Charlotte Travel Guide 2021

2021 Charlotte Visitors Guide

With its unique combination of Old South charm and progressive sense of modernity, Charlotte is always a fun and interesting place to visit no matter what time of the year. The city contains everything from historic landmarks to top-rated museums to some of the top theaters, entertainment centers, and cultural attractions in the region. Whether you’re visiting the city for the first time or have traveled there many times before, Charlottes always serves up something new and exciting to discover.

A great place to start a visit to Charlotte is in Uptown, the city’s bustling downtown center. Charlotte’s focal point for commerce, culture, media, and government, Uptown hosts a wide array of attractions and interesting landmarks to discover. Attraction in Uptown includes its numerous parks, shops, restaurants, and theaters as well as the Discovery Place, a premier children’s museum, and the Mint Museum of Craft and Design. Other key attractions include ImaginOn, the Afro-American Cultural Center, and the Levine Museum of the New South, a fascinating cultural institution that explores the history and heritage of the South. Elsewhere in Uptown, visitors will find excellent galleries and boutique stores as well as beautiful parks like Marshall Park and Fourth Ward Park.

Another great place to visit in Charlotte is NoDa, the city’s premier art district. The neighborhood contains a vast and eclectic collection of art and craft galleries as well as fine shops and the historic Neighborhood Theater.

The Charlotte Moms blog has some great “Best of Charlotte” lists. Definitely check them out.

Throughout the city, visitors will encounter many more unique and historic neighborhoods as well as fascinating attractions to explore. The South End neighborhood is known for its wealth of galleries and restaurants and hosts attractions such as the Charlotte Trolley Museum, Tremont Music Hall, and Camden Market. Myers Park, renowned for its stately homes and historic character, also holds a number of landmarks and attractions worth visiting such as Freedom Park, the Mint Museum of Art, and the Nature Museum while the quaint Dilworth neighborhood hosts Latta Park and a number of fine shops and restaurants. Other attractions and things to do in Charlotte include the SouthPark Mall, Independence Park, and the city’s rich sports culture.

One of the last true hidden gems in the United States for tourism, Charlotte is quickly emerging as a first-class destination thanks to its rich museums and wealth of shops, galleries, and restaurants worth visiting. Anyone looking for a fun and unique experience should definitely pay a visit to this vibrant North Carolina city.

Charlotte Downtown Hotels

Unlike the residents of most other American cities, those in Charlotte, South Carolina, do not differentiate between “Uptown” and “Downtown.” Thanks to a revival movement that targeted the area a few short decades ago, Downtown Charlotte is also known as Uptown. Charlotte’s city center is like that of other American cities in that it hosts its share of established corporations and banks. This is where Wells Fargo makes sure all of its East Coast business runs smoothly. Additionally, tourists are attracted to the heavy amount of sporting venues, hotels, restaurants, and museums in the area. In 2010, the newly unveiled Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Mint Museum of Modern Art began reeling the art world into the Uptown area. Those who love to revel in the good life can choose from approximately 50 different nightlife options and 120 eateries of various designs. Each year, about 25 million tourists experience all that the Charlotte city center has to offer.

Charlotte Weather

The weather in Charlotte, North CarolinaCharlotte, NC is one of the most beautiful cities in the Southeast, combining the architecture and urban landscape of larger cities such as Atlanta and Dallas with the Southern charm that has always defined the Carolinas. Charlotte serves as somewhat of a dividing line between the Northeastern cities, which typically experience four distinct seasons, and the Southern cities located on or near the East Coast, which experience less defined shifts in weather patterns.

For those who live South of the North Carolina area, it is a tradition to drive to North Carolina to see the changing of the leaves, a beautiful spectacle that typically occurs in mid-October. Although there is plenty of foliage to go around, cities such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Savannah, Charleston, and Jacksonville maintain autumn leaves until December, when they abruptly fall away. Charlotte is one of the few cities, along with Asheville and Raleigh, that combines beautiful trees changing colors in a variety of hues during a time of year where the weather is also enjoyable enough to appreciate an Autumn day outdoors.

Charlotte lacks the messy winters of the Northeast, the rain and winds found in Raleigh, Savannah, and Charleston, and the humidity of Atlanta and Birmingham. For that reason, it is considered one of the most temperate cities on the East Coast for those who appreciate four distinctly different and enjoyable seasons, without inclement weather. Charlotte will, on occasion, receive some of the side effects of hurricanes and tornado activity during the late summer and early autumn, but for the most part, is well-insulated.

