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North Carolina's largest city (1.25 million, metro area 2.6 million and the South's second largest after Jacksonville, Florida, Charlotte has been one of the USA's fastest growing urbs in recent years; a progressive island in a mostly conservative state; and a major U.S. hub for banking/finance hub, motor sports, and airlines. It's also got a good bit of history and culture including fine museums such as the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art , the Wells Fargo History Museum, and the Levine Museum of the New South. But here I'm going to focus on seven particular fun and cool activities and attractions in and around Charlotte - some urban, others offering a change of pace from the big city.
And incidentally, to take advantage of most of these, you'll definitely want to rent a car while you're here, and pick up a vehicle at Charlotte-Douglas Airport. I recently had a great experience with USARentalCars.com, but any website like Kayak or Expedia can find you a good deal.
Bring your own beer or wine and spend a hilarious hour and a half on the FunnyBus Comedy City Tour, a cruise around downtown Charlotte in a converted school bus with your guide cracking often sarcastic, comedy-club-quality jokes all the way (you can choose rated PG-13 or adults-only R). Definitely not something you'll find in most other cities!
About 45 minutes west of downtown, Crowder’s Mountain is a beautiful, 5,210-acre spread which is fantastic for hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing, and canoeing Fish for your own lunch and cook it over the fire or bring a snack and take a hike. You can enjoy your food atop the eponymous summit and take in sweeping views over Charlotte and the surrounding countryside.
Located in the town of Indian Trail, a half hour from Charlotte, Wise Acres specializes in "U-pick," meaning you can pick your own organic produce - in this case strawberries and pumpkins. You can also get wood fired pizza, organic treats, and more. For kids there are also wagon rides, a zipline, petting zoo, and other activities during its season, spring through fall.
Also a half hour from downtown, on the Catawba River, the U.S National Whitewater Center is the perfect place to experience some adrenaline in nature, with water sports that cover all ages and skill levels. That includes offers flat-water kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding as well as fast paced Class II-IV whitewater rafting and intense single canoeing. There are also a few land-based activities such as ziplining, wall/rock climbing, a ropes course, hiking/mountain biking, and winter ice skating.
Cheerwine is a highly carbonated, cherry flavored soft drink, known as the “nectar of North Carolina,” that was first poured in 1917. A day trip out to the company’s headquarters in Salisbury, 40 minutes north of Charlotte, and you can try some of this yummy drink, as well as take a tour of this charming town and visit the local Rowan County museum. If you visit in mid May (this year on the 16th), you can experience the Cheerwine Festival, the town's day-long celebration of this beloved libation.
This 250-acre public park in the town of Rock Hill, just over the South Carolina border 90 minutes from Charlotte, offers activities both on water and land, but without question the main attraction is the BMX Supercross track. There are racing options offered, or the ability to sit back and watch others race. This doesn’t take any true skill to try besides riding a bike and can be both thrilling and rewarding.
Ever played disc golf? This isn't a question that most people would generally answer ‘yes’ to. Drive to Winthrop University, also in Rock Hill, and have a go at completing its multiple disc golf courses, ranging from beginner-level to the toughest in the U.S. It's played like traditional golf, except using Frisbees to hit targets instead of clubs to land balls in holes. and this school has multiple courses (the U.S. Disc Golf Championships are held here each year). Who knows, you may just discover a newfound natural skill!