You’ve heard the saying that “Charlotte’s Got a Lot” right? Haven’t you also heard the criticism that there’s not much to do in Charlotte? Depending on who you talk to, Charlotte can go either way. In our opinion, there’s plenty of unique traits of the city that just need to be looked at again with a fresh pair of eyes. That’s why we wanted to create this list of landmarks and spots that make Charlotte…well, Charlotte. From museums to unique eateries, here’s the ultimate Charlotte bucket list filled with 13 amazing things to do around the city for locals and visitors alike. Enjoy!
1. Solve The 7th Street Parking Garage Riddle
“Touch My Building” is an art installation in the form of a riddle within a parking garage that lights up and plays a song when solved. Created as an art installation by Christopher Janney, this art piece is meant to encourage community involvement since the puzzle needs multiple people in order to be solved. The puzzle is huge as it covers one side of this 9-floor parking garage, and has a mind of its own, sometimes playing a random tune, prompted by the “ghost” of the garage. If you think you can solve the riddle, grab a big group of friends and head over to witness the light and music show.
Where: 225 E. 6th Street, adjacent to the 7th Street Market
The Whitewater Center, around since 2001, was created with two goals in mind: to increase the size of protected lands (it currently has 1,300 acres of protected land, including access to the Catawba River and Long Creek), and promoting the outdoor lifestyle. Available all season-round with zip lining, ice skating, rock climbing, kayaking and white water rafting, WWC is an all-encompassing spot for thrill seekers. They often hold events for the holidays, like their 4th of July party, so keep an eye out for their calendar.
Charlotte’s number one thrill park and waterpark, Carowinds, had to make it on this list. The park is so big, covering a 407-acre, that it straddles the North and South Carolina border, with a portion of the park in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Every Halloween, you can attend their haunt-themed evenings, SCarowinds and every holiday season, they put on their festive WinterFest. Year-round, you can enjoy their thrill rides like their Drop Tower or their more kid-friendly Camp Snoopy
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is the perfect spot for any and all fans of NASCAR. The museum honors all the greats in the sport, as well as other major contributors. Each year, three inductees are selected from a list of 15 nominees to secure their place in the Hall of Fame, which means visitors to the museum will get to see more contemporary nominations as well as legends to the sport. Oftentimes, there are brand new exhibits or tours that offer different ways to visit.
5. Take a skyline photo from one of these stunning spots
Charlotte’s unique skyline makes it a contender for some gorgeous photos (and it helps that the city is full of incredibly talented photographers). If you’re feeling a little envious of all those stunning skyline shoots or want to get a great glimpse from above, head to one of these awesome viewpoints.
- Matheson Bridge
- Hawthorne Lane Brdige
- Romare Bearden Park
- Central Ave. Overpass
Portofinos Ristorante Italiano e Pizzeria is a Charlotte-based pizzeria that bakes up a delicious Italian pie and is a highly recommended spot amongst locals. The two owners are both immigrants from Italy who moved to separate areas in the states before reconnecting and seeing an opportunity to combine what they had learned in their separate ventures. In 1996, Portofinos was born here in Charlotte and continues to thrive to this day. Their pizzas cover all the bases from meat to cheese to veggie to white to even speciality Margherita and Florentine-style pizzas.
7. Get some surprisingly good fried chicken from this Shell Gas Station
With all the recent mom and pop joints that have closed down, it’s nice to know that there’s still a place to get some good ole’ greasy, cheap, and tasty fried chicken. Once touted as the best fried chicken in town by the establishment themselves, the Shell Gas Station on the corner of South and East has been confirmed to be telling the truth. Head to Quick Shoppe, order a couple of legs, and see for yourself.
One claim to fame for Charlotte is the Bank of America Stadium here in Uptown. Home to the Carolina Panthers, the BoA Stadium also hosts the annual Duke’s Mayo Bowl and the iconic Panthers vs. Cowboys game where Panthers won 16-8 and packed the stadium with the largest crowd ever. They also host concerts like the upcoming performance by Billy Joel and, in 2022, The Strokes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Thundercat.
More than twice the size of Central Park, Anne Springs Close Greenway is a natural reserve just a short drive from Charlotte. From horseback riding, picnicking, kayaking, or hiking, there’s something for lovers of nature and the outdoors. Explore their many trails, like the Blue Star Trail or Prairie Loop Trail or rent a paddle board or kayak in the summer.
10. Get a drink at the Thirsty Beaver
Grab a drink at the same spot Mick Jagger famously drank a beer at 2 months ago, and posted it on social media. After their performance at the Bank of America stadium, they went out for a night on the town and Thirsty Beaver, an old but charming dive bar, was one of their stops. The Thirsty Beaver is one of the oldest buildings in the area (as new developments continue to be built around it), and refuses to be bought out. The bar has become something of a local story for its comedic placement among taller, newer apartment buildings, but that’s what we love it for.
The Levine Museum of the New South is one of Charlotte’s best history museums, covering the period of life in the North Carolina Piedmont after the American Civil War. Come for their award winning exhibit, Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers: Reinventing Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont in the New South that includes historical artifacts, audio files, and visuals to explore a piece of Charlotte history in the context of today. The museum is currently transitioning to a digital-first format to account for the changing shifts in technology in the museum space and will also be getting a new physical space, hopefully in the same neighborhood.
12. Optimist Hall
A city’s charm is often in their food halls, and in Charlotte, we have Optimist Hall. Touted on the website as potentially the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Optimist Hall has a long Charlotte history, serving as the city’s largest textile mill. It was transformed in 2013 to the modern food hall that we know and love today, offering eateries such as Boxcar Betty’s and Bao and Borth, and bars like Billy Sunday, an award winning cocktail bar.
12. Camp North End
A fairly new addition to the city is Camp North End, a 76-acre space for some of Charlotte’s newest, coolest eateries, breweries, and much, much more. A fast local favorite, Camp North End is the perfect outdoor venue. From murals and street art from local artists to local artisan shops, like That’s Novel Books and Grow: A Plant Shop. Do a little shopping, then stop at Leah & Louise for some delicious Southern dishes or Saru by Bow Ramen for some of the best ramen in the city.
Finally, Charlotte is home to the amazing work of art known as Metalmorphosis that hangs out around the Whitehall Corporate Center. The sculpture by Prague artist, David Cerny, is one you have to catch at the right moment to witness it in all it’s glory as it’s set in different pieces that spin slowly and at different speeds, meaning all pieces lock into the perfect position at specific moments that you’ll have to try to catch yourself.
[featured image courtesy of shutterstock]