Charlotte is an ambitious and very rapidly growing city in the southern part of central North Carolina. It is the largest city in the state with a population of 756,912 (2010 estimate) residents within the city limits. As of 2006, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury combined statistical area (CSA) had a regional population of 2,389,763, and Charlotte is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. It is the center of finance, industry, technology, and entertainment for the region. Primarily known in the past as a business center, Charlotte is steadily developing its fledgling tourist industry; currently its central core is one of the most visitor-friendly districts in the Carolinas.
Charlotte's central district, and the location of its somewhat oversized skyline as well as the center of Charlotte's commerce, culture, and government, with most of the bustle centered around Tryon Street, the "Main Street" of the city. The district is home to several Fortune 500 headquarters, museums, nightclubs, restaurants, parks, city and county government offices and theaters. It is generally agreed that the word "uptown" refers to anything inside the I-277 loop.
NoDa, short for North Davidson Street, is one of Charlotte's most eclectic and original neighborhoods. About two miles north of the center city, this old mill district has been revitalized by artists moving in and is now home to street level art galleries, several restaurants and other unique shops as well as a popular "gallery crawl".
Close to Uptown in the corridor formed by Tryon Street and South Blvd along the light rail line, this old mill district has been gradually converted into a hip, semi-upscale entertainment/cultural district that is also home to Charlotte's emerging design industry. This district is also possibly the best place in town to take a walk with children, with its ice cream shops, a trolley museum and several kids-oriented stores.
Similar in some ways to NoDa and South End, but a little rougher around the edges because of its alternative and non-conformist crowd. This vibrant neighborhood is home to several local institutions such as: The Diamond (a popular diner), several consignment shops, the famous Nova bakery and local galleries that rival even the most popular ones in Noda.
Once located altogether outside the city, Myers Park is near the heart of modern-day Charlotte. Its reputation as an "old money" neighborhood is accentuated by its beautiful tree-lined and winding avenues. Home to some of Charlotte's oldest and most expensive homes as well as Queens University of Charlotte and Freedom Park. A driving tour of Myers Park is a popular way for tourists to get acquainted with the neighborhood.
Charlotte's first "streetcar suburb", Dilworth has never lost its reputation as a desirable place to make home. In recent years the neighborhood has blossomed into an upscale district dotted with eateries and galleries. The promise of increased public transit service has added even more development to this already walkable neighborhood.
An affluent district in south-central Charlotte, and home to the city's second-largest business district. SouthPark is a newer suburb whose development has mostly occurred in the last 40 years, but it has quickly developed into a semi-urban concentration of office buildings, high rise condos, hotels and entertainment options.
Just outside of Uptown, Elizabeth reflects a transition between elegant Myers Park and gritty Plaza-Midwood. Its tree-lined streets and quiet residential blocks provide an air of relaxation, but its commercial blocks are among the city's most colorful. Sometimes characterized as "a poor man's Dilworth", Elizabeth is coming into its own as a center of activity.
A sprawling 1970s-style suburban district, focused around the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This area is on the city's northeast side and is largely an area in transition, having formerly been mostly rural or affluent suburbs and now drawing in minority groups and young families. Aside from the University and related research centers, this area is also home to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (now known as PNC Music Pavilion), a well-defined "downtown" cluster of hotels and retail centers, and many square miles of sprawling shopping centers.
A somewhat ambiguous, but distinctive, area covering a large portion of the city's eastern end. East Charlotte contains the city's largest concentration of immigrants, and is mostly a middle- to lower-class area. Much of the east side is depressed and unattractive, but it contains some of Charlotte's most interesting cultural development. Virtually any kind of ethnic food can be found here, and much of the city's "street life" gravitates toward this area.
The most recent large-scale development in Charlotte, Ballantyne is located at the far southern edge of the city. Sprawling and suburban in nature, it is noted for its luxurious "mini-mansions", upscale retail, large hotels and corporate buildings, and distinguished country club. Ballantyne is mostly residential in nature and most tourist attraction is generated by the Ballantyne Resort.
An area known well for its poverty and crime. This section of town constantly has to battle a lack of proper groceries and a high murder rate. Real Estate in West Charlotte is far cheaper than other neighborhoods in Charlotte. Most of the property is not owner occupied. It has close access to uptown and the airport.
Heavy growth in the past 20 years has made Charlotte one of the nation's largest and most successful cities in the South. In many ways, the city is still trying to catch up to its own growth; visitors often comment that it seems understated in terms of culture and development. However, it is changing at a breathtaking speed. A very rapid influx of population and business investment has given it one of the most dynamic urban areas in the region.
- Charlotte Info Center, 330 S Tryon St and 200 E Seventh St in Uptown, plus a third location inside the airport, ☎ , toll-free: . Brochures, souvenirs, and advice are available for first-time visitors as well as long-time residents. Along with the public library, this is the best place to go if you are looking for a concentrated source of information about the city. It is worth checking out the brochures for self-guided walking and driving tours.
Charlotte's earliest settlers were Presbyterians of Scots-Irish descent who built a small courthouse, marketplace and village at the intersection of ancient Native American trading paths (the actual intersection is the Square formed by Trade and Tryon Streets) during the middle of the 18th Century. Both Charlotte and Mecklenburg County were named in honor of the Germanic wife of King George III of England. In addition, the main thoroughfare (Tryon St.) was named in tribute to the English Governor of the day. The establishment of a courthouse made Charlotte the seat of Mecklenburg County, and it was known for little more in its early days.
Charlotte's early residents were fiercely independent, in accordance with their rural Protestant heritage. The city was known as a hotbed of separatism well prior to the American Revolution, culminating in the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (signed a year prior to the American equivalent). The Square was the site of a minor skirmish with Cornwallis' army, which led to the city's characterization as a "hornet's nest" of rebellion. Nevertheless, the city remained a relatively obscure village, and was dubbed a "trifling place" by visiting President George Washington.
