Charlotte Douglas International Airport is one of the few airports in the country that has a public overlook area. Many longtime Charlotteans know about this spot, some often take their lunch there, but it's a surprise to newcomers. Most airports don't encourage actively watching planes and flight patterns, and very few actually have an area do it.
Visitors can watch planes take off, land, and taxi around various runways. It's considered one of the best airport views in the country. It's a great spot to spend some time on a lunch break, to bring families looking for something fun and free to do, for a unique date spot and so much more. Head out on a weekday during the summer, and you'll likely see plenty of kids and families. It's also is a popular spot for plane enthusiasts and photographers. Along with the great views of the airport itself, the Charlotte skyline is located perfectly in the background.
It's Completely Free
When planes are taking off on the nearest runway to the overlook, they tend to leave the ground a good bit past the viewing area. You still get a great view of the planes with plenty of speed and sounds though, so it's worth checking out even during that time. But if you can visit when the planes are landing on the nearest runway, it's a much better viewing experience.
Keep in mind that when you go, you will encounter down times of about 30 to 45 minutes with little to no activity. Be sure to check the departure times before you head out on a long trip to the overlook or before you bring small children with you. At times there are food trucks at the overlook. Watch the overlook's Facebook page for updates on what's going on.
There is a large area provided for families, plus additional park benches as well. If you don't feel like getting out of your car, you can enjoy the experience from your vehicle. Plenty of people like to bring camera and binoculars.
The overlook is open from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. daily, and there are no restroom facilities.
Getting to the Airport Overlook
Coming from I-485, take the Wilkinson Blvd Exit East onto Little Rock Road. This turns into Old Dowd Road which you will follow around the airport until you see a sign for overlook. From Billy Graham Parkway, take the Airport Exit and head around the airport to the stoplight at Old Dowd Road. Turn right on Old Dowd Road and left at the stoplight there (you're still on Old Dowd). Continue to the first left past the end of the runway.