15 Best Day Trips from Charlotte

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

At face value Charlotte seems to be a pretty run of the mill American city, but nothing could be further from the truth.

This modern city has experienced a recent surge in development and is showing no sign of slowing down.

Sports fans will know Charlotte for their much-loved NFL team, the Carolina Panthers.

Charlotte too is home to the NASACR Hall of Fame.

As a university city Charlotte is a lively and happening place.

With bars and clubs a plenty visitors have no trouble meeting locals and finding out their favourite hangout spots or recommended day trips.

Speaking of which, North Carolina is awash with fun and fascinating travel opportunities.

Let’s take a look at the best day trips from Charlotte:

1. Lake Lure

Lake Lure, North CarolinaSource: digidreamgrafix / shutterstock
Lake Lure

If you do not know Lake Lure by name you surely will recognise it by sight for it provided the backdrop for numerous scenes in the hit movie Dirty Dancing.

Ever changing, Lake Lure provides a photogenic vista throughout the year.

That said, there is something particularly charming about Lake Lure in the autumn months when the trees turn hues of fiery red and vibrant orange.

There is something truly calming about Lake Lure and you will feel yourself relax and unwind the moment you step foot on its tranquil shores.

Lake Lure is within easy reach of Chimney Rock should you wish to mix up your day a little.

2. Asheville

Asheville, North CarolinaSource: Derek Olson Photography / shutterstock

It is fair to say that foodies will travel the length and breadth of this earth in search of the perfect bite or sip, so a two hour drive to Asheville is no trouble at all.

Asheville is famed for its thriving restaurant scene and it genuinely has something for every palate.

Asheville sits upon the Western North Carolina cheese trail which features nine of the state’s finest cheesemongers.

If you like Indian cuisine stop by Chai Pani, alternatively if homely, traditional southern USA dishes take your fancy make a beeline for Tupelo Honey.

Locals all rave about Curate the city’s best bustling tapas bar.

3. Uwharrie National Forest

Uwharrie National ForestSource: Guy J. Sagi / shutterstock
Uwharrie National Forest

With Charlotte developing at such a rapid rate it seems that the green spaces are becoming few and far between.

Take a step into the great outdoors and visit the mesmerising Uwharrie National Forest.

Encompassing a total area of 50,645 acres Uwharrie National Forest has so much to explore.

You can take a dip in the brisk Badin Lake or hike along one of the dozens of trails that transect the forest lands.

The Morrow Mountain Trail is a very popular route and is rated as moderate.

The Keyauwee Supertree Woodrun Loop Trail is another great route that offers plenty of scenic photo opportunities.

4. Atlanta

Atlanta, GeorgiaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Atlanta is the state capital of Georgia and is an immense city with plenty to see and do.

In the downtown you will find the Centennial Olympic Park where the 1996 Olympic games were held.

Those interested in history can take a visit to the Atlanta History Centre which documents the city’s role in the Civil War and subsequently the Civil Rights Movement of 1960s.

Ensure to find time to visit the Martin Luther King Jr.

National Historic Site to reflect on the impact this amazing leader had on the world.

The World of Coca-Cola is a museum that features everything you could possibly imagine about the world famous fizzy pop.

The gift shop is a sight to behold.

5. Wilmington

Wilmington, North CarolinaSource: J. Bicking / shutterstock

Wilmington is a quintessentially North Carolinian city that sits on the Atlantic coast.

A famous port city, Wilmington is home to the USS North Carolina (BB-55) Museum.

This battleship played a pivotal role during naval operations of World War II. For a breath of fresh air head to the Airlie Gardens.

With 10-acres to explore you could easily spend a whole day here admiring the azaleas and dipping your toes in the freshwater lake.

You can face your herpetophobia fears at the Wilmington Serpentarium and observe over forty different species of venomous snakes, as well as crocodiles and lizards.

6. Greensboro

Greensboro, North CarolinaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

The city of Greensboro is an easily accessible day trip from Charlotte and has a lot to explore.

The leading attraction in Greensboro is the Greensboro Science Centre which is home to a gorgeous family of red pandas, farm animals to interact with and an aquarium too.

If you’re travelling with children you can couple a visit to the Greensboro Science Centre in the morning with a tour of the Greensboro Children’s Museum in the afternoon.

This wonderful educational centre is designed exclusively for children and features twenty permanent interactive exhibits and season themed events too.

Let them run wild in the vast outdoor learning garden while you get a moment of peace in the corner.

7. Boone

Boone, NCSource: Cvandyke / shutterstock

Outdoor adventure enthusiasts will already have Boone on their raider.

Just 95 miles Northwest of Charlotte is one of North Carolina’s best outdoor days out.

Get jumping from boulder to boulder, whiz through the canopy on zip lines or kick back in an inflatable tube along the river.

Brace yourself and step foot on the Mile High Swinging Bridge.

It is a full mile above sea level, its not for the faint hearted.

If you want to take a step back in time take a visit to Hickory Ridge Living History Museum.

