30 Best Things to do in Charlotte with a Family

Best Things To Do in Charlotte NC, a Quick Overview:

  • Discovery Place Science
  • Charlotte Funny Bus
  • Wing Haven
  • Mint Museum
  • Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
  • Nascar Hall of Fame
  • Sea Life Charlotte-Concord
  • Haunted History Tour, Charlotte NC
  • Metalmorphosis Statue

Where to Stay:

The Ballantyne, a high-end resort and spa, great golfing and dining options are available here. For even more hotel options, check out: The Best Hotels in Every Price Range, Charlotte.

How to get around Charlotte, NC:

A car is your best option. You can rent a car inexpensively at the airport, make advanced arrangements.

What to Eat: 

For high-quality dining hit the Ballantyne and try the duck.  Be sure to hit up a local bar for down-home southern beer and food culture.

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The skyline of the city of Charlotte, NC. Features high rises and other tall buildings, both residential and office. Some trees can be seen below. A bright and sunny day - things to do in Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Skyline – Photo: James Williamore via Flicker under Creative Commons License.

What is Charlotte like?

Charlotte NC manages to be both cool and family-friendly, hip and old fashioned, fun, artistic and ensures you feel welcome. At only 1.5 hours flight from New York, it’s an entirely different world. People greet you on the street, the vibe is decidedly relaxed and southern. There is also plenty of things to do in Charlotte.  One of the things that struck me the most is how inexpensive everything is.

From the meal, I had at The Ballantine to admission to museums exhibiting most famous artists in history, to kid-friendly activities and even car rental (a must around here). You can expect to pay half to a quarter of what you would pay in New York, Philadelphia or DC. With all that and only a short (and very inexpensive direct flight) from JFK plus mild weather, this is an ideal long weekend gateway with kids or with a spouse. If you enjoy going to Boston or Philly for the weekend book yourself a trip to Charlotte, you will love it. 

To explore even more of North Carolina, take a look at: “20 Best Resorts in North Carolina

The skyline of Charlotte NC. Picture is taken after dark. Many lit up high rises and tall buildings appear in the shot, as well as roads and a few trees. Things to do in Charlotte, NC.

Discovery Place – Things to do in Charlotte

If you are looking for something fun to do in Charlotte with kids, be sure to check out the Discovery Place in Charlotte.  This is the quintessential children’s science museum. There is a rainforest to explore, experiments to conduct and structures to build. Of particular interest are their jellyfish breeding facilities and coral growing program.

Before your visit, check out the website for a list of special programs.  You will find many different classes and activities offered throughout the day. Here you will also find a separate toddler room and tons of activities for school-age kids. This nature center is one of many reasons that make Charlotte such a family-friendly city to visit.

A close up picture of 5 or 6 large jelly fish swimming in water. Things to do in Charlotte, NC - Discovery Place Science
Discovery Place Science

Looking for even more United States family-friendly vacation ideas? Check out Things To do in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Charlotte Funny Bus

One of the best new things to do in Charlotte NC, The Charlotte Funny Bus tour is a different take on a familiar activity. The bus tour, which takes roughly 90 minutes covers uptown Charlotte and the surrounding areas. The tour is so good even many locals rave about it. Jokes tend to be on the politically incorrect side and you can bring wine and beer aboard. On Thursdays, the funny bus offers a raunchy R rated version of the tour. The R rated tours are very popular and sell out quickly so be sure to book in advance. More than just a fun comedy show, while on tour you do learn a lot about the history and the architecture of Charlotte. The cost is relatively pricy (for the area) $27 but the experience is absolutely worth it.

The image shows a large remodeled school bus. The words funny bus and the phone number 704 659 3186 are printed on the front. Several people are leaning out of the window, one i standing at the door opening, and one is laying on top of the bus. Every individual is wearing a tee-shirt with a company logo. Things to do in Charlotte, NC - Funny Bus tour.
Charlotte Funny Bus Tour – one of Charlotte’s most popular new attractions

Explore further with your family. Check out: A vacation in Ecuador – An affordable family holiday guide.

