The Must-See in the QC: Charlotte’s Best Attractions

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From exciting NASCAR tracks, rushing whitewater rapids, captivating history and science museums and gorgeous gardens, there’s a lot for families to explore throughout the Charlotte area.

Charlotte Motor Speedway
Home to the Coca-Cola 600 in May and the Bank of America 500 in October, Charlotte Motor Speedway is the beating heart of NASCAR country. Built in 1959 by Bruton Smith, the 1.5-mile track surrounded by 140,000 seats entices many of the industry’s best to set up shop in Concord, N.C. Even when there is not a race in town, engines are always revving at the track with three driving schools operating on-site and the nearby zMAX Dragway, which hosts year-round races. 5555 Concord Pkwy., Concord, 704-455-3200.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens
Explore botanical wonders at this complex, founded by Belmont textile magnate Daniel Stowe. Located on 380 acres along the banks of Lake Wylie, the gardens span 110 acres of rolling landscape. Guests are awed by the large visitor pavilion, with its stained-glass dome, fountains and canals, and nine themed gardens. The 8,000-square-foot Orchid Conservatory, designed like a living work of art, is dedicated to the display of orchids and tropical plants. And children’s imaginations can run free at Lost Hollow: The Kimbrell Childrens Garden, scheduled to open October 2014. 6500 S. New Hope Road, 704-825-4490,

Levine Museum of the New South
This interactive history museum, focusing on the people and places from 1865 to today, includes a permanent installation, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,” which takes an in-depth look at the history of Charlotte as a New South city, and how it represents new ways of thinking about economic, political and cultural life in the post-Civil War South. Past exhibits include “Boots on the Ground: Charlotte Perspectives on the War in Iraq” and “Fighting for Democracy: Who is the ‘We’ in ‘We the People’?” 200 E. Seventh St., 704-333-1887,

Charlotte’s core of center-city entertainment, the EpiCentre is always abuzz with activity. Whether you’re interested in enjoying drinks with friends, a light bite to eat, an upscale dinner date or a little retail therapy, the EpiCentre’s 40 venues offer it all, at any time of day. Offering bowling, a dine-in movie theater and events throughout the year, this social hub gives a glimpse of all the fun Charlotte has to offer. 210 E. Trade St., 704-688-5980,

U.S. National Whitewater Center
Rookie rafters and hardcore kayakers alike flock to the man-made Class III and IV rapids at this first-rate facility, which is home to U.S. Olympic Trials. But rolling on the river is hardly the extent of the outdoor experience. Other adventures include challenging ropes courses, jagged climbing walls, a fly-wheel-assisted three-story jump, bike trails and a canopy zip-line tour of the Catawba River shoreline. After all the action, relax at the River’s Edge restaurant with a locally brewed beer and a basket of fried pickles while watching others brave the rapids. 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy., 704-391-3900,

Carolinas Aviation Museum
This hangar-turned-museum, near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, houses a large collection of aircraft, helicopters and aviation equipment highlighting years of flight history. Best known for its exhibit of US Airways flight 1549, the “Miracle on the Hudson,” you’ll find items recovered, passenger videos, plus guest appearances from Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed on the Hudson River in 2009. 4672 1st Flight Drive, 704-359-8442,

NASCAR Hall of Fame
This highly interactive museum does more than just immortalize racing’s greats (some of the more recent inductees include Rusty Wallace, Cotton Owens and Buck Baker), it gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the entire world of racing, and feel the thrill in an iRacing Simulator or see how quickly you can jack up a car and change a tire in the pit challenge. 400 E. Martin Luther King Blvd., 704-654-4400,

Discovery Place
Daily programs, educational camps and IMAX films teach visitors of all ages about the wonders of nature, technology and the community. Charlotte Nature Museum and the Discovery Place KIDS museum operate in conjunction with Discovery Place, offering multiple opportunities to experience the fun. With interactive exhibits that make learning entertaining and engaging, this science museum is a long-time family favorite. 301 N. Tryon St., 704-372-6261,

Blumenthal Performing Arts
Among the leading performing arts centers in the nation, the Blumenthal has served nearly 8 million theatergoers since it began in 1992. Spanning three uptown locations, Blumenthal Performing Arts consists of six theaters, including the Belk, Knight and McGlohon. With performances by renowned companies such as the Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina, comedians of various styles and family-friendly Broadway shows, Blumenthal Performing Arts is the cultural anchor of the Queen City. 130 N. Tryon St., 704-372-1000,