Things to Do in North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most scenic road trips—a slow-paced drive through the connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south to Shenandoah National Park in the north. Along the way, find 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.
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.
Located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, the Bank of America Stadium is home to the Carolina Panthers football team. Opened in 1996, the open-air, natural grass stadium was designed specifically for football. In addition to football games, the stadium also hosts concerts and other big events year-round.
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 Uptown Charlotte, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is part of the Levine Center for the Arts. The museum is small, but houses an impressive collection of more than 1,400 pieces by some of the most influential artists of the mid-20th century. See works by artists such as Picasso, Calder, Miró, Giacometti, and Warhol.
Once an abandoned track of warehouses along a destitute stretch of Asheville’s French Broad River, the River Arts District (RAD) has transformed into a hotbed for artists and budding businesses. There is a vast array of studios where you can see artists working on creative projects ranging from photography and painting to basketry and pottery.
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.
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.
More Things to Do in North Carolina
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.
Spanning just 1.5 acres (0.6 hectares, the Green is a pocket-sized, literary-themed park in Uptown Charlotte. A lovely little oasis in the heart of the Second Ward, the Green features lush landscaping, grassy areas, shady paths, benches, fountains, and whimsical sculptures. It is popular with locals and visitors alike.
Take a fascinating, underwater journey from the rivers of North Carolina to the depths of the ocean at SEA LIFE® Charlotte-Concord Aquarium. Located inside the Concord Mills Mall, the aquarium features more than 5,000 resident sea creatures. Visitors can learn about marine life through feedings, talks, interactive experiences, and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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