If you’re planning a 3-day trip to Charlotte NC, this guide is for you. Here I share the ultimate weekend in Charlotte itinerary, including places to stay and my top tips for making the most of your trip.
The city known for award-winning cuisine and beer, diverse culture, and fun activities is one of my favourite places to visit.
From its eclectic art, food, and drink scene to its beautiful nature and entertaining local events, I find it one of the most fun and diverse U.S. cities.
The tagline “Charlotte’s got a lot” couldn’t be more accurate. Charlotte is filled with so many exciting experiences, and there’s something for all kinds of travellers to enjoy.
Even if you’re like me and don’t usually opt for visiting big cities, Charlotte offers a unique city experience.
It’s well worth going to during a North Carolina road trip or for a weekend getaway. And, there’s a good chance you’ll want to return for more.
So, let’s get to it and find out how to spend 3 days in Charlotte, NC.
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Is 3 Days in Charlotte NC Enough?
Three days is plenty of time to spend in Charlotte. This gives you time to explore different areas and get an excellent overview of all that the city has to offer.
If you don’t quite have 3 days or want to extend your trip, it’s easy to do both.
Although I went to Charlotte a lot as a child and only remember its iconic amusement park from that time, I’ve spent a total of a couple of weeks in Charlotte over a few trips as an adult.
These were weekend trips, and I had a unique experience each time I went. So, staying longer than a weekend is easy if you want to and can.
You can always pick and choose from the list of activities below for a shorter trip or expand your activity list to extend it.
Best Things to See & Do on a Weekend Trip to Charlotte NC
There are many unforgettable things to enjoy during your 3 days in Charlotte, NC.
The itinerary below will take you on a journey to explore the best of Charlotte with iconic attractions, hidden gems, and fun stuff in between.
Here’s a quick overview of how you can spend an unforgettable weekend in Charlotte:
- Spend time in Uptown Charlotte: First Ward Park, Harvey B. Gantt Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame, The Green Park, Truist Field for baseball, and Mint Museum.
- Charlotte Segway Tour: A unique and fun way to discover Uptown.
- Visit Carowinds Amusement Park: Rides, waterpark, live events, and dining.
- Watch sports: Charlotte Hornets (basketball), Carolina Panthers (football), Charlotte Knights (baseball), and Charlotte Checkers (hockey).
- Visit Lake Norman: A large lake with water recreation and a local state park.
- Explore the NoDa neighbourhood: Mac Tabby Cat Cafe, Pura Vida Worldly Art, NoDa Easy Art Walk, Optimist Hall, Divine Barrel Brewing, and The Evening Muse.
Tips for a Weekend in Charlotte NC
Even as a non-city girl, I’ve found it almost effortless to enjoy yourself in Charlotte. But, a few tips and tricks are always helpful for making the most of exploring a new place.
Getting Around Charlotte
During your weekend trip to Charlotte, NC, there are several ways to get around. I recommend travelling around the city by car and wandering on foot or by bicycle.
There is a public transportation system, but I don’t find it very convenient, especially when exploring the places I recommend below.
If you’re flying into Charlotte, you can rent a car or use rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. Personally, if I were flying into Charlotte for just 3 days, I’d take advantage of rideshare services.
I say this because car rentals can be quite pricey, and you won’t need a car for a lot of your trip since there’s so much to see and do in each area.
I usually take an Uber or Lyft to each main area for the day, then rent a bicycle with Charlotte B-Cycle or walk.
The only time you might want to rent a car for the day is if you decide to visit Lake Norman outside of the city.
With all of that said, if you’re driving into Charlotte, it’s relatively straightforward to navigate the city. There’s plenty of parking available, but you may have to be patient while looking for a spot in the busy areas.
When to Visit Charlotte
The best time to visit is between March and May to get the best of Charlotte’s weather without peak-season crowds.
Early fall is also an excellent time to visit for pleasant weather and fewer people.