Even winters in Charlotte are relatively mild and understated, with highs in the mid-50s and lows in the upper 30s during the period spanning December through February. Snow is rare but does happen, typically when a storm system attacks the East Coast. The last White Christmas since the 1970s occurred in 2010 when the city received 3.5 inches of snow. On average, it snows two days each year in Charlotte, and precipitation totals about four inches.

Charlotte also has relatively temperate summers. When compared to the heat waves of major Northeastern cities, and regular weather patterns of cities such as Atlanta and Birmingham, where temperatures hit the 90-degree mark regularly for four months out of every year, Charlotte is downright mild. A typical Charlotte summer spans from late May to late September and has high temperatures in the 80s and lows in the 60s on a fairly consistent basis.

No matter when you decide to visit Charlotte, chances are good that you’ll find the weather rather mild and enjoyable, as extremes are uncommon. This is one of the factors that make Charlotte one of the fastest-growing cities in the Southeast.

Charlotte Transportation

Charlotte, North Carolina, is a quaint city full of things to do and places to see, making it a prime tourist destination on the East Coast. This classic southern city is full of charm and life, and getting around is really simple thanks to the neat grid layout of the city blocks and plenty of transportation choices. If bringing your own vehicle to Charlotte in order to get around is not an option, you still will have no worries when it comes to getting from place to place and seeing the sights.

The fastest and newest way to get between places in Charlotte is by using the LYNX Blue Line Light Rail. This rapid transit system connects the southern portion of the city with the “Center City,” which is home to entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels, museums and much more. Trains are accessible between the hours of 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. seven days a week. There is a fee for most people over the age of 5 to ride, and tickets are available from kiosks located conveniently at each of the 15 stops along the line.

Another public transportation option is the Sprinter bus system. These hybrid electric buses run regular routes from Center City to and from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Buses run at regular intervals, three times an hour, Monday through Friday and every half hour in the evening on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to stops at the airport, the Sprinter bus will stop at a number of other locations near prime tourist areas.

One of the more unique ways to get around Charlotte is via the Gold Rush, a line of trolleys that serve a small portion of the city. These vehicles were designed to look like streetcars from years gone by and run along routes on Tryon and Trade streets. Trolley service is available from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and riders may board at no cost at specially marked bus stop areas. The trolley will stop during the designated working times at eight and 15-minute intervals.

Finally, you have the CATS, or Charlotte Area Transit System, bus service. This mass transportation service moves millions of people per year and makes regular stops in and around Charlotte to pick up passengers. The stops are clearly marked throughout the entire city of Charlotte, and buses can be expected at each stop at regular intervals. Bus service hours are 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day of the week. Express route passes are available through the service’s website.

Attractions near Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte Attractions

Freedom Park

Located near the downtown area, Freedom Park features 98 acres of scenic parkland, a lake, paved walking trails, a playground, volleyball and tennis courts and athletic fields as well as an outdoor theater and a nature center for children. Popular attractions at the park include a historic locomotive steam engine and the geese that flock around the lake year-round. In addition to offering free music concerts in the summer, Freedom Park also hosts the annual five-day summer event, Festival in the Park.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center

Located on 400 acres of land near the Catawba River, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a wonderful place for outdoor and adventure lovers. With the center featuring the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, a sports facility and several trails, visitors can enjoy a wide range of fun activities that include whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, obstacle courses, ziplining, hiking, mountain biking and canopy tours. Additionally, the center offers learning programs, special events and dining choices.

Discovery Place

One of Charlotte’s most popular attractions, Discovery Place, is a science museum that packs many fun-filled, interactive exhibits and experiments. Visitors can also walk through a recreated rainforest, be captivated by the IMAX and 3D theater programs and marvel at the underwater world in the aquarium.

Charlotte Museum

The Charlotte Museum is another popular museum in Charlotte where people of all ages can enjoy exhibits showcasing nature such as live animal displays, insects and a butterfly pavilion. Visitors can also engage in programs and classes offered by the museum to learn more about North Carolina’s nature and wildlife.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR racing fans will love visiting this Hall of Fame where they can see collections showcasing legendary race drivers. Visitors will enjoy spending time admiring all the artifacts and memorabilia. The museum also features thrilling simulator rides, a gift shop, cafe and restaurant.

Bank of America Stadium

A must-do in Charlotte is the Bank of America Stadium. Featuring more than 73,000 seats, this beautiful open-air stadium is home to the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers. Additionally, the stadium hosts the annual ACC Championship Game and the annual college football bowl game, the Belk Bowl. Besides watching an exciting football game, guests can also arrange a tour of the stadium where they can check out the locker rooms, weight and training rooms, lounge, the Panther’s Den, luxury boxes and more.

