Summers in Charlotte can be frustratingly hot, particularly if you’re not use to the South’s thick humidity. Beat the heat at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where a man-made re-circulating river offers Class III rafting just outside of downtown. The center also hosts River Jam, a summer-long concert series along the Catawba River. In town, pitch a picnic at Symphony Park during Charlotte Symphony’s Summer Pops series. And every Thursday, from May to September, head to Uptown’s Alive After Five at the EpiCentre, a block party–style concert series. In July, Restaurant Week is a good opportunity to sample Charlotte’s progressive dinner scene. Almost 100 restaurants participate in this weeklong celebration of food, with special three-course menus throughout downtown.
The heat begins to settle in September, when the city also hosts the BBQ and Blues Festival, the largest festival in the Southeast sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network. Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council also sponsors the Cultural Free For All each September, featuring a series of free performances, exhibits, and hands-on workshops all month.
May is NASCAR season in Charlotte—which is, in fact, home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and 85 percent of NASCAR’s teams. In addition to the Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, both of which attract hundreds of thousands of motor-sports fans, there’s also the Speed Street 600 Festival. This multi-day celebration fills the streets of Uptown with memorabilia, driver appearances, racing simulators, and live bands.