Charlotte Day Trips—11 Top Places to Visit

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Heading to North Carolina and looking for the best Charlotte day trips? This guide has all the top trips and weekend getaways from Charlotte, NC. 

Charlotte is a modern city that still has all of its traditional southern charm. While Charlotte has enough activities to fill your days and weeks with excitement, don’t miss out on some of these amazing day trips. North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places in the United States, thanks to the gorgeous mountains and mild year-round weather. 

Ready to plan your NC itinerary? Here are all the top places you can visit from Charlotte in just a few hours. 

charlotte day trips, american flag waving above the city, greensboro

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Visiting Charlotte

Charlotte is one of the most visited cities in North Carolina because of the big city vibes, but also the close proximity to many state parks and other attractions. Here are some of the best day trips from Charlotte:

1. Asheville 

Just two hours from Charlotte, you’ll find the charming town of Asheville. It’s most known for its numerous restaurants and breweries. If you’re a craft beer lover, Asheville is one of the best places to go. 

Check out Wicked Weed and New Belgium Brewing Company for the best local flavors. Wicked Weed has some of the best sours in the country, with the tap choices changing every season. 

Just outside Asheville, you can head to The Biltmore Estate. You can take a self-guided tour of this gorgeous mansion. The grounds and gardens are open in the warmer months, and the flowers are stunning. 

Looking for more things to do in Asheville? Check out this full Asheville to-do list.

botanical garden in asheville, purple, orange, and yellow flowers, green trees in distance, day trips from charlotte, best day trips from charlotte

2. Uwharrie National Forest 

Searching for some green space outside of the city? Uwharrie National Forest is just one hour from Charlotte and is one of the best day trips for nature lovers in Charlotte, NC. 

It encompasses over 50,000 acres of woodlands. It has many hiking trails, most of which are easy to moderate difficulty. So feel free to bring the whole family, including young children!

The forest is also popular for mountain biking and camping. You can also rent four-wheelers and go through designated areas of the forest to get a chance to see local flora and fauna as well as different species of birds. 

Here is a list of all the places you can ride ATVs in Uwharrie. Most locals bring their own four-wheelers, but there are plenty of places for tourists to rent them. 

Uwharrie Rentals is one of the best places to rent ATVs, as well as kayaks and jet skis. They also have guided horseback riding tours through the forests. 

The US Forest Service has a list of all professional guides on its website. It’s best to always pick a guide from this list as the companies know the local area and they care for the environment.  

Uwharrie National Forest is located at 789 North Carolina 24, Troy, NC 27371. The entrance is $5. If you are planning to ATV ride, the permit is $30. 

3. Lake Lure 

Lake Lure is just under two hours from Charlotte. Even in the heat of summer, the shore always brings in a nice cool breeze. You’ll see tons of North Carolina residents boating, kayaking, and swimming at Lake Lure in the spring and summer. 

The Blue Ridge Mountains surround the lake. You’ll have one of the best views in the state as you cool off in the water. 

If you’re not into swimming but want to be in the water, you can also go tubing or boating. 

Lake Lure is located at 2724 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC 28746. The entrance to the swimming beach is $10. You can also go to their website and find prices for boat, tubes, and kayak rentals. 

aeriel view of lake lure, charlotte nc day trips, weekend getaways from charlotte nc

4. Chimney Rock State Park 

One of the best day trips from Charlotte is to Chimney Rock State Park. It draws visitors from all over the country. 

Chimney Rock is a giant monolith that hangs over Hickory Nut Gorge. You can hike up to the top of the rock, or you can take an elevator. 

You can also hike the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, ending in a 404-foot waterfall. Dogs are allowed on the hiking and walking trails but not in the elevator going up to Chimney Rock. 

Most people also like to check out some of the breweries in Chimney Rock before heading back to Charlotte. The most popular spot is Hickory Nut Brewing. They specialize in craft beers that use local flavors. 