The first signs of economic prosperity came to Charlotte with the discovery of a huge gold nugget at the site of modern-day Reed's Gold Mine. This triggered the United States' first gold rush, and dotted Mecklenburg County with gold mines. The mines contributed low-grade gold to the city's street-paving program, which led to the joke that the streets were literally paved with gold in Charlotte. Eventually the city earned the establishment of a U.S. Mint for currency production on modern-day Mint St. Perhaps most importantly, the city positioned itself as a railroad hub. With several lines intersecting in Charlotte, the city became a major destination for farmers wishing to distribute their tobacco and cotton crops nationwide. These events presaged Charlotte's future as a city of commerce and distribution.
Thankfully, Charlotte was mostly spared the wide-scale destruction of the Civil War. The city contributed troops to the Confederate effort, many of whom are buried in the Confederate graveyard at modern-day Elmwood Cemetery. Curiously, landlocked Charlotte briefly became the home to the Confederate Naval Yard near the end of the war, as a result of its railroad connections. Also, the city was host to the final full meeting of the Confederate Cabinet, and Jefferson Davis was standing on Tryon St when informed of Lincoln's assassination (Davis' widow later retired to Charlotte). Generally, though, Charlotte was fortunate to play a relatively minor role in the devastating conflict. Its main casualty was the loss of the Mint, which was shut down for obvious reasons by the Union government.
Charlotte has been noted as one of the South's most resilient cities in the wake of the Civil War. Having been spared the widespread destruction of cities such as Atlanta and Columbia, Charlotte was relatively free of obligations to rebuild infrastructure. It jumped quickly onto the "New South" bandwagon, increasing its ties to the railroads and mill industry. Some of the major mills established here after the War are still standing, and have mostly been converted into modern businesses and condominiums. Perhaps most importantly, Charlotte was a site of heavy financial investment by "carpetbaggers" (northern transplants who were eyed with suspicion or outright hostility). These upstart banks were the predecessors to Charlotte's modern banking giants.
At the turn of the century, Charlotte was still a small town in spite of its favorable position. But by the 1950s, it had exploded into the largest city in the Carolinas. Aggressive businessmen transformed the city into a financial juggernaut, and the distribution industry made a smooth transition from the railroad-dominated 19th century into the automotive 20th century. As the local textile and furniture industries faltered, Charlotte invested its energy into finance and transportation, enabling it to avoid the depressions suffered in many other Carolinas cities. By the 1970s, the city was into a full-scale economic boom. The population skyrocketed with immigration from around the USA and foreign countries. The city skyline began to transform as office towers sprouted on an almost yearly basis, and the suburbs pushed farther toward the county borders. By the end of the century, Charlotte had transformed from mill town into metropolis.
It could be said that Charlotte's greatest struggle is with its own identity. The city remains tied to its roots as a giant of finance and transportation, but has diversified as it has grown. The rapid growth of the late-20th century lead to the unfortunate demolition of much of the city's historical infrastructure, giving Uptown a glittering feeling of newness despite its 250-year history. The city continues to focus on the development of its core, despite the explosion of suburban communities out of Mecklenburg County and into surrounding towns. One thing is definite, though: all indications are that the city will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, making it one of the United States' most prominent metro areas in the next decade.
The city is full of "transplants" from New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, and a considerable immigrant population. Nevertheless, the city still has a sizeable population of locals who can remember when the city was still a medium-sized town centered around railroad distribution. Like most Southern cities, Charlotte has a large African-American population. Also, it has a significant community of Asian descent, and a very rapidly growing Hispanic population. What was once a white-and-black city has become increasingly colorful with each passing decade.
Charlotte's physical arrangement reflects the growth trends of the 20th Century. Like most Southern American cities, it is "sprawled" over a relatively wide area for its size. Most of the city is suburban in nature, and most of those suburbs are less than 50 years old although some nearby towns such as Mint Hill date back well into the 1700s. These suburbs are encircled by the partially-completed I-485.
However, unlike many of its peers, Charlotte has a very dense urban core that functions as an axis for its business and cultural life. The center of the city is therefore the primary destination for tourists and business travelers.
What is often lost in this arrangement is a diverse, colorful ring of "inner suburbs" that lie in the zone between the core and the new suburban development. Most of Charlotte's most unique neighborhoods lie in this ring, as well as most of the city's "underground" activity. As a result, these areas have a highly local flavor and are just beginning to be discovered by tourists.
The major language is English. In recent years, the number of foreign-language establishments has begun to rise. In particular, Spanish-speaking shops and restaurants have become numerous on the city's east side. Also, there are a fair number of Asian establishments as well. There is a large shopping area called "Asian Corners", and a part of the east side nicknamed "little Hanoi". It is worth noting, however, that these areas make up a relatively small part of the English-dominated city.
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The temperature ranges from about 14 °F (-10 °C) to 104 °F (40 °C). On average, a summer high is about 90 °F (32 °C) and a winter low is about 32 °F (0 °C). Charlotte receives 43.52 in (1105.3 mm) of precipitation annually, most of which is in the form of rain (though there is some snow and ice in the winter). Charlotte is not as well equipped for snow and ice as more northerly cities; significant accumulations of snow (more than 2 cm) or ice on the roads can disrupt activity city-wide. Usually, this includes the closing of local businesses and schools, and happens about once a year on average. Charlotte's inland location usually protects it from being hit directly from Atlantic hurricanes (the most recent exception being Hurricane Hugo in 1989), though it often receives heavy rains due to passing tropical systems.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (IATA: CLT) is on the west side of town near Billy Graham Parkway. A special bus line called Sprinter runs regularly between the airport and Uptown. The airport is a major domestic and international hub for Star Alliance member US Airways. US Airways serves over 120 domestic destinations from Charlotte/Douglas and over 35 international destinations, including Rome, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, Madrid, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, among many others. The airport also receives flights from most other major airlines. Lufthansa, also aligned with Star Alliance, is the only foreign transoceanic carrier, with service to Munich. Air Canada has service to Toronto. Insel Air has flights to Curaçao. Though the airport has diversified somewhat in the past few years, US Airways domestic flights are still its primary source of traffic. Due to this dominance by a single carrier, finding fare bargains can be a challenge.
