North Carolina's largest city, in the southwestern part of the state, was named in honor of the wife of King George II, Charlotte of Mecklenburg. Its modern city center, known as Uptown, is where you'll find several of the city's major museums, as well as shopping and dining. Along with celebrating the New South in its lively streets and cultural scene, Charlotte reflects on its rich history in tourist attractions such as the Charlotte Museum of History and Rosedale Plantation. History buffs can also take the self-guided Liberty Walk to find a series of bronze plaques and monuments that detail the city's role in the American Revolution.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Charlotte
1. NASCAR Hall of Fame
Charlotte's Hall of Fame is definitely the stop of choice for NASCAR enthusiasts, with Glory Road's banked ramp that simulates a racetrack. Here, you can see historic race cars like a 1952 Hudson Hornet, a 1967 Chevelle, and even Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 2008 Chevy Impala SS. Hands-on exhibits include racing simulators that replicate the on-track experience.
The High Octane Theater features a 64-foot-wide projection screen with surround sound. Other exhibits give fans a behind-the-scenes look at how NASCAR and individual teams prepare for race day, while the Hall of Honor pays tribute to all NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees.
2. Billy Graham Library
Inside the Billy Graham Library, visitors can learn about the television pastor's life through displays and multimedia presentations. The 1.5-hour tour includes memorabilia exhibits and a tour of the Graham family home, where he lived from age nine, and which has been carefully restored with some of the original furnishings and Graham family memorabilia.
Also in the complex are Billy Graham's personal library and a mural by Thomas Kinkade. The building, shaped like a barn, is set on 20 acres of landscaped grounds, where visitors can stroll in the Memorial Prayer Garden.
3. Discovery Place
This ever-changing museum allows visitors to see, feel, and hear science. Each exhibit involves hands-on participation that guests of any age will enjoy. The Explore More Life Lab explores biodiversity with the opportunity to participate in experiments, while Project Build looks at the properties of physics using everyday objects.
Think it Up encourages creativity and originality with various projects, including the opportunity to create your own stop-motion animation video. In addition to several more interactive exhibits, children under age seven have their own special area called KidScience, designed just for younger visitors.
4. Paramount's Carowinds
Looking for some thrills and chills? Head to the all-ages Paramount's Carowinds amusement park. The "Thrill Capital of the Southeast" provides plenty of things to do, with family diversions, roller-coasters, water rides, and stage shows. A dinosaur exhibit allows you to walk through a Mesozoic setting brought to life with detailed animatronics.
You can also ride the world's tallest and fastest giga coaster, the 325-foot-tall Fury 325. They also have a water park called Boomerang Bay, so be sure to bring your bathing suit. A pet kennel is available to those traveling with their four-legged friends.
5. U.S. National Whitewater Center
The innovative man-made rapids in the Whitewater Center allow beginners and experienced white water enthusiasts to learn or test their rafting skills in a variety of rapids with the help of experienced guides. Flatwater sports of paddle-boarding, canoeing, and kayaking are offered as well, with instruction and equipment rentals.
Other facilities include climbing walls and multiple ziplines and ropes courses. Set in more than 1,300 acres of woodlands, this outdoor sports center includes over 40 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and trail running.
6. Carolinas Aviation Museum
Both history buffs and techno-geeks can get their fill at the aviation museum, where exhibits cover the history, technology, and evolution of air travel. There are also many aircraft on display, including a replica of the Wright Flyer.
In addition to private aircraft, several military craft are also displayed, ranging from the modern Grumman F-14D Super Tomcat and Douglas A-4A Skyhawk to the Sopwith Camel biplane, one of the most important British fighter planes used in World War I. Also on display are the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) and a Vietnam-era CH-46D Sea Knight copter.
7. Levine Museum of the New South
The exhibits at the Levine Museum of the New South are focused on post-Civil War southern history and the people who have shaped it. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to run their hand through a pile of cottonseed, play old-fashioned checkers, or step inside a one-room farmhouse.
Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers portrays the evolution of the south through stories from Reconstruction, the economic transformation from agriculture to industrialization, the Civil Rights Era, and the rapid growth of the urban center and changing populations in Charlotte. Temporary exhibits often focus on social and political change and the influence of diversity on southern culture.
8. Hendrick Motorsports Museum
Conveniently located one mile from the Charlotte Motor Speedway, this museum treats race fans to a history of Hendrick Motorsports. Exhibits include an in-depth look at the inner workings of racecars and the elements that make them so unique, as well as the state-of-the-art facilities and technology the NASCAR Cup Series teams use in preparing for race day.
Fans can see Hendrick's most famous stock cars, the company's championship trophies, and significant automobiles such as Jeff Gordon's winning Daytona 500 car. Other vehicles on display here include the Days of Thunder Chevy Lumina and Terry Labonte's Iron Man machine.
9. The Mint Museum
Since its 1936 opening as the first art museum in North Carolina, the Mint Museum of Art has grown into an internationally renowned institution that regularly features new exhibits. Examples of art throughout history are on display in the permanent collections, which include a wide variety of works.
The American art collection is especially strong in Federal portraiture, 19th-century landscape painting, and early-20th-century Realism. The museum has more than 2,500 works of art from the civilizations of the ancient Americas, one of the largest collections in the country and representing more than 40 of the major societies.
10. Freedom Park
Freedom Park covers nearly a hundred acres and has plenty of activities for everyone, making it a great place to spend an afternoon relaxing or playing. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts, while ball players can practice their swing in the batting cages or catch a game at one of the four ball fields. There are also plenty of walking trails for a more leisurely visit.
For the kids, there are two playgrounds and the NFL Play360 KidZone, as well as a concession stand for refreshments and lunch. If you prefer to bring a picnic, you can use one of the outdoor shelters that are complete with grills.