Updated: Jul 1
Ahh, Charlotte, NC! I lived in Charlotte for 3 years and truly fell in love with this dynamic city. Charlotte is filled with local breweries, great sports, and entertainment. Over the three years that I lived in Charlotte, I tried to explore every nook and cranny within the city. With such diversity of attractions, you'll definitely find something that you love!
First – a little bit about Charlotte…
Charlotte is nicknamed the Queen City. This is because the city is named in honor of the British queen at the time of the city's founding! Charlotte is composed of various neighborhoods, but the most important and note-worthy are listed below.
Uptown is the central point of downtown Charlotte. The crossroads of Trade and Tryon Street mark the center of the city. Uptown is filled with corporate companies, skyscrapers, and businesses. It is very busy during the week, but quiets down over the weekend.
South End is where all the fun is! This is just south of Uptown (walking distance) and offers the best restaurants, breweries, and more. You can access both Uptown and South End via the LightRail in Charlotte ($2.20 per trip).
South Park is further south of South End and has more of a suburb feel to it! South Park features the South Park Mall which is a great place for shopping.
Other Neighborhoods: NoDA (Artsy Neighborhood), Plaza Midwood (Hippy Neighborhood), and more!
Getting To Charlotte
Flying to Charlotte, NC:
Flying in and out of Charlotte is honestly one of the best things about the city. The airport, Charlotte Douglas Airport, is within a 15-20 minute drive from the city ($15 uber) and usually has a quick TSA Pre-Check Line. They have plenty of good restaurants (like southern classics Bojangles and Chickfila) with a variety of shops to keep you entertained.
Driving to Charlotte, NC:
Driving to Charlotte is just as easy. There are so many cities within driving distance that make Charlotte an easily accessible weekend trip.
Columbia, SC - 93 Miles (1 Hour and 28 Minutes)
Asheville, NC - 125 Miles (2 Hours and 9 Minutes)
Raleigh, NC - 165 Miles (2 Hours and 33 Minutes)
Atlanta, GA - 245 miles (3 Hours and 55 Minutes)
Where to Stay in Charlotte, NC
When visiting Charlotte, NC I recommend staying in the heart of the city - Uptown Charlotte. You'll be able to walk to plenty of bars & restaurants, most sport arenas, and the LightRail!
Omni Charlotte - This hotel recently renovated their rooftop with a beautiful pool and huge TV screen (great for game days)! This hotel is directly across from the Epicenter!
Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel - This boutique-like hotel features swanky rooms and a stunning rooftop bar with views of the city. There's also a fabulous restaurant in the lobby that has great options for brunch and dinner.
Le Meridian Charlotte - This hotel is on the outskirts of Uptown but offers a great view of the skyline from their rooftop. It is a "trendier" hotel and pet friendly!
Top 15 Attractions & Things To Do in Charlotte, NC
1. Brewery Hop
Charlotte has dozens upon dozens of local breweries – they’re basically on every corner! Be sure to check out some of the most iconic breweries (mostly located in South End):
Sycamore Brewery - best for Food Truck Fridays
OMB Brewery - best for bratwurst and outdoor space
Wooden Robot Brewery - best for a packed house
NoDa Brewery - best for first dates
Heist Brewery - best for weekend brunch
Wanderlust With Lisa Tip: Can't decide on just one? Try out the Charlotte Beer Garden in South End which features hundreds of local beers on tap! This is a new establishment that has multi-levels and a very fun atmosphere.
Related Post: Best Charlotte Breweries
2. Rooftop Drinks with a View
I’ve never met a rooftop bar that I didn’t like… especially in Charlotte! There are four amazing rooftop bars that are definitely worth a night out on the town in Uptown.
Fahrenheit - This rooftop is my personal favorite. In my opinion, it offers the best view of the city, has an elegant feel, and great cocktails!
Merchant and Trade - This rooftop has a strict dress code and a swanky feel. This view is over Romare Beardon Park and you can see the baseball stadium from here! (On top of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel)
Nuvole Rooftop Twenty Two - The newest rooftop to join the Uptown list has a upscale feel. It is the center of the city (in the Epicenter) and has a great indoor/outdoor area.
City Lights Rooftop - This rooftop features fun summer drinks with Popsicle and a large terrace. It's the furthest out of the city (by a few blocks) so it has a great view. (on top of the Le Meridian Hotel)
Note: Drinks are rather pricey at each of these rooftops, unfortunately.
3. Visit 7th Street Public Market
7th Street Public Market is a hub for local eateries and small pop up shops. It is located in Uptown and a great place for a quick breakfast or lunch. This market has it all with crepes, pizzas, raw juices, sandwiches and more!
