Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in NoDa, Charlotte

  • Published 2022/02/02

NoDa, short for “North Davidson,” is a popular historic arts and entertainment district in Charlotte, North Carolina, located on and around North Davidson Street and 36th Street.

It used to be a place for mill workers residences and a textile manufacturing area, and now it serves as a center for the arts.

NoDa is home to people from many walks of life and an array of talented musicians and artists.

Its blocks are crammed with funky shops, restaurants, lively bars, and public art.

Whether you’re searching for alcoholic beverages, custom gifts and artworks, acclaimed food, small businesses, gallery crawls, music venues, and eco-friendly lifestyles, you will surely find it in NoDa.

The residents of NoDa are always intent on promoting diversity and encouraging culturally enriching events.

To map your itinerary in this colorful and range-filled neighborhood, start with this list of the best things to do here.

Watch a Show at Neighborhood Theater

Neighborhood Theater during night time

James Willamor, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Neighborhood Theater started life as the off-run Astor Theater in the 1940s, soon switching to B movies as the mills cut operations in the 1950s.

By the time the mills closed, it had become the vehicle for racier products in the 1960s and 1970s.

The theater closed in the 1980s, and a televangelist bought it and ran both a church and a homeless shelter in it for years.

Finally, in 1997, it began its transition into the music venue known and loved today, which hosts a wide variety of international and touring acts.

Neighborhood Theater has a diverse lineup of acts in various genres, with DJ-fueled parties, VIP events, and an ever-flowing bar.

It is always here for your live music needs: the perfect site to watch a show from an old favorite artist or to discover a new act that energizes and excites you.

Join the Charlotte Art League

The Charlotte Art League, or “CAL,” as its members call it, is the oldest nonprofit art gallery in Charlotte; it reopened in NoDa in 2018.

It aims to provide art opportunities to the population, with regular art programming available to the public, and partnership with agencies and outreach organizations to provide an art community.

CAL provides figure drawing programs with classically draped models and techniques useful in drawings, comic book illustrations, and storyboards.

Participants will have practice in gesture drawing, timed poses, negative space, organic and angular lines, foreshortening, and perspective, which will allow them to break the body into simple shapes.

CAL also provides a Paint Like Bob Ross class, which allows you a half-day to create your personal masterpiece to take home.

In addition, CAL opens up workshop retreats and healing art that facilitates communication and community through the creative process.

Have a Drink at Divine Barrel Brewing

Have a great time at Divine Barrel Brewing, where you can relax with beers, ciders, wines, and kombuchas in an indoor ambiance.

While knocking back a drink, you can have a sports watch party or enjoy some live music from the locals.

Sample some unusual drinks with quirky names – for instance, the Basement of my Brain, which brims with juicy hops and fruit flavors; the Defensive Pancake, enhanced with maple and creamy vanilla; and Imaginary Rulebook, which gives you a creamy golden mouthful of fruit.

Divine Barrel prides itself on creating divine ‘unusually lovely’ beer that honors the traditional ones which came before: wood-fermented, lagers, aged wilds, and sours, in a wild combination of the brewing process, ingredients, time, and some ‘divine intervention.’

They also cherish the oak barrels and specialty spirits’ capability of aging beer projects, with the wood itself becoming an ingredient offering its character to the beers.

Find Something Brewing at Smelly Cat Coffee House and Roastery

Found in the NoDa arts district, Smelly Cat has been a NoDa institution for 2 decades.

It has always followed a people-first approach, and whether it’s your first time or you are a coffee regular, the baristas are here to help you with the perfect drink.

The bakers create delicious breakfast pastries at the coffeehouse kitchen every day from scratch, with a house-curated cocktail menu and tasty drink syrups made in-house using spices and extracts.

Smelly Cat roasts its own ethically sourced coffee beans, and through full-sensory roasting, they have created a wide range of coffee profiles to suit their coffee’s origins.

The lots they get in require a different roast profile developed through sensory roasting based on the beans’ characteristics.

Smelly Cat is notably passionate about many causes that impact the community, helping out unwanted pets, domestic abuse survivors, child abuse survivors, and survivors of human trafficking.

Spend a Night at The Evening Muse

The Evening Muse is an intimate bar venue that is another ideal stop for live music and open mic nights.

It is a tiny but beautiful and intimate space that holds constant surprises in its eclectic lineups.

The Evening Muse holds live music in a fantastic-sounding venue, with lovely original artwork adorning the walls and a lively selection of wine, beer, and spirits constantly flowing

It opened in April 2001 and was fueled by the music lovers of Charlotte and the many arts-loving tourists.

The Evening Muse has since had the opportunity to present thousands of independent acts and performing artists.

An incredible array of artists have graced the stage of this venue, from the Carolinians’ own backyard to the many parts of the world.

Different genres have touched base here: acoustic, full electric, alternative, blues, Americana, pop, jazz, hip-hop, folk, country, and of course, various songwriters.

