Looking for the best day trips from Charlotte? Here are 18 that are perfect for travelers of all ages!
North Carolina is a gorgeous US state that is packed with diversity. Full of history, nature, culture, and more, travelers will never run out of things to do in this incredible place.
Charlotte is the most populated city in North Carolina. This centrally-located city is full of things to do, though visitors will never regret taking a day trip outside the city!
If you are spending a few days in Charlotte, NC, consider taking some day trips so you can further explore the beauty and culture of North Carolina.
History lovers can explore the historic town of Charleston, or head to the capital cities of North Carolina or South Carolina.
Those looking for fun outdoor activities can drive to one of the many lush forests, state parks, gorges, and mountain ranges. Or you can head over to the East coast for a beach day!
No matter what you’re looking for, these day trips from Charlotte allow you to experience the best of the Carolinas!
Make sure you try these top things to do in Charlotte before you head out of the city.
From visiting Asheville via the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway, to touring the historic downtown of Charleston, to mountain biking in South Mountain State Park, here are some of the best day trips from Charlotte, NC!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
Another one of the best day trips from Charlotte is South Mountains State Park.
The park encompasses over 40 miles of hiking trails that wind through lush woodlands, along clear mountain streams, and to the pinnacle of High Shoals Falls, a majestic waterfall cascading over a 60-foot cliff.
Hikers and nature enthusiasts can explore the park’s extensive trail system, ranging from easy strolls to challenging hikes, offering glimpses of the region’s flora and fauna. Horseback riding and mountain biking are also popular activities, with designated trails catering to a variety of outdoor interests.
The park’s crown jewel is undoubtedly the South Mountains themselves, providing panoramic views of the surrounding Piedmont region. Jacob Fork River, which flows through the heart of the park, offers opportunities for fishing and water recreation.
Campers can enjoy a rustic camping experience at one of the park’s family or group campsites. With its emphasis on conservation and recreation, South Mountains State Park provides a haven for those seeking solitude in nature, whether it’s a quiet hike, a scenic picnic, or an adventurous exploration of one of North Carolina’s hidden natural gems.
Lake Norman State Park, nestled in the picturesque Piedmont region of North Carolina, is a sprawling natural haven that centers around the expansive Lake Norman.
The park offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Lake Norman itself, covering more than 32,000 acres, is a water enthusiast’s paradise, providing ample space for boating, fishing, and water sports.
The park boasts a swim beach for those seeking a refreshing dip in the lake during warmer months, and its fishing pier is a favorite spot for anglers aiming to catch bass, catfish, and various other freshwater species.
Beyond its aquatic offerings, Lake Norman State Park features a network of hiking trails that wind through the lush woodlands, offering visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of the area. The Lakeshore Trail, in particular, offers scenic views of the lake and is ideal for both hiking and birdwatching.
Camping facilities are available for those who wish to extend their stay, providing a serene overnight experience under the stars.
Lake Norman State Park stands as a gem in the North Carolina State Park system, and it’s a top day trip destination for those hot summer days!
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Though it’s a 3-hour drive, Myrtle Beach is one of the best day trips from Charlotte! Situated along the sun-kissed shores of the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is a renowned coastal destination that seamlessly blends family-friendly attractions with the allure of pristine beaches.
Boasting a wide stretch of golden sand, Myrtle Beach has earned its reputation as the Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of uninterrupted coastline. The beach serves as the focal point for visitors, offering opportunities for sunbathing, beachcombing, and a variety of water sports. You can even book a scenic riverboat cruise if you’re looking for a fun group activity that includes sightseeing.
Beyond the sandy shores, the bustling Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade is a lively hub of activity, lined with shops, restaurants, and amusement parks, providing entertainment for all ages.
Myrtle Beach is not only a coastal retreat but also a golfer’s paradise, with an abundance of world-class golf courses in the surrounding area. The city is home to numerous entertainment complexes, including Broadway at the Beach, featuring theaters, nightlife, and the iconic SkyWheel that offers panoramic views of the coastline.
Myrtle Beach State Park provides a more natural escape, where visitors can explore maritime forests and enjoy fishing from the pier. With its vibrant atmosphere, diverse attractions, and miles of pristine coastline, Myrtle Beach is the perfect beach day trip for the whole family.
