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Top Things To Do in Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina, can be considered a city of contrasts. Shaded streets lined with historic brick buildings can be found next to modern skyscrapers, and world-class business and entertainment opportunities are offered along with old-fashioned southern charm. This vibrant city offers plenty of recreational opportunities for all ages and tastes, so it's a great spot for everything from a romantic weekend getaway to a fun-filled family trip. Make sure to include these must-see spots on your next trip to Charlotte.

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01Stroll through history

Historic Old City Hall, Charlotte mtcurado / Getty Images

Charlotte has been a thriving city since before the Revolutionary War, so there's plenty of historical experiences to be enjoyed. Traditional museums include the Charlotte Museum of History, the Wells Fargo History Museum and the Levine Museum of the New South, which offers plenty of educational exhibits that all ages can enjoy. If you prefer to explore, try a self-guided tour of the Liberty Walk, which features plaques marking important Revolutionary War sites.

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02Chow down on some southern barbecue

If you love to eat, Charlotte is the place to be. Barbecue is a popular choice, and numerous Charlotte restaurants offer plenty of styles to choose from. If barbecue isn't your preference, don't worry. This eclectic city offers everything from authentic international foods to soul food classics to raw vegan fare. Keep an eye out for food trucks as you explore, as they're a foodie favorite in this city.

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03Take a cruise

If you feel like a change of scenery, book a sightseeing tour on nearby Lake Norman or the Mississippi River. Many include food and drinks for a unique dining experience, and you'll get to see the area from an unusual vantage point. Boat options range from luxury yachts to old-fashioned riverboats so you can select the option that suits your trip. Book a sunset tour for a particularly romantic experience.

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04Get your adrenaline up with a NASCAR experience

Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC

Charlotte is located in the heart of car racing country, and you can experience the modern version of the sport firsthand at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. If you want more information or a chance to feel the rush yourself, visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame nearby. This fascinating museum details the history of the sport as well as prominent figures in it, and it also offers hands-on exhibits like racing simulators so you can experience the driver's seat.

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05Check out the arts

Charlotte has a vibrant art and culture scene, so there's plenty to explore. Fans of sculpture and painting should check out the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art for some amazing work, or follow the Arts and Science Council's Public Art Walking Tour to see gems hidden among the urban landscape. For a change of pace, visit the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, which shows a mix of traditional folk art and modern design by African-American artists. If you're a fan of performing arts, Charlotte is also home to numerous excellent community theater programs, a symphony, and a ballet company.

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06Sample the local brews

With more than 60 local breweries located in and around the city, Charlotte is a haven for craft beer aficionados. Try exploring on your own, or sign up for a guided tour to help you sample plenty of beers in a day. If you prefer other spirits, Charlotte is also home to several distilleries creating craft liquors. The rolling hills outside the city also hide several excellent wineries for those who prefer to sample those vintages.

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07Hit the rapids

If you've ever wanted to try whitewater rafting, Charlotte is a great place to launch. The U.S. National Whitewater Center is located just a short drive away. This innovative facility features various man-made rapids to let you test your skill under the direction of experienced guides, as well as zip lines, climbing walls, and more. If you prefer a more slow-paced approach to the water, consider paddle-boarding, canoeing, or kayaking in the Mississippi Rental or on Lake Norman. Multiple rental companies can provide you with gear if you don't want to bring your own.

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08Cool down at a water park

If you want a cool experience without leaving town, consider one of Charlotte's water parks. Ray's Splash Planet is a local favorite due to its convenient location in the Uptown district, and it features a variety of slides, pool areas, and other attractions that are great for all ages. It's also indoors, so it's a great choice for rainy days. If you want a little more adventure, head over to Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Concord. It features both large and small slides, a wave pool, a treehouse, and more.

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09Explore the natural beauty

View from Crowders Mountain summit richard23 / Getty Images

Whether you prefer manicured gardens or pristine wilderness, Charlotte has what you're looking for. For the former, take a stroll through the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden or the gardens at UNC Charlotte. The city itself also has several protected wilderness areas, many of which have educational exhibits and accessible nature trails. These include the Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve and the Anne Springs Close Greenway. For a bigger challenge, heat out to Crowders Mountain State Park. The peak offers a view of the Charlotte skyline on clear days.

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10Have a night out

After a day exploring nature and history, you might feel like kicking up your heels a bit. Head down to City Center to check out the EpiCentre, a sprawling entertainment facility that is home to numerous nightclubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues. If you prefer to head off the beaten path, check out Brevard Court. The cobblestone street might make you feel like you're stepping back in time, but it is home to world-class dining and entertainment.

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11Savor the cuisine at Merchant and Trade

You cannot visit North Carolina without paying a culinary visit to Merchant and Trade eatery. Located at 303 South Church Street in Charlotte, the restaurant tempts the taste buds with a charcuterie board featuring the chef's choice of cheeses and meats, along with accompaniments. Prices for meals range from $14 to $38, with the Surf and Turf (New York strip steak, herbed fries, and grilled shrimp), highest priced and the Fried Chicken Sandwich (featuring special sauce, brioche, pickles, and fries) affordably priced at $14.00. Enjoy late-night drinks or save room for the restaurant's S'Mores Cheesecake, made with homemade marshmallows, a graham cracker crust, and topped with a coating of chocolate.

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12Photograph the birds at Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary

A must-see garden attraction and bird habitat, the Wing Haven Gardens, and Bird Sanctuary sits in the heart of Charlotte. The natural oasis highlights three public gardens where you can appreciate the area's flora and fauna. Some 142 species of birds have been recorded at the site. Many travelers visit the attraction in the spring when migrating winter birds return to the gardens. The popular three-acre Charlotte site, which opened in 1927, was developed by Edwin ("Eddie") and Elizabeth Clarkson. Mrs. Clarkson was also known, at the time, as Charlotte's "bird lady."

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13Escape to fun, thrills, and spills at the Carowinds Amusement Park

Known as a place where South Carolina and North Carolina meet at the junction of "Fun," the Carowinds Amusement park (located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Fort Mill, South Carolina) features thrill rides and waterpark entertainment for just about everyone. Take the Boogie Board Racer, the longest mat type race slide in the southeastern U.S., or get an adrenaline rush on one of the park's roller coasters - the Carolina Cyclone, the Carolina Goldrusher, or the Afterburn. Camp Snoopy, at the park, features rides for the kiddies.

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14Enjoy a creepy Carolina History and Haunts Ghost Tour

If you want to explore the spooky side of North Carolina, you need to schedule a time to take part in a tour hosted by Carolina History and Haunts. Whether you learn more about the ghostly history of Charlotte by lantern, stroll through the west-end district of Winston-Salem past Victorian architecture, or learn more about Greensboro's haunted past, you will enjoy a delightfully frightening tour. Tours are conducted for 90 minutes - always after nightfall. Tickets are available for purchase online.

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15Celebrate spring at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Located on 6500 South Hope Road in Belmont, North Carolina, the 380-acre Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden sits west of Charlotte on Lake Wylie. The Garden represents one of the best places to see Southern plants and flowers. The garden's beautiful pavilion regularly welcomes visitors to the site's tropical orchid and plant display, the Lost Hollow Children's Garden, glistening fountains, annual and perennial exhibits, and a variety of walking paths. Visit the park from 9 am or 10 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday, or during the evening from 5:30 pm to 9 pm any second, third, or fourth Thursday in May or June.

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