Charlotte, North Carolina is home to some amazing museums, parks, gastronomical delights and other attractions for visitors to enjoy. Still, there’s only so much one downtown can provide.
Sometimes, the best way to understand all a city can offer is to explore what’s around it. Charlotte is just a drive away from some pretty impressive sites.
From the sleepy cities of South Carolina to spectacular mountain views, top-notch wineries and historical landmarks, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to see. Listed below, we bring you the best day trips from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Try to check out some of our suggestions during your visit. Remember, the more southern scenery you take in, the better.
Quick View: Best day trips from Charlotte:
- Great Wolf Lodge
- The Blue Ridge Parkway
- Lake Norman
- Reed Gold Mine
- Hickory Furniture Market
- Greenville, South Carolina
- Downtown Salisbury
- Lexington Barbecue
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Lake Lure
- Charlotte Rail Trail
- Wilmington Beach
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Located about 30 minutes from Charlotte is Great Wolf Lodge, the best indoor water park in the state. Day passes are available for access to our 84-degree indoor water park.
Don’t worry, towels are available upon request. We’ve got lockers for rent in case you want a place to store your street gear. We also have tons of dining options available, so don’t worry about going hungry during your visit.
If you decide to turn your day trip into an overnight, we have over 400 guest suites ready to accommodate groups of all sizes.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile stretch of road that runs from North Carolina to Cherokee nation, all the way up to Virginia.
Hailed as “America’s favorite drive,” the parkway offers amazing views of the region and access to variety of climate, vegetation, wildlife and geological features.
Along the parkway you’ll find the highest mountain peak in the eastern United States, the oldest river in North America, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon and tons of other amazing natural attractions. Get ready for the photo ops ahead!
A 45-minute drive away from Charlotte, Lake Norman boasts 34 miles of “inland sea.” Once there, visitors can enjoy a variety of water-based activities, like fishing, sailing, and paddle-boarding.
Don’t worry, there’s a long list of things to do on land, as well. The surrounding towns of Davidson and Cornelius offer art galleries, theaters, films, sculpture gardens and more. These areas house some of the oldest standing architecture on the map.
It’s not uncommon to see a historic reenactment or living historic event taking place when in town.
Ever hear the story about the first gold ever discovered in the United States? If not, it might be worth taking a trip over to Reed Gold Mine.
There, you’ll discover how gold mining first began and spread across the south. You can even sign up for a guided tour through restored tunnels to get a better sense of what things were really like for those working the mines.
Nature lovers have probably already stamped this into the itinerary. Boone, North Carolina is just about two hours away from Charlotte.
It’s home to some of the most amazing mountain biking, hiking trails, and river rapids in the state. If you’re looking for a view, head over to Grandfather Mountain. The ridge rises almost a vertical mile above the valleys, which means you’re in for a spectacular view.
You’ll find the highest summit over at Calloway Peak, which stands at 5,946 feet. Boone is also home to some amazing restaurants and museums.
You know there’s got to be something special in the mix for us to turn our attention towards home furnishing.
We promise, the Hickory Market delivers. This 4-story marketplace has been in existence for over 50 years. Expect to encounter big-time savings off items from major outlets and independent manufacturers alike.
The market is so well-known it’s been dubbed “the world center of furniture design and production.” Don’t worry about scheduling your visit — the market is open daily!
Take a trip over state lines to Greenville, South Carolina. Head to Falls Park, located in the city center.
The area features a one-of-a-kind curved suspension footbridge, scenic overlooks, an outdoor amphitheater, picnic areas, public sculptures and more.
If you’re looking for more to do after touring the town’s restaurants and boutiques, you can head to the Greenville County Museum of Art or the Upcountry History Museum.
Salisbury, North Carolina is in Rowan County, home to 11 National Register districts, five Local Historic districts, a great history museum, the NC Transportation Museum, three house museums and a “meticulously restored depot” that has been featured both at the Smithsonian and in major Hollywood movies.
Yeah, that’s a lot of history to take in. If you need an excuse to break into the present, just head over to any of the town’s parks, lakes or nature preserves.
Take a break from the heavy historical stuff and head for Lexington, North Carolina. There, you’ll find Lexington Barbecue, one of many like joints located in the “Barbecue Capital of the World.”
