Home to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame and one of the world’s largest speedways, Charlotte is a favourite pit stop for auto racing lovers. And while the races themselves draw fans from around the world, those looking for a taste of NASCAR’s flavour don’t have to have a seat in the stands. From a Hall of Fame complex chock-a-block with fascinating memorabilia to exhilarating experiences that put you in the driver’s seat, these are the top five spots to experience NASCAR in Charlotte””without attending a single race.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Sure, at this Uptown Charlotte 150,000-square-foot shrine to NASCAR you could take a walk down “Glory Road,” which showcases eighteen famous cars from the sport’s history. Or you could check out the world of racing at the Hall’s High Octane Theater, where a sixty-four-foot-wide projection screen and surround sound tells the tales of the track. But for the ultimate hit-the-road experience, buckle up in the iRacing NASCAR stock car simulators, which are exact track replicas that have been tested for their authenticity by drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Coca-Cola Speed Street
Every May more than 400,000 race fans pack the streets of Uptown Charlotte for this annual festival dedicated to all things NASCAR. The popular event features live music, entertainment, exhibits, festive fare, appearances by drivers and celebrities, and the chance to check out NASCAR show cars and simulators. The family-friendly fest starts at noon and goes late into the evening with big name musical acts taking the stage in the centre of the city. Coca-Cola Speed Street
Victory Lane Karting
Get ready to enjoy the ride””and the rush! Once you’ve suited up in a jumpsuit, head sock, and helmet, you’re ready to take on the challenge of this fast track. And yes, these may look like your average bumper cars, but these karts can hit up to 45mph””something that feels especially exciting as you take on high-speed curves and hard hits riding just two inches off the ground. Victory Lane Karting
The Speedway Club
To get a real taste of NASCAR in Charlotte””and the ultimate view of the track””make reservations at The Speedway Club Restaurant, where every table offers a panoramic view of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. While it’s hard to find a table on race days (there are stipulations regarding club membership and tickets), there’s no lack of excitement here on any day. Catch a glimpse of a driving school while you indulge in dishes like salmon in a citrus rum glaze. And keep an eye out for motorsports legend (and owner of the speedway), Bruton Smith, who often dines in this unexpectedly elegant setting. The Speedway Club
Richard Petty Driving Experience
Buckle up! With this pedal-to-the-metal driving experience you have the chance to sit back in the front seat for a ride along, or even be the one with your foot on the gas. You’ll be strapped into a 600-hp NASCAR racecar with 4-speed manual transmission. For $59, you can hop in with a pro and take three laps at 165 miles per hour at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Or, if you’re craving the driver’s seat, for prices starting at $449, you can take spins around the quad-oval track solo. Richard Petty Driving Experience.
Header Image © James-Willamor/Flickr
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Written by Sarah Crosland