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, and SouthPark, a shopping district.
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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)
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art– Next door is another art museum that focuses on works from their collection and rotating exhibits including paintings and sculpture. They also host events like live music. 420 South Tryon Street
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture– Named for the city’s first African-American mayor, the museum focuses on the African diaspora. 551 South Tryon Street
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
U.S. National Whitewater Center– This 700-acre non-profit training facility and outdoor park is heaven on earth for nature and adventure sports enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway
Other attractions include Discovery Place, the Billy Graham Library, and the Carowinds theme park. The Charlotte Bike Tour visits the city’s landmarks and Public Brews Cruise of Charlotte tours the Queen City’s craft breweries.
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 draws, 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– The city’s best barbecue fuses 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
Alexander Michael’s– A neighborhood favorite since 1983, this tavern has delicious menu items like quinoa burgers and spicy crab soup. Diners have included politicians and celebrities. 401 West 9th Street, (704) 332-6789
Haberdish– Located in the NoDa neighborhood, this restaurant is known for its fried chicken and other Southern favorites. They serve cocktails from the 1950s-style soda fountain. 3106 North Davidson Street, (704) 817-1084
Reid’s Fine Foods– The market dating back to the 1920s also has a popular restaurant and wine bar. They have multiple locations serving sandwiches and salads. 4331 Barclay Downs Drive, (704) 377-7686
Sea Level NC– Despite its inland location, this restaurant emphasizes sustainable seafood. Fish tacos, calabash shrimp, and clam chowder are among the menu highlights. 129 East 5th Street, (704) 412-2616
Optimist Hall– The stylish food hall has a little bit of everything from craft cocktails to coffee to ramen and tacos. There are also stores like Archer Paper Goods. 1115 N. Brevard Street, (980) 701-0040
Sukoshi– Created by the team behind O-Ku, this fast-casual sushi restaurant is one of the best deals in town with dumplings, specialty rolls, and poke bowls. 101 South Tryon Street, Suite 120, (980) 495-3800
Where to Sleep
The Westin Charlotte– This property is well located near the LYNX light rail station and local bus station. Rooms come standard with a desk, alarm clock, and television. 601 South College Street
Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel– The stylish hotel has beloved Kimpton amenities like yoga mats, rental bikes, and evening social hour. There are also in-room spa services, and two restaurants and a rooftop bar. 303 South Church Street
The Duke Mansion– Sleep in luxury at this mansion turned bed and breakfast. There are 20 rooms with breakfast, WiFi, a guest library, and four acres of gardens. 400 Hermitage Road
Aloft Charlotte Uptown at the EpiCentre– One of two Alofts in town, the hotel has boutique amenities and an affordable price. There’s an indoor swimming pool, WiFi, and pet-friendly rooms. 210 East Trade Street
Ritz-Carlton Charlotte– The luxury hotel is certified LEED gold and has unique amenities like a rooftop garden, Himalayan salt treatments at the spa, and multiple bars and restaurants. 201 East Trade Street
The Ivey’s Hotel– Located in a 1920s department store, the rooms feature impeccably designed furnishings. They have a cocktail bar and are attached to 5Church, a popular restaurant. 127 North Tryon Street
Great Wolf Lodge Charlotte-Concord– Families are sure to love the rustic-themed accommodations and indoor water park. Multiple styles of suites are available, along with in-house dining. 10175 Weddington Road, Concord
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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.
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.