaking in Badin Lake.
Reedy Creek Nature Center & Nature Preserve : Looking for somewhere a little closer to the city? Less than 10 miles away is the Reedy Creek Nature Center and Nature Preserve, which is sure to be a fun day out for all members of the family. Enjoy over 927 acres of natural, forested habitat, as well as 10+ miles of hiking trails, and scenic lake and stream views.
Morrow Mountain State Park: Just over an hour away is the popular Morrow Mountain State Park, where the recreational activities are plentiful. Enjoy hiking, biking, or horse riding the several miles of trails, or take part in some camping, swimming, fishing, or canoeing.
Lake Norman State Park: Less than 40 miles north of Charlotte is the scenic Lake Norman State Park, which is situated next to the state’s largest man-made lake. As a result, the water activities are numerous here, including swimming, fishing, and boating. There are also over 30 miles of trails to hike or bike.
Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve : If you fancy a relaxing break while in the region, look no further than Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve, which locals claim is a “scenic spot to watch birds and butterflies”. There are several miles of trails to enjoy, many of which are flat, and take you around ponds, through woods and a large beech tree grove, or even over a covered bridge.
One of the best ways to truly experience Charlotte is by foot, so luckily, there are plenty of hiking trails in or near the city. These are some of our favorites!
Little Sugar Creek Greenway : Although still being constructed, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is something to be very excited about. Some sections of it currently exist, allowing walkers to enjoy the sights of Charlotte from an easy walking track, while several more are being built. When complete, the greenway will feature over 19 miles of trails and land connectors, from Toby Creek Greenway on North Tryon Street to Cordelia Park just north of uptown.
Clarks Creek Greenway : The Clarks Creek Greenway is a 6.8 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail that is recommended for all skill levels. It passes by a scenic river and offers additional activities such as bird watching and biking. It’s just 11 miles out from the city, so takes less than a 20-minute drive to access it.
South Fork Trail and Blueway Access : Just 17 miles west of the city is the South Fork Trail, which also features Blueway access. The trail follows the South Fork River for two miles to connect downtown McAdenville with the Town of Lowell. Great for a day of kayaking and hiking!
If there’s one thing this city is well-known for, it’s having a great food scene. Many top chefs have set up their very own restaurants here in Charlotte, bringing residents and visitors unique meals inspired by local and seasonal ingredients. Trust us, you’ll be spoiled for choice!
With three locations in Charlotte alone, Midwood Smokehouse is a mainstay within this city. With a roadhouse-like setting, mouth-watering ribs, and other barbeque specialities, it’s the perfect location for a post-hike feast.
Pinky’s Westside Grill
With their famous hot dogs, burgers, and corn dogs (among so much more), you just won’t be able to resist grabbing a bite at Pinky’s Westside Grill. Locals also love their cocktails menu, as well as their wide range of delicious salads.
Kindred is a stunning and suave restaurant and bar featuring an ever-changing, chef-driven menu that’s also inspired by fresh, seasonal produce. Take advantage of the sidewalk seating and watch the bustling city go by. We also hear that when it comes to thirst-quenching cocktails, this is the place to go.
Craving some of the best ramen in Charlotte? A stop by Futo Buta is in order, as it too not only features local and seasonal ingredients, but also some of the best dang Japanese inspired food you’ll find in the region. Don’t miss their vegan don buri or “buta” bowl.
Barcelona Wine Bar
This warm and welcoming tapas bar is inspired by the culture of Spain. You’ll find favorites such as pork belly, spiced beef empanadas, and chorizo among its lengthy menu, as well as an award-winning selection of wines from Spain and South America, boasting one of the largest Spanish wine programs in the U.S. That’s right, the Barcelona Wine Bar is certainly a treat.
After feasting and enjoying all that nature has to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Charlotte’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking for some fun activities to do with children? Look no further! The following attractions are sure to satisfy even the smallest humans for hours on end.
If world-class rides, coastal thrills, authentic Carolina cuisine, and seasonal events and entertainment sound like a great family day out to you, then you’re not alone. Carowinds is one of the most popular attractions within the destination, providing so much to do, that you may just have to spend a weekend on-site!
