Explore Charlotte

Charlotte for Budget Travelers

Indulge in cuisine, culture and more in the Queen City.

Enjoy all Charlotte has to offer with this guide to things to do, the best cheap eats and more.

Price's Chicken Coop Charlotte, NC
Price's Chicken Coop is a Charlotte institution.(©Visit NC)

The Best Cheap Eats in Charlotte

Price's Chicken Coop: Price’s Chicken Coop is a Charlotte mainstay. Order at the counter and take fried-chicken dinners—served with slaw, fries, hush puppies and a roll—away at this always-packed casual joint. Cash only

JJ’s Red Hots: An upscale dog stacked with a baffling array of condiments is the specialty at this local diner. Choose from the crowd favorites or go your own way with a build-your-own option.

Grand Asia Market Restaurant: Snag an order of spring rolls or pot stickers for less than $1 each to eat while browsing this Asian grocery store’s offerings.

Pinky’s Westside Grill: The VW bug on the roof cues diners in on the quirky offerings inside. Expect the funky-fun menu names matched with interesting flavor combos.

Where to Shop Thrifty

Desgen’s Closet: Bargain womens’ clothing is the drive at Desgen’s Closet. Like-new pumps, skinny jeans, flirty tops and colorful accent jewelry line the racks at this thrift store.

Bargain Hunters Thrift Store: Tchotchke and second-hand goods are stock and trade at this thrift store where an open mind and a lot of patience could mean unexpected treasures.

Charlotte Premium Outlets: Charlotte’s outlet hub is open seven days a week featuring shops like Nordstrom, Nike Factory Store and Kate Spade.

B-cycle bike in Charlotte, North Carolina
(©Better Bike Share/Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Best Things to Do

Bike Share With B-Cycle Charlotte: There are 24 B-Cycle bike stations scattered around Uptown and the surrounding area with a 24-hour pass that costs $8. There are some tricks to make biking through Charlotte cheap and fun. Check-in the bike every 30 minutes. It’s a bike share, not a rental. Each additional 30 minutes after the first 20 costs extra. Use it for quick rides and pay only $8 for transportation.

Free Museum Days: There are museums dotted all over Charlotte and several have days, or several hours are particular days, no-cost admission.

Here are some of the most popular Charlotte museums’ free-admission days:  

  • Mint Museums: Wednesdays 5 to 9 pm
  • Levine Museum of the New South: every first Sunday
  • Bechtler: every third Friday, 5 to 9 pm

People standing outside a brewery
(Courtesy Olde Mecklenburg Brewery)

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery: Find old Germany in the midst of Charlotte during a free tour at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. The brew process follows a 16th century German purity law and during the brewery's free tours each stage of the process is up for grabs, literally. Touch and taste barley malt, Bavarian hops and more. Weekend tours only

Victorian Walking Tour: Explore several blocks of the Historic Fourth Ward and see the restored Victorian homes in the neighborhood. The walking tour is free, hosted by the Friends of the Fourth Ward.

Where to Stay

Clarion Inn: This budget hotel is near Lake Norman, the NC Auto Racing Hall of Fame and several race shops.

Drury Inn & Suites Charlotte North: With weeknight rooms routinely clocking in at $100 a night, this hotel is a budget option for travelers hoping to stay close to University of North Carolina at Charlotte and nearby attractions.