Things to Do in North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most scenic road trips—a slow-paced drive through connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south to Shenandoah National Park in the north. Along the way lie stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the parkway’s namesake: the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Mint Museum is the oldest art museum in North Carolina, and houses one of the largest collections in the Southeast, with more than 35,000 objects. Explore its permanent collection spanning Ancient American, Native American, American, European, and Contemporary art at its two branches: Mint Museum Randolph and Mint Museum Uptown.
Victorian mansions line the shady streets of Charlotte’s historic Fourth Ward, among the city’s most prosperous neighborhoods during the mid-19th century. Today, it remains one of the most charming, with shopping boutiques and restaurants filling out many of the lovingly restored homes.
Opened in 1996, Bank of America Stadium is home to the Carolina Panthers football team. The stadium is located in uptown Charlotte and was specially designed for football. The open-air, natural grass stadium has 73,778 seats. During a 2014 renovation, high-definition video boards were added above each end zone, along with a high-efficiency, high-octave sound system.
In addition to the actual playing field, Bank of America Stadium is also home to the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters, training facilities, practice fields and administrative offices.
Located in Uptown Charlotte, Discovery Place Science is one of the most popular hands-on science centers in the region. The museum brings science, technology, math, and nature to life through fun and educational interactive exhibits, activities, and programs. It also features the largest IMAX screen in the Carolinas.
Located in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward neighborhood, Old Settlers’ Cemetery is where many of the area’s first settlers are buried. It was the first cemetery owned and operated by the City of Charlotte, and its gravestones and monuments carry dates from 1776 (the year the Declaration of Independence was signed) to 1884. It’s a great American site in Charlotte for visiting history buffs.
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is home to vibrant displays that tell the story of the Cherokee people, from their paleo ancestry to their current lifestyles. Far more than an exhibit of artifacts, the museum keeps the tribe’s culture alive through education, events, and traditional gatherings.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one of four distinct components of Charlotte’s Levine Center for the Arts. The Bechtler collection includes more than 1,400 works by 20th-century modern artists including Picasso, Calder and Warhol. Visitors should set aside an afternoon to enjoy the Museum in its entirety. A free audio guide and museum map can be picked up at the visitor services desk. The Bechtler also has special materials available for visiting families.
Built by American magnate George Washington Vanderbilt II, the Biltmore Estate was modeled after the mansions of Europe when it was constructed in the late 19th century. The Biltmore House is the largest home in the United States—a staggering 178,926 square feet (16,623 square meters) sitting on more than 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares)—and a prominent example of America’s Gilded Age.
Located inside the Concord Mills Mall, theSEA LIFE®– Charlotte-Concord Aquarium features over 5,000 underwater creatures, including clown fish, jellyfish, green moray eels, sea horses, octopus, triggerfish, southern stingrays, and a variety of different sharks.
The sea creatures at SEA LIFE – Charlotte-Concord Aquarium are divided into over 20 themed exhibits reflecting the natural surroundings in North Carolina. There is an interactive quiz trail you can follow, and a 180-degree ocean tunnel where you can walk by fish and sharks swimming overhead. If you’re traveling with young ones, they’ll enjoy the children’s soft play area. Kids can also check out the interactive touch pool with sea urchins, sea anemones, and horseshoe crabs.
Don’t miss the interactive demonstrations and feedings that take place throughout the day. You’ll also learn more about the aquarium’s conservation efforts, including breeding programs for endangered animals.
More Things to Do in North Carolina
This one-and-a-half acre park is a well-known landmark in Uptown Charlotte. The Green has an artsy flair, with colorful sculptures and fountains, and there are numerous options alongside the park to grab a bite to eat, while the park itself has all the makings for a nice picnic. It’s a frequent lunch spot for employees who work nearby and plays host to the Charlotte Shakespeare Festival every summer.
Celebrate African and African-American culture at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture. In addition to a permanent collection of inspiring works by notable African-American artists, the center also offers a diverse cultural program of music, dance, and theater performances, film screenings, lecures, and workshops.
At the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets in Charlotte lies Independence Square, a focal point of the city that features a public art display. Erected in 1995 and completed by American sculptor Raymond Kaskey, the square hosts four, 24-foot-high bronze figures that personify Charlotte’s past and future.