Charlotte’s summers are hot and humid, and winters are typically cold and wet. However, many people do visit Charlotte in the summer, so it’s often crowded during this time.
Is Charlotte LGBTQ+ Friendly?
Yes! In fact, Charlotte was rated as North Carolina’s third most inclusive city for the LGBTQ+ community in 2021.
The city of Charlotte also amended their Nondiscrimination Ordinance in 2021 to protect the community from any kind of discrimination.
I’ve come to love and appreciate Charlotte over the years during visits to see my college best friend, who’s gay and loves Charlotte’s accepting atmosphere and locals who welcome everyone.
While NoDa is known as Charlotte’s most LGBTQ-friendly neighbourhood, you can find many inclusive events, bars, and more around the city.
Be sure to also check out Charlotte Pride events and programs during your visit and LGBTQ-owned businesses like Petra’s Bar and Paper Skyscraper, a gift shop.
Where to Stay for a Weekend in Charlotte NC
Since Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and one of the largest in the U.S., there are many areas to stay in. In fact, there are many unique neighbourhoods around the city.
With that said, I recommend staying in or just outside of Uptown.
Uptown Charlotte is where all the action is. It’s filled with restaurants, bars, clubs, and iconic attractions. This area is the city’s beating heart.
If you prefer not to be in the centre of the hustle, many neighbourhoods are conveniently located close to Uptown.
Some other excellent areas for your weekend in Charlotte, NC, include Dilworth and Southwood, both slightly south of Uptown.
I think it’s important to note why I didn’t mention staying in NoDa, one of Charlotte’s most popular and best areas.
While NoDa is incredible and definitely worth hanging out in, other than a few private vacation rentals there aren’t many accommodation options.
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Best Budget Hotel in Charlotte: Drury Inn & Suites – While Drury Inn & Suites is a low-key hotel with simple rooms, it’s got everything you need. You get access to a pool, gym, and complimentary breakfast, all while sticking to your budget. It’s also conveniently located close to many city attractions and just 10 miles from the popular Uptown neighbourhood.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Charlotte: Dunhill Hotel – The historic Dunhill Hotel has a unique 18th-century European vibe. At the hotel, you can enjoy fine dining, a full drink menu, and live music. It’s also centrally located in Uptown, close to all the action, with a free shuttle that takes you to other local attractions.
Best Luxury Hotel in Charlotte: The Ivey’s Hotel – If you’re planning a luxurious vacation, The Ivey’s Hotel is the perfect place to stay. This boutique hotel features upscale rooms, an elegant restaurant, a bar, and a fitness centre. It’s also situated in the city’s centre, surrounded by endless activities.
3-Day Charlotte NC Weekend Itinerary
The best part about visiting Charlotte is that there’s something for just about everyone.
From beautiful parks and a vibrant art scene to delicious food and lively nightlife, it’s hard not to love all the things Charlotte offers.
Here are my top suggestions for spending 3 days in Charlotte. Feel free to follow this guide precisely or pick and choose what stands out to you.
Prefer a quick rundown for each day? Here you go:
Day 1: Hang out in and around the city centre for museums, parks, dining, and drinking.
Day 2: Go to Carowinds Amusement Park, a sports game, or Lake Norman. Pick 1 or 2!
Day 3: Explore NoDa, Charlotte’s arts and entertainment district.
Weekend in Charlotte, NC: Day 1
Hang out in and around the city centre.
During the day – Start your weekend trip to Charlotte, NC, by exploring its iconic Uptown area. You might also hear this referred to as downtown. This area is filled with plenty to see and do, so it can easily take up your entire day.
Take a Charlotte Segway Tour for a fun adventure exploring the city centre. Many of these tours take you to the city’s most popular attractions, which in my opinion, is the best way to get around.
Start your morning at a breakfast spot or pick up coffee on the go in Uptown. Then there are a few places I recommend checking out in and around the city centre:
- First Ward Park: an urban park with interesting structures, gardens, grassy areas, and benches.