Winston-Salem, often referred to as the “Twin City” for its dual origins as the towns of Winston and Salem, is a dynamic city in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina.
Known for its rich cultural heritage and contributions to the tobacco and textile industries, Winston-Salem combines history with modernity. The city is home to several historic districts, such as Old Salem, where visitors can step back in time to the Moravian settlement of the 18th century.
The city’s downtown district has undergone revitalization, featuring a mix of historic architecture, vibrant arts and culture venues, and a burgeoning culinary scene.
Winston-Salem is also recognized for its commitment to education and innovation, with Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University contributing to a thriving academic atmosphere.
The city hosts some fun annual events, including the RiverRun International Film Festival and the National Black Theatre Festival, attracting artists and performers from around the world. Innovation Quarter, a research and business district, reflects the city’s forward-thinking approach with a focus on technology, biomedical research, and entrepreneurship.
Winston-Salem’s diverse blend of history, education, and innovation makes it a unique and appealing day trip destination in North Carolina.
Those looking for some quality time with nature can take a day trip to Uwharrie National Forest. Known for its rolling hills, lush forests, and sparkling lakes, the forest offers a peaceful retreat for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
The Uwharrie Mountains, the oldest mountain range in North America, provide a scenic backdrop for the landscape, and visitors can explore a network of trails that wind through the wooded terrain.
Notably, the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail offers a challenging and rewarding hiking experience, taking adventurers through dense hardwood forests and offering stunning views of Badin Lake.
In addition to hiking, Uwharrie National Forest is a haven for recreational activities such as camping, fishing, and off-road adventures. The Badin Lake Recreation Area provides camping opportunities along the shores of Badin Lake, where visitors can enjoy the tranquility of the water and engage in water-based activities.
Off-road enthusiasts flock to the forest for the Uwharrie OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) Trail System, offering a thrilling experience for those with a penchant for four-wheeling. Uwharrie National Forest stands as a cherished destination that is one of the best adventurous day trips from Charlotte.
Explore more of the state with our list of the 50 best things to do in North Carolina!
Surrounded by the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, Asheville stands as a vibrant and eclectic city, celebrated for its unique blend of natural beauty, arts, and cultural diversity.
If you choose to visit Asheville on a day trip from Charlotte, consider driving in via the Blue Ridge Parkway! This scenic road showcases some of the best views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The city is renowned for its thriving arts scene, with numerous art galleries, studios, and craft shops dotting the streets of the downtown area. The River Arts District, in particular, is a hub of creativity, where visitors can explore the studios of local artists and witness the creative process firsthand.
Asheville is also a haven for music enthusiasts, hosting a variety of live performances ranging from intimate indie concerts to large-scale music festivals that showcase the rich musical tapestry of the region. Explore the highlights of the city on an electric bike tour so you can cover more ground!
Asheville is also surrounded by the lush landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah National Forest, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These areas provide a playground for hikers, bikers, and nature lovers, with countless trails leading to waterfalls, panoramic viewpoints, and diverse ecosystems. See the natural splendor from above on a scenic helicopter flight!
Beyond its natural and cultural attractions, Asheville is known for its culinary scene, boasting a diverse array of farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, and culinary events. With its welcoming atmosphere, artistic spirit, and stunning mountain backdrop, Asheville has rightfully earned its reputation as a must-visit destination in the southeastern United States.
Greenville, situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina, is a city that has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, evolving into a dynamic and attractive urban center.
The downtown area, particularly along the picturesque Reedy River, is a hub of activity with a scenic park, walking trails, and the famous Liberty Bridge, which offers stunning views of Falls Park on the Reedy.
Falls Park Drive, a scenic route winding through the park, offers breathtaking views of the Reedy River and serves as a picturesque gateway to the city’s lush landscapes.
Travelers can explore the city’s historic West End, where historic buildings house a mix of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Greenville’s charming Main Street is often bustling with events, festivals, and a vibrant farmers’ market, fostering a sense of community and energy. The Greenville County Museum of Art is a top local attraction, which houses an impressive collection of American art, Southern paintings, and contemporary pieces.
Greenville is also known for its cultural attractions, including the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts concerts, Broadway shows, and other performances.
The city’s commitment to outdoor recreation is showcased by the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a popular biking and walking path that spans several miles along the Reedy River. Greenville’s economic growth has been fueled by a diverse range of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and technology.