Passengers flying on US Airways, JetBlue,or Lufthansa, will arrive and depart from Concourse B, C, D, or E. Concourse D is the airports international concourse. All other airlines arrive and depart from Concourse A.
Don't worry if you get hungry at CLT – the airport is home to many restaurants and shops. While many of the restaurants are decently priced, the shops are not - charging upwards of $2 for a Coke.
For those who need to remain connected, free WiFi is available at the Bank of America Business center, located in the central concourse. The center has multiple electrical outlets, comfy chairs, and several restaurants nearby. Throughout the airport free WiFi is available. Connect to the SSID CLTNET.
Taxis charge a flat $25 rate for a trip from the airport to Uptown (for one or two passengers; additional charges apply for groups).
The Amtrak station is on North Tryon near Dalton, on bus route 11 (North Tryon). Charlotte is the southern end of the Carolinian and Piedmont lines, which head north to Raleigh, with the Carolinian continuing to New York City. It's also a stop along the Crescent between New York City and Atlanta and New Orleans, however this train passes through Charlotte very late at night. If you arrive by train, be aware that this area is relatively seedy. Though you will be safe in and around the station, it is not a good idea to "wing it" once you arrive. Try to pre-arrange travel from the station to your next destination; walking is not recommended. A #11 bus meets each arriving Carolinian and Piedmont train to take passengers to Uptown.
The interstate highways through Charlotte are Interstates 85 (northeast-southwest) and 77 (north-south). I-85 takes you to Burlington and Greensboro. N.C. 74 is also a primary route into the city, and links with I-277.
- Greyhound. The station is just northwest of Uptown and is served by buses 8 (Tuckaseegee), 34 (Freedom Dr), and 7 (Beatties Ford).
- Megabus. Service from Atlanta, Athens, Durham, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.. Buses arrive and depart along Whitton St between Dewitt Ln and South Blvd, near the Scaleybark LYNX station. Fares from $1 and up.
Uptown is very dense, and almost all attractions in that part of town are easily reached by walking. However, only a few other districts (such as NoDa and Dilworth) are truly pedestrian-friendly. Outer districts, such as Ballantyne and University City, are pedestrian-unfriendly areas. If you must walk, give some thought to the weather; summer days in the South are quite hot and it is easy to get dehydrated.
Uptown is laid out in a grid, with numbered streets running east-west with few exceptions. Streets running north-south have proper names. Charlotte's outer suburbs are often difficult to navigate. Most roads are built according to the natural lay of the land; once you leave the I-277 loop, you are likely to find it increasingly difficult to predict the direction (and often, the name) of the road you are traveling on. Therefore, it is a good idea to make certain your directions are specific and trustworthy before venturing into an unknown area. Otherwise, you will likely find yourself relying on the (usually) friendly natives for directions back to your starting point.
Note that while I-277 has been completed for some time, I-485 is incomplete and still under construction. The northwestern quadrant of I-485 is still missing, but the rest of the freeway is quite useful for circling the perimeter of the city.
Similarly, I-277 is very useful when moving quickly around the center city. However, it is important to understand that one side of the "loop" is actually I-77, which interchanges with I-277 in two places. It is easy to misread the signs and end up moving farther along I-77 rather than circling back onto I-277. When using the loop, be sure to follow signs for "Downtown" in order to stay on the correct path.
Secondary roads in Charlotte are notoriously difficult to navigate. In particular, visitors and residents alike are often befuddled by frequent name changes in the roads. To make matters worse, many roads in the city share similar names. Also, very few of the city's roads are based on a grid or similarly organized system; most of the roads outside the city core are winding avenues that follow the natural features of the land.
The city can be a delight to explore by car, but visitors are strongly advised to pick up a free map or purchase a road map upon arrival. A GPS unit with the most current updates can, of course, make travel in and around Charlotte immensely more enjoyable.
By public transit
Available to any part of Charlotte. There are several prominent companies, and unlike larger cities (for instance, New York City or London) the design of the vehicles is not uniform. However, a taxi is always recognizable by a sign on the roof of the car. If the taxi is vacant, the sign will be lit up; if it has a passenger, the sign will be off. It is customary to give a tip to cab drivers, especially if they help you with luggage or other items. It is usually a good idea to inquire about the fare before boarding if you are planning to make a longer trip; Charlotte's sprawled-out nature can lead to high fares for trips outside the center city.
Cab fares in Charlotte are regulated by the city, and are consistent for all companies. The "drop charge" (pickup rate) is $2.50, and each 1/5th mile is $0.50. During weekday rush hours (7-9AM and 4-6PM), you will also be charged $0.50 for every minute spent in stopped traffic. For a direct one-way trip to or from the airport, the rate is a flat $25. You can save money by sharing a cab with a companion, but be aware that there is a $2 charge for each person after 2.
By light rail
LYNX Blue Line light rail corridor is a rapid and efficient way to commute from Uptown to the southern edges of Mecklenburg County. It stops at major Uptown destination (Time Warner Cable Arena, the Convention Center), travels through South End, and proceeds along South Blvd all the way down to I-485. Frequency varies from 7–10 minutes on weekdays to 20–30 minutes on weekends. Fares are $2 for a one-way ticket (discounts for seniors and youth) and $6 for a day pass. Tickets are good for 90 minutes and allow for transfer to CATS transit buses.
Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) operates transit service throughout the Charlotte area. Most bus routes start at the teal-roofed Transportation Center in Uptown (across the street from the Time Warner Cable Arena) and go toward the suburbs like spokes on a wheel (roughly). Though they are generally clean and safe, they are usually not the most efficient way to get around the city. Bus fare is $2 one-way, $6 for a day pass. Allow 45 minutes for a one-leg trip, 2 hours for a two-leg trip. Bus transfers can be used on the LYNX light rail and are valid for an hour and 45 minutes after issue. Also, be aware of the colorfully-painted buses in the suburbs that connect neighborhoods to primary routes.