- Harvey B. Gantt Center: a cultural centre showcasing African-American art, history, and culture.
- NASCAR Hall of Fame: a unique museum that’s fun for almost anyone.
- The Green: a quirky park with neat photo ops.
- Truist Field: a bi-level stadium where the Charlotte Knights play.
- Mint Museum Uptown: an art museum with international artwork and live performances.
For the evening – After filling your day with these Charlotte sites, I recommend sticking around in Uptown for the food and wine scene. There are many excellent dining spots, pubs, and lounges.
A few of my favourites are JINYA Ramen Bar, Rí Rá Irish Pub, and The Cellar at Duckworth’s speakeasy.
Weekend in Charlotte, NC: Day 2
There are a few memorable ways to spend your 2nd day in Charlotte.
I wanted to give you options for this one since it will depend on when you go and what kind of experience you’re looking for.
Three of Charlotte’s top attractions are Carowinds Amusement Park, sports games, and Lake Norman.
Each of these activities will take up most of the day, but if you start your day early, you could possibly squeeze in a couple of them.
Option 1. Carowinds Amusement Park
I grew up only knowing about Charlotte because of the infamous Carowinds Amusement Park.
Of course, since then, I’ve learned that there’s much more to it. However, if you’re into rides or looking for a family-friendly adventure, Carowinds is a must.
From entertaining rides and a massive waterpark to seasonal events and various dining opportunities, there’s something for everyone at Carowinds.
Be sure to check Carowinds’ park hours before your visit. The park closes in winter, and open dates vary yearly.
Option 2. Charlotte Sports
If you’re a sports fan, there’s another reason for you to appreciate Charlotte.
Charlotte’s home to the Charlotte Hornets (basketball), Carolina Panthers (football), and the Charlotte Knights (baseball).
NASCAR race tracks and the Charlotte Checkers hockey team are also local.
You can find a sports game happening at just about any time of year. Just be sure to check schedules ahead of time.
Option 3. Lake Norman
As a nature lover who’s been to Carowinds many times (so worth it!), Lake Norman is how I’d prefer to spend a day during a weekend trip to Charlotte.
Lake Norman is North Carolina’s largest artificial body of freshwater. It’s about half an hour from Charlotte proper and well worth the short drive out.
Tip – Don’t forget, visiting Lake Norman with one of the other 2 activities is doable if you start your day early.
There are tons of water activities to enjoy if you visit Lake Norman when the weather is warm, usually between April and September.
These include water skiing, kayaking, floating, and paddle boarding.
Lake Norman is worth visiting even if you don’t plan to get in the water. The scenery is gorgeous, and the downtown area is lined with restaurants, shops, and galleries.
Weekend in Charlotte, NC: Day 3
Explore NoDa, Charlotte’s arts and entertainment district.
During the day – While Uptown is popular and a must-see in Charlotte, I have to be honest and say NoDa is my personal favourite area.
It’s unlike any other neighbourhood I’ve been to, and it’s incredibly cool for anyone who loves an eccentric vibe.
Like the city centre, this area is walkable. However, parking can be tricky to find. So if you’re driving to NoDa to start your day of exploration, be patient while finding a place to park.
Once you’re in NoDa, you’ll find eclectic galleries, shops, boutiques, cafes, breweries, and restaurants. There are also trendy dive bars, music venues, and colourful wall murals.
Here are some top things to see and do in NoDa:
- Mac Tabby Cat Cafe: coffee, beer, and kittens in a stylish cafe.
- Pura Vida Worldly Art: a locally-owned shop with handmade home goods, art, and jewellery.
- NoDa East Art Walk: a tour of NoDa’s murals, street paintings, trash receptacle art, and yarn bombings. Check it out here.
- Optimist Hall: a hip food and drink hall also offering art and events.
