Planning a visit to Charlotte, North Carolina?
With its Southern charm, international influences, and historic background, Charlotte remains a low-key favorite for visitors around the world. Whether you want to sample the barbecue, visit one of its numerous museums, or participate in funky attractions, Charlotte has it all. If you desire to see more eccentric attractions and events, use our guide to discover the top 23 unique things to do in Charlotte, NC.
1) Pan for Gold
While the mine isn’t in Charlotte proper, Reed’s Gold Mine is only about 20 miles east of the city. The site of the first documented gold found in the United States in 1799, visitors can tour the underground mines, sift for gold, and explore the stamp mill. Further, North Carolina led the gold mine rush prior to California’s boon in 1848. Visitors can tour the area for free, while panning for gold costs $3.
2) Explore International Flavors
One of the top unique things to do in Charlotte, NC involves sampling international cuisines. Charlotte’s cuisines showcase flavors from around the world. From Ethiopian and Peruvian to Bosnian and Armenian, you must venture from your comfort zone to sample delicious meals.
Enat Ethiopian Restaurant
Since 2017, Enat has enticed the local community by sharing Ethiopian food and culture. The restaurant cultivates East African dishes with a modern touch such as goden (short ribs) and shiro (ground chickpea stew).
MachuPicchu Peruvian Cuisine & Bar
Serving Charlotte’s population since 2016, MachuPicchu stands out as an authentic Peruvian restaurant that uses fresh ingredients and imported spices. Try their house favorite cevice de pescado or the saltado de pollo paired with wine.
Euro Grill & Café
For a personal touch, visit the Mehic family at Euro Grill & Café. The owners reflect their Bosnian culture within their dishes. You can find fare such as cevaps (grilled and skinless beef sausage) on lepinja (flatbread) or pijescavica (a Bosnian hamburger). Moreover, the adjacent Bosna Market features cuisine from all over Eastern Europe, including Croatia, Greece, and Albania.
Celebrating Armenian history and culture, Ararat 17 brings a taste of Armenian cuisine to Queen City. Delight in freshly made hummus, kabob sandwiches, fattoush, or sweet gahta for a savory experience.
3) 7th Street Public Market
The 7th Street Public Market features unique food vendors such as Orrman's Cheese Chop, Not Just Coffee, and Viva Raw. Frequently, the market plays live music and hosts mini markets and cooking demonstrations for visitors. What's more, the market aims to promote local and regional farmers, vendors, and businesses overall. Located in Uptown, the market sits at the base of the 7th Street Station parking deck. Further, the market remains open seven days a week, and parking can be validated for the first 90 minutes.
4) Check out Brevard Court’s Nightlife
Charlotte’s Brevard Court near South Church and West Third Streets encompasses numerous restaurants and bars for travelers. Whether you crave comfort food at the French Quarter Restaurant or care to play pub poker with craft beer at Courtyard Hooligans, there is something for everyone. Moreover, diners can typically hear live music while enjoying a fine meal and games.
Other notable institutions include:
5) Delight in Local Concerts
Charlotte features a glowing live music scene with multiple concert venues. Guests can rock within more intimate spaces at venues such as the Visulite Theatre. The space also hosts burlesque shows, masquerade performances, and more. Also, the Neighborhood Theatre hosts smaller-scale shows that still dazzle audiences in the 956-seat space. Another fantastic theater for visitors and those residing in Charlotte is The Evening Muse. The Evening Muse features a variety of artists across genres along with local artists’ work and an array of beverage choices.
6) Whitewater Raft at the U.S. National Whitewater Center
At the U.S. National Whitewater Center, guests can participate in a variety of fun activities. Buy a day pass to whitewater raft class II-IV rapids on the world’s most extensive manmade whitewater river. Further, you can choose to kayak, standup paddleboard, deep water solo, rock climb, and more.
7) Experience Thrills at Carowinds
Head to Carowinds for a premier theme park experience! Hosting 14 roller coasters like Fury325, waterpark rides at Carolina Harbor, seasonal entertainment, and authentic North Carolina barbecue, you don’t want to miss out on this family-friendly attraction with tons of activities.
8) Bikeshare around Charlotte
Charlotte B-Cycle promotes bikesharing around the city by purchasing a pass online or at any B-station. Take a two-hour trip or less around one of the largest urban bikesharing systems in the Southeast United States. With an $8 daily fee, you can zip around Charlotte to see its highlights with ease.
9) Hike Crowders Mountain State Park
Outdoor enthusiasts need to check out the terrain at Crowders. With 5,210 acres, this beautiful park boasts adventure with hiking, fishing, rock climbing, canoeing, and more. Regardless of your fitness level, Crowders offers multiple trails of varying difficulty levels, perfect for family excursions.
10) Race & Cheer at Charlotte’s Motor Speedway
Have you ever wanted to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car? Explore one of the best unique things to do in Charlotte, NC by visiting the center of Charlotte’s racing culture, Charlotte Motor Speedway. At the home of NASCAR’s only 600-mile race, take advantage of the racing schools, or cheer at major racing events. In addition, visitors can drive a fleet of exotic cars such as the Ferrari 488 GTB or the Porsche 911 GT3.
