Charlotte is ideally placed to visit a wide variety of attractions in both North and South Carolina. The entire region is dotted with historic small towns, each of which has its own distinct charm and attractions. In addition to spending time learning about the history which shaped the modern-day Carolinas, you can schedule several day trips to visit outdoor recreational areas where the whole family can have fun. Andrew Jackson State Park, Anne Springs Close Greenway and Rock Hill Outdoor Center are just a few of the many excellent destinations available for sporty families to enjoy. History buffs could spend weeks exploring small towns like Cornelius, Gold Hill or Spencer and art and craft enthusiasts also have a wide choice of interesting locations to visit.
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Situated about twenty miles west of Charlotte, Gastonia is the largest city in Gaston County. If you are looking for an easily accessible day out for the whole family, you are invited to come and check out the attractions of Gastonia. If you visit on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday you will find a bustling Farmer’s Market with special activities for children. The Schiele Museum of Natural History is great for the whole family, while the Cavendish Brewing Company and Growler USA are popular craft beer breweries. If you want to get outdoors and active, Rankin Lake Park offers boating, fishing, kayaking and paddle-boating, as well as an attractive paved walking trail.
Gastonia, NC 28052
2.Andrew Jackson State Park
The Andrew Jackson State Park is situated about one hour south of Charlotte, where it welcomes day visitors as well as campers. The park is an ideal destination for a day of fun outdoor activities for the whole family, offering fishing, boating, cycling, bird-watching and picnicking. You can brush-up your knowledge about America’s seventh president as you explore the Andrew Jackson Museum and then pose for a photo beside his impressive statue. There are two scenic hiking trails, including the Garden of the Waxhaws Trail which loops around the picturesque lake. Boat rentals are available on site and there is a pleasant picnic area as well as a playground for younger visitors.
Andrew Jackson State Park, 196 Andrew Jackson Rd, Lancaster, SC 29720, Phone: 803-285-3344
3.Anne Springs Close Greenway
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If you are looking for a large outdoor recreational area close to Charlotte, the Anne Springs Close Greenway is an ideal choice for day trippers. The greenway covers over 2,000 acres and provides a wonderful outdoor playground for energetic visitors who can spend hours exploring the area by foot, mountain bike or horse-back. There are forty miles of hiking trails to choose from, as well as various mountain-bike and equestrian trails and a section of paved trail which is wheelchair accessible. Families can go for a pleasant walk around the Lake Haigler Loop, an easy 1.25-mile nature trail. Water activities include fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding.
Anne Springs Close Greenway, 104 Adventure Rd, Fort Mill, SC 29715, Phone: 803-547-4575
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Conveniently nestled in the heart of North Carolina, Asheboro is just 70 miles from Charlotte, where it offers visitors a delightfully varied day out. You can start off by visiting the North Carolina Zoo to enjoy face-to-face encounters with creatures great and small. After the zoo you could sign up for an adrenaline-boosting adventure at Richland Creek Zip-line and Canopy Tour. If you love motorcycles you can spend a few happy hours admiring the brilliant collection of Harley Davidson bikes at the American Classic Motorcycle Museum before visiting Four Saints Brewing Company to taste some delicious local brews. The town offers great shopping and a good selection of restaurants.
Asheboro, NC 27203
© The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte
When you need a day of relaxation or retail therapy follow those in the know and head to the south-Charlotte community of Ballantyne. Formerly a privately-owned hunting estate, Ballantyne is now an affluent Charlotte suburb, which boasts exceptional shopping, a luxury hotel and a world-class golf course. You could spend all day shopping at the indoor/outdoor Ballantyne Village or make your way to The Spa at Ballantyne for a day of pampering and relaxation. If you would like to improve your game you can book a lesson at the Golf Academy or book a tee-off time and enjoy the beautiful course. Ballantyne Village has several restaurants and a cinema where the whole family can have some fun.
Ballantyne, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28277, Phone: 704-248-4000
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The quaint small town of Belmont is located less than 30min from Charlotte, where it is scenically nestled between two rivers. The little town has a lot to offer day visitors, including a pretty historic district which dates back to 1873, featuring a mix of colonial and Tudor architectural styles. The whole family will enjoy visiting Goat Island Park, where you can walk, hike, fish and kayak. Back in town you can take a tour of the Muddy River Distillery which is rumored to produce some pretty decent rum. Antique enthusiasts could easily spend a few hours in the Catawba River Antique Mall, located in an historic old mill and nature lovers should not miss visiting the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
Belmont, NC 28012
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Another of North Carolina’s charming small towns, Concord offers a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte, while still offering a good selection of activities for day visitors. Motor-heads will undoubtedly want to visit the NASCAR Richard Petty Driving Experience, where you can actually get to drive a race car for five minutes. If you’re not up to racing you could have some outdoor fun at Thrifty Adventures (kayaking, tubing, rock-climbing and more). Children will enjoy the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park and Sea Life Charlotte, while parents might like to visit Cabarrus Brewing Company or the Cougar Run Winery.
