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Charlotte Travel Guide

The Best Tourist Attractions in Charlotte Might Surprise You

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Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, nature lover, or arts aficionado, there’s something for everyone in this town.

There is no shortage of things to do in Charlotte. With NASCAR, the banking industry, a thriving convention, and trade show center, people flock to Charlotte for both work and pleasure. The city offers world-class museums and attractions you’d expect in a major urban hub, but there’s also gorgeous natural scenery and greenspace to take explore as well. Not too far outside of town, you’ll find lush nature preserves, whitewater rafting and more. The following are a few of Charlotte’s best attractions.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Whether you’re a speed demon or a slowpoke, this 86,500 sq. ft. shrine to NASCAR offers a little something for everyone. Here, you’ll get a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look into one of America’s most popular sports. Its state-of-the-art theater, Hall of Honor, and exhibits feature more than 50 interactive experiences and countless artifacts highlight the history of the sport and its deep Southern roots. Get behind the wheel of an iRacing simulator and experience what it’s like to fly around one of NASCAR’s best-known tracks at 200 mph. You can also try your hand at the Pit Crew Challenge as you compete with others to gas up and change a tire in record time. Car buffs will especially enjoy the center’s signature exhibit, Glory Road, which features 18 iconic race cars driven by Hall of Famers, including a 1952 Hudson Hornet and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2008 Chevy Impala SS.

INSIDER TIPIf visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame isn’t enough racing action for you, head to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in nearby Concord to experience the real deal. You can actually get behind the wheel of a legitimate stock racing car with the Richard Petty Driving Experience and take a few laps around the legendary track.

Mint Museum Uptown

A fixture of Charlotte’s Uptown arts district, this long-time Charlotte institution is one of the most comprehensive fine art museums in the Southeast. The Uptown location features a modern, architecturally-impressive 145,000-square-foot building that houses an expansive collection of crafts and design, plus international and American art. The Mint’s large permanent collection ranges from ancient New World pieces to modern and contemporary art. Special traveling and rotating exhibits add even more variety. Check ahead for a listing of current exhibitions. If time permits, there is a second museum campus (the original museum space)—the Mint Museum Randolph, which is included in the ticket price.

Discovery Place Science

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Located in Uptown, Discovery Place Science features hands-on exhibits, a three-story rain forest with live animals, live animal encounters, and an IMAX Dome Theatre. It’s considered one of the top hands-on science museums in the country. While the museum is undoubtedly a popular spot for kids and families, every third Friday of the month the museum offers “Science on the Rocks,” a program just for adults. Check the online calendar before you go to see the latest special exhibits and offerings. If you have extra time, you can purchase a combo ticket that gets you into Discovery Place’s other museum – Discovery Place Nature located in beautiful Freedom Park.

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Charlotte’s premier modern art museum, the Bechtler is a must-see destination for its stunning and unusual building (designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta) and the art you’ll find inside.

Based on the private collection of the Bechtler family, you’ll find over 1,400 works from revered 20th-century modern masters such as Picasso, Miro, Degas, Klee, Giacometti, and Warhol. Wander the lovely four-story with its soaring glass atrium and an outdoor terrace, and explore sculpture, paintings, drawings and other installations that had rarely been seen by the public until the museum opened in 2010. The museum regularly features special traveling exhibitions and events such as “Jazz at the Bechtler.”

INSIDER TIPIf several museums are on your agenda, consider purchasing a Levine Center for the Arts Access Ticket at the discounted price of $20 which gives you two-day access to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center, and The Mint Museum. It’s a great way to save and experience three diverse cultural attractions that are in close proximity of one another.

Levine Museum of the New South

This unique history museum is focused on the significant transformation of Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont since the American Civil War. Exhibits, rich with multimedia and artifacts, trace the history of the region from the post-Reconstruction era to present day. Don’t miss their award-winning signature exhibit, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,” which explores the social history of the economic transformation of the Piedmont from a rural, agriculture-based society to the major business and industrial center that it is today. The exhibit brings to life a recreated tenant farmer’s house, cotton mill machinery, and a luncheon counter where you can listen to stories from local Civil Rights sit-in leaders. Changing temporary exhibits are designed to foster community conversation about issues the region faces today.

Carowinds

Located at South Carolina/North Carolina border just south of Charlotte, Carowinds has been the region’s premier theme park for close to 50 years. Thrill-seekers love the park’s 14 world-class rollers, including the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, Fury 325, and Copperhead Strike, the Carolinas’ first double-launch coaster. For the little ones, there’s Camp Snoopy, a 12-acre children’s area filled with interactive play areas and family-friendly rides. In the summer months, you can stay cool at Carolina Harbor, the all-inclusive water park within the park. There are also live entertainment shows, concerts, and seasonal celebrations are offered throughout the year. Check the calendar online before your visit to see the events.

Charlotte Pro Sports

One of the Queen City’s biggest passions is sports. North Carolina’s love of basketball is strong and the Charlotte Hornets, owned by native son and NBA legend, Michael Jordan, is Charlotte’s home team. The Hornets play at the state-of-the-art Spectrum Center located in Uptown. Also, nearby is Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, the city’s NFL football team. In the summer months, there’s baseball. Although Charlotte doesn’t have a major league team, they do have the Triple-A Chicago White Sox affiliate club, the Charlotte Knights. Catch a game in the fun BB& T Ballpark also located in the heart of Uptown.

U.S. National White Water Center

This massive 1,300-acre whitewater center and park, located just 15 minutes outside of Charlotte on the Catawba River, is a must for nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Center offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for all ages and skill levels including whitewater rafting and kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing, ziplines, ropes courses, and mountain biking on a 40-mile trail system. Their whitewater river course—the largest man-made, recirculating whitewater course in the world—was first created in 2006 as the official Olympic Training Center for whitewater slalom racing. Depending on the difficulty level you choose, guided trips allow you to experience relatively mild Class II rapids up to heart-pumping Class IV rapids. There is also live music, festivals and other events offered throughout the year.

INSIDER TIPOne of the smartest things you can do when visiting a new place is to check out the center ASAP. There you’ll find brochures, coupons, tours, tickets, and friendly advice that will help you plan your visit. Charlotte’s Visitor Information Centers are located in Uptown, at the Charlotte Convention Center, and at the Levine Museum of the New South and at the airport—check them out!

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