Chimney Rock State Park is located at 431 Main St, Chimney Rock, NC 28720. They’re open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s $17 to enter the park. 

5. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden 

This stunning botanical garden has over 450 acres of flowers and plants. While the gardens are stunning in the spring and summer because of the fresh blooms, the gardens are extra special during the holidays. 

They have an annual Christmas lighting event. They also do light shows, and the whole park is decked out in decor. 

The Daniel Stowe Gardens are located in Belmont, which is only about a 20-30 minute drive from Charlotte. You can hang out in Charlotte during the day and then head to the gardens at night to see the lovely Christmas lights. 

Belmont is also home to the Carolina Lavender Farm and is about a 20-minute drive to the gardens. You can easily visit both on the same day. 

At the farm, you can see fields of lavender go on for miles and miles. You can also enjoy fresh lavender lemonade and baked goods. Make sure to buy lavender oil or soap to take home!

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens is located at 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012. They’re open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The entrance fee is $14.95. 

fountain, flower walkways, drive to charlotte nc, weekend trips from charlotte

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States. The park is most famous for its sunsets since you can see red, gold, and purple streaks across the sky. The park is more than 520,000 acres and spans across North Carolina and Tennessee. 

The main activity in the park is hiking. There are some easy trails as well as more challenging ones. 

Rocky Top is the best hike if you want the best views. Once at the top, you can see Fontana Lake and Cades Cove. 

The trail is challenging, but only in certain parts. It switches between very steep and downhill, which is nice because you get a few easy walking breaks in between the harder places. 

Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte is another great hike with amazing views at the end. It’s a harder hike that takes about 6.5 hours to complete, so it’s a full day’s worth of hiking. 

great smokey mountains train tour, red train, mountains, steam coming from train

7. Greensboro 

For one of the best day trips from Charlotte to another great city in North Carolina, head to Greensboro. It’s a big city with plenty of things to do and see. Here are a few things to add to your Greensboro bucket list:

  • Antique Market Place: Head here to find some great locally-made items as well as antiques. It’s been around since 2001 and has many different vendors. Some sell items that are handmade, while others resell antiques. 
  • Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden: This beautiful garden is best to visit in the fall or spring when the flowers are blooming. The gardens are part of Greensboro Beautiful Inc. It’s a nonprofit organization helping to build the nature and outdoor communities of Greensboro. 
  • Crafted: This is the place to go if you want to eat good food while in Greensboro. They specialize in tacos and other Mexican food. They also host art shows and community art fundraisers on most weekends. 
downtown greensboro, charlotte day trips

8. Blue Ridge Parkway 

Are you on the hunt for North Carolina’s best views of the mountains and nature? Head to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkways run from Cherokee in NC to Virginia. If you’re road-tripping through the South, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an amazing drive to Charlotte, NC. 

As you drive, there are many overlooks and places to park the car. You can get out and take in the breathtaking view as well as take some photos. 

The parkway is more than just a photo op, though. There are many places and small towns to stop by to experience more of NC. 

Here are the top things to do along the parkway:

  • Lost Province Brewing Company: This is the perfect place to stop for an hour or so if you want to get refreshed and try some local beer. 
  • Mount Pisgah: A small scenic overlook among the mountains. There’s also a campground and lodge if you want to turn your day trip into one of the best weekend trips from Charlotte. They also have a restaurant with all your favorite Southern meals. 
  • Mount Mitchel State Park: Take a short 0.3-mile hike to the summit of the mountain for some amazing views. The top has a 360-degree observation deck perfect for seeing the mountains. 

Here is a map of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It also runs through Asheville. So, if you’re taking a day trip to Asheville, you can also head to Pisgah and see the Blue Ridge Parkway all on the same day. 

road going through blue ridge parkway, orange and red leaves on trees

9. Hickory

This little town is right at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While it’s nice to visit any time of the year, summer and autumn are the best times because the mountains are spectacularly green and then they turn into hues of yellow, orange, and red.