Here’s another kid-friendly attraction that adults can enjoy too. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is “more than just a museum”. You see, it's a shrine to the history, heritage, and future of the sport that Charlotteans love so much. There are more than 50 interactive experiences, providing fun for the whole family.
Heading out after dark? There are still some fascinating activities and attractions to enjoy in Charlotte, even after the sun has gone down.
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center houses the Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse, and Stage Door Theater, giving you plenty of opportunities to catch an entertaining, post-dinner performance. From comedy and concerts, to broadway, dance, and even free tours and events – there’s certainly something for everyone here.
Fancy something a little spookier? Once the sun goes down, enjoy a Carolina History & Haunts Ghost Tour. Over 90 minutes, you’ll listen to the stories of local history and haunts, while visiting the sites where some of downtown's departed inhabitants are said to still linger. Fun? Yes. Freaky? You bet!
Want to hit the town without it costing you a small fortune? Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Charlotte “on the cheap”.
Discovery Place Science is located in the heart of uptown Charlotte and provides access to museum exhibits, labs, IMAX films, live shows, and events, all of which explore science and nature. At just $19 per adult and $15 per child aged over two, it’s a fun and educational day out that won’t break the budget.
It just doesn’t get cheaper than free! Freedom Park can be enjoyed at no charge and is one of the most famous parks within the city. There’s plenty to see and do here, whether it’s playing sports such as baseball, tennis, soccer, basketball, volleyball, or NFL, or enjoying the 7-acre lake, two playgrounds, or picnic spots.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent in Charlotte? Don’t worry, the following recommendations for free things to do in the city have got you covered. They don’t even cost a cent!
The Billy Graham Library is a 40,000-square-foot experience where you’ll discover the life and legacy of America’s Pastor. Admission to this spiritual and scenic place is free, and while you’re here, you can enjoy a variety of places including the Graham Family Homeplace, Ruth’s Attic Bookstore, The Graham Brothers Dairy Bar, and the Memorial Prayer Garden.
The Sonia and Isaac Luski Gallery also has free admission and is the perfect escape for any art lover. It’s a welcoming place for the community to enjoy art and features contemporary glass artists such as Lino Tagliapietra, Jon Kuhn, and Dale Chihuly, as well as painters such as Chuck Close and Herb Jackson. It’s not to be missed!
By now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Charlotte has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Located near the heart of Charlotte is The Salt Pad, which uses Salt Therapy (traditionally known as halotherapy) to provide a natural, effective, and drug-free method of relief for conditions such as sinus, allergies, and other respiratory ailments and minor skin conditions. Enjoy services such as the Tranquillity Room or acupuncture.
If a green beauty boutique and day spa is more your thing, then you’re going to love the Toccare Day Spa, which is one of the most popular within the city. Here, you can enjoy custom spa treatments and all things green beauty, whether it’s a relaxing facial or enhancing treatment such as a facial massage or facial cupping.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Charlotte is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region, two of which we reveal below.
STAX specializes in cycle, crossfit, and yoga, so there’s truly something to suit every type of person. It’s also home to Charlotte‘s Biggest & Best Bootcamp, which happens every Tuesday and Thursday evenings and features over 100 people. Getting fit and healthy has never been so much fun!
Located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte is the Charlotte Athletic Club, offering a 30,000 square-foot fitness center with services such as personal training, a pool, sauna, and group fitness classes covering cycling, barre, yoga, pilates, HIIT, and more.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Charlotte without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these days trip next time you fancy a new adventure.
If you’ve got some extra time up your sleeves, whether it be a whole day or weekend, then a visit to Wilmington is recommended. This scenic port city sits on the Atlantic coast and is home to attractions such as the beautiful Airlie Gardens and historic USS North Carolina (BB-55) Museum. If you fancy, you could even drop by the Wilmington Serpentarium to check out their 40+ species of venomous snakes, as well as crocodiles and lizards.
With one of the country’s most fascinating national parks within just over a 2.5-hour drive away, it’s certainly something you can’t miss out on if you live in Charlotte or are visiting the region. It’s America’s most visited national park and encompasses over 500,000 acres, making it one of the largest protected areas in the East. Enjoy nature viewing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, and more.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Charlotte that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Charlotte? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.