Charlotte Trolley is a replica streetcar system that operates on the LYNX line between the South End and Uptown. The Trolley stops at LYNX Light Rail stations in Uptown and South End as well as stops at Morehead and 9th St.
Some parts of Charlotte are very friendly to cyclists, especially the south-central area around Myers Park and Dilworth, but be aware that most of the city is not friendly toward bikers. It is a good idea to research in advance to identify streets with designated bike lanes on the right-hand side of the road. Be aware that bicycles are subject to the same traffic laws as cars. Helmets are recommended but not required for adults.
- Charlotte B-Cycle. Bike sharing program with nearly two dozen stations primarily in Uptown, Southend, and Elizabeth. $8/24 hours.
- Charlotte with children - itinerary for travellers with children
There are numerous museums and historic sites scattered throughout the city, especially in and near Uptown. In recent years, a "museum district" has arisen on Tryon Street on the south side of Uptown. The highlights of this district are the Mint Museum of Art and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, both housed in stunning buildings and holding impressive collections of modern and contemporary art. Nearby, adjacent to the convention center, is the new NASCAR Hall of Fame, a slick museum with plenty of interactive exhibits and race cars on view. The north side of Uptown is home to two of the city's best museums, Discovery Place, an acclaimed children's and science museum, and the Levine Museum of the New South, which has a fantastic collection of historical artifacts and displays illustrating the history of the South since the Civil War.
- Carolinas Aviation Museum, 4108 Airport Dr (at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport), ☎ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM. This is a big attraction for aviation fanatics. This museum features a wide variety of resources including historic and restored airplanes, air shows and a library (by research request only). Because it is located at Charlotte-Douglas, it is the only attraction in the city that can be reached by airplane. If you want to meet people working on restoring the airplanes, come on a Tuesday or Thursday. (It is also a great place to watch takeoffs and landings at the airport.)
- Bojangles' Coliseum, 2700 E Independence Blvd, ☎ . Historic domed arena in southeast Charlotte on NC-74. Once the largest concrete free-standing dome in the world, it has played host to Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and many sporting events. Currently used for community events, conventions and smaller musical acts. Formerly known as Cricket Arena and Independence Arena.
- Memorial Stadium, 310 N Kings Dr, ☎ . Adjacent to the CPCC campus south of Uptown, with a spectacular skyline view. Generally used for smaller events such as high school and college football games and band competitions.
- Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 707 Pavilion Boulevard, ☎ . This is the venue for big shows in Charlotte. You can get on the lawn for cheaper than seating under the canopy, but you may not be able to see the performers except on the huge big screen.
- Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E Trade St., ☎ . Located downtown and home to the Charlotte Bobcats, this venue hosts a number of musical and sports-related shows each year.
- Ballantyne Village Theatre, 14815 John J. Delaney Dr, ☎ . Brand-new theater in the southern suburb of Ballantyne. Noted for its bold decision to show independent films on only 4 screens, despite being part of the landmark Ballantyne Village shopping center. Pitches its product as a "luxury" experience with fine dining and other amenities nearby.
- Belmont Drive-In, 314 McAdenville Rd, Belmont, ☎ . A traditional drive-in movie theater, located off NC-74 in the nearby town of Belmont. Very strongly recommended for visitors looking for "local color". Extremely cheap compared to a regular theater ($6 per car, regardless of how many people you cram in), welcoming of pets and kids, and serves pretty good concessions. Typically shows 2-3 movies in an evening, and you're free to leave at any time.
- Regal Manor Twin, 609 Providence Rd, ☎ . The quintessential independent theater in Charlotte, and the oldest cinema that is still in operation. There are only two screens, and parking is limited, but this is generally the place to find that indie that you can't find anywhere else in the region.
There are several major theaters and a few fringe groups scattered throughout the city, especially in and near Uptown.
- The Children's Theatre of Charlotte, 300 E 7th St, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 1PM-6PM. For weekend evening performances ImaginOn re-opens one hour prior to performance time. Box Office hours M-F 10AM-5PM, and one hour prior to all performances for walk-up guests (box office phones are not answered on weekends). Founded in 1948, it has been opening young minds to the wonders of live theater for over half a century. Annually, it reaches more than 320,000 young people and families from preschool to late teens, with four program areas: MainStage productions; Tarradiddle Players, the professional touring company; and Community Involvement Program. Ticket prices vary.
- Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, 650 E Stonewall St, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 1PM-6PM. Highly awarded professional theater in existence since 1989. Diverse dramas and musicals fill the seasons here and no production fails. Besides their main stage productions, the theater is home to a late night series called 650 which are usually free, otherwise- ticket prices vary.
- Carolina Actor's Studio Theatre (CAST), 1118 Clement Ave, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 1PM-6PM. Tucked back in the Plaza- Midwood area is a space that prides itself on diverse EXPERIENTIAL theater. Many productions incorporate multi-media and other performing art forms and is the most daring of the spaces around the city. The theater has two intimate spaces, including the 'boxagon' which has a rotating stage. Ticket prices vary.
- Theatre Charlotte, 501 Queens Rd, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-4PM, closed Su. With a production history dating from 1927, is Charlotte's oldest arts organization as well as the oldest continually producing community theater in the state.
- Charlotte Comedy Theatre, ☎ . M-Sa 8PM-midnight. The only 'strictly' comedy venue in Charlotte at the moment. Made of up of Charlotte's most notorious improvisers, founded and directed by an 13 year Chicago improv veteran.
- Blumenthal and Spirit Square, 130 N. Tryon St, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 1PM-6PM. The Performing Arts Center has three performance spaces: the 2,100-seat Belk Theater; the 434-seat Booth Playhouse, and the Stage Door Theater which seats 150. The Center presents the Broadway Lights Series, featuring national touring Broadway productions and a wide range of special attractions. Home to the seasons of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Opera Carolina, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Carolina Voices, the Carolinas Concert Association, ArtsTeach, Community School of the Arts, and the Light Factory.
