Explore Charlotte

The Best Museums in Charlotte

The history of the South, interactive exhibits for kids, modern art and famous aircraft are all in a day's dscovery.

Museums in Charlotte Tell the City’s Story

Named for Queen Charlotte—the wife of King George III—at the time of the town's settlement, Charlotte, North Carolina, is full of history.

It was the site of victory against General Cornwallis' army during the Revolution and the site of the first U.S. Gold Rush and is a center for music, civil rights reform and NASCAR. There are so many historical stories to be told and the Queen City is full of museums to tell them.

Mint Museum
Mint Museum (©meunierd/Shutterstock)

Charlotte Museums: The Mint Museum

The Mint Museum is the oldest art museum in the state and holds one of the largest collections of art in the Southeast across two locations.

The Mint Museum Randolph is housed in the old Charlotte Mint building and contains collections in American, Ancient American, European, African, Asian and contemporary art.

The Mint Museum Uptown is situated in a modern building and contains collections in glass, ceramics, wood, contemporary art and the Museum of Craft + Design. NexGen Mint features workshops, labs, events and experiences geared toward youth.

T. Rex skeleton at Discovery Place
T. Rex skeleton at Discovery Place (©bob/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Discovery Place

This Charlotte museum is the place to play and explore how things work. Exhibits in the science museum include 3D laser printers, a vacuum-powered Air Chair and a bed of nails. One exhibition explores the science behind Ripley's Believe It or Not, including a calf with two faces, optical illusions and micro-sculptures so small they fit into the eye of a needle. Live shows also explain chemistry, nature, fire and other concepts in an entertaining atmosphere. 

Gardens at Discovery Place Nature
Gardens at Discovery Place Nature (©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock)

Discovery Place Nature

This is a science center geared toward younger children, aged 3-7. The easy-to-navigate museum in Charlotte features hands-on opportunities for exploration of the natural world. Use a wheelbarrow and build a bridge out of towers or rocks, make music on the outdoor stage or explore a fairy village. In the lab, young ones can take a virtual walk in the woods, examine plants and geology specimens or head out to the Paw Paw Trail to stroll through the forest for real. 

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture (©Mark Clifton/Wikimedia Commons)

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture

African-American contributions to American culture are celebrated in this museum, including those of its namesake, Gantt, who was an architect and the first black mayor of Charlotte.

Collections include African-American art by renowned artists like Romare Bearden, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Elizabeth Catlett, Jonathan Green and Jacob Lawrence. Past exhibitions have included works in wood by John Mascoll and Avelino Samuel, costumes from the the Dance Theatre of Harlem and photographs featuring grassroots activists from the 1960s. 

Cotton Machine at the Levine Museum of the New South
Cotton Machine at the Levine Museum of the New South (©Tetra 09/Wikimedia Commons)

Levine Museum of the New South

The Levine focuses on the people, places and events in the South from 1865—the Civil War—until today.

This Charlotte museum's centerpiece, the "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers" exhibit, is a comprehensive look into post-Civil War history with more than 1,000 artifacts, images, videos and oral histories that span more than 8,000 square feet. Charlotte and its 13 surrounding counties are represented in this hands-on experience that tours six different "environments."

After exhibitions are complete, many are adapted into traveling exhibits that are displayed throughout the community. The museum store offers books related to Charlotte and the museum's exhibits, in addition to locally made items. 

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art (©Chris Edwards)

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte is housed in a building that is art in itself. The four-story building includes a soaring glass atrium that allows for visual flow between spaces, a vaulted skylight and terracotta exterior.

Many of the pieces of 20th-century art on display inside have never been made available for public viewing, as it was privately held by the Bechtler family of Switzerland. Artists represented include Joan Miro, Jean Tinguely, Barbara Hepworth and Andy Warhol. Some of the 1,400 works are accompanied by photographs and letters suggesting a personal connection to the Bechtler family.

Richard Petty's car on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum
Richard Petty's car is on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum. (©Yuri Shchipakin/Shutterstock)

NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum

In Charlotte, race fans get their fuel fix at this museum, dedicated to the sport of stock car racing.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum features hands-on exhibits, a state-of-the-art theater and, of course, the Hall of Fame with plaques honoring inductees. History buffs can follow NASCAR's growth from dirt tracks to super-speedways and see artifacts like the first helmet with a radio, Bobby Allison's Miller High Life uniform and the first trophy Kevin Harvick won in Rick Childress' Chevrolet—after he stepped in to fill Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s seat after Earnhardt's death in the 2001 Daytona 500. If you need a pit stop, stop into the cafe for a snack or a sandwich.

Carolinas Aviation Museum
Carolinas Aviation Museum (©M Fletcher/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Carolinas Aviation Museum

Historic aircraft and artifacts are on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, located at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. See a Grumman F-14D Tomcat, a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a Sopwith Camel—Snoopy fans, where are you?—a  Cessna 150 and the Miracle on the Hudson—the Airbus A320-214 that successfully crash-landed on the Hudson River. Exhibits are located inside the hangar and outside on the active ramp.