Buy Cultural Wares at Pura Vida Worldly Art

NoDa is full of small shops and galleries bursting with character, and one of these places with a multicultural twist is Pura Vida Worldly Art.

Pura Vida Worldly Art centers on handmade and ethically sourced products worldwide, carrying hand-crafted items from more than 40 countries.

You will spot many diverse, inclusive, and mind-provoking cultural gifts for all your loved ones back home.

Discover fashion items like gloves, scarves, jewelry, hair accessories, dresses, tops, robes, bags, and footwear in an eclectic and adventurous collection.

Seek out accessories for the home: kitchen, bath and body, patio, flowers, wreaths, and office items in fragrant and luxurious arrangements.

See an array of colorful room décor, multicultural toys, books from around the world, and activities for your kids’ entertainment.

And discover spiritual, cultural items such as sage, incense, Tibetan singing bowls, and jewelry for your meditative needs.

Unwind at Growlers Pourhouse

If you’re looking for a nice cozy place to get out of bad weather, relax at a bar, or watch the big game, slip into Growlers Pourhouse.

Growlers Pourhouse serves up all-American craft beer and “beer food”: American craft food that tastes great with brews or classic cocktails, for example, burgers, lobster rolls, and oysters.

Growlers Pourhouse has been included in the Top 100 Beer Bars by Draft Magazine for five straight years, with 14 taps allowing them to craft beer.

They also have a special beer engine that handpulls craft beer without extraneous carbon dioxide and keeps it at a slightly warmer temperature of 45 to 50 degrees, resulting in a historic drink with wonderful nuanced tastes and aromas.

Relax at this quiet, intimate, and laidback pub, and let them galvanize you with their tasty food selections and excellent beer.

Come Sing Songs at NoDa 101

Located in the heart of NoDa, NoDa 101 is here for those unashamed of letting loose in front of a crowd.

NoDa 101 features a non-stop karaoke fest seven nights a week, from early evening to the wee hours of the morning.

You will have a blast and some great laughs as you sing along with a friendly crowd and get buzzed on the cocktail drinks and the great company.

The bartenders are there to make you feel welcome and comfortable; the DJs are awesome and keep the vibe going; and the crowd is always welcoming, whether you’re a newbie at singing or a seasoned karaoke veteran.

Pick from the amazing song collection, unleash your inner rockstar as you wail out tunes, and let the music take you away at NoDa 101.

Taste Southern Dishes at Haberdish

Come down to one of the hottest spots in NoDa and have your fill of Southern cooking and cocktails at Haberdish.

Colleen Hughes, a celebrated mixologist, can mix your cocktail of choice in one of the best cocktail programs in the city.

The bartenders will gladly display southern hospitality as they pour, stir, and shake these crafted apothecary cocktails from a 1950s soda fountain.

At Haberdish, you can have savory dishes like hush puppies, crispy fried chicken, biscuits, and bacon jam – and don’t forget your Southern vegetables.

They give you fantastic flavors and generous portions in a signature Southern meal with a decadent and addictive food selection.

Their ingredients are all-natural: they use cage-free eggs untreated with hormones, antibiotics, or steroids; enriched short-patent flour for their baking ingredients; and vegetarian-fed, pesticide-free, and hormone-free chickens.

Admire NoDa Street Art

NoDa is a flourishing art district of Charlotte and is, therefore, a hotbed for beautiful murals and artworks coloring the streets.

It’s impossible to walk down the neighborhood without catching beautiful looks at Charlotte’s mural scene.

Start your artwork journey by admiring the iconic ‘Bloom,’ which signals your entry into NoDa, a mural with dominant warm hues of yellow, orange, and red, and the artist’s signature greyscale human face.

Then keep an eye out on the streets and pavements for asymmetrical creations, repetition of patterns in acrylic paint, and mosaic tiles embedded in concrete spelling out inspiring messages.

Even the trash receptacles around the areas have been beautified: see ceramic figures, functional art, warm colors, cool backgrounds, contour lines, playful animals, and free-standing sculptures.

Most of all, admire the walls of buildings everywhere and see the highlights and voices of diverse artists: contrasts of light and dark, geometric patterns, organic lines, asymmetrical balances, visual textures, interactive elements, lingering statements, and symbolic representations.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Stock Up on Knowledge at Discovery Place Science

Exterior view of discovery place science building with people gathered in front.

Bryan Pollard /

Discovery Place Science is a science and technology museum for people of all ages, located in Uptown, Charlotte, 7 minutes from NoDa.

The exhibits and activities focus on hands-on experiences: a Thinker Space for designers and creators, laboratories, live animal exhibits, rainforest aquariums, and traveling exhibits.

Check out the Mind Matters exhibit, which explores mental health stigma and the science behind our feelings.

See Charlotte’s only indoor rainforest, a celebration of Earth’s biodiversity, and learn how to protect our lush, interconnected planet.

The name of discovery place science above glass windows.

