This is the first of several of our “city guides” we’re trying to put together. The idea is to provide someone visiting the city (or someone who’s looking for something new to do) with ideas of what the city looks like, and what to do there. As this is the first, we’d certainly appreciate any feedback on what you think, or how we might make things a little better or more user friendly.
Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina. It is not exactly a city that’s effectively competing for tourists, but it has a plethora of wonderful sites and sounds to take part in for those that look for them. From the Discovery Place and Panther’s Bank of America Stadium in Uptown (that’s right, Uptown, not downtown), to the nearby Botanical Gardens and Carowinds theme park, there are great experiences to be had within the greater-Charlotte metropolitan area.
Charlotte, located within Mecklenburg county, is named for the wife of Charles III, Charlotte of Mecklenburg. The city embraces its namesake figure, taking the nickname “the Queen city,” which it shares with several U.S. cities, but is the only city on the list that is actually named after a queen. To further muddy the point, Charlotte of Mecklenburg was only a Queen Consort in England, as Charles III was the reigning monarch during their marriage.
The weather in Charlotte is generally beautiful year round. Spring and fall are particularly pleasant, with evenings being in the low-mid 50s, and the highs in the high 70s, all with reasonably low humidity. Even winters can frequently be weathered with only a light jacket. Summers can reach the miserable upper 90s or even over 100 with moderate humidity in the July and August months.
Where To Stay:
Uptown would be the obvious selection for most people, as it is the center of the city. We would generally recommend against it, however, as businesses shut down at 6. I was shocked when I walked by a CVS Pharmacy on a Saturday afternoon, and saw a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Uptown that was closed (all day). Was it permanently closed? After closer inspection, no; it was closed every weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, and closed at 6 pm M-F.
So where? Charlotte has several pleasant neighborhoods to stay in. For those looking for a upscale feel, the South Park area will meet their needs, but it will likely be expensive. The Ballantyne Resort is another upscale resort area within the metropolitan area. For those looking for more inexpensive options, the Westpark area, or the University area will provide more reasonable options, but will limit any walking distance attractions.
Just outside of Uptown there are several beautiful neighborhoods, including Dilworth, South End, and Elizabeth. Bed and breakfasts may be found in these areas, and the Duke Mansion would certainly be a remarkable weekend getaway.
What To Do:
There are so many things to do, but finding out about them, we’ve found , hasn’t been tremendously easy. We’ve tried to help you out with a lengthy start here.
Discovery Place – A large science center, designed primarily for kids, but speaks to anyone with an interest in sciences. There are rotating exhibits which have included the Human Body, A Day in Pompeii, and Norman Rockwell.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens – 450 acres of gardens located in Gaston County, directly adjacent (West) of the city. $10 admission fee will allow you access to the gardens to see flowers, trees, bushes, and fountains, to include the only all-glass house in the Carolina’s; an 8,000 square foot conservatory.
National Whitewater Center – A great outdoor center for the active outdoor-lover. Kayaking, biking, hiking, ziplining (is that a verb?), rafting, climbing… it’s all here. They even have a great restaurant located right on site, and it’s all at a very reasonable price.
Art Galleries – Charlotte is, at its core, a town for the Arts. There are plenty of small, independent art galleries to go check out, and frequently you’ll find them in small clusters, where you can easily walk from one, to the next, to the next. The areas just south and north of uptown, known as South End and NoDa, respectively, especially have streets that are dotted with art galleries. NoDa even has a Gallery Crawl twice a month.
Parks – Charlotte loves its community parks. It seems like every little neighborhood has its community park, but Myers park and Freedom park, specifically, are large outdoor areas that are pleasant to enjoy. Neither of them are really comparable to something like Central Park in NYC, but they’re wonderful, well-maintained areas to enjoy while you visit.
Carowinds – Divided by the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, this amusement park is sister to Kings Dominion and Kings Island. Including several roller coasters, thrill rides, and a large water park, it’s definitely a must-do stop for avid thrill-seekers.
Where to Eat:
Perhaps where we shine a little too much is in the dining department. One of the things the Wife and I recognized when we first moved to Charlotte was that there were tremendous options of non-chain restaurants in Charlotte. We were pleasantly surprised when we found that they were TASTY, in addition to non-chain. Check out our favorites.
Mac’s Speedshop – A must for anyone visiting Charlotte. It’s a biker-bar that specializes in BBQ. When not packed with bikers, it caters to yuppies, who dream of being bikers. The ambiance, though, is great. The food is good, with a couple of home runs on the menu (try the open-faced Texas Beef Brisket sandwich). The service is hit or miss, depending on the location you go to.
Sir Edmond Halley’s – Tucked away in the corner of Park Road Shopping Center, is a little gem that pretends to be a British pub, but is actually a reasonably-priced gourmet restaurant. I don’t even know if the employees know the truth. Probably my favorite restaurant in Charlotte.
Brixx – Right behind Halley’s in my book, is Brixx. A local pizza chain with a great pizzas, and an even better beer selection. We discovered it after a friend sold us a Brixx coupon book. It’s been one of the best investments that we AND Brixx have made.
Zada Jane’s – Good food and great ambiance, that fits right in NoDa. Go and enjoy.
We’d love to hear what you think about our “visitor’s guide.” If you were to actually USE it, we would LOVE to hear how you fared with it, and if you have any suggestions. Happy wandering.