- UNC Charlotte Theatre and Dance, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-4PM. Performs several times throughout the year.
- Central Piedmont Community College Theatre, ☎ . M-Th 9AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-4PM. Performs several times throughout the year and has a professional summer series.
- Collaborative Arts Theatre, ☎ . M-Th 6PM-midnight, F-Sa 9AM-6PM. Founded in 2006, this small award-winning professional theatre company produces contemporary plays in various locations as well as The Charlotte Shakespeare Festival, a popular annual free summer festival, which takes place both outdoors at The Green Uptown and indoors at The McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square.
- Shakespeare Carolina. M-Th 6PM-midnight, F-Sa 9AM-6PM. Founded in 1997, they produce Shakespeare plays during the summer.
- Citizens of the Universe, ☎ . M-Th 6PM-midnight, F-Sa 9AM-6PM. COTU is one of two active fringe theaters in Charlotte. With no set season and no set theater, this company performs in the environment available to them. Hard to catch, this theater specializes in book/ film translations to stage.
- Play!Play! Theatre. M-Th 6PM-midnight, F-Sa 9AM-6PM. Active children's theatre. PlayPlay! creates plays specifically for children ages birth to age 3.
Zoos and aquariums
- Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, 8111 Concord Mills Blvd, Concord, NC, toll-free: .
Professional sports are one of Charlotte's most popular forms of entertainment. Though its roots are primarily in stock car racing, the city offers something for fans of nearly every kind of sport. In particular, its success in the NFL and NBA have given it widespread exposure as a growing sports hub.
NASCAR events take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is technically outside of Charlotte in Concord, North Carolina. Charlotte is the de facto hub of stock car racing in the U.S., with several NASCAR teams based in the city. 3 NASCAR Sprint Cup races take place each season, including the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600. Additionally, Charlotte is the home for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and headquarters, which is located near the Convention Center in Uptown. Each year Charlotte hosts "Speed Street", a large festival featuring various racing-themed attractions and a long list of musical guests. The Carolina Panthers is the city's NFL franchise. Games are played at Bank of America stadium. In 2002, was awarded a new NBA franchise, the Bobcats after the city's first NBA team left for New Orleans in an ugly divorce ending in 2002. These events take place in Uptown.
Minor league sports include the Charlotte Knights (AAA baseball) who play in BB&T Ballpark, one exit past Carowinds. The Charlotte Checkers ice hockey team play in Uptown and is cheap fun (Charlotte was the first city south of Baltimore to host professional hockey and has had a team for most of the last 50 years). The Carolina Speed is the fourth professional indoor football team to be based in Charlotte, with games taking place in East Charlotte. The city also hosts the Charlotte Hounds, a major league lacrosse team. The Charlotte Eagles soccer team play near SouthPark. Charlotte Rugby Football Club, which play northwest of Uptown, and Charlotte Roller Girls, with games in Elizabeth complete a vast list of professional, minor league and club sports to enjoy in the city.
Charlotte has been noted for its "green" appearance, due to its extensive tree canopy and abundance of parks. See the individual district pages for listings of major city parks. Outdoor adventurers may revel in the pleasures offered at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
- The Double Door Inn, 218 E Independence Blvd, ☎ . Legendary for its blues history, and one of the city's most beloved institutions. Any long-time Charlottean will tell you the story about Eric Clapton's impromptu set at the Double Door; a framed newspaper article over the bar is proof. Hosts musical acts on most nights of the week. Very intimate, and more for the drink-and-watch crowd.
- The Evening Muse, 3227 N Davidson St, ☎ . Located in the NoDa district, the Evening Muse is noted for its variety of music ranging from light folk to rockabilly, and open mic on Monday nights.
- The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd, ☎ . Almost forgotten in Charlotte's mainstream entertainment scene, this veteran club has a shockingly prestigious music history—Nirvana, the Flaming Lips, and R.E.M. have all graced the stage here. Though the interior looks like something out of skid row, there is a well-cultivated hipster vibe at the Milestone that is virtually untouched anywhere else in the city. Mention this one in conversation to gauge a friend's true cool-factor.
- Tremont Music Hall, 400 W Tremont Ave, ☎ . Premier stop for National Acts specializing in modern rock, indie rock, punk, hardcore, metal, emo, SKA, roots rock and others. Great place to see a band as you’re never more than 50 ft from the stage.
- Amos' Southend, 1423 S Tryon, ☎ . All types of bands play here especially cover bands.
Golf is a major sport in the Carolinas, and is played nearly year-round due to the mild autumn and spring seasons. Several private, semi-private and country clubs courses are available. Quail Hollow Club hosts the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship each Spring.
- Driving Tours. Queen City Tours covers most of the center city and surrounding area. Note that they offer different types of tour service for different group sizes. This tour shows Uptown, Dilworth and Myers Park.
- Helicopter Tours. North Carolina Rotor and Wing offers a birds' eye view of The Queen City and its surrounding neighborhoods.
- Charlotte 101 Class and Tour. Central Piedmont Community College offers a quarterly combination classroom lecture and tour about the Queen City for 6 hours. Pre-registration required.
- Heroes Convention. Named "America's favorite comic book convention", Heroes Con has been hosted in Charlotte for the past thirty years and is one of the nations largest and most important comic book conventions. It is held every June in the Charlotte Convention Center and lasts for three days.
- CIAA Basketball Tournament. Will come to Charlotte in early March for the next several years. Historically-black colleges from across the country bring their teams, alums and fans to the center city for a week of games. and accompanying parties and conventions. Games are held in Bobcats Arena. Other events take place throughout the city, including a festival along Tryon St.
- St. Patrick's Day Parade. Is not on the scale of Boston or NYC, but always well-attended and a fun time to visit the Irish restaurants Uptown. The parade goes up Tryon St., and the best place to view is at the Square.
