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Whether you are spectator or participant, the sporting options of North Carolina’s biggest city rank with the best in the country. Grab a seat in the stands or get involved yourself in our favorite spots for sports fans in Charlotte.

Truist Field is home of the Charlotte Knights and has an unrivaled view of Uptown © Courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Cheer for the home team

From a leisurely day at the ball field to a high-speed chase around a quad-oval, Charlotte has a team and a venue for almost all the most popular spectator sports.

Baseball at Truist Field

Located in central Charlotte – an area locals call Uptown – is Truist Field, home of the Charlotte Knights. Whether you can recite decades of player statistics, or you don’t know your RBIs from your ERAs, an evening spent with Charlotte’s minor league baseball team is an essential activity in the Queen City.

The view from the stadium is worth the price of admission itself; two open sides provide an unobstructed view of the city and its growing collection of skyscrapers. There isn’t a 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 taps of some locally brewed craft beer, to add flavor to a truly memorable evening.

The arrival of Charlotte FC means football of one kind or another will be played in the city year-round © Courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Football at Bank of America Stadium

Just down the road is Bank of America stadium, where the excitement is palpable for the arrival of Major League Soccer’s newest professional team. Charlotte FC kicked off the first home game of its inaugural season in March, at the 75,000-seat stadium, which the team shares with the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers.

Combined with the nerve-jangling experience of watching the Panthers (affectionately and appropriately known locally as the “Cardiac Cats”), the arrival of Charlotte FC means football of one kind or another will be played in the city year-round.

Parking and tailgating options are plentiful, however spaces are significantly more expensive closer to the stadium. But Charlotte is compact and walkable, so if you don’t mind a little pre- and postgame exercise you’ll find lower parking prices on the eastern side of Tryon Street – the main north-south thoroughfare through Uptown.

Spectrum Center plays host to around 40 Charlotte Hornets games each season © Kyo Nam; Courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Basketball at the Spectrum Center

After a twelve-year absence, the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets returned to the Spectrum Center in 2014. The venue is the premier entertainment location in Uptown Charlotte, playing host to around 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 an extensive list of excellent bars and restaurants within a few blocks of the venue provide a perfect start to a quintessential Charlotte evening of entertainment.

The Hall of Fame has exhibits highlighting NASCAR’s rich history © Jamey Price; Courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

The home of NASCAR

Nothing defines Charlotte’s place in the sporting psyche of the United States quite like NASCAR. A hundred years of racing history permeates through the city, which has established itself as the spiritual home of auto racing in the country. The Charlotte metro area is also the actual home of most of the sport’s drivers, its leading teams and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame has exhibits highlighting NASCAR’s rich history, but it’s also an interactive experience; test your driving skills around replicas of NASCAR tracks in a racing simulator, change tires in a pit crew challenge, or even record your own race commentary.

The last Sunday in May features one of the highlights of Charlotte’s annual sporting calendar, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (14 miles northeast of the city). 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 race fans, residents, and other visitors.

Another major attraction for any auto racing fan in Charlotte is a visit to a NASCAR team facility. Tours generally include a view of the garage where cars are prepared for each race, exhibits and cars from the team’s history, and a gift shop to snag some merchandise. Tours were suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, so check out your favorite team’s website for up to date information regarding availability.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center is the world’s largest artificial whitewater river © Courtesy of the U.S. National Whitewater Center; Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Get active yourself

Whether you crave an adrenaline rush or a laid-back stroll – or anything in between – Charlotte has some world-class attractions for thrill seekers and sports enthusiasts. Here are a few of our favorites.

U.S. National Whitewater Center

The U.S. National Whitewater Center (15 miles west of Uptown Charlotte) attracts visitors from all over the world. Come for the thrills (and frequent spills) of the world’s largest artificial whitewater river, where a professional guide will help you navigate a raft down class II – IV rapids. Experienced kayakers can test their skills on the Olympic trial course – and if you want to develop your own paddle skills, lessons are available.

In addition to the whitewater river, more than 50 miles of biking, hiking, and running trails surround a recreational complex that features at least 30 different activities including rock climbing, ziplines, and ropes courses. From mid-November to mid-February, a 24,000-square-foot ice skating rink provides a seasonal option; and in summer, you can spend a weekend evening relaxing to live music for the $6.00 price of parking – no adrenaline expenditure required.

For thrills behind the wheel, drive a few 1.5-mile laps of the Charlotte Motor Speedway © Malachi Jacobs / Shutterstock

Do-it-yourself NASCAR

For thrills behind the wheel, drive a few 1.5-mile laps of the Charlotte Motor Speedway in a genuine NASCAR race car with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Not for the faint of heart  – even if you choose the ride-along option – you’ll climb out of the car with a new appreciation for the skills of your favorite driver. Or of life’s fragility. Possibly both.

The experience includes a pre-race meeting with your crew chief, one-on-one instruction over an in-car radio, and a pit stop. No instructor shares the car with you – and passing is allowed! Would-be drivers must know how to drive a stick-shift (manual transmission) car.

The 3.5-mile Rail Trail is a must-do for visitors to Charlotte and residents alike © Courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Urban Walking Trails

Exploring Charlotte on foot is a great way to experience the city, made easier by many miles of walking trails and greenways that pass 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-do for visitors and residents alike. Adjacent to the light rail line as it runs through the city’s South End district, the bars, breweries, restaurants, and shops that line the trail provide numerous excuses to pause for a moment – or many.

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 stroll away from – but still close to – the hustle and bustle of the city.

Mountain Creek Park will offer an extensive network of professionally designed mountain biking trails © Courtesy of the U.S. National Whitewater Center; Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Coming soon

Scheduled to open in 2022, Mountain Creek Park will add a much-anticipated outdoor activities option to the Lake Norman area, north of the city. In addition to an extensive network of professionally designed mountain biking trails, the more than 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 kayaking, canoeing, and fishing options.

Sponsored by Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

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This story was crafted collaboratively between Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

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