Bruce VanLoon /

Unleash your inner architect at Project Build and let your designer dreams come to life in endless possibilities.

Discover strange, eccentric, and cool principles that rule over the workings of our everyday lives, delighting the mind and the senses.

You will preside over new discoveries about human health, mindfulness, experimentation, and more as you view, touch, and explore science.

Celebrate Racing History at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Exterior view of NASCAR hall of fame showing the cars inside.

ZikG /

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Charlotte Convention Center, 8 minutes from NoDA.

The Hall of Fame honors the drivers who have shown remarkable skill at NASCAR driving, the crew chiefs and owners behind them, and the broadcasters and other contributors to the racing competition.

Here, there is a high-octane theater; ceremonial halls, studios, and plazas; and glorious NASCAR exhibitions.

A blue and red car display, with the number 43 painted on the door - inside the NASCAR building. /

See present-day and classic cars, realistic racing simulators, interactive experiences, highlight reels of your favorite drivers’ most stunning moments, and more at the Hall.

Watch the history of NASCAR come to life in the evolving exhibitions and the tales of legends that have come to embody the defining moments of NASCAR.

Golden NASCAR trophy. /

Find exhibits and artifacts that can be seen nowhere else and a unique display of racing feats.

Explore stories that will span ages and an unforgettable experience at the Hall of Fame.

Engage with Art at Mint Museum Randolph

Exterior view of Mint museum building along a busy street.

meunierd /

Mint Museum Randolph is found 10 minutes from NoDa in what used to be the original branch of the United States Mint.

It is an important cultural institution in a lovely park setting, with intimate galleries that invite visitors to get involved in art.

There are displays of art of the ancient Americas; African, Asian, and European art; ceramic and decorative art; and other collections.

It also has invaluable resources, such as a reference library with above 18,000 volumes, a museum store of merchandise complementing the collections and exhibitions, and a special theater of performances and lectures.

Cement stairs with silver railings pointing to the mint museum's entrance.

Eric Glenn /

Go to the Heritage Gallery, which features art, archival documents, and photographs that follow the museum’s evolution from a branch of the U.S. Mint to its present incarnation.

And see the Special Collections with rare historical texts, documents, scrapbooks, videos, and ephemera which tell the story of objects with special importance to the museum and its collections.

Discover the Billy Graham Library

Exterior view of Billy Graham Library with glass windows shaped like a big cross.

JHVEPhoto /

Located 15 minutes from NoDa, the Billy Graham Library is a large library devoted to the religious leader Billy Graham and his strong beliefs.

Billy Graham was a dairy farmer’s son with humble beginnings who was dedicated to spreading the love of Jesus and ended up traveling around the world, speaking in packed stadiums.

In his travels, he met with kings, queens, presidents, celebrities, and ordinary men and women to which he spread his singular vision and hopes for the future.

Snow covering the land around Billy Graham library.

digidreamgrafix /

At the library, trace Graham’s origins from simple farm boy to an international ambassador of God’s love and see his dynamic journey through beautiful multimedia presentations, interactive kiosks, memorabilia, and photographs.

Tour the Graham family homeplace, which has been reconstructed with appliances, furniture, and fascinating Graham family memorabilia.

Browse inside Ruth’s Attic Bookstore for Christian classics, Bibles, gift items, and books filled with deep faith, inspiring stories, and hard-won lessons.

And drop by Graham Brothers Dairy Bar to buy fresh salads, cookies, sandwiches, and ice cream for your refreshment.

Vintage, wooden study desk with reading materials, a lamp, and a vintage leather chair.

ZikG /

The Billy Graham Library welcomes everybody and upholds 55 years of ministry, celebrating the life and works of a man on a timeless mission.

At the library, catch a unique glimpse of this mission and of Billy Graham’s message that he embodied to help change the world.

Explore the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Exterior view of the Bechtler Museum building.

meunierd /

The Bechtler Museum of Modern art is also found 10 minutes from NoDa in the heart of Charlotte.

It is a 36,500-square-foot space dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20thcentury modern art, named after Andreas Bechtler and his family.

They inherited and assembled a collection of over 1,400 artworks created by proponents of 20th-century modernism.

Bechtler hoped that the public would find comfort, inspiration, surprise, challenge, and discovery in these remarkable works.

A tall piece of art called "The Firebird".

meunierd /

In the Bechtler collection, see the embodiment of the art movement and different schools from the 20th century, with mid-century modern art that explores particular subjects and themes through different media and approaches.

The collection reveals the European perspective, American and British art, and the School of Paris point of view, which embraces the modern works in Europe in the years after World War II.

Overall, the museum holds works that cross over whimsy with historical significance and intellectual depth, providing an inspiring experience for all.

Final Thoughts

NoDa may be a small space, but it is bursting with innovations in the art, science, performance, and culinary scenes.

To check out the highlights of this neighborhood, reference this list of the best things to do when you get there.

This colorful district will keep you entertained at all hours, so wait no further and pay it a personal visit sometime.

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