As the largest city in North Carolina and one of the fastest growing in the Southeast, it's no surprise that Charlotte is also home to amazing restaurants, parks and green spaces, and several high-quality museums. From viewing the works of 20th century contemporary masters at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art to getting hands-on with science and technology at Discovery Place, the Queen City offers interactive, educational experiences for museum goers of all ages. There's even a museum dedicated to one of the state's favorite spectator sports: NASCAR.
So whether you're into stock car racing, contemporary art, history, or science, the Charlotte has a museum for you. Here's a roundup of the city's best eight.
For an in-depth look at Charlotte's history, head to the Levine Museum of the New South. The museum's permanent exhibits explore the history and culture of the South from the Civil War to today, including the award-winning "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers: Reinventing Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont in the New South." The exhibit includes more than 1,000 artifacts, images, and oral histories as well as interactive displays like a sit-in lunch counter and a one-room tenant farmer's home.
During the week, the museum validates parking for two hours for visitors using the Seventh Street Station parking deck. On weekends and evenings after 5 p.m., there is no time limit for validation.
Science, nature, and technology come to life at this hands-on museum in the heart of uptown Charlotte. From learning labs and an onsite aquarium to virtual reality tours of the human body and a simulated rain forest, the museum offers hours of interactive fun for school children of all ages. Discovery Place also offers a series of rotating live shows with up-close animal encounters and chemistry experiments, as well as films at the largest IMAX theater in the Carolinas.
The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission starts at $19 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $15 for children, with children two and under admitted for free.
Part of the Levine Center for the Arts in Uptown, this stunning museum was designed by Mario Botta, a Swiss architect who also designed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The four-story, 36,500-square-foot terra cotta structure is defined by a central glass atrium that provides natural light throughout the space, which houses the works of several influential 20th century artists, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Tinguely. The Bechtler offers guided audio and docent-led tours as well as special events like film screenings, art lectures, jazz concerts, and more.
Pro tip: The third Thursday of each month, the museum offers free, 30-minute docent-led tours with rotating themes.
The Mint Museum's Uptown location is also part of the Levine Center campus. It has one of the world's most notable Craft + Design collections, focused on 20th and 21st century international works of fiber art, studio jewelry, furniture, metal, glass, and more. The five-story, 145,000-square-foot facility also includes a substantial collection of American, European, decorative, and modern art ranging from 19th century pastoral paintings to contemporary new media installations. The museum is closed on Mondays and offers free admission Wednesday evenings between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Another notable museum at the Levine Center, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is dedicated to the arts of the African diaspora. In addition to significant works from African American artists like Charlotte-born Romare Bearden, Gordon Parks, Kara Walker, Augusta Savage, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the museum offers a film series, artist lectures, and children's programming. Along with other Levine Center institutions, the Gantt Center offers free, hour-long docent-led Stroller Tours for parents and caregivers on select second Wednesdays of the month from September to May.
Admission ranges from $6 to $9 per person, and the museum is open daily except Mondays.
Explore one of the Carolinas' most beloved sports at this interactive museum dedicated to all things NASCAR. The building's curves and slopes mimic those of a traditional race track,
The museum—whose curves and slopes mimic those of a traditional race track—offers more than 50 different experiences for visitors and fans of stock car racing. Inside, you'll find exhibits, historic artifacts (including Richard Petty's winning Plymouth Belvedere), and interactive games. Don't miss the viewing parties, held in the museum's 278-seat theater with a 64-foot-wide projection screen and surround sound.
Located on eight wooded acres in east Charlotte, this museum campus features Mecklenburg County's oldest surviving home: the 5,000-square-foot Hezekiah Alexander House. The stone structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public. Other exhibits in the museum include photography, maps, and educational collections that explore the city's creek system, music scene, sports traditions, and historic neighborhoods. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission starts at $10 for adults and $7 for children and seniors.
Gold was first discovered in the United States east of Charlotte, North Carolina—not California. See where it all began at the Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site, about 20 miles outside of the city in Midland. Tour restored underground tunnels and a reconstructed stamp mill, explore exhibits on gold and mining history at the Visitor Center, wander through trails that wind through former mining areas, and even try your luck at panning for gold at the now designated historic site. Admission is free, though there is a small fee for gold mining, which is only available April 1 through October 31, weather permitting. The mine is open to visitors Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.