- Southern Spring Home and Garden Show. Has brought designers and experts to the city for nearly 50 years. Held in March, and located at the Merchandise Mart. $9 at the door, kids free.
- The Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Memorial Day, Speed Street brings half a million partiers to the center city for major musical acts and events related to the NASCAR All-Star Race. This event shuts down several major streets, and covers the entirety of Uptown with crowds after sundown. Parking is usually stretched to the limit, and hotels will be difficult to find. However, this is an excellent time for hard partiers to see the city at its most active.
- Charlotte is not known as a horse-racing hub, but the Queen's Cup Steeplechase gives the city an event to call its own. Located about 45 minutes from the center city in Mineral Springs. Held in mid-April.
- There is no better time to visit South End than during the Art and Soul of South End Festival in April. Several major events coincide to bring the district a variety of visual art, music and entertainment. Prices vary based on event, but most is free to attend.
- PGA Quail Hollow Championship. Brings the world's best golfers to Quail Hollow Country Club for a weekend in April. As one would expect, there are plenty of wine-and-cheese events associated with the championship. as well as a noticeable upturn in Polo shirts at Uptown clubs.
- Taste of Charlotte. Festival in June is far and away the best time to bring an appetite to the city. Tryon St. closes down for the weekend and many of the city's best restaurants are represented with samples of their signature dishes.
- Fourth of July Fireworks Display has shifted locations several times lately, but is always located somewhere in Uptown. This event draws nearly 100,000 visitors to the center city at once; be prepared to sit in gridlock, especially during the display when streets will come to a complete halt. Using public transit to park-and-ride from another district is recommended.
- Also in July, comic book collectors meet for the annual Heroes Convention at the Convention Center.
- Black Gay Pride Festival has made inroads as an annual festival in July.
- Charlotte Pride is a more general gay-pride festival in August. It has shifted locations, most recently to the Gateway Village area on the edge of Uptown. It has grown significantly since its inception.
- September is one of the best times to visit the city. The city's Labor Day Parade along Tryon St is modest, but a well-established annual event. The month-long Charlotte Shout collaboration includes not only cultural festivals and events, but also a day of free admissions to important cultural locations. For over 40 years, Festival in the Park has transformed Freedom Park into a massive marketplace and fair. The new Charlotte Film Festival is a collaboration between the city's most prominent theaters in and around the center city. Also, the Yiasou Greek Festival is a long-running tradition at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church that draws a huge crowd for its mouth-watering food and unique shopping opportunities.
- The Public Library of Charlotte hosts the Novello Festival of Reading in October. This series of readings and events brings well-known authors (such as Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison) to the city. Prices vary based on event, most of which are held at the Central Branch.
- Scarowinds. Is the city's most unique Halloween event. The Carowinds theme park turns ghoulish after dark, with special decor and events. Though it's a bit pricey, it never draws complaints of overpricing. $29, no kids.
- Carolina Renaissance Festival. Is in late Fall. Located just outside the city, it is a family-friendly reenactment of Elizabethan times. Features a wide array of shopping and themed events. $15 for adults, $5 for children.
- Southern Christmas Show. In late November is one of the region's biggest holiday shopping events. The Merchandise Mart on E Independence Blvd hosts the event. $8 at the door for adults, $3 for kids. $6 per car to park all day.
- EclecFest. Is a fledgling November festival in NoDa, started by the owner of a local bookstore. A combination flea market and cultural festival, this event is a good way to get introduced to the stores and locals of NoDa. Parking is typically available on and around N. Davidson St.
- Charlotte International Auto Show. Brings various dealers and buyers together. Located in the Convention Center and usually in November. Adults $8, kids free.
- Carrousel Thanksgiving Day Parade. Is one of the city's most beloved annual events. Televised regionally, this parade has run along Tryon St for half a century. A great time to visit.
- Charlotte Collectible and Antique Show. Comes to Metrolina Expo on Statesville Rd. each December. The name says it all: shopping opportunities abound. $5, kids free.
- For college football fans, the Belk Bowl is a chance to catch a great game as well as a football-themed festival. An ACC team and a Big East team close out their seasons in Bank of America Stadium. Price varies year-to-year.
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte UNC Charlotte is a public research university that is home to over 25,000 graduate and undergraduate students. It is the fourth largest university in North Carolina.
- Johnson C. Smith University - A historically African-American university located just outside Uptown. The centerpiece of the historic Biddleville community, J.C. Smith's campus is a picturesque gateway to the north/west side of the city.
- Queens University of Charlotte Queens University of Charlotte is a private, coed, masters level university with 2,600 graduate and undergraduate students. It is affiliated with Presbyterian USA.
- Central Piedmont Community College - CPCC has been a part of the Charlotte landscape for almost 50 years. It has six campuses located throughout Mecklenburg County and serves more than 70,000 students a year.
Charlotte is a city that thrives on big business (specifically banking and is thus the second leading banking center in the country). Its most visible employers are Wells Fargo/Wachovia (the city's largest employer), Bank of America, Duke Energy, Nucor, Sonic Automotive, Continental Tire NA, SPX, Lowe's and Family Dollar. Though the Uptown area has the largest concentration of business offices, the entire metro area has sprouted office and industrial parks. In particular, the gleaming mid rises of SouthPark and Ballantyne are worth noting if you're in those areas. There are several Fortune 500 companies and is regularly listed as one of the U.S.'s fastest-growing business areas, as well as one of the best places to do business in the nation.
One of Charlotte's biggest weaknesses is the relative lack of retail shopping in the center city. Though this will change somewhat in the near future, you will generally have to venture into the suburbs to do your shopping. As with most American cities, most retail is in malls and shopping centers, though some areas (especially the inner suburbs) have stores along the streets.
