29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Charlotte - Narcity

29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Charlotte

Ready, set, explore!

The Queen City is never boring. The three neighborhoods in Charlotte are so distinct and have so much to offer. Uptown is energetic, Noda is artsy and South End is vibrant. Like any other big city, there's no shortage of bars, restaurants, and museums to explore. 

But being in a big city can be exhausting. The streets become too familiar and you long for a little adventure outside of what you know. 

There are plenty of places to explore and all within three hours or less trip from Charlotte. North Carolina is home to amazing historic sites, state parks, waterfalls and stunning resorts. 

It can be overwhelming to decide where to go. But all you have to do is know what mood you're in and what activities suit you best. So here's your guide to some of the best places to go to for a spontaneous and exciting day trip near Charlotte.


Content disclaimer: We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit a potentially hazardous location, you check for the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. The locations listed below may or may not have changed their regulations in regards to what you can or cannot do on site since the article was last updated. Always consult with local authorities. If you do plan to visit a location, know the risks beforehand and respect the environment.


Make new friends at Happy Hills Alpaca Farm

Time from Charlotte: 45 minutes

Where: Monroe, NC

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The owners will put you to work! Pet and feed the alpacas here for a chill Sunday afternoon activity. Don't be afraid of them — they are like any other animal and get overzealous when there's food involved. And when you're done, end your trip by getting a taste of sheep's milk ice cream. 

Go ziplining at Canopy Ridge Farms

Time from Charlotte: 1.5 hours

Where: Hendersonville, NC

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Up the fun factor as you feel like you're flying through the luscious green forests. You'll get to experience nature in a completely different way from new heights. And don't be deterred if the weather is bad. This ziplining company will let you zipline in rain or shine!

Pamper yourself at Omni Grove Park Inn

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Asheville, NC

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Relax and rejuvenate here for a day or for a weekend. This place has an award-winning spa and breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And if you want to explore Asheville, head on over to concierge because they can set you up with all the activities you want to do! 

Glide down Sliding Rock Falls 

Time from Charlotte: 2.5 hours 

Where: Pisgah Forest, NC

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Elaborate and modern water slides, who? This natural water slide is the perfect place to cool down in the summer as you dare your friends to see who can make it down first. The slide ends in a natural pool, but the water is pretty cold even in the summer. So make sure you go on a really hot day!

Reach new heights on roller coasters at Carowinds

Time from Charlotte: 15 minutes

Where: Charlotte, NC

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Get dizzy and defy gravity while you go on some insane rides. This amusement park has it all with thrill rides, roller coasters, shows and a water park. If you can handle it, Fury 325 is North America's longest steel coaster and the ride even crosses North and South Carolina state lines!

Live out a fairy tale story in Castle Mont Rouge

Time from Charlotte: 2.5 hours

Where: Rougemont, NC

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Castles aren't just in Narnia or Hogwarts. This castle was once the home and studio of sculptor and architect Robert Mihaly. It's now abandoned and serves as an eerie attraction. For those who believe in scary stories, you might want to stay away from the bathtub that has "Bloody Mary" spray painted on the side of it ...

Practice your Dirty Dancing lift at Lake Lure

Time from Charlotte: 1.5 hours

Where: Lake Lure, NC

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Yup, it's that lake. So grab your Baby or your Johnny and head on over here to relax in the lake or get spent trying to perfect that iconic lift. Of course, there are also a ton of activities you can do here. You can go hiking, have a picnic lunch, go kayaking, or cool down in the water park. 

Jump or dive into the quarry at Carrigan Farms

Time from Charlotte: 45 minutes

Where: Mooresville, NC

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The bright blue color of the water is enticing as you plunge into the quarry that's 25 feet deep! The granite cliffs and white sand beach create an amazing atmosphere for a fun summer day. This is definitely the place to be if you're tired of just swimming in a pool. Have fun and make sure you have someone filming or taking photos of you jumping in!

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Play Space Invaders at the Asheville Pinball Museum

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Asheville, NC

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Take a trip down memory lane as you play classic games like Pac Man and Space Invaders. A one-time entry fee of $15 will allow you to play over 80 pinball and classic video games. 

Hike on 1 of 4 trails in Lake Norman State Park

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour

Where: Troutman, NC

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Lake Norman is North Carolina's biggest manmade lake! Head on over here for all your favorite water activities. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks, pedal boats and canoes at the visitor center. If you're feeling up for it, there's a single-track trail that's over 30 miles long. And if you decide to make a weekend trip out of it, camping is an option too. So pack those marshmallows and graham crackers! And extra chocolate.

Explore America's largest home at Biltmore Estate

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Asheville, NC

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There's something for everyone here. Take a tour of the magnificent mansion or take a self-guided tour of the many gardens on the estate. The gardens are filled with beautiful trees and flowers, so you've got your Insta-worthy shot right there! You can also check out the village and winery that offers complimentary tastings. Talk about a classy weekend affair.

Stargaze at Morehead Planetarium

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Chapel Hill, NC

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Learn how to spot constellations in the sky at the planetarium. Sure, museums are boring, but not when you can learn how to spot Jupiter or Saturn! The planetarium also holds free skywatching sessions on the rooftop. There are telescopes provided and experts to guide you to see planets, stars, and other celestial objects.

Hike up to the top of Chimney Rock 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Chimney Rock State Park

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Climbing to the top of Chimney Rock is worth it for the stunning views. It's only a three-mile drive up to the parking lot where you can climb a staircase to the top. Enjoy being up that high because you can see a Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge.