Concord, NC 28026
The whole family will enjoy a day trip to Copperhead Island at the McDowell Nature Preserve. The 20-acre island is surrounded by scenic Lake Wylie and provides everything you need for a fun day out. If you have your own boat you can use one of four boat ramps to directly access the lake. Other activities on the island include hiking, bird-watching, picnicking and beach volleyball. You can cast a line from the fishing pier (fishing license required), play a game of horseshoes or join a guided kayak excursion. You can get all the information you need at the McDowell Nature Center.
Copperhead Island, 15200 Soldier Rd, Charlotte, NC 28278, Phone: 980-314-1128
The lively little town of Cornelius is an excellent choice for a family day out from Charlotte. The town was established in 1905 as a farming and milling community and boasts a charming historic Old Town which is constantly re-inventing itself as a tourist draw-card. Lovely historic old buildings now house craft breweries, one-off boutiques, art galleries and a selection of farm-to-fork restaurants. When Lake Norman was constructed Cornelius gained an amazing 54-mile shoreline which now offers just about every water-sport you can imagine, as well as lovely walks and hikes and attractive beaches for those who just want to relax. Find out what is on today at the Visitor Center on Catawba Ave.
Cornelius, NC 28031
, Michigan beaches
10.Crowders Mountain State Park
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Located just 35min from downtown Charlotte, Crowders Mountain State Park is an ideal outdoor recreational area that the whole family can enjoy. The park includes a lovely wooded lake where you can fish for large-mouth bass and sunfish, or launch your paddle boat or kayak for some water fun. If you enjoy hiking you can take on one of two quite challenging hiking trails to the summits of Crowders Mountain or Kings Pinnacle; both of these traverse steep terrain and are considered strenuous. For less active visitors and families there is a pleasant nature trail around the lake. Other activities on offer include rock climbing, bouldering, orienteering and picnicking.
Crowders Mountain State Park, 522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain, NC 28086, Phone: 704-853-5375
11.Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens
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Your visit to Charlotte would be incomplete without taking the time to visit the inspirational Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens on the banks of Lake Wylie in Belmont. The beautiful Visitor’s Pavilion provides your first glimpse of the gardens and gives a hint of the beauty that lies ahead. There are several themed gardens to admire, starting with the Four Seasons Garden which is pretty spectacular all year round. One of the most popular exhibits has to be the five-storey high Orchid Conservatory, but each of the other garden areas has its own charm and beauty. You can now download an App to guide you as you make your way through the gardens in your own time.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, 6500 S. New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012, Phone: 704-825-4490
Located close to Lake Norman, which offers great possibilities for outdoor recreation on Charlotte’s doorstep, the college town of Davidson is well worth a visit. You can bring along your bikes to explore more than twelve miles of biking lanes and greenways. If you prefer to explore on foot you will appreciate the pedestrian friendly north end of Downtown Davidson, which is filled with interesting tourist attractions including art galleries and studios, craft stores, boutiques and fabulous restaurants. Families can take the children to have educational fun at Discovery Place Kids and the Carolina Raptor Center in nearby Huntersville.
Davidson, NC 28035
© Historic Gold Hill, North Carolina
The historic gold mining boom town of Gold Hill is located about 47 miles from Charlotte, where it offers visitors a chance to step back in time, learn about the North Carolina Gold Rush and enjoy shopping, tours and dining at a relaxed pace. Outdoor activities are available in the Gold Hill Mines Historic Park, where you can enjoy hiking and biking as well as a children’s playground. You can go on a self-guided tour of the park in your own time – guides are available at the famous Montgomery Store, which hosts regular Friday night Bluegrass Jams. Sample some local wine or beer at the Morgan Ridge Winery Tasting Room, which is also home to the Rail Walk Micro Brewery and shop till you drop at a handful of quaint Gold Hill shops.
Gold Hill, NC 28071
© City of Hickory, NC - Government
If you are in the market for some new furniture you owe it to yourself to visit Hickory, which is widely known as the “furniture manufacturing capital of the world”. However, besides creating unique pieces of hand-crafted furniture, which you can admire at several manufacturers, marts and outlet stores, Hickory offers a wide variety of activities for the whole family. Children will enjoy spending a few hours at the Catawba Science Center and Planetarium, while the whole family can have fun at Zip Line Adventures. The Hickory Museum of Art, the Hickory History Center and the Hickory Aviation Museum are all worth a visit.
Hickory, NC 28601
A short twenty-mile drive north of Charlotte will bring you to Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. The enormous lake has a 520 mile shoreline and is surrounded by several visit-worth small towns like Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate all the activities available on the water, which include fishing, sailing, wake-boarding, kayaking and paddling. Lake Norman offers exceptional biking opportunities including a network of greenways which connect all the lakeside towns, as well as cycle-friendly roads with marked bike lanes. There is a wonderful choice of craft breweries, restaurants and shopping to explore all around Lake Norman.
