There's simply no replacement for experiencing a NASCAR race in person. There's nothing like watching dozens of big stars in race cars ripping around the speedway, daring to reach the 200 mph mark, that offers the noise, sights, smells and that unmistakable feeling deep in your bones you're witnessing something larger than life. This is the time to book your flights and hotels to make your NASCAR trip a reality. First stop: Charlotte, North Carolina.
Long revered as the International Gateway to the South and nicknamed the Queen City, you may know Charlotte as the home of NASCAR. Even though the official headquarters are in Daytona Beach, Florida, North Carolina is where most of the stock car teams and drivers are based. With famous names like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Rick Hendrick and Junior Johnson associated with this town, Charlotte is a sure bet to get your NASCAR fix and enjoy world-famous barbecue, endless craft beer, a lively nightlife and all-around fun for everyone.
For seasoned fans or those just curious to check out their first event, the May 20 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race, the May 28 Coca-Cola 600, or the Oct 7 Bank of America 500 offer plenty of opportunities to fully immerse yourself in this larger-than-life sport. For the full NASCAR experience, take a couple of extra days to explore the city like a true Charlottean. Here's our list of Charlotte's tried and true venues, plus trendy new favorites for your visit to CLT.
First things first: in Charlotte, downtown is called "Uptown." The one place that no stock car fan should pass up here is the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Longtime race devotees and first-timers alike are invited to step in and share the rich history and heritage of this sport. You'll be taken behind the scenes through decades of champion race teams, can test your skills at the pit crew challenge, feel what it's like to climb up a banked oval track and bask in the glory of NASCAR's Hall of Honor. And, yes, there are plenty of souvenirs -- no excuses not to gear up for race weekend!
You'll probably be thirsty after drooling over four floors of racing memorabilia, and the Hall of Fame's Uptown location is convenient to dozens of Charlotte's best bars and restaurants. Try a Stoke Fashioned cocktail at Stoke at the Charlotte Marriott Center City before trying a made-from-scratch meal burnished in their wood-fired oven. Local beer lovers know to visit The Cellar at Duckworth's, with its speakeasy vibe, over 300 unique brews and an excellent bourbon selection. See if you can score a tour of the vintage cellar, housing rare and coveted craft beers. If your kids are the ones who've worked up an appetite, grab a sandwich in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Pit Stop Cafe, or head over to the RedEye Diner at the EpiCentre Mall, 7th Street Public Market, or Amélie's French Bakery -- home to a must-try salted caramel brownie and other treats featured in the first installment of "The Hunger Games."
Where to stay: Hotels near the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Uptown Charlotte, NC:
These hotels are walking distance from the Hall of Fame and close to Bank of America Stadium, Spectrum Center, the trendy 7th Street Public Market, EpiCentre, several museums, and so much more. The nearby LYNX Blue Line and and CityLYNX Gold Line make it easy to get around town.
Courtyard by Marriott Charlotte City Center | $125/night | 12.4 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway
See more race-day Hotels close to the NASCAR Hall of Fame at nascar.com/hotels
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
A legendary track in the heart of NASCAR country, this beacon draws thousands of race fans to immerse themselves in the soul of the sport. Charlotte Motor Speedway has plenty of food and drink options on site, like Bojangles' Famous Chicken and Biscuits -- some people swear they've dreamt about that Chicken Biscuit Sandwich. As always, you can bring your own food and beverages if you want -- just make sure your cooler is the correct size.
Where to stay: Hotels near Charlotte Motor Speedway:
Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte-Concord-Golf Resort & Spa | $254/night | 1.1 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway
Great Wolf Lodge Concord Charlotte | $365/night | 1.8 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Charlotte-Concord-I-85 | $229/night | 1.7 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway
Courtyard Marriott Concord | $209/night | 1.3 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway
See more race-day Hotels close to Charlotte Motor Speedway at nascar.com/hotels
SOUTH END, LOSO, AIRPORT
Art galleries, breweries, and food trucks come together to blend old industrial Charlotte with a heaping dose of tastemakers' charm -- you'll find all of that, and more, just 3 miles south of Uptown and 7 miles from the airport. In South End, browse the creative works at local faves Ciel Gallery, Dilworth Artisan Station and the Charlotte Art League. Ready to skip right to the meat? Stop at Mac's Speed Shop for true Carolina barbecue. A lively mix of bikers, beer drinkers and brisket lovers head to Mac's for traditional barbecue and sides like mac 'n' cheese, baked beans, and cheddar grits, all washed down with local craft brews or southern sweet tea.
Head two miles farther south and you'll find yourself in one of Charlotte's hottest "drinking districts:" Lower South End (but you can call it "LoSo" if you want to feel like an insider). First stop? The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Their traditional beer hall, classically-made German brews, live music and sprawling outdoor area makes it an easy option for groups and families. Some refer to it as a theme park for adults, but with better food -- order yourself a Currywürst, Short Rib Brisket Burger or a soft German pretzel. If you’re on the hunt for even more libations, you'll want to stop at LoSo's Sugar Creek Brewing Company, the Broken Spoke, and Good Road Cider Works. Charlotte's LYNX Blue Line light rail runs through South End and LoSo, making your journey to and from Uptown nearly as quick as a NASCAR pit stop.
Where to stay: Hotels near Charlotte Douglas International Airport:
Homewood Suites by Hilton Charlotte Airport | $110/night | 2.0 miles from CLT
Fairfield Inn & Suites Charlotte Airport | $99/night | 2.1 miles from CLT
Super 8 Charlotte Downtown Area | $70/night | 3.4 miles from CLT
Search for more race-day Hotels near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport/South End/LoSo at nascar.com/hotels
There you have it: your insider's guide to where to eat, drink and take in Charlotte like a local. This fast-growing city is changing all the time, so explore the area on your own and create new memories, NASCAR style. And, now you have a new tool to help you out. At Raceday Hotels by Hotels for Hope at nascar.com/hotels, you can search by price, location, landmark, and see reviews and photos of hotels close to Charlotte Motor Speedway. See you at the track!
All rates were accurate at time of writing, based on a 5/26-29 stay. Prices subject to change, so book soon.
A DRIVER'S VIEW
Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, makes his home in Charlotte. Here are his local favorites:
• Reid's Fine Foods at Selwyn Corners. This local hangout is a grocery store with a restaurant serving seasonally-fresh meals. Landon likes it for the ambiance and the on-site sommelier.
• Amelie's French Bakery in NODA. Landon says this Parisian-inspired cafe is awesome. His favorite location in NODA, a trendy, cool part of town, and is open 24 hours.
• Living Kitchen in South End. When Landon is on the road, he misses his breakfast routine at this organic, plant-based restaurant.