Nicknamed the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina is known for being a hub for banking and finance in the South, with Bank of America and Wells Fargo both having headquarters here. It’s the second largest city in the region in terms of population. Most attractions are located in the area known as “Uptown,” which is easy to get around by foot or the LYNX light rail network. Other neighborhoods include NoDa, home to a number of breweries, SouthPark, a shopping district, and
The Catawba River and Lake Norman make the city popular for water sports, as does the U.S. National Whitewater Center nearby.
What to Do
NASCAR Hall of Fame– As the capital of the sport, Charlotte is also home to the hall of fame, with provides fans with exhibits from their favorite drivers, information on the history of the sport and interactive experiences, like driving simulators. 400 East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard
Mint Museum UPTOWN– One of the South’s most impressive art museums, the Mint Uptown has an emphasis on European and American art from the 1700s to the modern age. It’s sister museum, Mint Museum RANDOLPH, was originally a US Mint that now houses works of European and African collections. 500 South Tryon Street (Uptown)
Levine Museum of the New South– If you’re looking to better understand the history and culture of the South, look no further than the Levine Museum. It starts with the region’s agricultural background through the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and the present. 200 East Seventh Street
Where to Eat
Halcyon Flavors From the Earth– This restaurant is located in the Mint Uptown Museum and incorporates natural elements into the decor and as much locally sourced ingredients as possible. The menu changes seasonally but has mostly regional fare, including shrimp and grits, game and fresh salads. 500 South Tryon Street, (704) 910-0865
Amelie’s French Bakery– For a quick lunch or pastry to go, visit one of Amelie’s locations around town, including the original in NoDa. House made soups and sandwiches are the main draw, best enjoyed in no rush with a cup of coffee. Take a turnover or danish to go for later. 2424 North Davidson Street, (704) 376-1781
Queen City Q– I sampled the “Q” from their food truck, but you can also visit their restaurant for what’s been voted the city’s best barbecue. They fuse the western and eastern North Carolina BBQ styles with those from South Carolina for a unique flavor. Get the pulled pork, which is smoked for 16 hours. 225 East 6th Street, (704) 334-8437
Where to Sleep
As a part of a campaign that brought me from Atlanta to Toronto on Megabus, I received a media rate to stay at The Westin Charlotte, which is well located near the LYNX light rail station and local bus station. A number of big-name hotels are in the “uptown” area as well, including Hilton Charlotte Center City and Aloft Charlotte Uptown at the EpiCentre. For more budget friendly options, stay further out of town in the University Place suburb or rent an apartment on AirBnB.
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Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city and serves as a hub with a major airport, Charlotte Douglas International. Two major highways run through, I-77 and I-85, with I-485 beltway running the perimeter much like in Atlanta. It is a stop for Amtrak rail lines, as well as Greyhound and Megabus bus lines.
Named one of the country’s most walkable cities, Charlotte is easily accessed by foot, especially the major attractions like the Mint Museum of Art and Levine Museum of the New South. The relatively bike-friendly city is great for going shorter distances uptown. You can rent one from the kiosks all over town from Charlotte B Cycle, the city’s bike sharing program. Bikes include baskets, lights and bells. Purchase a membership for longer times or for 24 hours for only $8. Just return it to one of the many stations when you’re done.
Driving in Charlotte isn’t nearly as bad as other major metropolises, but you’ll need to factor in parking if you’re planning to drive yourself. Uptown hotels don’t always have their own parking decks, but there are many throughout town, including one across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You can also rent cars at the airport to further explore the area.
If you’re traveling without a car or simply need a ride to a different part of town, taxis are the most reliable way to go. Charlotte is the latest to join in rideshare and cab app programs, including both Uber and Lyft. Uber features both UberX and its traditional black cab services. You can also summon taxis and cabs from Yellow Cab or Crown Cab, which have their own smartphone apps. For shorter distances, R&R Pedicab offers rides in bike taxis.
Charlotte’s CATS public transportation system operates both buses and tram lines. The LYNX light trail is a 9.6 mile north-south line, which goes from 7th Street to South Boulevard. I took the LYNX between the EpiCentre shopping plaza and the Stonewall stop near the Westin, where I stayed. It runs every ten minutes between around 5 am and 1:30 am every night.
You can catch buses that run throughout the greater Charlotte area from the CTC, the main bus station in town, where I took a bus to the NoDa Brewery. Dozens of routes service the area and connect to LYNX stations. See their website for more information on what route you need.
Fares for both cost $2.20 per ride plus additional rates for express or special buses. One day unlimited ride passes are $6.60 and weekly passes are also available for purchase, which includes both bus and light rail routes.