- Metropolitan Midtown, just outside the central business district, is the redevelopment of the former Charlottetown Mall. Concord Mills is not technically in Charlotte, but is the largest shopping destination in the region. Carolina Place Mall is a large mall near the southern city line, convenient to the southern suburbs and stateline. Eastland Mall is an older Charlotte mall that is slated for a revitalization while Northlake Mall is a new mall in north Charlotte, convenient to the University area and Lake Norman area. SouthPark Mall is arguably Charlotte's largest and most upscale mall, 6 mi south of center city. Belgate features the first IKEA store in the Carolinas.
- If you are looking to shop outside the commercial retail sector, try exploring some of the districts just outside the I-277 loop. In particular, the Dilworth and Plaza-Midwood areas are good places to visit unique, funky stores. East Blvd. (upscale) and Thomas St. (downscale) are both good places to find unusual items.
- There are several market-style locations scattered across the city. There is a "green market" during the warmer months on E 7th St near Tryon, the EclecFest market (every second Saturday) behind the Neighborhood Theater on N. Davidson St., and many flea markets in and around the city.
For the most part, Charlotte's culinary tastes are in line with the rest of the American South. Standards such as grits, sweet potatoes (yams), and greens are common in kitchens and restaurants. Southern food is typically high in fats and carbohydrates, so dieters should be careful to stick to higher-end restaurants that serve a more cosmopolitan fare. Otherwise, dig in and enjoy the richness of the Southern diet.
Many of Charlotte's older restaurants are owned by Greek families. Often, you will unexpectedly find Greek items on the menus of restaurants that otherwise serve American fare.
North Carolinians have long been fiercely competitive about their barbecue, and Charlotte's eateries reflect that heritage. Outsiders beware: Carolinas "barbeque" is chopped and sauced pork. The sauce will depend on which region it comes from (east or west), and it all works well as a sandwich (though you usually get to choose between sandwich or plate). Barbecue sandwiches are invariably served with slaw (either a vinegar-based red slaw, or a mayonnaise-based white slaw) on the meat, though it will be left out or on the side if you request. This is a local custom and one of the many things that makes Charlotte and more generally NC interesting.
"Carolinas style" hamburgers and hot dogs are typically served with mustard, chili, and cole slaw, though some restaurants will vary their toppings slightly to create a "signature".
Krispy Kreme donuts are headquartered in nearby Winston-Salem, and are widely available. Also, Lance Snacks is based in Charlotte.
The dominant local grocery chains are Harris Teeter and Food Lion, both owned by N.C. companies. Harris Teeter is relatively expensive but more upscale. Food Lion is a middle-class favorite, and usually has an extensive ethnic section. Other groceries include Bi-Lo, ALDI, Lowes Foods, and Bloom (a high-tech spin off of Food Lion). The city is also dotted with dozens of ethnic groceries, especially Hispanic, Indian and Vietnamese. Check out Compare Foods stores dotted around the city.
The specialty grocery store scene is also growing, as Charlotte has three Trader Joe's stores, two Earth Fare stores and two Fresh Markets. These stores specialize in natural and organic foods. For something a little bit more local, try the Home Economist or the quaint Berrybrook Farms.
One spot particularly popular with locals is Amelie's French Bakery, located on North Davidson Street in NoDa. Amelie's is open 24/7 and has a wide selection of French pastries and baked goods, as well as coffees and teas. There is also a satellite location Uptown.
Liquor is available by the drink in the city of Charlotte. However, some smaller towns in the region prohibit liquor sales. If you plan to explore nearby counties, there is a chance you may encounter a "dry" area. Open containers of alcohol are never permitted on the street; if you order a beverage you must finish it before leaving the restaurant or bar. If you want to buy liquor by the bottle, you must do it at state-run ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) stores, rather than at traditional liquor stores. Beer and wine are available for purchase at most markets, grocery stores and gas stations.
Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soft drink, is a local favorite. Sundrop, available in a unique citrus blend and cherry-lemon, is based out of Gastonia and is a favorite among locals. R.C. Cola is also a "traditional" Southern soft drink.
If you are not from the American South, you may be surprised to see sweet iced tea is the predominant non-carbonated drink (and is arguably sweeter).
The city's nightlife is centered in Uptown, which is host to a wide variety of nightclubs. The largest concentration of clubs in the city is around College St. near its intersection with 5th St.; however, a quick check of local listing reveals plenty of alternatives for those who are seeking a more reserved atmosphere. See district listings for more details. There is also a large cluster of bars on Montford Dr. in Myers Park. These bars often run cooperative "bar crawl" events with one another.
If you are not driving or renting a car during your visit, it is highly advisable to try to find lodging near the center city (these can be found in the district articles). Otherwise you will be stuck paying cab and bus fares, and you will find it quite difficult to move around as freely as you'd like. Most of the city's large hotels are located either uptown, near the airport, or in the University area. There are also some luxury hotels appearing in Ballantyne, and there are the typical options off the highways and interstate exits.
Below are listings for locations near the airport and Carowinds theme park, neither of which belong to a designated district.
- AmeriSuites Charlotte/Coliseum, 4119 S Stream Blvd, ☎ , fax: +1 704 357-8555. Formerly this hotel’s main attraction was its proximity to the Charlotte Coliseum. Since the Coliseum’s closing in 2005, it is now primarily a business hotel with relatively convenient access to the airport. Offers a complimentary airport shuttle and has rooms designed for business travelers. Fitness center, breakfast buffet, pool. $90.
- Microtel Inns and Suites (Airport), 3412 S I-85 Service Rd, ☎ . Good low-fare option for business travelers planning to fly into the city. Immediate access to I-85 lets you get about the city quickly. $50.
- Hyatt Summerfield Suites Charlotte Airport, 4920 S Tryon St, ☎ . In the center of a Fortune 500 corridor, 3 mi from downtown and major convention centers.
- La Quinta Inn and Suites, 4900 S Tryon St, ☎ . Air travelers enjoy. From the hotel, you have a short drive to the airport and a straight shot through South End into Uptown. Fitness center, pool, hot tub. $50–$115.
- Red Roof Inn, 3300 Queen City Dr, ☎ . Nothing fancy, but cheaper than most hotels in the area. This is an economy chain, so the rooms are sparse but clean. Immediate access to the airport and surrounding amenities. $55.
