At Any Price: Charlotte, North Carolina

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Cost is no barrier to a fantastic visit to Charlotte, North Carolina. From free street art and affordable museums to premium theme parks and luxury hotels, there’s plenty to do in and around the Queen City at any price point. Plan your trip with this guide to max out your experience—but not your budget! 

That’s Entertainment

Premium Ticket Experiences Up to $900

Enjoy a luxury pontoon boat ride on Lake Norman, just outside of Charlotte, with Carolina Cruising Charters. Play games like beer pong or challenge your friends to karaoke. Take a dip in the lake and go tubing or paddle boarding. Charters can run as little as one hour up to five hours, taking you on a fun-filled tour across the lake.

The Ricochet at the Carowinds in Charlotte, Carolina. Photo Credit: Inferno Insane.

Thrill-seekers will love Carowinds, the biggest theme park in the Carolinas. Blast down water slides and get your heart racing on over 60 rides and attractions, including Fury 325, the world’s fifth-tallest giga coaster, reaching speeds of 95 mph. $40

Back on land, sample some of the city’s best beers on the five-hour Charlotte Brewery Tour. You’ll sip up to 16 beers, enjoy a beer-inspired lunch, and get a peek behind the barrels at four beloved craft breweries. Designated driver included! 

The hallowed halls of the NASCAR Hall of Fame are packed with race gear, stock cars, and stories about racing legends past and present. Get in on the action with interactive fun like high-tech racing simulators—the tracks change weekly to follow the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. 

NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo Credit: zimmytws – stock.adobe.com.

Budget-Friendly Adventures $25 and Under  

Rethink your conceptions of art at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. A permanent collection features artists like Miro, Warhol, and Picasso, while rotating exhibits may display sculpture, film, textiles, and more. Even the innovative terra cotta building is a masterpiece.

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at night.

Right across the street, tour the Mint Museum Uptown’s Craft + Design collection with pieces like jewelry, pottery, sculpture, and much more. Or visit the original Mint Museum Randolph (the first art museum in North Carolina!) to explore art and artifacts from the ancient Americas, Europe, and Africa, including a wonderful pre-Columbian collection and an impressive array of international ceramics.

Experience life on the seafloor in the 180° Ocean Tunnel at SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium. Meet nine different species of sharks, touch a sea star in the Interactive Touch Pool, and watch stingrays skirt the sand at this enormous underwater attraction. 

Kids of all ages get excited about STEM at Discovery Place Science. Play with gyroscopes and electromagnets, tour an urban rainforest, and explore the human body through virtual reality. Don’t miss the IMAX theater, screening blockbusters and educational films on the 79’ screen.

FREE Fun in Charlotte

Explore the city’s vibrant street art with Charlotte ArtWalk. The Luminous Lane walks in Uptown Charlotte include 40 colorful and inspiring murals. And the City Stories walk includes interactive pieces like cast bronze water fountains and the “Touch My Building” parking garage that lights up and plays music.

The “Third Eye” mural on the steps of the Metropolitan in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bike or walk the Rail Trail, a 3.5-mile route next to the LYNX Blue Line light rail in Charlotte’s South End. The path is lined with great shops, cafés, and local art like Chandler the Chair Monster, a yellow sea serpent made of repurposed chairs. 

Browse the blooms at McGill Rose Garden, a hidden gem of wandering paths, bubbling fountains, whimsical sculptures, and plenty of flowers. Stop by Rosie’s Coffee & Wine Garden after you explore for an iced coffee or a dry rosé among the greenery.  

Dining for Any Budget

Exceptional Fine Dining Up to $100

The Fig Tree Restaurant inside a remodeled 1913 Craftsman bungalow boasts a French and Italian-inspired menu. Feast on grilled octopus and a peppercorn-crusted elk chop with horseradish spätzle. With hundreds of wine options, your server can help with the perfect pairing. 

A delicious lamb dish with carrot and yellow curry.

Fire and ice work together at The Crunkleton. Dishes are finished over an open hearth, giving extra depth to Kurobuta pork or duck confit. A stunning back bar displays the impressive spirit selection, and classic cocktails are made with oversized, hand-cut ice cubes for a slower melt. 

The Cellar at Duckworth’s is an underground haunt with Prohibition vibes, from the brick walls to the suspender-clad staff. Try perfectly charred dry-aged steaks or classic braised short ribs. Sip classics like the Smoked Whiskey Sour, served under a tulip glass of smoke. 

Eclectic seafood house Fin and Fino blends fine dining with a cheeky attitude. Indulge in 12+ types of oysters and luxurious cocktails like the Magic Carpet Ride with strawberry milk gin, Yellow Chartreuse, Lillet Blanc, and sherry. 