Greenville has become a destination that successfully balances growth with a high quality of life, making it one of the most amazing day trips from Charlotte.
Another one of the best day trips from Charlotte, NC is the incredible Lake Lure. A picturesque town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Lure is renowned for its stunning namesake lake, pristine natural surroundings, and tranquil ambiance that has made it a sought-after destination for relaxation and recreation.
The centerpiece of the town, Lake Lure, is a shimmering jewel surrounded by forested hills, creating a scenic haven for boating, fishing, and waterside leisure.
The town’s beach and water park provide family-friendly amenities, while the Flowering Bridge, a unique garden on the historic Rocky Broad River Bridge, adds a touch of botanical charm to the lakeside experience.
Beyond its aquatic allure, Lake Lure offers a range of outdoor activities and cultural attractions. The surrounding Hickory Nut Gorge is a haven for hiking and rock climbing enthusiasts, with trails leading to panoramic vistas and challenging climbs.
The town also boasts a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, and the nostalgic Lake Lure Inn, a historic hotel that adds a touch of timeless elegance to the community.
From the water park to the water sports, Lake Lure’s combination of excitement and serenity makes this memorable destination one of the best day trips from Charlotte, NC!
Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, exudes Southern charm and historical significance, offering a diverse array of attractions that make it one of the best day trips from Charlotte.
Steeped in history, the city is home to the South Carolina State House, an iconic neoclassical building that has witnessed pivotal moments in American history. Visitors can explore the beautifully landscaped grounds and take guided tours to learn about the state’s past and the significance of this architectural gem.
The nearby Historic Columbia district showcases a collection of beautifully preserved antebellum homes, such as the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion, providing a glimpse into the city’s antebellum history.
Columbia is not only a city of history but also a vibrant cultural hub with a thriving art and food scene. The Congaree Vista, a historic area turned entertainment district, is brimming with art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
The Columbia Museum of Art houses an impressive collection, ranging from classical to contemporary pieces, while the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden offers fun activities for the whole family.
With its mix of history, culture, and modern amenities, Columbia invites visitors to experience the dynamic spirit of the South in a city that seamlessly blends tradition with progress.
Explore more of South Carolina with a visit to Charleston!
Chimney Rock State Park is a natural marvel that draws visitors with its stunning landscapes and iconic rock formations. If you’re looking for rock climbing, hiking, and outdoor adventures, this is one of the best day trips from Charlotte, NC.
At the heart of the park stands the towering monolith known as Chimney Rock, a 535-million-year-old granite outcropping that provides panoramic views of Lake Lure and the surrounding mountains. Accessible by a scenic hike or an elevator ride, the summit offers a breathtaking reward for those who make the ascent.
The park is also home to Hickory Nut Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, cascading dramatically from the cliffs. A network of challenging hiking trails, including the popular Four Seasons Trail, invites outdoor enthusiasts to explore the diverse ecosystems, meandering streams, and lush woodlands that characterize the park. A helicopter tour over the park is the perfect way to admire the vastness of this magnificent area.
In addition to its natural wonders, Chimney Rock State Park offers a range of outdoor activities and educational opportunities. The park provides a habitat for diverse flora and fauna, making it a haven for birdwatching and wildlife observation.
Educational programs and guided hikes enhance the visitor experience, offering insights into the park’s geological history, biodiversity, and conservation efforts.
Chimney Rock State Park is a highlight of North Carolina’s wilderness, beckoning adventurers to explore its hiking trails and revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Blue Ridge region.
Asheboro is a charming city in North Carolina known for its blend of Southern hospitality, natural beauty, and a variety of attractions that cater to both residents and visitors.
One of the city’s prominent features is the North Carolina Zoo, one of the largest natural habitat zoos in the world. Spanning over 2,600 acres, the zoo is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, lions, and a polar bear exhibit. Visitors can explore the immersive exhibits and enjoy educational programs, making the North Carolina Zoo a central hub for family-friendly adventures and wildlife conservation initiatives.
Beyond the zoo, Asheboro boasts a vibrant downtown area with historic architecture, locally-owned shops, and a range of dining options. The city’s cultural scene is enriched by institutions like the Randolph Arts Guild, fostering creativity and showcasing the talents of local artists.
