Charlotte has always been a great place to be. But its explosive growth in the early 2010s has allowed the city to reinvent itself as more than a Banking hub, attracting young professionals looking for an affordable, promising place to put down roots. Now, The Queen City is a charming, southern, tech-forward town with tons to see and do, including three professional sports teams (The Panthers, Hurricanes, and Hornets), an established food and drink scene, and green, wooded backdrop to escape to on the weekends. Here are our top picks for the best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Smell the Flowers at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Reconnect with nature on a serene stroll through nine different gardens, showcasing plants both local and exotic. Be sure to check out the Orchid Conservatory, an 8,000 square foot greenhouse with colorful orchids and other types of rare tropical plants. Charlotte’s laid-back climate means that you can visit the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens any time of year, though you’ll obviously see the most in spring and summer.
Go from 0 to 100 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Car lovers and families will go nuts at this expansive, interactive museum of racing history. See some of the most famous cars driven by NASCAR greats like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, and Jeff Gordon. Among the many interactive highlights are the NASCAR simulators and pit stop competition, where kids and parents can compete against each other to see who can change a tire and refuel a racecar the fastest. Even NASCAR skeptics will leave this hall of fame with a new appreciation for the sport and for turning left.
Fill Your Belly at Noble Smoke
Every day Noble Smoke throws over 1200 pounds of meat over the coals, kicks back, and lets the smoke do its thing. How do you know it’s good? Noble Smoke doesn’t rush it. They smoke ribs for six hours, pork for 10, and brisket for 12-14. The restaurant itself is pretty huge, but get there early: once the meat is gone, it’s gone. Apart from the actual ‘Q’, Noble Smoke has plenty of southern fixins like succotash, collard greens, hush puppies, and pickled veggies. Noble Smoke has a surprisingly good wine, beer, and craft cocktail selection as well, making it an awesome spot to cap off a long day of activities.
Get Your Pics at Metalmorphosis
Located in Whitehall Technology Park, Metalmorphosis is a giant segmented metal head sculpture by controversial Czech artist David Cerny. Metalmorphosis is certainly more subdued than his other work, but is no less interesting. The head segments are controlled on the internet and periodically rotate around, creating a mesmerizing effect intensified by the reflecting pool below. If you’re looking to get one “for the ‘gram”, this is a must-see spot.
Unwind at Big Rock Nature Preserve
20 miles south of downtown Charlotte is a curious wooded area with massive rocks. Archeologists found stone tools, animal bones, and pottery fragments from indigenous peoples who first settled the Carolina Piedmont over 12,000 years ago. Though it’s unlikely you’ll unearth any ancient artifacts, the energy of the place is still very cool. Big Rock makes for a great place to stroll off a big meal or kick back for the afternoon and read a book.