Charlotte, North Carolina
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Charlotte is home to 90% of all NASCAR team shops.
- Charlotte doubles for Washington, D.C., in the TV drama, “Homeland.”
- The first gold found in America (1899), a 17-pound nugget, was used as a doorstop for three years.
- Charlotte hosted the first NASCAR stock-car race in 1949.
- There have been at least 57 goldmines in Mecklenburg County where Charlotte is located.
It’s hard to believe that Charlotte, an East Coast city named for a British queen, was America’s first Gold Rush town and that the hunt for riches was on in this neighborhood well before the big strikes in California and Alaska. It’s true, and the first big find, a 17-pound nugget found near Charlotte, was sold for $3.50, one-thousandths of its value at the time.
After a second major gold strike near Charlotte’s city center (1825), goldmines were opened under areas in the city, and Charlotte soon hosted a U.S. Mint branch (making only gold coins), but only until the Civil War intervened (1861).
However, gold didn’t and doesn’t define Charlotte. Rather, after the Civil War, it blossomed into the state’s largest metropolis as a railroad hub and major textile center. This set the stage to transition the city into a 21st century center of commerce and finance. It is America’s No. 2 financial center after New York. All of which is a long way of saying Charlotte naturally attracts business travelers but the city also has much of what vacationers seek in a holiday.
For starters, Charlotte has natural appeal for lovers of stock cars because it’s the heartland for NASCAR racing. Fans come for the racing and take advantage of a variety of related attractions, museums and activities, as well. Besides, sports fans show up for the NBA and NFL teams.
The so-called Queen City (the eponymous Charlotte was George III’s queen) offers a full slate of cultural choices, too — opera, a symphony, theater and a host of museums — plus historic attractions associated with the antebellum era or earlier and some appealing historic neighborhoods. The much newer (1992) Bank of America building is worth a visit, too.
Charlotte has standing as a foodie destination, plus it boasts enough breweries and vineyards to warrant tasting tours for lovers of either libation. Nightlife is varied and lively. One former textile mill is the NC Music Factory.
Finally, the city offers green space — more than 14,000 acres of parks, two manmade lakes and 19 recreational centers, enough for the ambitious active traveler.
Things to do for Venturers
- At Lake Norman just north of town, choose your sport — sailing or rowing, wakeboarding or waterskiing. Or paddle on the world’s largest manmade recirculating river at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
- Make a night of it at the NC Music Factory. The former textile mill is home to more than a dozen music, dining and nightlife hotspots. Or check out the hip and historic Plaza Midwood neighborhood, where entertainment may be heavy metal or bluegrass, karaoke or dancing — or something else.
- You could choose a ghost-themed walking tour, but how about the city’s Haunted Bike Pub Crawl?
- Drive several laps at up to 165mph in a NASCAR vehicle at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s the Richard Petty Driving Experience. (Visitors can ride shotgun if they prefer.)
- Visit one of the area race shops for behind-the-scenes views of racing teams working on cars and practicing for pit stops. You also can shop for race gear if the need arises.
- Get on the WindSeeker at the city’s Carowinds theme park. The thrill ride, at 30 stories high, offers great views to those who keep their eyes open.
Things to do for Centrics
- Follow in the footsteps of the stars of Showtime’s “Homeland.” Sites include the NC Music Factory, Freedom Park, SouthPark Mall, Duke Mansion and the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte.
- If a fan, allow time to explore the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Test yourself at the facility’s racing simulators.
- If an even more serious fan, follow the Dale Trail through Kannapolis, the birthplace of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Also, in May, there is the Food Lion Speed Street 600 Festival, a celebration of all things NASCAR.
- Try regional or just quirky foods, such as barbecue, fried pickles or fried green tomatoes. Join one of the city’s food-themed walking and tasting tours.
- See Charlotte and the Piedmont from a hot-air balloon.
- Tour the Muddy River Distillery, maker of rum, then buy a bottle to take home — in checked luggage if flying. Or, tour and taste the goods at the NoDa Brewing Company. (Area wine touring and wine festivals are options, too.)
Things to do for Authentics
- Attend a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. And, take a tour of the racing facility.
- Play golf by day. Choose a stage show for the evening. Make that the Charlotte Shakespeare Festival if the timing is right.
- Catch up on your history — at least the area’s history, at the Levine Museum of the New South. See the Rosedale and Latta plantations, too.
- Watch the local pro basketball team, the Hornets, in action. The name comes from a crack the British General Cornwallis made during the American Revolution when his men drew fire from locals. He said Charlotte was a “hornet’s nest.”
- Learn about the life of the evangelist with a visit to the Billy Graham Library.
- Bring the kids to Discovery Place, one of the country’s top science museums. Also, they (and you) can pan for gold at the site of the nation’s first scramble for gold, Reed Gold Mine.
For more information, consult Visit Charlotte at www.charlottesgotalot.com