When I first visited Charlotte years ago, I knew it was North Carolina’s biggest city and home to its tallest buildings and a massive urban sprawl. What I didn’t realize then (and do now) is that the people who live here are very fortunate to have so many fun ways to get outside and enjoy themselves. And after exploring some of the best outdoor things to do in Charlotte, we thought we’d share our favorite for residents or those who are in town for a visit.
Outdoor Things to Do in Charlotte
Even if you’re not currently living in Charlotte, you might already know that the city has some really cool neighborhoods. We enjoyed walking through Uptown Charlotte, but also around NoDa, Southend, University City, and Plaza Mildwood.
If you’ve been to Charlotte before, what are your favorite neighborhoods to explore?
Follow Hilton-Approved Paths
We were lucky enough to stay at Hilton Charlotte Center City and upon check-in, they gave us this card. We had a little one with us and enjoyed both the Orange and Red routes during our time there.
Parks Parks Parks!
Sorry if I’m sounding like Leslie Knope over here, but with over 200 parks in Charlotte, you’ve got a lot of green space to explore. The most popular ones are Independence Park, Freedom Park, and Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve. And after you visit these three, you’ll see why and want to explore the rest, too!
Nearly 50 miles of Charlotte greenways also await a visit from you. Trails like Little Sugar Creek and Four Mile are scattered throughout Mecklenburg County, with partnerships forged with the Lake Norman Bike Trail, the Carolina Thread Trail that we explored in Cleveland County, and more.
We mentioned the Carolina Thread Trail in our guide to a weekend in Cleveland County, too!
The US National Whitewater Center
One of the most popular outdoor things to do in Charlotte is visit the US National Whitewater Center. Here, you can paddle and raft on the water, and climb the rock wall or zip your way through the ropes course. You can also just relax with meal at River’s Edge, brew at the Pump House Biergarten, or picnic in one of the many open areas.
Don’t forget to check on the US Whitewater Center’s events calendar, where you can find races, concerts, and much more!
UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens
At the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens (also known as the Charlotte Botanical Gardens), you’ll find one of the city’s most relaxing strolls. No matter when you visit, there will be plants and flowers in bloom, either along wine of their many trails or inside the McMilan Greenhouse.
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte’s sports calendar gets pretty busy, especially when the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and their fans pack Bank of America Stadium on Sundays in the fall. The stadium also hosts college football games (The Belk Bowl and Belk Kickoff Game), as well as European soccer matches during the summer.
Watch the Charlotte Knights
Not too far away, BB&T Ballpark is home to the Knights, a AAA baseball club affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. And not only is the park a fun place to watch a game, one of our favorite views of the city can be found inside (third base side). That’s where you’ll get a view of the opposing team’s dugout, the field, and the gorgeous Queen City skyline in the background.
Check Here for Charlotte Knights tickets and more fun happening in and around BB&T Ballpark.
UNC Charlotte Sports
We mentioned UNC Charlotte for its beautiful botanical gardens but couldn’t leave out the 49ers. Their basketball team might be most popular and we’ll cover them in the winter and when March Madness rolls around. But in the fall, college football fans can find the 49ers at Jerry Richardson Stadium facing their Conference USA foes. The women’s track team has enjoyed some success over the years, as have their men’s and women’s soccer teams.
Throughout the year, you can find tons of concerts in Charlotte’s outdoor venues. PNC Music Pavilion is where the huge acts come and you can check out who’s coming here. During the summer, the city hosts a variety of free and cheap shows at many venues, including Freedom Park, the US Whitewater Center, and other spots you can keep up with here.
Bonus Outdoor Fun Near Charlotte
Many folks might be looking into fun beyond Charlotte, so here are a few awesome places to visit nearby.
Carolina Raptor Center
Carolina Raptor Center serves to rehabilitate sick or injured birds of prey, as its primarily a raptor treatment center. They also have a 3/4-mile mostly shaded Raptor Trail, which brings in nearly 40,000 visitors each year. Along the path, you’ll find over 30 species on display, including owls, hawks, and eagles.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Of course, we couldn’t mention outdoor things to do in Charlotte without mentioning “America’s Home for Racing” in Concord. Charlotte Motor Speedway is a massive complex and also houses ZMAX Dragway. Depending on the race that it’s in town, somewhere 90,000 and 170,000 spectators at least will be on hand to watch.
Crowders Mountain State Park is just west of Charlotte in Gaston County, and home to fun and challenging trails. This park can fill up so be sure to arrive early. That way you can hop on Pinnacle Trail for one of North Carolina’s best views.
If you can’t get in, the park has prepared this list of backup plan activities for you.
Lake Norman is North Carolina’s largest man-made lake and full of fun outdoor things to do. It’s home to some of the state’s best fishing and ways to enjoy the water. The state park that occupies 1,300 acres of the area has mountain biking trails, a beach for swimming, and a campground.
Latta Nature Center and Preserve
Huntersville’s Latta Nature Center and Preserve houses Latta Plantation and Carolina Raptor Center. Within Latta’s 1,460 acres, you’ll find endangered plants, a Backyard Habitat Garden, and trails that will take you along the gorgeous Mountain Island Lake.
Morrow Mountain once stood at 20,000 feet above sea level but millions of years of erosion has knocked it down to below 1,000 feet. Still, it’s one of the highest in the Uwharrie Mountains and the overlook at Morrow Mountain State Park is hard to top. You can hike quite a few trails and even stop by their museum, which commemorates the history of the Uwharries.
Uwharrie National Forest
Uwharrie National Forest (Randolph, Davidson, and Montgomery counties) has a ton of outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors. You can hike and bike its trails, boat and fish on the waters of Badin Lake, or hunt, trap, and shoot in any of their designated areas. Of course, you can camp at Uwharrie and give yourself enough time to do it all.
After traveling through this area for years, we’d never thought there’d be so many outdoor things to do in and around Charlotte. But that story has been common of our journey throughout North Carolina, where we’ve uncovered so many wonderful activities that were previously unknown to us.
What about you? Have you uncovered fun that you had no idea about before in this part of our state? We’d love to know about it. Also, do you have any outdoor things to do in Charlotte that you’d like to share with us? Please let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to add new places to explore.