Explore Ledge Creek Forest Conservation

Time from Charlotte: 2.5 hours

Where: Stem, NC

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It's kind of North Carolina's best-kept secret. It isn't as popular as other forests or parks, but that's what makes it so special. It's not crowded and it can be a peaceful hike for you and a loved one. Trails range from easy to difficult, so make sure you choose one that you're up for. No matter which one you choose, you'll be greeted with endless forest and wildflower meadows.

Feel like Alice in Wonderland at Looking Glass Falls 

Time from Charlotte: 2.5 hours

Where: Pisgah Forest, NC

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Chasing this waterfall is necessary. The way the water glistens in the sunlight makes it appear like a mirror! So take your camera out and find the perfect picture spot to try and capture the waterfall in all its glory. And then if you think you can brave the cold water, jump on in and splash around! It's actually just a short drive from Sliding Rock Falls, if you want to do both in one day.

Be a kid again at DefyGravity

Time from Charlotte: 20 minutes

Where: Charlotte, NC

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Just a short drive from downtown Charlotte, this spot is for you to relive all your playground memories. You can play grounders, do flips into the foam pit, or try to reach new heights on the trampolines. An adult jungle gym? This is what dreams are made of.

Walk over a swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Linville, NC

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Ready to be one mile above sea level? When you walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, you get sweeping views of Grandfather Mountain. Try not to focus on looking down because you'll make yourself feel scared and you'll miss out on the beautiful scenery. Once you've made it across, you'll very feel accomplished!

Overlook Linville River at the Linville Gorge

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Where: Marion, NC

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This gorge is gorgeous! It's been dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the East" for a reason. The wild and rugged gorge is outdoor paradise! If you decide to go hiking, choose a trail and stick with it. Reception is spotty there so be careful and don't get lost. 

See 5,000 species of plants at JC Raulston Arboretum

Time from Charlotte: 3 hours

Where: Raleigh, NC

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Clean your dirty camera phone lens because you're going to want to take a ton of pictures here. Take a guided tour or wander off by yourself to see all the beautiful flowers that are in bloom. 

Rent a pedal boat at Pullen Park

Time from Charlotte: 3 hours

Where: Raleigh, NC

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It's North Carolina's first public park. Grab your friends and rent a pedal boat as you go around Lake Howell. Just make sure to keep an eye out that everyone's pedaling! If you aren't embarrassed to ride with kids, check out the carousel. It's very cute and all kinds of fun.

Go whitewater rafting at The U.S. National Whitewater Center 

Time from Charlotte: 20 minutes

Where: Charlotte, NC

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Calling all thrillseekers! Try your hand at whitewater rafting at this outdoor facility. Or maybe just watch on the sidelines before you make a decision. After all, you're going to get drenched!

Frolick in the sunflower fields at Dorothea Dix Park

Time from Charlotte: 3 hours

Where: Raleigh, NC

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Your Instagram's going to be lit. This park has wide-open fields and shady tree groves, but the sunflower fields are the main attraction. Pose among the flowers and snap as many pics as you can. Just be careful not to trample over the flowers and be careful of the bees!

Boulder at Inner Peaks

Time from Charlotte: 20 minutes

Where: Charlotte, NC

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Before you attempt rock climbing at a state park, practice at this indoor climbing center. Think you'll be bored? Well, think again. This place offers 50 climbing stations, so it's not very likely you'll have to wait around for someone to be finished at a station. Just check out another one and climb all you want!

Honor great musicians at the NC Music Hall of Fame

Time from Charlotte: 40 minutes

Where: Concord, NC

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This is the most fun you'll have at a museum. There are interactive exhibitions and you can learn about all the great musicians that come from North Carolina! After this visit, you'll definitely be open to expanding your Spotify playlist to include some of these artists.

Slide, slide, slide at Great Wolf Lodge

Time from Charlotte: 25 minutes

Where: Concord, NC

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Scream your heart out while sliding down these water slides. If you want to stay cool, just stay here during a hot day. There are plenty of dry adventures to be had here too. Check out the ropes course or play a round of mini golf!

Try to solve a mystery at Codescape

Time from Charlotte: 10 minutes

Where: Charlotte

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Sometimes, you don't have to go far for an adventure. Be the hero in one of four escape room scenarios. There's a possibility of finding secret entryways, solving puzzles and maybe even investigating paranormal activity. You never know what could happen in 60 minutes ...

Take a walk around Brightleaf Square

Time from Charlotte: 2.5 hours

Where: Durham, NC

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Experience the history of Durham! The square is surrounded by two tobacco warehouses that have since been renovated and turned into shops, bars, and restaurants. Take a look around and see what trouble you can get up to around here.

Follow the Raleigh Beer Trail

Time from Charlotte: 

Where: Raleigh, NC

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If you love beer, this is the self-guided tour for you. Download a map or get one at the visitor center to start your journey. Each brewery you go to in the Raleigh area will get you a stamp. The more you go to, the more prizes you'll earn. Have fun tasting all the beer you want!

Hang out with lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center

Time from Charlotte: 2.5 hours

Where: Durham, NC

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These creatures are magnificent and you get to be right up close to them! With over 10 types of tours, you will surely see all the lemurs your heart desires. While you can't touch them, the center allows you take all the photos you want. Just make sure to turn your flash off. You don't want to harm or spook the lemurs!

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