This interactive museum recreates life in the 1700s and certainly provides a day to remember.

8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSource: anthony heflin / shutterstock
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Having been the muse for countless artists, authors and musicians over the years the Great Smoky Mountains are one of the United States of America’s most iconic natural landscapes.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park blankets over 520,000 acres and sits right on the Tennessee–North Carolina.

The Grey Smoky Mountains, in fact, are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains.

As you would expect there are dozens of trails, easy and more challenging, through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but the most amazing of all has to be Rocky Top.

Although arduous in places summiting Rocky Top rewards you with views of Cades Cove and Fontana Lake.

The Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte is another popular day hike.

9. Lexington

Lexington, NCSource: Dennis Brown / Wikimedia
Lexington, NC

Lexington is another of the USA’s foodie cities that is not to be missed.

Famed for its innovative BBQ scene if you’re a lover of anything grilled you will feel right at home in Lexington.

In October each year the city comes together for the annual BBQ Festival that features live food demonstrations, family fun and of course hundreds of food stalls too.

10. Greenville

Greenville, South CarolinaSource: Cvandyke / shutterstock

Sitting across the sister-state border in South Carolina is the sleepy city of Greenville.

Culture vultures will be excited to learn of the Greenville County Museum of Art which houses an incredible series of exhibits featuring Southern artists from across the eras.

Those interested by local history should take the time to tour the Upcountry History Museum.

The museum’s displays document the timeline that bought upstate South Carolina into the modern day.

Take a rest at Falls Park and take in the views of the fast-flowing Reedy, the rocky waterfalls and the park’s suspension bridge.

11. Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie RailroadSource: Benjamin Burton / shutterstock
Tweetsie Railroad

The Tweetsie Railroad offers travellers and locals alike a good, old-fashioned fun day out.

Running between Boone and Blowing Rock in North Carolina Tweetsie Railroad is a Wild West themed park.

Tweetsie Railroad’s biggest attraction is the historic steam train railway that runs for 3-miles though the park and beyond.

In addition to the locomotive, Tweetsie Railroad offers visitors the opportunity to try their hand at panning for gold, visiting the petting zoo or jumping on any of the amusement rides that are dotted around the park.

Be sure to check out the Tweetsie Railroad before your visit to see what seasonal special events are on, so as to time your visit accordingly.

12. Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway, NCSource: TheBigMK / shutterstock
Blue Ridge Parkway

If you are a lover of the great outdoors and want to max out on your chance to see some of North Carolina’s best scenery then a day spent exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great idea.

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Virginia through to Cherokee in North Carolina and is simply one astounding vista after another.

Along the way there are dozens of stop off points, not only to take in the views but to visit cultural hotspots and historical gems.

The Lost Province Brewing Company is a great stop off for some liquid, and slightly boozy, refreshments.

13. Travelers Rest

Travelers Rest, South CarolinaSource: flickr
Travelers Rest, South Carolina

The little known city of Travelers Rest is one of South Carolina’s best kept secrets.

With a population of under 5,000 in many other parts of the world Travelers Rest would be considered a thriving village.

Travelers Rest does indeed have a village feel and welcomes tourists with open arms.

The Travelers Rest Historical Society is the highlight of any visit to this Greenville County city.

They aspire to ‘preserve our history for a brighter future’. This humble museum features wonderful exhibits on the Catawba, the Creek, and the Cherokee tribes to whom this land originally belongs.

14. Carowinds

CarowindsSource: Roller Coaster Philosophy / Flickr

If you are seeking an easy and fun-filled day trip from Charlotte then the Carowinds is just the place.

Situated just off Interstate 77 Carowinds sits right on the border of North and South Carolina.

This family oriented amusement park is home to 13 roller coasters each more enjoyable than the last.

Carowinds has something for all the family, aside from the thrilling roller coasters there are a good number of entertaining family rides and engaging kids rides too.

You can feel free to bring along your own picnic to Carowinds or you can treat yourself to the treats served up at the fast food counters sprinkled throughout the park.

15. Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem, North CarolinaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Also known as tobacco town a day trip Winston-Salem is varied and incredibly fun.

Start the day in the Old Salem Historic District and learn about the lives of the settlers who arrived in the 18th-Century.

The district features a recreated Moravian village complete with vegetable gardens, a traditional museum and a shop too.

The staff are all in costume which really helps bring the place to life.

The Reynolda House Museum of American Art is well worth a visit for it houses an inspiring collection of works dating back to the colonial era.

If you are travelling with youngsters your next port of call should be the interactive SciWorks Museum, if not perhaps the Museum of Anthropology would be of more interest.

15 Best Day Trips from Charlotte:

  • Lake Lure
  • Asheville
  • Uwharrie National Forest
  • Atlanta
  • Wilmington
  • Greensboro
  • Boone
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Lexington
  • Greenville
  • Tweetsie Railroad
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Travelers Rest
  • Carowinds
  • Winston-Salem