The best time to visit Charlotte for NASCAR races, outdoor dining and festivals

Over the last decade, Charlotte, North Carolina has steadily emerged from its own shadow of being a small southern city with big potential. Affectionately called the “Queen City,” Charlotte has fully stepped into its potential as a hotspot for visitors looking to get a taste of its royal treatment all year round.

Although the weather can be a bit unpredictable, Charlotte truly comes alive September through November, making these months the ideal time to visit. From the vibrant art scene and trendy walkable neighborhoods to a foodie’s paradise and more, here’s when you should plan to visit the “QC.”

Enjoy great weather during high season (September to November)

With a light breeze coming through the brightly colored leaves, Charlotte in the fall is truly magical. Starting in September, the city hosts some of the best festivals and events, including the long-running Festival in the Park, held annually at Freedom Park in late September. 

Festival newcomer BayHaven Food & Wine kicks off in mid-October. There isn’t much rain during the high season, and most days bring gorgeous Carolina blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Expect visitors and residents to be out and about exploring all the city has to offer, which can also mean higher prices at local hotels. 

Get a front-row seat at a NASCAR event in May © Action Sports Photography /Shutterstock.

Dine outside during shoulder season (April to May)

As an emerging culinary destination, March to May will bring plenty of pleasant weather for your foodie adventures – without the humidity that comes in summer. While the weather may be unpredictable during this time – going from rain to sun in minutes – you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy some of the area’s best patios during your meal. 

Hotel prices aren’t nearly as high as peak season, but you’ll have to search a little for some good deals. 

Nab hotel deals during low season (June to August; December to March)

It’s the south, so definitely expect humidity in the summer months. Temps can reach the upper 90s (Fahrenheit) in July and August, and you can count on severe thunderstorms most days, but they typically pass within a few hours.

June marks the start of hurricane season, and while it’s rare for them to hit the city, you may have to deal with the effects of nearby hurricanes, like torrential rain. It’s the ideal time to explore indoor activities like the city’s museums and art galleries. 

While Charlotte doesn’t get a lot of snow, freezing rain and sleet are very possible in December and January. If that does happen, expect nearly everything to shut down – particularly businesses that aren’t considered essential. 

Beyond the ice storms, winter is the perfect time to check out the dozens of area breweries and bars — many with heated outdoor igloos or firepits — as well as the retro game bars and arcades. 

Go ice skating in January 

Checking out indoor events and activities in January will be your best bet. Temps can drop to the low teens on some evenings, while daytime will bring high 40s to mid 50s. If you enjoy being outdoors during the winter, head to the US National Whitewater Center for its massive outdoor ice skating rink. 

A Charlotte Hornets NBA player high-fives fans as he runs down the court during a game in Charlotte.
Head to Spectrum Arena to root for the Charlotte Hornets © Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Attend a sporting event in February

This is the perfect time to catch a game at a few of the city’s sports teams. Check out the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Arena or the minor league hockey team – the Charlotte Checkers – at Bojangles Coliseum. There are also plenty of concerts across all genres rolling through during this time. 

Tour Charlotte neighborhoods in March

The weather slowly begins to warm up toward the end of the month, and residents will be itching to get outdoors. This is the perfect time to explore area neighborhoods like Camp North End, South End and NoDa on foot, while also doing some brewery hopping. As for events, there’s not much going on in March. 

A group of people in a large rubber raft paddle on rushing white water at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC. There is a large sign that says "Tuck Fest" hanging from a wooden bridge above the water.
The Tuck Fest at the US National Whitewater Center is held every April and is filled with live music and kayak races © MattManaged / Shutterstock

Hit the trails in April

With spring temps in full swing, the city comes alive. From food truck pop-ups to a ramp-up of local marathons and 5Ks, April is when people are the most active. The US National Whitewater Center’s annual Tuck Fest kicks off near the end of the month with live music, trail and even kayak races. Evenings can be a little chilly, so be sure to pack a light jacket or cardigan.

Head to a NASCAR event in May

The humidity stays at bay just a little longer for you to enjoy the city in all its glory. But you’ll want to pack your short sleeves if visiting in May. And if you’ve got the need for speed, don’t miss out on the NASCAR events at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Keep an eye on the weather in June

It’s officially summer – pack breathable materials to wear, like linen, if you plan to be outdoors. It’s also the start of hurricane season; although rare for Charlotte, it means afternoon rain or thunderstorms, but don’t worry, they pass pretty quickly.

Two people walk through the shallow waters of Myrtle Beach during sun rise.
When the temperatures rise, many North Carolinians head to Myrtle Beach © WBritten / Getty Images

Head to the beach in July

Still in the thick of the humidity and afternoon storms, finding indoor activities or early morning and early evening options will be best to stay cool. Don’t forget your umbrella. To cool off a bit, consider taking a road trip to a nearby beach. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is the closest, with a drive of about three-and-a-half hours. North Carolina’s Atlantic Beach will take you just around five hours. 

Try to stay cool in August

Likely the hottest month for the city, temps will push the upper 90s, with heat indexes reaching into the low 100s. Combat the heat with light-colored clothing, a hat or visor and lots of sunscreen. But, there are still plenty of things to do around the town, like spending the day museum hopping around the Levine Center for the Arts.

A busy First Ward Park on a sunny spring day
Charlotte has a number of parks and outdoor meetups to enjoy  © Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock

Enjoy fall festivals in September

September marks the start of the fall festival season, so expect more people to be out and about: favorites include the Yiasou Greek Festival and the Festival in the Park.

Raise a glass in October

The weather can’t get any better than Charlotte in October. We’re talking perfect mid 70s during the day, and a light breeze, with temps dropping into the mid 60s in the evenings. Head to the city’s popular creative hub Camp North End for live music and market pop-ups, and the same can be said for the bars in South End. 

Run (or watch) a marathon in November

Winter weather doesn’t officially roll into the Queen City until late December, so you still have time to get those last few outdoor days in. Be sure to pack a sweater or jacket for when the sun sets. It can get chilly in the evenings. If you’re an active traveler, this is the month for the Charlotte Marathon.

Get into the holiday spirit in December

Being outside isn’t totally out of the question, but be prepared with layers just in case. You likely won’t encounter snow in December, but the temps can drop into the 40s at night. Embrace the holiday spirit in the city by attending the Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker.

This article was first published Mar 5, 2022 and updated Jun 24, 2024.

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