Best Day Trips From Charlotte

Take a break from city sightseeing and see what Charlotte has to offer just outside the city limits in the surrounding southern foothills.


Brave whitewater rapids and high-speed thrills, dig for gold and explore Yadkin Valley's many wineries and plantations from the past. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff or adventurous soul—you’ll find there’s a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy.

1. Step Back in Time at the Reed Gold Mine

Who knew a gold mind could lead to a well-rounded trip? Grab a pan and strike it rich at the site where the first gold nugget was discovered in the U.S. in 1799. Located 26 miles east from city center, Reed Gold Mine offers budget-friendly fun with no entrance fees for the park or tours, and only a nominal charge for gold-panning rentals. Descend underground for a guided tour of the tunnels, where you’ll be able to retrace the steps of miners from the past and discover centuries-old mining secrets. After a relaxed picnic lunch, hike along well-marked trails where you’ll encounter archaeological sites marked by signs filled with historical and geological information. Plan your trip between April and October, as most of the mine’s activities are shut down for the winter months.

2. Ride the Rapids at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Go from mining to rafting in a city perfect for the thrill seeker. Situated on the Catawba River just over 10 miles west of Charlotte, the 700-acre U.S. National Whitewater Center offers outdoor water and land activities that beckon the brave. Pick up an AllSport pass to fill your day with blood-pumping activities, including: whitewater rafting, rock climbing, flatwater paddle boarding, mountain biking, kayaking and ropes courses ranging from beginner to advanced. Zip liners can swing through a tree-filled gorge or sail across the waters on the one-of-a-kind, 1,123-foot zip line. For a more relaxing day, kick back at one of the on-site bars or eateries and take in a show during a summer festival. You can also opt for the best of both worlds: a dining adventure such as the zip lining and craft beer tasting excursion.

3. Experience Theme Park Excitement at Carowinds

Along the border between North and South Carolina, only 14 miles south of the city, sits Carowinds—the "Thrill Capital of the Southeast." Laugh and scream on the park’s 16 jaw-dropping thrill rides, including the seven extreme drops on the Intimidator—the NASCAR-inspired coaster named after racing legend Dale Earnhardt. Youngsters will find their own little thrills at Camp Snoopy, where they can battle the Red Baron in a miniature biplane and navigate a canal on Snoopy’s Yacht Club. With ticket prices less than half of what the big-name theme parks are charging, Carowinds is an affordable option for a day trip break from all the history and culture Charlotte has to offer.

4. Explore Wine Country in Yadkin Valley

Charlotte has more than just activities for families. Get together with your friends and chat it up over a flight of wine in the Yadkin Valley, a picturesque scene of green fields and forest, located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, roughly 40 miles north of Charlotte. Take the kids to pick their own blueberries at a local farm, and then explore the lush valley by horseback riding or hiking along trails and canoeing down the Yadkin River. Relive the past at the many Civil War historical markers throughout the valley, or view custom-made quilts along the Barn Quilt Trail. For more grown-up entertainment, spend your day touring and tasting the vintages from the region’s two dozen wineries and vineyards. You can sample several varieties all at once in the fall—the Harvest Festival in September or the Wine Festival in October.

5. Enjoy Small-Town Charm in Salisbury

As the largest city in North Carolina, the one thing Charlotte can’t offer you is a small-town experience. That’s where Salisbury comes in. On sunny days, head to Dan Nicholas Park and relax on the lake in a quintessential swan boat, or hop on a pelican paddleboat instead. After lunch at a mom-and-pop restaurant, poke around the unique gifts and knickknacks at Salisbury Square Antiques & Collectibles or the Okey Dokey & Co. General Store. Keep soaking in that old-town charm with a tour on the local trolley and a stop at the Rowan Museum. As the day winds down, treat yourself to a glass at the Old Stone Winery or enjoy a cigar from the giant walk-in humidor at The Perfect Smoke.

6. Relive History at the Latta Plantation

Drive just over 12 miles north of Charlotte and you might think your car has transformed into a time machine. In reality, you’ve found your way to the Latta Plantation—a living history museum. The small farm maintains livestock and crops to give guests a glimpse into 1800s farming methods. After your guided tour through the plantation house, take your time exploring the other buildings on your own and greet the sheep, horses, cows and other farm animals that just might let you pet them. For a truly historical experience with period-costumed volunteers, visit Latta during one of its special events, such as Revolutionary War reenactments, October Ghost Walks or vintage Christmas celebrations.

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