30 coolest things to do in Charlotte this summer

30 coolest things to do in Charlotte this summer

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

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It’s going to be the best summer ever.

Vaccines are widely available. COVID-related restrictions are no more. Concerts are back. We can travel again. Everywhere you turn, the sun is peeking out from the clouds, and we’re ready for our shot girl — or guy — summer.

Here are 30 activities to add to your summer bucket list.


(1) Pack a picnic and take the family to a concert at Symphony Park

Details: The Charlotte Symphony is performing three more shows in its Evenings at the Park series. This new casual, acoustic series features a blend of classical favorites from Beethoven, Debussy and Mozart among others. The full schedule is here.


When: Fridays at 7pm from now through June 18.

Cost: $20 for general admission.

(2) Go to at least one River Jam Concert at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Details: The USNWC puts on outdoor concerts from 7-10 p.m. every Thursday-Saturday all summer long. They bring in a variety of artists from all different genres, including roots rock, Americana, bluegrass, folk and funk. There’s food and craft beer, and they have yoga sessions at 6:30 p.m. if you want to go through your flow beforehand.

Cost: Free, plus $6 parking.

(3) Celebrate Memorial Day Weekend at the CocaCola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

The event: Expect all the big names in NASCAR, a salute to military heroes, beer, and 600 miles of loud, heart-pumping racing.

Details: Sunday, May 30 at 6 p.m. at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Buy tickets.

charlotte motor speedway

(4) Cheer on our Triple-A Charlotte Knights baseball team at Truist Field

Details: The Knights’ 2021 season is in full swing. For a rundown of the game schedule head to their website.

When: Various dates from now until September 19.

Thirsty Thursday deal: $5 craft beers, $3 domestic beers and $1 sodas. Here’s a full list of promos, including $1 hot dog nights, nine celebrity nights and four bobblehead nights.

Truist Field

(5) Step inside Van Gogh’s art.

What to expect: The exhibit showcases over 500,000 cubic feet of projections and animated brushstrokes, allowing you to step into Van Gogh’s famous works like Sunflowers and The Starry Night.

Dates: The massive digital art experience will run from Friday, June 18 to Sunday, September 12. Tickets are now on sale.

Related story: Immersive Van Gogh art show arrives in Charlotte this June

(6) Spend the day at U.S. National Whitewater Center

Details: With more than 30 recreational activities, the Whitewater Center is a no-brainer for a fun day outside. The center is made up of over 1,300 acres of protected land, 50 miles of trails, and access to the Catawba River and Long Creek.

Pro Tip: I recommend starting with a dry activity like rock climbing, zip-lining or a ropes course before doing a water-involved activity like whitewater rafting or deep water solo.

Price: $64 adult day pass gets you access to all land and water activities.

Plus: USNWC’s Fourth of July Celebration is a two-day event with live music, yoga, food and drinks. Each night ends with a huge firework show over the rapids (All-day July 3-4).

Related guide: 10 fun Whitewater Center adventures to try this summer

Whitewater Center Rafting

(7) Soak up the sun on Lake Norman or Lake Wylie.

Where to go:

  • Lake Norman State Park has a 125-yard sand beach equipped with a concession stand, bathhouse, restrooms and lockers. $4-$6/per person. The main park is free to access.
  • Ebenezer Park, a campsite and public beach on the edge of Lake Wylie, is now open after a two-year renovation.
  • Ramsey Creek Beach is a 43-acre lakeside park with a half-acre sandy beach. It’s closed until further notice.

Related guide: Guide to Rock Hill’s lakefront beach with outdoor movies and beach volleyball

Ebenezer Park Lake Wylie

Courtesy of Ebenezer Park.

(8) Spend the day walking, eating and drinking along the Rail Trail.

Where to eat: For brunch, go to Vana (new to the brunch scene!). For shareable plates and tapas, check out Hawker’s Asian Street Fare or Lincoln Street Kitchen. For dinner, head to Futo Buta or Link & Pin.

Where to drink: Sip craft beer at Sycamore Brewing, Triple C, or Suffolk Punch. For wine, do Barcelona Wine Bar. And if you need an iced coffee, stop by Not Just Coffee.

Bonus stop: Around the corner from Jeni’s Ice Cream, snap a pic in front of Evelyn Henson’s Confetti Hearts Wall.

Related guide: 20 walking trails in Charlotte for nature lovers and city views

heart wall in south end

Confetti Hearts Wall in South End.

(9) See a concert again.

Details: Remember when concerts were a thing? Welcome back to that time. Here are a few of the biggest concerts coming to the Queen City this summer:

(10) Swim in a rock quarry at Carrigan Farms.

About the quarry: It’s a natural spring-fed body of water that was discovered in the 1960s when mining for granite stone. Now you can swim in it.

Swimming details: It’s $15/per person to swim at The Quarry (cash only). The next Open Swim will be on Memorial Day, May 27. You must pass a swim test to participate without a life jacket.