Wing Haven Garden

Wing Haven, is a four-acre meandering garden located in a tony Charlotte suburb. It’s a short drive from downtown.  If you are looking for the best thing to do in Charlotte, NC this is a must. Bring your camera as you are likely to see birds and flowers in season. I wish I brought a book too, there are many secluded benches to read and relax. Wing haven features a cute children’s garden area complete with some resident animals and a sister garden, called Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden just a few houses away. As many things in Charlotte, admission to this garden is very reasonable at $10 per person. You can learn more at their website (see links at the top of my page).

A woman (me) sits in a garden on an elaborate bench wrapped around a large tree. Leafed trees and bushes surround her. She is wearing a riding outfit and boots. Things to do In Charlotte, NC - Visit the Wing Haven Garden
Just a short drive from Charlotte you’ll find Wing Haven garden.

The Mint Musem – Things to do in Charlotte, NC

Featuring an extensive collection of American and European art, the mint museum may be the most famous art institution in Charlotte. The museum offers two locations – uptown and downtown. The uptown Mint Museum features the American Art collection including the famous American impressionists, the craft and design collection, and the Modern and Contemporary Art. The Uptown Mint Museum is located close to the Bechtler Museum.

The Mint Museum Randolph is located only a ten-minute drive towards downtown Charlotte. One of the many best things to do in Charlotte, NC, the Randolph Mint Museum features an extensive decorative art, fashion and Native American art collection. Several special collections are due to be exhibited at the Mint Museum Randolph, including the whimsical and kid-friendly “Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi,” (due to run through November 2019).

A painting featuring a woman and a child in the foreground and a man and a boy in the background. A few other figures are seen in the background. A bright and sunny day, all figures are sitting on a green field with roses. The painting is done in an impressionist style although the faces are clear.
Mint Museum Collection – Henry Siddons – Rose Harvest

Want more east coast travel ideas? Don’t forget to check out East Coast USA bucket list.

Things to do in Charlotte – the Bechtler Museum

If you appreciate art, there is no shortage of great things to do in Charlotte, NC.  The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has an amazing collection of modern and contemporary artists. It’s large, airy, galleries are packed to the brim with priceless artwork.  Here you will find the likes of Andy Warhol, Picasso, Degas plus a dozen more.

The Bechtler Museum is nowhere near as busy as its quality collection might suggest, and so it would be here that you can have an almost unique experience of being one on one with some of the worlds greatest artists. If you enjoy the Moma in New York this museum is a must-do. I loved wandering the galleries, discovering new work and new points of view from artists I have known all my life, and learning about new ones.

A large painting hangs on a white wall, to its left a woman (me) stands looking at a small modern sculpture. To her left, two smaller paintings appear. The room is otherwise empty. Things to do in Charlotte NC - Visit the Bechtler Museum.
The Bechtler Museum – Charlotte, NC

Nascar Hall of Fame

One of the most fun things to do in Charlotte, NC for the kid – and the kid at heart, is the Nascar Hall of Fame. Four floors of interactive exhibits await you here. Perhaps the most popular attraction at the Nascar Hall of Fame is the racing simulator. Visitors describe the experience as “as heart-pounding” and “crazy fun.” Many who come here aren’t Nascar fans, but few people leave disappointed. Between the interactive adventures, the history of the automobile and the look behind the hood of amazing modern tech, there is something here for everyone. The museum is large and takes several hours to explore, but the experience is worth it. The Nascar hall of fame is located within close walking proximity to the Discovery Science Center.

An image of a classic car decorated with various company logos, including good year and penner. The number 43 on the side. The car is standing in a glass showroom and in bright daylight.
Nascar Hall of Fame – Creative Commons – David Berkowitz via Flickr

Sea Life Concord Aquarium

There are so many great things to do in Charlotte, NC with kids.  Although this may be the first aquarium I ever visited inside a mall I must say I was very impressed with it once I got inside.

