Charlotte’s Top Cultural Tours and ExperiencesBy Jodi Thornton O’Connell
Do more than just see the sights when you’re in Charlotte. Delve into the Southern city’s culture, rhythms, tastes and scents while going behind the scenes of the its cultural and natural treasures.
Check out these five experiential tours that will connect you to the city’s heritage and character.
Take a Taste of the Mint
Visit the Mint Museum Uptown inside the Levine Center for the Arts on any given day and you’re sure to leave inspired by the cutting-edge art and design exhibitions filling the 145,000-square-foot facility.
Go beyond what the eye can see by signing up for a Taste of the Mint tour that tempts your taste buds with small plates and food demonstrations from local chefs before you explore the museum’s latest exhibits.
Tastings take place at Halcyon, Flavors of the Earth (located inside the Mint Museum) or other restaurants inside the Levine Center. When off-site chefs come to visit, enjoy the event in the museum’s boardroom.
Finish off your adventure with a guided one-hour tour through innovative exhibits in the museum to gain expert insight into limited-engagement exhibits as well as the American, Modern & Contemporary, and Craft + Design collections.
Ruffle Some Feathers
Get face-to-beak with North Carolina’s biggest native birds by becoming a “Keeper for a Day” at the Carolina Raptor Center, dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey. You’ll work side by side with the center’s staff, feeding, training, examining and providing enrichment activities for the birds that call the Carolina Raptor Center home.
Learn about the varied diets and habits of eagles, vultures, owls, falcons and hawks. Marvel at the large creatures up close, perhaps even sitting on the end of your arm during a training session.
The Center rescues up to 1,000 injured birds annually, with 70 percent being released back into the wild. Other “For a Day” experiences let you shadow the veterinary staff, release your inner photographer or combine the keeper and veterinary experiences.
Peek Behind the Curtain
Go ahead and pay attention to that man behind the curtain, and learn about the backstage workings of a Broadway play at Blumenthal Performing Arts. The six-stage venue tops touring lists for Broadway shows traveling the country.
Call to schedule a free immersive tour led by arts center staff that gives insight into just what it takes to put on a Broadway production off the Great White Way.
Check out a star’s dressing room, see the massive Kong Doors and learn about theater traditions like the ghost light and encouragement to “break a leg.” Tour availability depends on theater schedules. Some shows will even let you take a post-performance tour and meet a few cast members along the way.
Take the Ride of Your Life
Hop in the back seat of an Indy-style race car and zip around the Charlotte Motor Speedway at top speed at the Mario Andretti Racing Experience.
Go for three full 1.5-mile laps on a 10-minute ride-along or up the adrenaline with twice the number of laps on a double ride-along. A pro racing instructor pilots the full-size open wheel race car, letting you experience how the pros do it.
Ready to put the pedal to the metal yourself? Sign up for a “Practice” or “Rookie” experience where you can drive an Indy-style race car solo for 5 to 8 minutes. The 3-hour experience kicks off with a drivers’ meeting and instruction before you slip behind the wheel. Afterward, you’ll get a souvenir racing license and graduate certificate to help you remember your experience.
Nosh Your Way through Time
Take your taste buds on a journey through time on Charlotte’s Tour De Food Uptown Tour. The three-hour tour starts at the 7th Street Market and dips into out-of-the-way eateries and upscale restaurants where you’ll sample locally grown farm-to-table fare with wine pairings and learn about their preparation and the artisans that create them.
You’ll even hear about architectural landmarks as well as the city’s history along the tour’s two-mile walking route. When you’re hungry for more, check out Tour De Food’s other culinary tasting tours, including Tour De Food North Arts District.