Most people come here for the Hickory Furniture Market where there is handmade and custom-made furniture.

Olde Hickory Brewery is also a popular place for locals and tourists as they have a beautiful taproom where you can order a few pints or try the seasonal flavors by ordering a beer flight.

building in hickory north carolina, tall building in the downtown area, day trips from charlotte nc

10. Elkin

This gorgeous town is about an hour and 15 minutes away from Charlotte. Most people come here to visit one of the many wineries with the most popular places being Adagio Vineyards and Elkin Creek Vineyards.

Since Elkin is right in the middle of the Yadkin Valley, you can also visit nearby towns in the region and try their local wineries as well. Some people even opt to do a full Yadkin Valley wine tour.

If you’re not interested in wine, there are plenty of other things to do including visiting the Reeves Theater, shopping in the downtown area, or hiking in Stone Mountain State Park.

11. Gastonia

North Carolina is full of small quaint towns that might appear like nothing special, but they have such a special atmosphere that is different from being in a large town.

Gastonia is one of these small towns with really friendly people and unique things to see and do. It’s only 30 minutes from Charlotte so it’s a great half-day trip if you’re limited on time.

The town is well known for all its antique shops as well as the Carolina Speedway.

The city is part of Gaston County which has many things to do including the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden and the Carolina Lavender Farm which I mentioned earlier.

Visiting all three of these places on the same day is definitely doable and will make a full-day trip!

old historic building in gastonia, up close view of the building, trees blocking part of the view

Top Things to Do in Charlotte

There are many things to do in Charlotte in between your day trips! Here are some of the best spots to check out:

  • NASCAR Hall of Fame: This is a great place if you grew up watching NASCAR or want to learn about the history of the sport. During the holidays, they have special events and other fun activities. 
  • Carowinds: If you want to get your adrenaline going during your time in Charlotte, you can head to this amusement park. They have rollercoasters, drop rides, and a kids’ section for small children. 
  • Discovery Place Science: This is a hands-on and interactive science museum perfect for all ages. They have great rotating exhibits based on new scientific discoveries. They also have one of the largest IMAX theatres in the country. 
  • US National Whitewater Center: During the warmer months, this is a perfect place to go. You can do a bunch of different water sports, including white water rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. They also have mountain biking trails and rock climbing walls. 
  • Sleepy Poet Antique Mall: Want to do some shopping? Head to the antique mall. They have everything from vintage clothing to antique furniture to fun collectibles. With many different stalls and vendors, you’re sure to find something you like that you want to bring home. 
  • The Mint Museum: This is one of the best art museums in the south. They have hundreds of different collections, from modern art to ancient pieces. They also have rotating exhibits from more famous artists to local ones. 
orange leaves on tree in park in charlotte

How to Get to Charlotte 

Charlotte has an international airport (CLT) with many different international and domestic flights available every day. You can also fly into Raleigh (RDU)  or Atlanta (ATL), as these airports are bigger and often have cheaper flights. 

You can then rent a car and drive to Charlotte. Raleigh is about 2.5 hours away, and Atlanta is about 3.5 hours. 

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When to Visit Charlotte 

For the best hotel prices, try to visit during the shoulder seasons. March through May and September are much less expensive than the summer and holiday months. 

Since Charlotte is in the South, the weather is pretty mild during these months. You can enjoy sunny weather and not have to fight off crowds at the attractions. 

Don’t Miss These Fantastic Charlotte Day Trips!

Most Charlotte day trips involve exploring a state park or two. While North Carolina has a few famous cities, the state is better known for its amazing nature and scenery. Home to beaches, mountains, and woodlands, North Carolina is one of the best states to explore in the South for outdoor lovers. 

If you’re heading to Charlotte, make sure to add an extra one or two days to your itinerary so you can explore some of these amazing day trips. 

Heading to Charlotte? Which of these day trips are you planning to take? 

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