11) Admire Unique Public Art around Queen City
So many photo opportunities line the streets of Charlotte due to the abundance of vibrant murals. Look for the public art in Uptown where you can spot frescoes, paintings, and poems from local artists like Matt Hooker and Matt Moore. Also, head to South End and Gold District for a gorgeous Queen Charlotte mural near Magnolia Emporium, or walk along the magic carpet murals down the Charlotte Rail Trail.
12) Enjoy Acclaimed Symphony Orchestras
Music lovers can rejoice in the renowned talent of the Charlotte Symphony. Furthermore, enjoy their summer concert series, Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops, with a packed meal and a picnic blanket at Symphony Park. Also, many of the symphony performances are free.
14) Visit SEA LIFE
The SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium houses 5,000 animals in ten interactive zones. From stingrays and sea horses to an interactive touchpool, there is plenty to see and do for guests of all ages. The aquarium also features educational exhibits so that guests can discover more ways to protect our oceans and sea creatures.
15) Sample Traditional BBQ
North Carolina presents its own styles of barbeque like the Lexington-style and Eastern-style with pork-based dishes and vinegar-based sauces. One of the most truly unique things to do in Charlotte, NC recommends trying its traditional barbecue. Charlotte features classic dishes at joints such as Midwood Smokehouse, Saucemans, and Mac’s Speed Shop. Try the smoked meatballs with jalapeño bbq sauce at Midwood, the Lexington-style bbq tray at Saucemans, and the Carolina beef brisket at Mac’s.
Other noteworthy restaurants include:
16) International Festivals
Charlotte hosts multiple festivals celebrating the traditions, heritage, and fare of the city's multicultural residents. Guests can attend the UNC Charlotte International Festival in September to explore more than 50 different nations' cultures. Additionally, the Greater Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Festival commemorates Asian cultures that have immigrated to North Carolina. As family-fun events, the festivals feature a dragon boat racing competition, music and dance fests, food vendors, and more.
Moreover, the Hola Festival brings 60,000 people annually to celebrate Hispanic cultures in the Americas and the Caribbean. Musical performances, food and craft vendors, and clothing from 15 different countries are on display in the Latin American Cultural Village.
Other prominent festivals include:
ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center is a children’s library that aims to spark curiosity and learning through this interactive facility. The center stands in the cultural arts district as a collaboration between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. In addition, the Spangler Library space hosts classrooms, a multimedia production studio, and hands-on exhibits. Further, the center also houses a teen’s library, The Loft. Moreover, the center frequently showcases free events for families.
18) Christmas Festival
For the perfect holiday cheer, visit McAdenville's Christmas Town. Attracting 600,00 visitors, the event displays unique holiday lights with 373 trees, a Yule log parade, and free hot cocoa and kettle corn. Further, seasonal music plays from the Historic McAden Mills Bell Tower.
19) Sip at Speakeasies
To tap into Prohibition-era style bars, visit one of Charlotte’s speakeasies. With intimate seating and dark lighting, speakeasies provide the perfect atmosphere for romantic evenings or a fun night out with friends. Top lounges include:
- The Cellar at Duckworth’s: American gastropub with signature cocktails and quality craft beer list
- Dot Dot Dot: Dishes with fresh, local ingredients pair with rare whiskey and bourbon collections, upscale wines, and more.
- BackStage Lounge: Trying its best to remain mysterious, this intimate bar space features cozy booths and classic cocktails.
20) Play Bubble Soccer
A fun new sports activity enables guests to play soccer in inflatable bubbles at Bubble Soccer Charlotte. As one of the most unique things to do in Charlotte, NC, this team sport will get you moving and having fun. Most likely, you'll laugh at yourself and each other attempting to move across the field. Guests must wear athletic clothes and shoes to play.
21) Picnic at the Duke Mansion
Built in 1915 by James Buchanan Duke, The Duke Mansion has hosted countless 20th-century leaders. The mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operates as a nonprofit. Furthermore, guests can picnic at the historic home in one of its twelve gorgeous gardens. To be clear, you don't have to stay at the bed and breakfast in order to have a chef-prepared meal and bottled beverage paired with a picnic blanket.
22) Ramsey Creek Park
You don't have to drive to Myrtle Beach to get some sun and splash in the cool Carolina waters. Head to Ramsey Creek Park at Lake Norman with bathings suits, kayaks, boats, and whatever else in tow for a quality Southern lake day. Even more, this waterfront park presents 46 acres of picnic shelters, swimming areas, an enclosed dog park, nature trails, and more.
Also, during summer hours, lifeguards will be on duty and a free shuttle operates from Cornelius Park and Ride Lot on weekends and holidays. Note that shuttle riders do not have to pay the $5-8 park entrance fee.
23) 3Quest Challenge
Explore Queen City's downtown area via 3Quest Challenge's scavenger hunt. Your group will see the highlights of Charlotte while gathering clues and solving puzzles with your smartphone. There are three quests in total, as the name suggests, and each quest has three checkpoints. Your team scores points by answering questions correctly to then collect clues and perform challenges. Have fun exploring the city, scoring points, and solving puzzles with a guide you can contact for assistance.
Explore the Most Unique Things to Do in Charlotte, NC