Open in 1962, the restaurant specializes in not-your-average-barbecue. The pork shoulder roasts or nearly half a day over the coals and the barbecue sauce and slaw is flavored is made sweeter with tomato ketchup, as opposed to the usual choice to mayonnaise or mustard.
Make sure to save room after dinner for their famous peach cobbler!
Just about two hours west of Charlotte is the small city of Asheville, North Carolina.
Between the bohemian vibe, rich history and mountainous surroundings, bloggers have come to call Asheville one of the “coolest” cities on the east coast. It’s also home to the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt’s 250-room castle, which serves as the one of the city’s top tourist attractions and home to one of the nation’s most visited wineries.
Of course, Asheville brings us back to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where travelers can explore natural forests, hiking trails, waterfalls and more.
The Great Smokys Mountains National Park is situated on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. Its history extends pretty far back, with the first white settlers having in the late 1700’s.
They lived a typical, rural life – right up until the lumbering boom hit in the early 1900’s. The industry ended up posing such a threat to the surrounding forests that the park was established preserve the area.
That was back in 1934, but the farm buildings, mills, schools and churches constructed by those early settlers remain intact today.
Of course, the park has plenty of natural sites to take in, as well. Hiking trails will lead you to various streams, rivers and waterfalls. There’s also the wildlife to consider.
The Smokeys serve as a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals, including the symbol of the Smokies, the American Black Bear.
Ever see the 80’s classic, Dirt Dancing? If so, you’re already familiar with the next stop on our list! Lake Lure is a tiny town with a big lake.
With just over 1,000 permanent residents, Lake Lure serves as a popular vacation destination, receiving thousands of visitors each year from across the country, Canada and other areas abroad.
The big attraction here is, of course, the lake. Spanning 720-acres, Lake Lure providers travelers the opportunity to swim, canoe, fish, boat, water ski and tons of other activities!
We couldn’t create a list of places to visit around Charlotte without mentioning Atlanta, of course!
It is a bit of a hike from Charlotte, so try to make this more of an extended visit. Like so many other destinations in Georgia, Atlanta is packed with history, particularly as it pertains to the Civil Rights Era.
Explore Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn district, which is lined with influential landmark buildings. The area’s Top Hat Club was known for hosting acts such as B.B. King,
The Four Tops and Gladys Knight. That legacy has given birth to several Atlanta staples, including its food. Stroll through the town in search of some regional plates, like barbecue, fried chicken, or naked dogs.
The city is also teaming with bars, nightclubs, live music venue and comedy cellars to explore.
The Charlotte Rail Trail is a public trail that weaves through the entire city.
The 3.5-mile stretch will lead you to almost any museum, restaurant, or gallery worth exploring! Prepare to take in murals, street performances and play areas along the path.
Trek through Charlotte’s various neighborhoods until you find yourself back in the city center.
Need a break from the mountains? Looking for some ocean instead?
Head over to Wilmington, North Carolina, home to several family-friendly beaches and just a short journey away from three island beach towns.
Don’t forget to explore the town, either. Shop around the city center, grab dinner at one of the city’s many famous seafood spots, take a cruise along the river or stop by a local bar or brewery!
The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is just twenty minutes outside Charlotte. There, you’ll find yourself immersed in over 380-acres of nature.
There are over three miles of walking trails designed to help you explore the property. You’ll discover an amazing variety of plant life, rolling meadows, woodlands and lakefront views.
Apart from the scenery, the property offers guided group tours, and other activities including birthday party packages and adult arts classes.
That’s it for our list of best day trips from Charlotte, North Carolina. Whether you’re in town for a week or even just the weekend, squeeze in some time to explore the surrounding area.
As you can see, there is no shortage of places to shop, arts to enjoy, history to learn and nature to experience. If you’re unsure about where to stay, think about making Great Wolf Lodge home base.
To learn more about our Charlotte resort, head to our official site. There, you can learn more about our indoor water park, adventure zone and all the other activities we offer on-site!
Check out our selection of themed rooms, too! You’ll feel like your camping out in the Northwoods in no time. Make sure to sign up for our email alerts to learn about our best deals!