Lake Norman, North Carolina
© Midland, North Carolina
A pleasant 90min journey due south of Charlotte will find you in the heart of the Midlands of South Carolina, where a wide choice of activities lie in store for you. History buffs will enjoy exploring historic towns like Columbia, Camden, Blackwell and North Augusta, which are full of beautiful historic buildings and battlefields. The Saluda River offers adrenalin-boosting white-water rafting, while paddlers can explore the length of the Edisto River at a leisurely pace. There is something for everyone to enjoy in the Midlands including inspirational gardens, thrilling horse-racing, a host of wonderful golf courses and dozens of farm-to-fork restaurants and craft breweries for foodies to discover.
Midlands of South Carolina
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17.Rock Hill Outdoor Center
Located just 35min south-west of Charlotte, the Rock Hill Outdoor Center is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts and families with active children. The center will eventually cover approximately 250 acres and currently offers facilities for a wide range of outdoor activities. Cyclists can come and hone their skills at the Giordana Velodrome, the Rock Hill BMX Track, the mountain-bike course or the challenging Cyclocross trails. Walkers, runners and hikers can explore more than 30 miles of greenway trails. There is a canoe/kayak launching area which gives access to the Catawba River and the Outdoor Center Greens is an ideal space for kids to run around, play Frisbee or kick a ball.
Rock Hill Outdoor Center, 1159 Riverwalk Parkway, Rock Hill, SC 29730, Phone: 803-329-5620
© City of Salisbury, North Carolina - Government
A scenic 45min drive through the pleasant North Carolina landscape will bring you to the historic town of Salisbury, an ideal day-trip destination. You can pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour of historic Downtown Salisbury and West Square District at the Rowan County Visitor’s Center. There are several attractions for families including the NC Transportation Museum, the Lazy 5 Ranch, Patterson Farm (for pick your own strawberries or pumpkins) and the Dan Nicholas Park for boating and other fun activities. Guided Trolley Tours run every Saturday during the summer and there are plenty of boutiques, craft shops and galleries to admire.
Salisbury, NC 28144
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© Town of Seagrove
Continuing the pottery tradition which was introduced to North Carolina by immigrant potters from England and Germany in the 1800’s, Seagrove is often referred to as the Pottery Capital of America. Pottery admirers come from near and far to spend a day or two visiting more than 100 individual potters in the area, as they travel along Highway 705, aka North Carolina Pottery Highway. If you can arrange to visit the weekend before Thanksgiving you can attend the annual Seagrove Pottery Festival. Visitors who prefer to see a wide cross-section of pottery under one roof can visit the North Carolina Pottery off Main Street, which hosts permanent and rotating pottery exhibits year round.
Seagrove, NC 27341
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© Town of Spencer
The small town of Spencer is named after Samuel Spencer, who was the first president of the Southern Railway, which put this little town on the map during the golden age of American rail travel after the Civil War. Visitors to Spencer can take a step back in time at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, where you can admire the historic Spencer Shops and an assortment of impressive steam locomotives. The whole family can enjoy a narrated train ride or hop aboard a diesel cab to ride with the engineer. Other interesting exhibits at the museum include the Bob Julian Roundhouse, vintage cars, wagons and much more. While you are in town you can also visit the Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures.
Spencer, NC 28159
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A popular choice for day trips from Charlotte, the small town of Statesville boasts over 250 years of history and is widely known for hosting several fun annual events. History lovers can take a trip down memory lane at the Statesville Historic Collection, where you can view over 1,000 historic photos before you take a walk through historic Downtown and visit the Fort Dobbs Historic Site. When you have worked up a thirst you can visit a local brewery, winery or the Southern Distilling Company for a tour and tasting. Children will enjoy visiting the nearby Zootastic Park, Fort Dobbs or the Marquis Cinema.
Statesville, NC 28625
© The City of York, South Carolina
Located in the heart of the South Carolina Midlands, York has a rich historic background for visitors to uncover. The town was originally home to the Catawba Indians before immigrants from Scotland and Ireland started to arrive in the mid 1700’s, and two Revolutionary War battles took place near-by at King’s Mountain and Williamson’s Plantation. A walking tour of historic Downtown will reveal several interesting historic buildings which nowadays house a variety of restaurants, shops and galleries. After touring the town sights you can stop off at the Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill to taste some cider and feast on their home-made doughnuts.
York, NC 29745
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22 Best Weekend and Day Trips from Charlotte, North Carolina
- Gastonia, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Andrew Jackson State Park, Photo: Chunnapa/stock.adobe.com
- Anne Springs Close Greenway, Photo: Steven Starr/stock.adobe.com
- Asheboro, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Ballantyne, Photo: The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte
- Belmont, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Concord, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Copperhead Island, Photo: Michael/stock.adobe.com
- Cornelius, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Crowders Mountain State Park, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Davidson, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Gold Hill, Photo: Historic Gold Hill, North Carolina
- Hickory, Photo: City of Hickory, NC - Government
- Lake Norman, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Midland, Photo: Midland, North Carolina
- Rock Hill Outdoor Center, Photo: Aleksej/stock.adobe.com
- Salisbury, Photo: City of Salisbury, North Carolina - Government
- Seagrove, Photo: Town of Seagrove
- Spencer, Photo: Town of Spencer
- Statesville, Photo: ASP Inc/stock.adobe.com
- York, Photo: The City of York, South Carolina
- Cover Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com