The 25 Best Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors in Charlotte

From beer gardens to botanical gardens, rock climbing to lake days, these are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Charlotte.

Known for its urban forest and active residents, Charlotte isn’t lacking when it comes to outdoor adventures. Here are 25 things to do to get you started.

1.) Take in the view.

Make the short trek over to Crowders Mountain State Park to hike to Pinnacle Peak, a challenging climb with a 25-mile view of the Charlotte skyline. 522 Park Office Ln., Kings Mountain, NC, 704.853.5375

Crowders Mountain State Park
Crowders Mountain State Park is home to Pinnacle Peak with a 25-mile view of Charlotte. (Courtesy Crowders Mountain State Park)

2.) Explore Freedom Park.

Grab a picnic basket and catch some rays, ride bikes or play tennis at the nearly 100-acre Freedom Park, home of North Carolina’s historic Liberty Tree. 1900 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC, 980.314.1002

Freedom Park, Charlotte
The 100-acre park is home to North Carolina's historic Liberty Tree. (©Logan Cyrus)

3.) Sample local beer.

Charlotte’s beer scene has boomed in recent years, but pay homage to the city’s original brewery at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and their outdoor biergarten. Order a signature Olde Meck Copper or Capt Jack, paired with a freshly baked soft German pretzel with house-made beer cheese. 4150 Yancey Road, Charlotte, NC,  704.525.5644

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Charlotte
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery's signature Olde Meck Copper paired with a fresh-baked, soft German pretzel makes a great snack while lounging in the outdoor biergarten. (Courtesy Olde Mecklenburg Brewery)

4.) Walk back in time.

The Charlotte Liberty Walk is an app-guided uptown tour of 18 notable American Revolution-era historic sites that helped shaped Charlotte. App contains details and audio. On average, the tour lasts about 1.5 hours.

Liberty Walk, Charlotte
The app-guided, 18-stop walk offers insights into the long history of Charlotte. (©Jim Williams)

5.) Discover a secret garden.

Relax and enjoy the serenity of Wing Haven Gardens, an intimate garden and bird sanctuary since 1927, located in historic Myers Park. 248 Ridgewood Ave., Charlotte, NC, 704.331.0664  

Wing Haven Garden, Charlotte
Tour the grounds of Wing Haven garden and bird sanctuary. (©JRP/Flickr, Creative Commons)

6.) Take it to the lake.

With Lake Norman to the north and Lake Wylie to the south, Charlotte offers nearly 850 miles of shoreline for those with a boating itch. Rentals are available.

Lake Norman, North Carolina
Take a brisk walk around sections of the lake or simply enjoy the shade. (Courtesy North Carolina State Parks)

7.) Get a dose of wildlife.

Deer crossing the path, a barn owl or a Barred owl on a branch, or even a skimming kingfisher are not unusual sights at the longstanding McAlpine Creek Park. A 3-acre lake for fishing, dog park and miles of 5K championship cross country running trails are all options, too. 8711 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC, 704.529.3273

8.) Bird watch.

Also located within Historic Latta Nature Preserve is the Carolina Raptor Center, home to nearly 25 raptor species along a ¾-mile, kid-friendly nature trail. Catch a vulture feeding or bird show, or ask about touring the nearby bird rehabilitation center. 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville, NC, 704. 875.6521.

Carolina Raptor Center, Charlotte
Visit the bird rehabilitation center and watch various performances by the 25 species of raptor and other birds at Carolina Raptor Center. (©John Werry)

9.) Sample history.

Take a quick ride north to Latta Plantation, a circa-1800 cotton plantation and living history farm located within a sprawling nature preserve. 6211 Sample Rd, Huntersville, NC, 704.875.1391

Historic Latta Plantation, Charlotte
Enjoy annual events, demonstrations and more at the plantation. (Courtesy Historic Latta Plantation)

10.) Smell the roses.

Visit the impressive orchid conservatory, among other plants and flowers at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in nearby Gastonia. Picnics welcome. 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont, NC, 704.825.4490

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Charlotte
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a pastoral retreat near Charlotte. (Courtesy Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden)

11.) Catch some tunes.

 Live music options abound in summer in Charlotte, from the popular PNC Music Pavilion to the Uptown Amphitheater at AvidXchange Music Factory.

The AvidXchage Music Factory, Charlotte
The AvidXchage Music Factory is home to performance halls and amphitheaters for enjoying music in all weather. (©Rich Singer)

12.) Stroll along Little Sugar Creek.