Address: 1213 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy, Mooresville

The Quarry at Carrigan Farms, Open Swim

(11) Shop at a local farmers market.

Details: Support local farmers and artisanal food makers by shopping at one of Charlotte’s many farmer’s markets. You can shop for fresh fruits and veggies, produce and even natural beauty products.

Related story: Detailed guide to 12 Charlotte-area farmers markets

Kings Drive Farmers' Market

Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

(12) Try a scoop of ice cream from all of these shops

Details: What better way to beat the summer heat than with an ice cream cone? Here are a few of our favorite spots:

Elizabeth Creamery

Elizabeth Creamery. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

(13) Get your steps in or cheer on the walkers/riders with 24 Hours of Booty

What: Every hundreds of walkers and more than 1,000 bikers commit to walking and cycling for 24 hours (or as much as they’d like in that 24-hour period) around the famous Booty Loop in Myers Park. Levine Cancer Institute, Levine Children’s Hospital, The LIVESTRONG Foundation and Queens University of Charlotte are the main beneficiaries of the event, but 10-20 other cancer-related nonprofits will receive support too. If you don’t plan to walk/bike, you can cheer on the participants from the sidelines or hang out in the food/expo area.

When: July 30-31

(14) Celebrate Charlotte Pride throughout the summer

Details: In-person pride festivities will return in August and run through November this year. Pride events were canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Mark your calendar:

  • Charlotte Pride Weekend of Service – Aug. 21-22.
  • Charlotte Pride Interfaith Service – Sept. 12
  • Pride Night! A Charlotte Pride Concert Event – Sept. 17
  • Charlotte Pride’s Pop-Up Pride Festival – Sept. 18
  • Charlotte Pride Parade – October, final date to be announced soon.
  • Reel Out film festival – Nov. 5-7
  • Charlotte Pride Community Empowerment Conference & Job Fair – Nov. 13

(15) Take a dip in one of Charlotte’s swimming pools.

YMCA pools: They’ve got more than 15 pools and waterparks across our city.

Neighborhood pools: Get details on eight neighborhood swim clubs you can join, including pricing, amenities and waitlist times.

Apartment pools: Get ready to party because Charlotte’s apartment pool scene is huge. Here are the 10 best apartment pools.


(16) Climb the summit of Crowder’s Mountain for an insta-worthy pic.

Trails: Take Crowder’s Trail for a more moderate climb. Go with Rocktop Trail for a more strenuous hike and views along the way. If you want a shorter climb to the summit, hit up Backside Trail. It’s steep but it’ll get you to the top quicker.

Keep in mind: Trails are accessible from 8 am to 8 pm during March and April and from 8 am to 9 pm from May to September. The trails are always less crowded earlier in the day.

Après hike: Veronét Vineyards is a 12-minute drive from Crowder’s, so go for a post-hike drink and snack.

Related guide: Top 16 places to hike near Charlotte, plus a guide to their best trails

crowders mountain

(17) Grab a rooftop drink and take in Queen City views.

Cloud Bar by David Burke: Located on the roof of the Le Méridien hotel, Cloud Bar has 360 views of Uptown and features Charlotte-themed craft cocktails like “Queen City” and “Uptown Girl.”

Nuvole Rooftop TwentyTwo: Nuvole is currently hosting a 90s themed brunch with Sunny D mimosas and donut charcuterie boards every Saturday.

Pins Mechanical: The sprawling 23,000-square-foot facility has a rooftop bar with 24 taps and skyline views, four fire pits, and a stacked lineup of patio games, retro arcades, and duckpin bowling. Full guide here.

Charlotte Beer Garden: In total, CBG has 16,663-square-feet over three floors and 436 taps. The greenhouse-style, partially covered rooftop bar with 24 taps will be the main attraction this spring. It’s got picnic table seating and will be dripping in plants, shrubs, and vines. Look for CBG to add fire pits, lawn games like cornhole, and possibly even some ax-throwing lanes. The rooftop is available for private parties.

More: Merchant & TradeCity Lights RooftopGraham St. Pub & Patio

Related guide: 18 rooftop bars in Charlotte for your next outdoor drinking excursion

Merchant & Trade

(18) Go on a group date to Hello, Sailor and sit on the patio overlooking Lake Norman.

What to eat: Share the hushpuppies ($3.99), oysters (market price), Florida blue crab claws ($13.49), Carolina shrimp calabash plate ($15.99) and lobster roll served on milk bread ($29.99).

What to drink: A Cherry Lemon Sundrop Negroni Slushie ($8) or a Subterranean Spritz — vodka, smoked pineapple, falernum, agave, key lime and lime La Croix ($10)

(19) Sip a glass of wine on the rooftop patio at RH.

Wine bar: A new addition to the rooftop restaurant, guests can order wine directly from the bar and then sip as they stroll the rooftop’s garden patio.

Related story: See inside: Stunning RH Charlotte with rooftop restaurant and new wine bar

restoration hardware restaurant

(20) Bring your pup out to SkipTown to frolic and zip around the park.