Dining in Charlotte North Carolina

Charlotte Dining

North Carolina’s largest city is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, never failing to offer a culinary adventure. Whether you prefer American cuisine, Asian dishes, a steakhouse, or various other ethnic foods, Charlotte is the place to go for an unbeatable dining experience. Throughout the course of this article, you’ll learn about the best restaurants in Charlotte and what makes them so wonderful.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

One of the most popular restaurants in Charlotte is undoubtedly Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. Here, even the pickiest eaters will find something appealing because they offer a plethora of different foods, including savory burgers, salads, sesame encrusted salmon, pecan-crusted trout, cilantro-grilled chicken breast, and sandwiches. Almost all the options found on the menu are created atop their signature wood-fired grill, providing a unique blend of flavors. The contemporary decor consists of an open fireplace, an impressive wine rack, and an extensive bar collection. Between the warm atmosphere, modern style, and delicious food, Firebirds guests can always be sure they’ll have a top-of-the-line experience.

Good Food on Montford

A second must-see dining establishment in the Charlotte area is the wildly popular, Good Food on Montford. This restaurant is great for visitors because of its proximity to the interstate, overflowing with hotels. This restaurant is well-known for its diverse menu, which showcases tapas. Tapas are perfect for sharing and allows everyone to enjoy many dishes without getting full too quickly. Good Food on Montford offers many exquisite dishes, including charcuterie featuring foie gras and chicken liver mousse, steamed buns filled with pork belly and pickled veggies, Korean beef with kimchi, confit lamb belly, falafel and more. This fine dining establishment is ideal for any foodie because it covers nearly every ethnic food.

Halycon

Another incredible restaurant in Charlotte is Halycon. Halycon is ideal for visitors because it is located on South Tryon Street, near multiple hotels such as Embassy Suites, The Westin, and the Hyatt Place Hotel. Halycon is loved equally among locals and tourists because it offers an artfully crafted array of dishes like buckwheat crepes with local chevre, hearth-charred peppers, a pork belly burger with buttermilk cheddar, North Carolina catfish with grits and shrimp gravy, braised lamb with squash and huckleberries and spice-lacquered duck. With such tasty options, it’s easy to see why Halycon was voted as The Charlotte Observer’s “Best New Restaurant”.

Eating delectable meals with your family is one of the most memorable, enjoyable activities you can partake in. Now that you’ve learned about the abundance of appetizing food found in Charlotte, there’s no reason not to visit.

Charlotte Events

Festival in the Park

With good food, good music, and an endless variety of live entertainment, the annual “Festival in the Park” is one of Charlotte’s most popular events. Enjoy everything from carnival rides to folk productions as everyone in the city comes together for a good time. More than 100,000 visitors attended in 2012! Catch a show, dance to an outdoor concert, or expand your horizons with deep-fried Snickers and falafel. If you’re looking for one of the most boisterous events in Charlotte, this is the place to be… just watch out for the clowns.

Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend

For twenty-five years Charlotte has hosted an annual Wine & Food Weekend in the spring. As the name implies, it’s all about cuisine and wine, attracting winemakers from around the globe with the chance to share their goods with an appreciative audience. This three-day event is one you won’t want to miss if you have a palette for the finer things.

Christmas Town USA

It’s located just a few miles west of Charlotte, yet driving into Christmas Town USA is like driving into another world. Bright lights hang from every tree and street post; decorated trees dominate lawns and storefronts. There’s also an annual Yule Log ceremony where all the local children come together to haul a yule log into a fireplace in the town square. If you’re at all interested in getting into the spirit, consider Christmas Town one of the must-sees of the holiday season.

Charlotte Irish Summer Festival

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate Charlotte’s annual Irish Summer Festival, but it definitely earns you cred among the lively green crowds. Enjoy meals, music, and cultural exhibits from Gaelic and Northern Ireland, educating yourself even as you enjoy all the food and arts of this unique European nation. You don’t have to worry about keeping the kids entertained, either, because there’s a little something for everyone regardless of age: Children can tucker themselves out in the “Wee Area” playground and bounce house while the adults grab a beer and enjoy live Irish bands among the company.

Carolina Balloonfest

Go balloon-watching for a good cause! More than fifty hot air balloons participate in the Carolina Balloonfest, floating across the sky with beautiful colors and formations to the delight of everyone below. There’s also live music and entertainment as well as a variety of games and snack booths. Best of all, a portion of all proceeds go to charity, so go ahead and send your annoying sister-in-law to the dunking booth. You’re doing it for the children.