 Walk along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and enjoy spotting wildlife within the backdrop of the Charlotte skyline. Stop in for a look around the shops or a quick bite at the Metropolitan. 1116 Metropolitan Ave., Charlotte, NC,  980.314.1000

13.) Play in the sun.

Order one of 30 craft beers and imports on tap and spend the afternoon playing oversized board games and cornhole on the buzzing patio of VBGB Beer Hall & Garden. 920 Hamilton St., Charlotte, NC, 704.333.4111

VBGB, Charlotte
Play giant yard games while sipping suds at VBGB. (©Tom Taddeo)

14.) Go for the gold. 

Before the textbook forty-niners struck gold out west, Conrad Reed stumbled upon a 17-pound nugget that made Charlotte the site of the nation’s first gold rush. Try your luck panning at Reed Gold Mine. 9621 Reed Mine Road, Midland, NC, 704.721.4653

15.) Go on a safari.

Travel alongside giraffes and zebras in this safari-style zoo. Ride in your own car or hire a horse-drawn wagon to encounter hundreds of animals from six different continents. 15100 Highway 150 E., Mooresville, NC, 704.663.5100

16.) Brave the rapids. 

Home to the U.S. Olympic training facility for whitewater slalom kayaking, the U.S. National Whitewater Center opens its class III and IV rapids to the public for a fun day of rafting and kayaking. A climbing wall, zipline and 25 miles of trails are all options, too. Food and beverages available. 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC,  704.391-3900

U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is open to the public and Olympians alike. (Courtesy U.S. National Whitewater Center)

17.) Visit Polk’s place. 

The 11th President of the United States, James K. Polk, was raised in nearby Pineville. This historic site commemorates key events during his administration, namely the Mexican-American War. 12031 Lancaster Hwy., Pineville, NC, 704.889.7145

Polk State Historical Site, Charlotte
This historic park chronicles the life and achievements of President Polk. (Courtesy President James K. Polk State Historic Site)

18.) Grab a dog at JJ’s Red Hots.  

Order a Char Heel dog—an indulgence served Southern-style with house-made chili, slaw, diced onions and mustard—and sit atop the popular Dilworth rooftop deck to people watch. 1514 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC, 980.225.8880

19.) Dine with a view. 

Chorizo-stuffed dates and duck fried rice are a few inventive ways to kick off a meal at Chef Rocco Whalen’s Fahrenheit, but the star here is the sprawling rooftop patio, with 21st-floor skyline views. 222 S. Caldwell St., Charlotte, NC, 980.237.6718

20.) Picnic with the Symphony. 

One of the city’s longstanding traditions, Summer Pops is the Charlotte Symphony’s annual outdoor concert series each Sunday night in June. Enjoy a picnic under the stars. SouthPark Mall, 4400 Sharon Road, Charlotte, NC, 704.972.2000

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
The Summer Pops series offered by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra is an annual tradition. (©Logan Cyrus)

21.) Play a round at Ballantyne. 

Venture south to this popular public championship PGA golf course that offers daily tee times, overnight packages and lessons located at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Charlotte, NC, 704.248.4383 

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge golf course, Charlotte
The 18-hole course at Ballantyne hosts PGA Tournaments and more. (Courtesy Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge)

22.) Ride the rollercoasters at Carowinds.  

Charlotte’s go-to amusement park since 1973, Carowinds straddles the North-South Carolina state line and offers thrill rides like the Vortex, a stand-up rollercoaster with dramatic loops, plus a water park, dining and live entertainment. 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, NC, 704.588.2600

Carowinds, Charlotte
Rollercoasters are aplenty at Carowinds. (©Logan Cyrus)

23.) Wander around quirky Plaza Midwood.  

With eclectic shops from Reggae Central to Boris & Natasha, and popular patio options from Pizza Peel to Whiskey Warehouse and Peculiar Rabbit, it’s easy to make an afternoon out of exploring Plaza Midwood. Central Ave. & Thomas Ave.   

24.) Explore the Duke Mansion. 

With legacies that include Duke University and Duke Energy, this Myers Park home’s most notable inhabitant—James B. Duke—expanded upon this house, originally built in 1915. Today, the Duke Mansion serves as a bed-and-breakfast and event space, but guests are welcome to tour the site, including nearly five acres of beautiful backyard gardens. 400 Hermitage Road, Charlotte, NC, 704.714.4400.

Duke Mansion, Charlotte
The energy tycoon James B. Duke expanded the house to its current size. The house now serves as an upscale bed and breakfast. (©George Lanis)

25.) Play disc golf.

Choose from among 17 courses maintained by Charlotte Disc Golf Club, including Reedy Creek Park and Kilborne Park.