Charlotte’s Levine Center for the Arts is actually comprised of four unique locations, including the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the John S. and James L. Knight Theater and the Mint Museum Uptown. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art boasts a collection of more than 1,400 works by 20th-century modern artists.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture highlights the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture. It is also home to the John & Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art, one of the country’s most comprehensive collections.
The 1,150-seat James L. Knight Theater hosts touring Broadway productions, concert artists and symphony and opera productions, while the Mint Museum Uptown features collections of American, European and contemporary art along with the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.
There was once a time, not too long ago, where the River Arts District was one of Asheville’s least desirable areas. Abandoned warehouses lined a riverfront that was frequently laden with trash, and the only sign of economic life was the train pulling into the station. Today, after a massive artistic and creative resurgence, new life has been breathed into the district on the banks of the French Broad River, and where empty warehouses and buildings once stood, there are now spectacular studios full of sculptors, glass blowers, woodworkers, and painters. When visiting Asheville’s River Arts District, peruse the 180 studios that line the narrow streets, or stop for a drink at the ferociously popular microbrewery, The Wedge. At the city’s best restaurant for barbecue—12 Bones—enjoy your meal by the banks of the river that flows through the center of town, and watch as tubers, kayakers, and paddleboards all navigate the gently flowing waters. You can stop by a local farmers’ market by day and enjoy live music by night, and the River Arts District is the funkiest district in the funkiest town in the South.
Set on the grounds of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CDI), this may be the only attraction in Charlotte you can visit within a few minutes of retrieving your luggage. Dedicated to the history of aviation in North and South Carolina, the 50-craft collection set in a 40,000-square-foot hangar includes several military and passenger planes.
You’ll also find a reproduction of the Wright Brothers original 1903 Wright Flyer, which was flown in nearby Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. You can also explore a detailed exhibit dedicated to airline captain Sully Sullenberger’s miraculous Hudson River landing of US Airways’ Flight 1549; this flight was bound for CDI when it struck a flock of geese.
While here, don’t miss an opportunity to climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet or to see the S.56B, one of only two single-engine biplane flying boats in the world.
Please note The Carolinas Aviation Museum is currently closed for relocation. The reopening is scheduled for 2022.
Connect with nature at Discovery Place Nature in Charlotte. Located next to Freedom Park, this interactive and educational museum features nature trails, live animals, a butterfly pavilion, hands-on exhibits and activities, and a range of shows and programs, offering a fun and educational day out for the whole family.
Built in 1815 by Archibald Frew, and located just minutes away from Uptown Charlotte, the Historic Rosedale Plantation is considered one of North Carolina’s finest examples of federal-style architecture. Explore the fully restored house and expansive grounds and gardens, and learn about life on an antebellum plantation.
The McDowell Nature Center is a hub for educational programs and serves as the gateway to 1,132 protected acres of the McDowell Nature Preserve. Touted as the oldest preserve in Mecklenburg County, the open space comprises of mostly-forested terrain that runs along the banks of Lake Wylie and is ripe with miles of hiking trails.
A nature-filled respite just a mile from Uptown Charlotte lies the quiet Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Designed and cared for by a married couple with a passion for ornithology, Elizabeth and Edwin O. Clarkson transformed their home and backyard into a lush and always-verdant bird sanctuary.
With a mission to inspire a love of plants through educational programming, classes, and botanical displays, the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens offers year-round splendor. Split between two outdoor gardens and a packed greenhouse the botanical gardens are a perfect spot for a relaxing stroll through the expansive grounds.
Satisfy your need for speed at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, “America’s Home for Racing.” Located just outside of Charlotte, the speedway is home to some of NASCAR’s biggest races, along with a full schedule of other races and events. The speedway also offers behind-the-scenes tours and racing experiences for fans.
Located in Charlotte, the US National Whitewater Center is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream playground. In addition to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the outdoor recreation mega-complex offers hiking and biking trails, a rock climbing wall, ropes course, ziplining, and more. It’s also a popular spot for outdoor festivals.
Located between the historic Dilworth and Myers Park neighborhoods, Freedom Park is considered the Central Park of Charlotte. Spanning 98 acres (40 hectares), this popular park includes a 7-acre (3-hectare) lake, green spaces, walking and biking trails, sporting fields and courts, a demonstration garden, bandshell, and concessions.
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