4. Late Night at the Epicenter
Okay, coming from a local... the Epicenter is a little overrated (there - I said it). It's directly in the center of Uptown (corner of Trade and Tryon Street) and features tons of bars and some restaurants (mostly chains). It's not really my personal vibe, but many people love it. If I were to go to the Epicenter there would be to must see places on my list: World of Beer and Howl At The Moon (dueling piano bar).
5. Walk along the Rail Trail
The LightRail is a great feature in Charlotte. This is a small train that takes people from South Charlotte to North Charlotte. Many locals use it for commuting each day, but it's also great for exploring the city. Next to the LightRail in South End is a Rail Trail. It is a great path to walk along with breweries and restaurants along the way. Some people even rent scooters or bikes to explore on wheels.
6. Picnic at Romare Bearden Park
Doesn't everyone love a picnic in the park? Charlotte has a beautiful park located in Uptown called "Romere Bearden". It is right next to the baseball stadium and has fun water fountains for kids to play in. Enjoy a picnic here surrounded by skyscrapers.
Wanderlust With Lisa Tip: If you're visiting during baseball season, check the schedule! Sometimes they will have firework nights and this would be the best place to watch for free!
7. Visit Lake Norman
Located about 25-30 minutes north of Uptown is Lake Norman. This is a fabulous lake to spend the day out on a boat, at a lakeside restaurant, or laying out at the "beach".
Fun Fact: Michael Jordan's lake house is on this lake!
8. Visit the US White Water Center
Looking for an adventurous experience while in Charlotte? Definitely consider going to the US White Water Center! This is where skilled white water rafters come to train. Give the course a go or try one of their other 30 activities - kayaking, hiking, ziplining, rock climbing, and more!
Not feeling adventurous? Don't fret! They have a River Jam that is a blast! Relax with a drink in hand on the grassy hill and listen to live bands. River Jam is every Thurs, Fri, and Sat during the summer months.
Experience the only amusement park that sits in two different states - North Carolina and South Carolina! Carowinds is about a 15 minutes drive from downtown Charlotte. It's a fun escape from the city and features tons of rollercoasters.
If you visit during the summer, be sure to pack your bathing suit because your ticket will get you free access to the waterpark connected to Carowinds. If you're visiting in the fall, Scarowinds is such a fun activity late at night.
10. Hike Crowders Mountain
I love the hike up Crowders Mountain. It's located in Kings Mountain, North Carolina - about 20-25 minutes from Uptown Charlotte. Crowders Mountain features a handful of trails ranging in difficulty. My personal favorite offers a stunning view at the top! It's not an overly challenging hike and is fairly quick (usually takes me less than 2 hours) so it's a great afternoon activity.
11. Sports Game
Charlotte has a great sports scene. There is almost always a sporting game happening somewhere in the city, regardless of the season. Football, baseball, and basketball all have arenas right in the heart of Uptown - you could walk to each of them! The hockey arena is just a 10 minute drive away!
Panthers Football (Bank of America Stadium)
Knights Baseball (BB&T Stadium)
Hornets Basketball (Spectrum Center)
Checkers Hockey (Bojangles Colosseum)
12. NASCAR Hall of Fame
Okay, I'll admit that I never made it to the NASCAR Hall of Fame during my three years in Charlotte. I drove by it every day on the way to work and always told myself I would go, but never did. :( However, I've heard so many people rave about their experience. It's fun for people that don't even like NASCAR and it's super informative. Give it a go and tell me about your experience!
13. Charlotte Motor Speedway
Let the NASCAR Hall of Fame come to life at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is just outside of city limits and is such a fun experience. They have dozens of races throughout the year and also have driving lessons available! I'm not brave enough to get behind the wheel - watching is just as fun.
14. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Connect with nature through a lovely afternoon stroll at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. This is open year round and features orchids, canals, fountains, and more! Tickets are typically $15 per person.
If you're visiting in the fall, be sure to check out the Chinese Lantern Festival! The cost is a little higher at $23 per person, but it's so fun to see these special lanterns throughout the gardens.
15. Enjoy a Spa Day at the Ritz Carlton
The Ritz Carlton is in the heart of Uptown and features a spa on the top level. It is a lovely facility with great saunas, massages, and more. Spend the afternoon soaking in the hot tub with a view of the city, lounging by the indoor pool, or sweating it out in the sauna. (Book a room at the Ritz Carlton here).
Best Restaurants in Charlotte, NC
This list could go on and on. Just like breweries, Charlotte has so many great restaurants to try!
Best Coffee Shop: Coco & The Director
Best BBQ: Mac's Speedshop
Best Italian: Mama Ricotta's -- truly my favorite restaurant in the city!!!
Best Southern Comfort: Haberdish
Best Lakefront Restaurant: Hello, Sailor
Best Small Plates: Kindred
Best Fine Dining: The Fig Tree
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