Sports fans and thrill seekers flock to Charlotte – Lonely Planet
Whether you’re a spectator or a participant, the sports options in North Carolina’s largest city rank among the best in the country. Take a seat in the stands or get involved in our favorite places for sports fans in Charlotte.
Congratulations to the local team
From a leisurely day on the ballpark to a high-speed chase around a quad-oval, Charlotte has a team and a venue for nearly every popular spectator sport.
Baseball at Truist Field
Located in downtown Charlotte – an area locals call Uptown – is Truist Field, home of the Charlotte Knights. Whether you can recite decades of player stats or don’t know your RBIs from your ERAs, an evening spent with Charlotte’s minor league baseball team is an essential activity in Queen City.
The view from the stadium is worth the price of admission itself; two open sides offer sweeping views of the city and its growing collection of skyscrapers. There’s no bad view from any seat, but for the best view of Uptown, look for a seat in sections 117-122 of the stadium. There’s also an impressive collection of food and drink options, including locally brewed craft beers, to add flavor to a truly memorable evening.
Soccer at Bank of America Stadium
Just down the road is Bank of America Stadiumwhere the excitement is palpable for the arrival of Major League Soccer’s newest professional team. Charlotte F.C. kicked off the first home game of its inaugural season in March at the 75,000-seater stadium the team shares with the National Football League. Carolina Panthers.
Combined with the nerve-wracking experience of watching the Panthers (affectionately and appropriately known locally as the ‘Heart Cats’), the arrival of Charlotte FC means football of one type or another will be played in the city. all year.
Parking and tailgating options are plentiful, but spaces are significantly more expensive closer to the stadium. But Charlotte is compact and walkable, so if you don’t mind a bit of exercise before and after the game, you’ll find cheaper parking prices on the east side of Tryon Street – the main north-south thoroughfare in through Uptown.
Basketball at the Spectrum Center
After twelve years of absence, the team of the National Basketball Association Charlotte Hornets returned to the Spectrum Center in 2014. The venue is the entertainment venue of choice in Uptown Charlotte, hosting approximately 40 Hornets games each season, as well as regular concerts featuring some of the biggest names in music.
Concession options inside the venue are plentiful, and a long list of excellent bars and restaurants within a few blocks of the venue provides the perfect start to a night of quintessential Charlotte entertainment.
The home of NASCAR
Nothing defines Charlotte’s place in the United States sports psyche quite like NASCAR. One hundred years of racing history permeates the city, which has established itself as the spiritual home of motor racing in the country. The Charlotte metro area is also home to most of the sport’s drivers, its top teams, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame features exhibits highlighting NASCAR’s rich history, but it’s also an interactive experience. test your driving skills around replica NASCAR tracks in a racing simulator, change tires in a pit team challenge or even record your own racing commentary.
The last Sunday in May features one of the highlights of Charlotte’s annual sports calendar, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (14 miles northeast of town). That weekend, the streets of Uptown Charlotte are lined with food vendors, kid-friendly activities and live music that combine to make “Speed Street” – a celebration for racing fans, residents and other visitors.
Another major attraction for any car racing fan in Charlotte is visiting a NASCAR team. Tours typically include a view of the garage where the cars are prepared for each race, exhibits and cars from the team’s history, and a gift shop to snag merchandise. Tours have been suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, so check your favorite team’s website for up-to-date availability information.
Be active yourself
Whether you fancy an adrenaline rush or a laid-back stroll – or anything in between – Charlotte has world-class attractions for thrill seekers and sports enthusiasts. Here are some of our favorites.
United States National Whitewater Center
The US National Whitewater Center (15 miles west of Uptown Charlotte) attracts visitors from around the world. Come for the thrills (and frequent spills) of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, where a professional guide will help you navigate a raft through class II-IV rapids. Experienced kayakers can test their skills on the Olympic Proving Course – and if you want to develop your own paddling skills, lessons are available.
In addition to the whitewater river, more than 80 km of biking, hiking and running trails surround a recreation complex offering at least 30 different activities, including rock climbing, zip lines and ropes courses. From mid-November to mid-February, a 24,000 square foot skating rink offers a seasonal option; and in the summer you can spend a weekend evening relaxing to live music for the price of $6.00 parking – no adrenaline rush required.
For thrills behind the wheel, spin a few 1.5-mile laps of Charlotte Motor Speedway in a real NASCAR race car with the Richard Petty’s Driving Experience. Not for the faint-hearted – even if you choose the companion option – you’ll step out of the car with a new appreciation for your favorite driver’s skills. Or the fragility of life. Maybe both.
The experience includes a pre-race meeting with your team manager, one-on-one instruction over an on-board radio, and a pit stop. No instructor shares the car with you – and overtaking is allowed! Prospective drivers must know how to drive a car with stick shift (manual transmission).
Urban walking paths
Exploring Charlotte on foot is a great way to experience the city, made easy by the many miles of walking trails and greenways that run through and connect its eclectic neighborhoods. If you only have time for one of the many options, the 3.5 mile Rail trail is a must for visitors and residents. Alongside the light rail line that runs through the city’s South End, the bars, breweries, restaurants and shops that line the path provide plenty of excuses to stop for a moment – or several.
A little east of Uptown (just outside the Interstate 277 loop), the four mile Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a popular route for runners, cyclists and those looking for a relaxing ride away from – but still close to – the hustle and bustle of the city.
Opening scheduled for 2022, Mountain Stream Park will add a long-awaited outdoor activity option in the Lake Norman area, north of the city. In addition to an extensive network of professionally designed mountain bike trails, the 600+ acre park will also be home to hiking and running trails, an adventure playground, a multi-acre dog park , an outdoor classroom and picnic areas. With future development phases, expect to find camping sites and options for kayaking, canoeing and fishing.