Top Things To Do In Charlotte, NC

Top Things To Do In Charlotte, NC

From the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, you can pick up your rental car and set off on a fun adventure in and around Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte has everything visitors might be searching for in a vacation. They have unique culinary experiences, live music, craft breweries, museums, shopping, sports, outdoor adventure, thrills, and fun for the whole family to enjoy. 

Charlotte is nicknamed the Queen City because it gets its name from an honor given to the German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who became the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland in 1761. You’ll feel as honored as its namesake when you’re in Charlotte, and you might even feel a little like royalty, surrounded by all the art, beauty, and fun. From art museums to craft beers, from race cars to rapids, Charlotte is a modern city with an appreciation for history.

As you know, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead when you’re going somewhere new, so let’s explore the top things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina, to make your trip a memorable one. 

1. Panthers Stadium

Charlotte is home to the Carolina Panthers, a team in the National Football League. The team has played in the Super Bowl twice, and they have reached the playoffs eight times. So, needless to say, it’s a pastime here to grab a beer and watch a Panthers game on a Saturday.

NFL fans love to visit the stadiums around the United States. If you’re lucky enough to be scheduling a visit when a game is in town, going to a professional American football game is certainly an exciting experience in anyone’s life. Food, fun, and football are all you need to have a good time. 

The Panthers play out of Bank of America Stadium, which has a seating capacity of over 75,000. It’s an open-air facility, and it hosts a variety of other events like the Duke’s Mayo Classic for college football and concerts for artists like Garth Brooks and Billy Joel.

Typically, it’s possible to take public tours, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, those haven’t been restored to a more pre-pandemic schedule.

2. Snooze AM Eatery

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that may be true. But, breakfast is definitely the most delicious meal of the day, and the variety of flavors are seemingly endless at breakfast time.

When you’re on vacation, whether you stayed out late enjoying the nightlife or you need to fuel up before you head out on a family adventure, brunch is one of the best parts of any trip. At Snooze, they open early and stay open until the late lunch hours. The bar opens as soon as the doors open, and the menu offers a fun variety and new takes on all your breakfast faves. 

Charlotte’s Snooze AM Eatery is better known as Snooze South End. The South End is a popular area of Charlotte because of its exciting nightlife and its proximity to the fine art galleries in the surrounding areas. 

3. Rail Trail

While you’re in the South End of Charlotte, you’ll want to head over to the Rail Trail. The Rail Trail is a popular destination for runners and cyclists. This trail will take you through the heart of the beautiful city of Charlotte, North Carolina, and you never know what you’ll see along the way. 

The Rail Trail connects neighborhoods and communities throughout the Queen City, and there are currently plans to add a pedestrian bridge between South End and Uptown. It is 3.5 miles of trail that belong to the people of Charlotte. 

It’s already a colorful and fun place to walk amongst the locals, but the vision of the Rail Trail is that it will continue to grow to feature art, gardens, and unique experiences with plenty of places to sit, eat and play.

In the future, the trail will become part of a massive park of more than 220 acres. 

4. Sea Life Aquarium

The Sea Life Aquarium in Charlotte is located in the suburb community of Concord at the Concord Mills Mall. Sea Life Aquariums are located throughout North America. Kids always have a good time at the Sea Life Aquarium because it’s so exciting to see so many different fish up close. The aquarium offers opportunities for interactive discoveries. 

With admission, kids can also meet PJ Mask characters, enjoy themed activities, and play pop-up games. Everyone can appreciate the beauty of walking through an underwater tunnel where sharks, rays, and a rescued sea turtle swim overhead. You’ll feel like you’re walking through a real tropical ocean.

5. Blue Ghost Fireflies

What is it about a blue glow that just beckons you to it? In the forests of Western North Carolina, there’s a faint blue glow in the air that beckons to people for a little while every year. It’s so exciting to think about what that must have looked like to people before we knew it was the Blue Ghost Firefly.