Family Fun near Downtown Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina is filled with fun activities for the whole family. Whether you’re looking for indoor or outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone.

Discovery Place

Science and nature enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Discovery Place, a science center with interactive exhibits for kids of all ages to enjoy. Its IMAX theater runs regular films. The non-profit organization that operates Discovery Place also manages the Charlotte Nature Center, which includes live animals and insects as well as daily programs and puppet shows for children.

Lazy 5 Ranch Petting Zoo

Although Charlotte does not have a major zoo, animal lovers of all ages can enjoy the Lazy 5 Ranch Petting Zoo in the nearby town of Mooresville. Llamas, deer, antelope, and buffalo are some of the animals located there. Families can take a wagon through the park, purchase feed to give to the animals, and then enjoy their own meal in the nearby picnic areas. There’s also a playground.

Hunter Farm

Also close to Charlotte is The Hunter Farm. Each season brings new opportunities at the Farm, from strawberry picking in the spring to pumpkin picking in the fall. They also host a tree lot in the winter, providing North Carolina grown fir trees for the holidays. Educational farm tours are available, and the farm is also open to hosting church groups and families. Reservations can even be made to enjoy an evening bonfire.

University Place

Within Charlotte proper, one family-friendly area is University Place. Your family can take a walk around the lake path, which has ample room for strollers, or rent a paddleboat. It’s all close to good shopping and family-friendly restaurant choices too. Summer concerts add to seasonal enjoyment.

Charlotte Museum of History

The Charlotte Museum of History provides families with a look at Charlotte in the 18th century. Tour guides dressed in period costumes provide information and hands-on learning experiences including crafts and quill pen writing. Wooded paths surround the museum and lead to the nearby Hezekiah Alexander House. An added attraction is the American Freedom Bell.

ImaginOn

For those who enjoy drama and music, ImaginOn hosts productions by the local children’s theater. Managed jointly by the children’s library and the theater group, ImaginOn provides interactive drama and music activities for kids of all ages as well as an animation studio where older children can learn animation and video techniques.

Carowinds

A favorite family attraction in Charlotte is Carowinds Amusement Park. Live entertainment, food and rides are part of the Carowinds package. The adjacent water park, Boomerang Bay, is situated on 20 acres and contains 11 water slides.

Shopping near Downtown Charlotte

JFK Airport Terminal DinningThe shopping scene within Charlotte, North Carolina is designed to fit all budgets in a wide variety of styles. Whether you’re looking for affordable children’s apparel, high-end designer brands, small boutiques, outlet centers, or department stores, you will find it all while visiting Charlotte. You will always find what you’re looking for when browsing around some of the best shopping districts in the area.

Ballantyne Village

One of the most popular shopping spots within Charlotte is Ballantyne Village. Here you will find a variety of shops that specialize in clothing for all ages, beautiful crystal and china, home decor, and electronics. This boutique-styled shopping center is truly one-of-a-kind and is home to a number of award-winning stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Visitors come to Ballantyne Village to find unique merchandise while enjoying this luxurious shopping center experience.

South Park Mall

Charlotte, North Carolina’s South Park Mall is located in the SouthPark area of the city. Operated by the Simon Mall company, this shopping center was first developed in 1970 and continues to thrive today with new stores being added regularly. South Park Mall is also one of the area’s largest malls, offering guests the chance to shop at popular retailers such as Bath & Body Works, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, and Dillard’s.

Promenade on Providence

The Promenade on Providence is one of Charlotte’s best outdoor shopping centers, where affordability meets luxury. Conveniently located at the intersection of I-485 in South East Charlotte, the Promenade is easy for guests to get to when traveling from any area of the city. Shop through this lively destination that offers an inviting atmosphere unlike any other. Take a break from shopping and enjoy relaxing by the fountain, where families will find benches for a peaceful retreat. Some stores that you will find here include Ann Taylor Loft, Leah and Co. and Pier 1 Imports.

Blakeney Shopping Center

When visiting Queen City, be sure to enjoy a day of shopping at the Blakeney Shopping Center. Apparel stores for men, women and children, specialty stores, sporting goods and home furnishings are just a few of the types of tenants that guests will find throughout this shopping center. Discover your fashionable side in one of the many boutiques located here. Pamper yourself, unwind and spend a day with loved ones while browsing through top stores like Coldwater Creek, Banana Republic, LOFT, Victoria’s Secret, Justice, Target, Marshall’s and more. Special concerts and events are also held at Blakeney, giving you the chance to relax after a day of shopping.