With its welcoming community spirit and diverse attractions, Asheboro offers a well-rounded experience for the whole family.
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Crowders Mountain State Park, located in the western part of North Carolina, is a haven for lovers of the outdoors.
The park’s centerpiece is Crowders Mountain, a majestic peak that rises over 800 feet above the surrounding landscape, offering panoramic views of the Piedmont region. Hikers can explore a network of well-maintained trails, with the strenuous hike to the summit of Crowders Mountain being a highlight for those seeking a rewarding trek.
Crowders Mountain State Park also features the iconic King’s Pinnacle, another prominent peak that provides breathtaking views and a challenging ascent for experienced hikers. Beyond the rugged mountain terrain, the park offers opportunities for rock climbing and bouldering, attracting climbers with its granite outcrops and diverse routes.
In addition to its outdoor adventures, Crowders Mountain State Park is a natural retreat that showcases the beauty of the Carolinas. The park is home to diverse ecosystems, including dense forests, meandering streams, and rocky ridges. Visitors can enjoy picnicking, birdwatching, and photography amidst the scenic landscapes.
The park’s accessibility from the Charlotte metropolitan area makes it a popular destination for day trips and weekend getaways, providing a serene escape into nature. With its combination of challenging trails, stunning vistas, and natural tranquility, Crowders Mountain State Park stands as a gem in North Carolina’s state park system.
Though Charleston is a bit of a long drive, it’s such an incredible city that it’s 100% worth making the trip. It is better suited to a weekend trip, but a day trip from Charlotte is still better than not visiting at all!
Charleston, steeped in history and drenched in Southern charm, is a captivating city on the coast of South Carolina. Known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture, cobblestone streets, and historic landmarks, the city offers a journey back in time as visitors stroll through neighborhoods like the French Quarter and South of Broad.
The Battery promenade, lined with stately mansions and oak-lined streets, showcases the city’s architectural beauty and provides breathtaking views of Charleston Harbor.
The iconic Rainbow Row, a series of pastel-hued historic homes, adds a distinctive touch to the cityscape, making it a popular spot for both history enthusiasts and photographers. Take your sightseeing up a notch with a horse-drawn carriage tour of the historic downtown!
Beyond its historic allure, Charleston is celebrated for its vibrant culinary scene. The city is a haven for food lovers, with renowned restaurants serving Lowcountry cuisine, which blends traditional Southern flavors with innovative culinary techniques. From shrimp and grits to she-crab soup, Charleston’s dining establishments offer a mouthwatering journey through the region’s rich culinary heritage.
The city’s waterfront parks, such as Waterfront Park and White Point Garden, provide tranquil retreats, and nearby plantations like Boone Hall and Magnolia Plantation offer glimpses into the area’s complex history.
Charleston really captures the essence of Southern culture, and it’s definitely one of the best day trips from Charlotte, NC!
Located in Lancaster, South Carolina, Andrew Jackson State Park is a tribute to the life and legacy of the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson. The park encompasses the preserved birthplace of Jackson, a simple cabin where he was born in 1767.
Visitors can explore the Andrew Jackson Museum, which showcases exhibits detailing Jackson’s early years, military career, and presidential accomplishments. The park offers a serene setting with beautiful gardens, walking trails, and picnic areas, making it a peaceful place for reflection on Jackson’s impact on American history.
In addition to its historical significance, Andrew Jackson State Park provides recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The park features a fishing lake where visitors can cast their lines and enjoy a day of angling. The nature trails winding through the wooded areas offer opportunities for hiking and birdwatching.
Special events and educational programs are hosted throughout the year, allowing visitors to delve deeper into the history and culture of the region. Andrew Jackson State Park stands as a valuable resource for both history buffs and nature lovers, providing a well-rounded experience in a scenic and historically significant setting.
Looking to explore more of the US South? Here are our top things to do in Atlanta, Georgia.
Located in Belmont, North Carolina, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden stands as a breathtaking testament to the beauty and diversity of plant life. It’s only a 30-minute drive from downtown Charlotte, making it one of the best day trips in Charlotte.
Spanning 380 acres, this botanical oasis is a result of the vision of Daniel J. Stowe, a successful businessman and horticulture enthusiast. Established in 1991, the garden has since become a renowned destination, drawing visitors from near and far.