Details: Just in time for the summer season, SkipTown will be hosting more weekly events and have extended bar & splash pad hours. Check out all upcoming events here.

(21) Celebrate the 4th of July.

Details: The cookouts, the gatherings, the fireworks — we’ve missed it all. But this year, the celebrations are back and brighter than ever. Here are some of the 4th of July events that are on our radar:

(21) Do a brewery crawl.

Details: Grab a group of friends and make it an all-day outing. With no shortage of breweries, Charlotte is the ideal setting for a beer crawl.

Related Story: Complete list and map of Charlotte’s 30+ local breweries, plus the most popular beer at each

Devil's Logic Brewery

(22) Ride every rollercoaster at Carowinds.

The rides: Carowinds has over 50 rides at varying thrill levels. Scan Carowinds’ full list of rides here and sort by attraction type, thrill level, minimum height and fast lane accommodations.

  • Kid-friendly: There are a number of kid- and family-friendly rides, including the Flying Ace Balloon Race and the Kiddy Hawk coaster.
  • The coasters: Carowinds is home to 14 roller coasters, including the world’s top-rated steel coaster, Fury 325. Copperhead Strike is the park’s newest coaster.

Cost: Day passes cost $42 (or $35 if you enter after 3pm). You can also opt for a season pass, which costs $99 and includes unlimited visits.

  • Fast Lane pass: Season Fast Lane passes are sold out, but you can add one onto a day trip for $65 to spare yourself the time spent standing in line for every ride.

Related guide: Everything you need to know about Carowinds, opening this weekend

fury 325 coaster at carowinds

(23) Grab food at an Optimist Hall stand, then watch a movie outside.

Details: Upcoming screenings include The Sandlot on June 12 from 7-9 pm. More Optimist Hall events can be found here.

xiao bao

Xiao Bao. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

(24) Go roller skating at Screamin Wheels and Blades pop-up roller skating rink.

What: Screamin Wheels and Blades hosts pop-up roller rink events in Charlotte. After much success with the initial line-up in April, the pop-up is hosting another event on June 12.

Details: The event will be held outside Armored Cow Brewery in the University area on skate-friendly flooring that’s put together like a big puzzle. In addition to skating, the event will include food trucks and a live DJ.

There are two skating sessions. Tickets are $30 if you bring your own skates, and $35 if you need to rent skates.

Read more: Pop-up roller skating rink to launch next month

Screamin Wheels and Blades, Armored Cow Brewery, Beer, roller skate, roller blading, roller skating rink

(26) Go to Americrawl hosted by Rich + Bennett’s

Details: Take to the streets in Uptown for Charlotte’s most patriotic bar crawl. Wear your favorite red, white, and blue get-up for a chance to win prizes for best-dressed individual, duo, and group.

Cost: Tickets start at $10 and increase up until the event date. Cost includes drink specials, cover charges, commemorative koozie, and giveaways. A portion of the proceeds will directly benefit local military charity Veterans Bridge Home.

Date: June 26th

(27) Celebrate Juneteenth.

Details: There are several events set to take place in the days leading up to Juneteenth and on the holiday itself. Here are a few that stood out to us:

  • Durag Fest – Expect a day-long block party vibe with food trucks, DJs, a fashion show and, of course, wave checks. June 19, noon to midnight (next day).
  • 2021 Queen City Juneteenth Festival – This family-friendly event will have crafts, performances and history among other things.
  • Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas – Festivities will include a youth day camp, a drum circle and performers from around the world. June 17-20. House of Africa, 1215 Thomas Avenue, in Plaza Midwood.

Related story: The unapologetically Black Durag Festival is back, with or without funding

Durag fest, BLKMRKT, Camp North End, Dammit Wesley, Charlotte

Durag fest at Camp North End. Photo: Courtesy BLKMRKT

28) Root for the Panthers.

Details: Preseason starts in August with the first home game on the 21st. View the team schedule here.

Cost: Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased here.


(29) Cool off in the splash pads Uptown.


  • First Ward Park – 309 E. Seventh Street
  • The Green – 400 S. Tryon Street
  • Romare Bearden Park – 300 S. Church Street

(30) Try a Dole whip and check out the views from The Royal Tot tropical bar.

Details: This two-story bar with skyline views is opening late summer on Louise Avenue near Catawba Brewing. It’ll have an interior bar, patio, rooftop deck and private event space.

Location: 933 Louise Ave., Ste. 350. The Royal Tot is aiming for an August or September opening.

Full story: New tropical bar opening this summer will serve Dole whip and frozen cocktails

Want Dole whip now? Look for the Hula Whip truck, or head up to Concord to L&L Hawaiian Grill.

the royal tot tropical bar 4

Note: This guide is updated each summer with the coolest things to do and events. Have feedback? Email us at charlotte@axios.com. Looking for more events? Here’s the full Axios Charlotte event calendar

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