- Divine Barrel Brewing: a local craft brewery with a modern-chic tasting room.
For the evening – NoDa at night is also well worth sticking around for. There are several great bars and restaurants like Haberdish, one of Charlotte’s most popular dinner spots, and Idlewild, a hidden gem serving craft cocktails.
I would also recommend finishing up your 3 days in Charlotte, with a comedy show at Crown Station Coffee House & Pub or live music at The Evening Muse in NoDa.
Where to Eat and Drink in Charlotte
Charlotte is a foodie’s paradise, with some of the country’s best BBQ, classic burger joints, and fine dining. With so many options, it can be challenging to narrow it down – a good problem to have!
Let’s look at some of the best places to try, along with some hidden gems. With so many restaurants, cafes, and bars to come across, you’re sure to discover even more.
- Classic Breakfast: Famous Toastery, Uptown, $$
- Brunch: Ruby Sunshine, Wilmore, $$
- Donut Shop: Reigning Doughnuts, NoDa, $
- Deli Market: NoDa Bodega, NoDa, $
- BBQ: Midwood Smokehouse, Plaza Midwood, $$
- Casual Dining: The Goodyear House, NoDa, $$
- Japanese: JINYA Ramen Bar, Uptown, $$
- Southern Cuisine: The King’s Kitchen, Uptown, $$
- Fine Dining: McNinch House Restaurant, Uptown, $$$$
- Italian Fine Dining: Luce, Uptown, $$$
- Irish Pub: Rí Rá Irish Pub, Uptown, $$
- Classy speakeasy (+ American cuisine): The Cellar at Duckworth’s, Uptown, $$$
- Brewery (+ pub fare): Heist Brewery, NoDa, $$
- Cocktails, Idlewood, NoDa, $$
Budget for 3 Days in Charlotte, NC
Charlotte is one of the most affordable big cities in the U.S. The average traveller spends about $150 per day or $450 for a 3-day trip in Charlotte.
This includes food and splitting accommodation and transportation.
Whether you’re planning an inexpensive or luxurious vacation, it’s relatively easy to make Charlotte as budget-friendly or costly as you’d like.
There are so many things to see and do in Charlotte, so travellers can visit with any size budget.
Here are some tips if you’re looking to spend a weekend in Charlotte, NC, without spending a lot of money:
- Stay outside of the city centre. Accommodations cost less on the outskirts of Charlotte.
- Book a hotel with a continental breakfast. There are several in Charlotte, including Drury Inn & Suites.
- Monitor flights ahead of time if you’re flying to Charlotte. The city is home to an international airport, and there are many flight options to find one that fits your budget.
- Enjoy the many free activities, including a self-guided art walk around NoDa, exploring local parks (there’s a lot!), and visiting UNC’s botanical garden.
- Grab takeout and enjoy a picnic at First Ward Park.
- Travel with a friend or your family to split costs.
Other Charlotte Activities
If you’re planning to spend more than 3 days in Charlotte, NC or you want to switch out some of the activities mentioned above, here’s a list of some other notable things to see and do:
- North Carolina Botanical Garden: a native plant botanical garden at the University of North Carolina with free admission.
- U.S. National Whitewater Center: a popular recreational area with opportunities for whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and more.
- The Market at 7th St: a lively inside market with local shops, bakeries, eateries, and bars.
- Brewery Tour: self-guided or with City Brew Tours.
- Reedy Creek Nature Center & Nature Preserve: a 927-acre nature preserve and centre with hiking trails, fishing opportunities, animals, and a gift shop.
- Discovery Place Science: a family-friendly science and tech museum.
- Epicentre: a massive indoor shopping mall with dining, drinking, shops, a bowling alley, and a movie theatre.
Enjoy Your Weekend in Charlotte, NC
So there you have it, these are my recommendations for spending a fantastic weekend in Charlotte NC. I hope this itinerary has got you excited for your trip!
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Stay adventurous and Happy travels.