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Aptly called the Queen City, Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, and the southeast’s financial center. It’s also a major hub with I-85 and I-77 running straight through this metropolis and the Charlotte Douglas International Airport operating as one of the world’s busiest. But it’s not all skyscrapers and passersby. Charlotte is an urban cultural center in its own right, with museums by the dozens, a thriving local community and world-class performing arts. While Charlotte is cosmopolitan through and through, visitors can find glimpses of the city’s heritage in historic neighborhoods like Dilworth and Fourth Ward.
REASONS TO GO:
Uptown Charlotte: Uptown is the geographical and historic center of the Queen City. It’s easily walkable, but public transports abound, including free trolleys. Hop on the Gold Rush system during daylight hours to tour Uptown, where you’ll find Levine Museum of the New South, highlighting southern culture and heritage, and the Mint Museum of Craft and Design, with American and Contemporary exhibits.
South End Neighborhood: Charlotte's vibrant South End is both historic and contemporary. Part residential and part commercial, the neighborhood's pedestrian-friendly streets burst with a diverse mix of music venues, galleries, locally owned shops and craft breweries.
Splash Around: Although Charlotte is set squarely in the middle of the Carolinas, water activities are plentiful. The huge amusement park, Carowinds, has a waterpark with high-octane slides, a wave pool, and attractions geared for smaller children. For wilder water, check out the U.S. National Whitewater Center that offers programs for rafting and kayaking, and is open to most ages and skill levels. Don’t forget Lake Norman, about 15 minutes from Uptown Charlotte and the Carolinas’ largest manmade lake.
Sports: Avid sports fans will feel right at home in Charlotte, where major and minor leagues are equally revered. Grab a seat at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers. If basketball is more your style, cheer courtside at the home of the Charlotte Hornets, Time Warner Cable Arena. You can also catch a NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, or grab a hotdog during extra innings with the Knights AAA baseball team.
CHARLOTTE ATTRACTIONS FOR FAMILIES: Families will find a wealth of fun, affordable activities in urban Charlotte. Carowinds promises a raucous good time, with thrilling coasters like Fury 324 and the Intimidator, along with rides better suited for little ones. Science more your style? Head to Discovery Place, a long-standing science and technology museum in Uptown Charlotte. With tons of hands-on exhibits and an IMAX experience, this interactive museum is perfect for your budding scientists.
BEST BETS: NASCAR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD When you’re in Charlotte, do like the locals do—head to Charlotte Motor Speedway to catch a race. Can’t make it to Concord? Wander the huge NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown, where you’ll find tributes to racing legends and interactive exhibits. Looking for more amped-up fun? Try the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which allows you to ride with an experienced driver or take the wheel yourself for a few laps around the track.
WHEN TO GO: Charlotte is temperate year round, but, like most southern cities, it can get hot and humid in the summertime with temps close to 100. The winter is fairly mild, and snow is rare (and loved by locals). In the fall, weather is lovely and crowds are light.
TRAVEL TIPS: As the city continues to grow, so does traffic. Avoid delays and potential parking trouble by using the LYNX Blue Line, a light-rail train that runs into Uptown on a 9.6-mile route. The last stop at the 7th Street Station puts you in walking distance of favorite attractions, including Levine Museum of the New South.