Technically, this isn’t in Charlotte, but if you’re in Charlotte when the Blue Ghost Fireflies are lighting up the forest in June, you should go. If this is a must-see for you, then admittedly, you’ll have to schedule your trip around the fireflies because they won’t appear until it’s time. 

If you find your schedule allows you to see this amazing natural beauty, it’s worth the two-hour trip in your rental car from Charlotte to the Pisgah National Forest for some late-night hiking and a spectacular sight to see. 

6. Smelly Cat Coffee House

When you’ve been traveling about in a city for a while and starting to feel fatigued, there’s nothing quite as energizing as a good cup of coffee and a pastry at a local coffeehouse.  In Charlotte, the Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery is the longest-standing craft coffee shop. 

The Smelly Cat Coffee House is located in the North Davidson, also known as NoDa, art district in Charlotte, and it is a local favorite with a loyal fanbase. Of course, with its name, you know they offer merchandise. However, you can also take a bag of their delicious coffee home too. 

The breakfast items and pastries are made fresh every day, and they even make the syrups for their drinks in-house. You’ll be blown away by all the coffees and the countries they represent, and Smelly Cat spreads the love by featuring local products as well. 

This coffee house has a conscience too. They believe in sustainability, and they do their part to practice it with composting and encouraging customers to bring their own cups for a discount. They also use only ethically sourced beans which they roast themselves. 

If you’re not sure if you need a cup of coffee or you’re ready for a cocktail, the Smelly Cat Coffee House has you covered with a complete list of seasonal and cozy classic cocktails. Adult salted caramel frappe, anyone?

7. Umbrella Alley 

Umbrella Alley is a new art installation in Charlotte. It was completed in April 2021. Nearly 100 umbrellas are hovering about 15-20 feet in the air. The umbrellas are magenta, teal, yellow, and blue. 

The way the light plays with the shadows the umbrellas make will give you a different experience every time, depending on the time of day and the weather. The art installation also allows you an excellent backdrop for some whimsical pictures of your vacation. 

The art installation won’t last long, but it is located at Metropolitan in the Queen City. So, you can see this neat artwork while you do some serious vacation shopping. 

8. Uptown Musical Parking Garage

How often do you seek out a parking garage because it’s cool? When you’re looking for a place to park your rental car in Charlotte, consider the 7th Street Parking Garage. 

The building was created by Christopher Janney and is a work of art entitled “Touch My Building.” It is an exciting fusion of architecture, lights, sound, and interactive technology. It encourages the passing pedestrian to interact with the urban building facade. 

The parking deck is very lively looking, to begin with, and there is a syncopated pattern across the nine-story building facade. Pedestrians can also play the building like an instrument by touching the light fins surrounding the building. 

The building itself will perform every hour by playing a mix of sounds and lights in various patterns, and if that’s not enough excitement for you, occasionally a “ghost” will play a musical piece. If pedestrians can find the riddle hidden on the building and decipher it, the “ghost” will respond if you play the deciphered pattern. 

You can get your first 90 minutes of parking validated by nearby businesses in the 7th Street Public Market. 

What Else?

Here are some other fun things to do and see in Charlotte if you happen to get to the end of this list, including attractions, museums, restaurants, and more. There really is something for everybody: 

  • Freedom Park
  • Nascar Hall of Fame
  • Charlotte Motor Speedway
  • Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
  • Billy Graham Library
  • Levine Museum of the New South
  • Reed Gold Mine
  • Feast Food Tours
  • Carowinds Theme Park
  • Charlotte Knights
  • The Mint Museum Uptown
  • Discovery Place
  • Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen


There’s just so much to see and do in the Queen City that it’s hard to do it all in one visit. These are just a few of the most exciting things to do, but there’s so much more, including an NBA team, multiple art exhibits, live music, and outdoor fun. 

When you’re in the most populated city in the state, you feel surrounded by the bustling excitement that major cities bring. Try to explore the different parts of the city, and if you can’t do it all in one go, start planning your next trip. 

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