Its meticulously curated landscapes feature a stunning array of themed gardens, including the Four Seasons Garden, Canal Garden, and the Orchid Conservatory, each showcasing a unique facet of botanical splendor.
One of the highlights of the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is undoubtedly the Persimmon Trail, a serene path that winds through woodlands and alongside the sparkling waters of Lake Wylie. The Susie Harwood Garden, named in honor of Daniel Stowe’s mother, captivates visitors with its vibrant perennial borders and tranquil water features.
The garden hosts various events and educational programs throughout the year, fostering a sense of community and a deeper understanding of the plant world.
Whether exploring the formal gardens, participating in a workshop, or enjoying a seasonal festival, visitors to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden find themselves immersed in a living tapestry of botanical wonders and natural beauty.
Greensboro, located in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, is a unique city that is a great day trip destination for the whole family.
Known for its pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement, Greensboro is home to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, situated in the historic F.W. Woolworth building. The interactive museum preserves the legacy of the Greensboro sit-ins, a series of nonviolent protests that played a significant role in the fight against racial segregation.
Today, Greensboro embraces its multicultural heritage, and visitors can explore neighborhoods like the revitalized downtown area, which features a mix of historic architecture, modern developments, and a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Beyond its historical significance, Greensboro is a hub for education and innovation, with several colleges and universities contributing to a dynamic and intellectual atmosphere. The city hosts cultural events and festivals, including the Greensboro Science Center and the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, one of the largest multi-purpose venues in the Southeast.
The Bog Garden at Benjamin Park and Greensboro’s extensive parks system provide residents and visitors with opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation.
Greensboro’s eclectic mix of history, culture, and modern amenities makes it a compelling destination for the whole family in the heart of North Carolina.
Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina, which is one of the best Charlotte day trips for people of all ages.
The city is part of the Research Triangle, a region known for its concentration of universities, research institutions, and tech companies. This intellectual hub contributes to Raleigh’s dynamic and diverse population, creating a cultural landscape that embraces the arts, technology, and academia.
The downtown area is a mix of historic architecture and contemporary developments, hosting a plethora of museums, galleries, and theaters. You can immerse yourself in the city’s haunted history with a walking ghost tour, which is a fun way to explore at night.
The North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the North Carolina Natural History Museum are just a few more of the cultural gems that showcase the city’s commitment to education and creativity.
Raleigh is also recognized for its extensive park system and green spaces, including the expansive William B. Umstead State Park and the scenic Pullen Park. The city’s commitment to sustainability and outdoor recreation is evident in its numerous greenways and bike-friendly infrastructure.
Raleigh’s southern hospitality is complemented by its culinary scene, featuring diverse restaurants and food trucks that cater to a variety of tastes.
The annual International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass Festival and events like the Artsplosure Street Festival contribute to Raleigh’s reputation as a city that celebrates culture and community.
From the Natural History Museum to the exciting festivals, Raleigh is one of the most interesting day trips in the state.
Last but not least on our list of the best day trips from Charlotte, Hendersonville is a charming city known for its scenic beauty, vibrant downtown, and a rich tapestry of cultural offerings.
The historic downtown area is characterized by tree-lined streets, unique boutiques, and a lively arts scene. Visitors can explore the Henderson County Heritage Museum, housed in the historic courthouse, to delve into the region’s history and heritage.
The city is renowned for its apple orchards and hosts the annual North Carolina Apple Festival, celebrating the local apple industry with events, live music, and, of course, a variety of apple-centric treats. Travelers can go on seasonal train rides through the orchard before picking apples as well.
Beyond the apples, Hendersonville’s Main Street is adorned with public art, creating a visually appealing atmosphere for residents and visitors alike. Another unique attraction is the authentic train depot that stands as a nostalgic reminder of the city’s transportation history.
The natural beauty surrounding Hendersonville adds to its allure, with nearby attractions such as DuPont State Recreational Forest and Pisgah National Forest offering outdoor enthusiasts a playground of waterfalls, hiking trails, and scenic vistas.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, just a short drive away, provides breathtaking mountain views and opportunities for leisurely drives.
Hendersonville’s hospitable community spirit is evident in its festivals, including the Garden Jubilee Festival and the Carolina Mountain Ribfest, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for those looking to experience the best of both the cultural and natural wonders of western North Carolina.
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