After dark, head up to Nuvolé Rooftop Twenty Two. This sleek, modern hotspot boasts some of the best views of the Charlotte skyline. Sip elevated seasonal cocktails and top-shelf spirits next to blazing firepits on the 22nd-floor rooftop. Definitely photo-worthy!

Budget-Friendly (and Delicious) Under $20

Try “Charlotte’s Best Wiener” at The Good Wurst Co., which specializes in scratch-made sausages like brats, kielbasa, and hot Italians. Order your sausage or meaty sando with a side of thick-cut, double-cooked Belgian frites topped with European mayo or beer cheese. 

A Greek gyro with shaved lamb and feta.

Down-home neighborhood joint Letty’s on Shamrock is a welcoming jumble of eclectic housewares, kitschy bric-a-brac, and local art. Look for southern comfort food like honey pecan chicken, plus frequent specials jotted on the whiteboard. Bonus: an extensive wine selection with no snooty attitude. 

Greek spot Little Village Grill is a lunchtime favorite for the Second Ward district. Try the classic Lamb & Beef Gyro with tzatziki sauce, plus a side of Greek fries smothered in feta and oregano. Order at the counter and sit outside under a big umbrella. 

With its black-and-white checked floor, red vinyl booths, and plenty of chrome, Midnight Diner is the quintessential 1950s eatery. Get breakfast 24/7 here, like golden Belgian waffles, buttermilk biscuit sandwiches, and big platters with farm-fresh eggs. 

When you’re craving authentic Mexican food, Tacos El Nevado is the answer. Their two colorful locations whip up delicious Oaxacan street tacos like al pastor, barbacoa, and carnitas for just $3 each. You can even get chapulines—dried, roasted grasshoppers—on your guacamole.

Top Charlotte Accommodations 

Luxury Hotels & Resorts Up to $350

At The Ballantyne, guestrooms are glamorous yet restrained, with 10-foot ceilings and full-height picture windows. Large groups can also rent The Lodge, a private 35-room mountain-style retreat. Treat yourself to spa massages and skincare treatments in between outings! 

The luxurious Grand Bohemian Hotel in Uptown is awash in black-and-white marble and rich, colorful textiles. Enjoy South America-meets-Mediterranean fare at eclectic Mico Restaurant, and head to Poseidon Spa for HydraFacials and personalized massages. 

Stylish, sleek, and inviting, The Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel is warm and luxurious. Spaces are seriously cozy, from spa-like bathrooms and premium linens to the Library Bar’s daily happy hour. After dark, head to the rooftop bar Merchant & Trade for complex cocktails with Uptown views. 

At Dilworth bed-and-breakfast, The Morehead Inn, stately fireplaces and handsome antiques maintain this 1917 estate’s historic charm. Twelve guestrooms offer unique features, like four-poster beds, private courtyard access, or an adjoining sunroom. A Southern breakfast is included—don’t miss their signature strawberry scones!

Dating back to 1929, The Dunhill Hotel is the only historic building in the ever-evolving Charlotte skyline. This boutique hotel blends traditional design elements with colorful modern art to keep things fresh. Sample their Southern hospitality at the weekly Wednesday wine social. $250

Budget-Friendly Stays Under $150

Charlotte is home to plenty of budget-friendly hotels to make your visit more affordable, from Comfort Suites to La Quinta. However, there are other options beyond the typical chains. For easy access to the Carowinds Theme Park, check in at the WaterWalk Charlotte – Arrowood. Select from one or two-bedroom suites with a full kitchen, relax in the modern, art-deco-style lobby, and chill by the fire pit in the courtyard.

Only 30 minutes from Charlotte, the East Main Guest House is a cozy bed and breakfast that’s more than worth the drive. Nestled in the East Town Historic District, it’s just a short walk away from nearby museums, shops, museums and galleries. Even better, a delicious gourmet breakfast is served every morning. Dine on fresh fruit, home-baked breads and fluffy omelets.

Docks in Lake Wylie, at McDowell Nature Preserve, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Make the most of Charlotte’s stunning natural beauty with a camping retreat! The McDowell Campground inside the 56-acre McDowell Nature Preserve offers RV hookups, drive-up sites, and primitive campsites. Split your time between hiking, swimming Lake Wylie, and exploring downtown Charlotte, just 30 minutes away. 

North of Charlotte, The Perry House is a welcoming B&B at the gateway to North Carolina’s High Country. This 1901 home has transformed into an inn with five guest rooms, each outfitted with custom wood furnishings and hand-pieced quilts. End your day with sunset views on the wrap-around porch. 

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