A bit out of the way of downtown, the aquarium is located in a huge mall.  This just might just be your ticket to get the kids to agree to a couple of hours shopping in Charlotte. I loved the kid-friendly touch tank featuring sea stars.  Also worth seeing is the octopus (you can watch octopus enrichment activities, just check the site for schedule). The highlight is definitely a cool walk through the tunnel with sharks, Rays, and school of fish swimming over and all around you. Right before the exit, you will find an indoor playground. I do wish there was something like this closer to home when my kids were little. Seems awful convenient 🙂 The Sea Life Concord Charlotte aquarium is involved in sea turtle rescue and other conservation work.

A walk through glass tunnel inside an enormous aquarium. A large manta ray swims over head and corals surround the walls. Small fish on the sides of the tunnel. Things to do in Charlotte, NC - Sea Life Concord Aquarium.
Sea life Concord Aquarium

The Haunted History tour, Charlotte, NC

The Haunted history tour is probably one of the most spooky things to do in Charlotte, NC. While on this ninety-minute walking tour you will visit the fourth ward – and its most infamous landmarks. Discover a whole new side to Charlotte as your host (dressed in Victorian costume) shares with you the grizzly history of the city. Murders, ghosts and gowls await you as you eventually make your way into the to the graveyard. More than just ghost stories, the tour is designed to both educate and entertain. For the best effect, most tours start at dusk – 8 pm.


Metalmorphosis Statue

The Metalmorphosis Statue was commissioned by the American Assets Corporation and created by the world-renowned Czech Sculptor, David Cerny. You can find the statue in the American Asset’s Corporation office park development. More than just a work of art, the fountain incorporates complicated technical infrastructure. The water comes out of the statue in choreographed movements.

Update: As of 2019, the statue appears to have been removed.


Ready for your trip to North Carolina? Check out the best Charlotte hotels for every budget.

One last thing…

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Amazing things to do in Charlotte, NC. Plan on travel to North Carolina soon? Explore some famous attractions including the Nascar Hall of Fame, the Mint Museum and the Discover place. Discover off the beaten path attractions such as the Wing Garden and the Haunted History Tour. Plan a great trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, USA with these helpful travel tips and hotel suggestions.
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  • Avatar
    November 19, 2019 at 8:51 am

    I want to start by saying the aviation museum closed a while back and won’t be open until 2022 (or so).
    But you are missing out on so much that Charlotte has to offer!
    Freedom park, the white water center, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, discovery place kids (huntersville) the regional farmers market (go on Saturday for the most vendors), reed’s gold mine, lake Norman state park, the airport overlook. The Schiele museum (Gastonia), the Overstreet mall uptown, imaginon library!
    And the food!!! You are missing out if all you do is eat at the Ballantyne. Head to noda or South end and just eat a little bit at a bunch of places. Good luck not finding something for everyone.
    Also, don’t forget the craft brew scene. I’m pretty sure that we have more breweries than churches now (kidding, but it might be close). A lot of these also serve food.
    Also, you speak about concord mills mall and the Nascar hall of fame, but left out the actual race track that’s a couple miles from the mall. You don’t realize just how big it is until you tour it, or how steep the curves are until you’re on it.
    Also… If you ask anyone where downtown is, they are going to be really confused. We don’t have a downtown. Each neighborhood has a name, and none are downtown. But if you ask for the mint Randolph, folks can help you out. That’s the original, and it’s named so as the building used to be a federal mint.
    Welcome to Charlotte! We’re a young city with a lot to do, eat, drink, and see!

  • Avatar
    Brian Hastings
    August 5, 2019 at 5:43 am

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep up the good work.

  • Avatar
    John Reinhardt
    March 23, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the information Viktoria. My family and I are going to visit next month and we look forward to visiting the places you suggest.

    • TravelTipster
      June 17, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Thanks so much for reading John! I just updated the article and realized I never responded. Hope you guys had a great trip!

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