- Renaissance Suites, 2800 Coliseum Centre Dr, ☎ . In the past, this hotel was situated ideally for sports and other events.
- Wingate South Atlantic, 4238 Business Center Dr, ☎ , toll-free: . Whether you’re traveling to the South Atlantic for business or pleasure, rest easy knowing there’s a Wingate by Wyndham Hotel conveniently located and well-equipped to accommodate your every need. $90.
- MainStay Suites Extended Stay Hotel, 7926 Forest Pine Dr, ☎ . Pet-friendly, cater towards people traveling for business, or for people just taking extended vacations.
The city of Charlotte has mandatory 10-digit dialing, so you must include the area code even on local calls. Charlotte has two area codes: 704 and 980.
There are some public pay phones scattered around the city, but they are becoming increasingly rare with the predominance of cell phones. It is not safe to assume you will be able to find a pay phone at any given time.
All ZIP codes in the city of Charlotte begin with 282. The central district's code is 28202.
Though the crime rate is not astronomical, Charlotte is still a city—don't let your guard all the way down. If you are uptown, the biggest worry is auto theft/break-in, which is hardly rampant. Violent crime is relatively rare in the central district, as well as the affluent southern side of town. The most dangerous areas are the west and east sides.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) almost always maintain a visible presence in crowded areas. If you have trouble, look for an officer. Note that in certain parts of the city the police are deployed on bikes as well as cars.
Charlotte is not a good allergy city, due to the abundance of flowering trees and greenspace.
Smog has become an increasing concern in recent years, as the city becomes more populated and in turn hosts more auto traffic. Local authorities monitor ozone levels and make public announcements when "vulnerable" groups (children, the elderly, etc.) are at risk. These announcements are carried on local television, radio, and newspapers.
North Carolina is known as "Tobacco Road", and cigarettes are almost ubiquitous in Charlotte. However, due to changing attitudes about smoking, North Carolina passed a law that went into effect in January 2010 banning smoking in all bars and restaurants in the state. It is still legal to smoke on the street, though you may want to be considerate of others if you are in a crowded area. Smoking is also permitted at most nightclubs provided they do not serve food. At concert venues (such as Bobcats Arena) there are outdoor decks for smokers.
In general, it is a good idea to be polite about smoking... whether you smoke or not. If you smoke, try to do it in an area in which others won't be bothered by it. If you are a non-smoker, be aware in advance of whether you will likely be bothered by smoke in a particular place. In North Carolina people tend to be much less sensitive to smoking than in other parts of the country, so you will likely be received with a bit of bewilderment if you make a scene about it.
Library branches are scattered across the city, and vary in size and function. Typically there are street signs nearby to direct you toward the nearest branch. Also, there are substantial libraries at each of the local universities.
- Charlotte Observer. The Observer is the city's primary newspaper and its only daily periodical. It is standard for a newspaper in a medium-sized city. Politically it is often perceived as left-of-center, though the slant is not very strong and unlikely to be perceived by visitors. The Observer is widely available in stores and boxes, $0.50 ($1.50 Sunday).
- Creative Loafing. Weekly "alternative" newspaper distributed for free at most stores and restaurants. CL has the city's best weekly entertainment and restaurant index, and is widely used by both locals and visitors as a handbook to city nightlife. Free.
- Charlotte Weekly. Probably the most politically-neutral of the weeklies. The Weekly enjoys wide distribution, but seems to prefer a relatively low-key role in local reporting.
- Charlotte Business Journal. Weekly edition devoted to reviewing the city's business climate. Its thorough reporting often "scoops" other sources, and the CBJ can make surprisingly interesting reading even for those uninterested in business affairs. Available primarily at bookstores and other newsstands, though boxes can be found on the street Uptown.
- QNotes. The LGBT arts, entertainment and news publication based in Charlotte, N.C.
- La Noticia. Spanish-language weekly newspaper. This has become the primary voice of the Hispanic community in Charlotte. As of now it has no English-language edition, so its circulation is relatively confined to eastern Charlotte. Free.
- Charlotte Post. African-American weekly that enjoys a devoted following but a relatively low circulation. Found mostly at institutions with a high percentage of black consumers, such as restaurants and churches on the west side. Free.
- Mecklenburg Times. Focuses on the workings of County government, especially politics and business issues. In-depth review of court decisions and related issues.
- Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal. Narrow, detailed coverage of the sports-business industry. Available primarily through newsstands and Uptown boxes. Weekly editions.
- NASCAR Scene Daily. Part of Street & Smith's, but focuses only on NASCAR-related news. A weekly newspaper, despite its title.
Compared to large tourist destinations, Charlotte has a relatively small international population. Locals are usually quite friendly toward foreign visitors, especially those who can speak English. Speakers of other languages may find the language barrier more difficult to break than in "international" cities (though Spanish-speakers will likely have an easier time). It is recommended that international visitors keep their passport handy at all times.
- International House, 322 Hawthorne Ln, ☎ . International visitors to Charlotte are strongly encouraged to begin their visit at the International House. Though it is worth the trip south of Uptown to visit the historic neoclassical mansion and meet the friendly staff, the IH can also be very helpful in finding interpreters, translated documents, travel information, etc.
- Immigration and Naturalization Service, 210 E Woodlawn Rd (Ste 138, Bldg 6). M-F 7:30AM-2PM.
- Armenian Cultural Association of the Carolinas, +1 704 334-5353 x239.
- Bosnian Organization, +1 704 921-9080.
- Cambodian Community Association, +1 704 566-0155.
- Chinese American Association, +1 704 593-0897.
- Eritrean Community Organization, +1 704 563-9000.
- Ethiopian Community, +1 704 343-6629.
- Filipino-American Community, +1 704 541-5944.
- Ghana National Association, +1 704 567-2510.
- Haitian American Club of the Carolinas, +1 704 537-1785.
- India Association of Charlotte, +1 704 948-7664.
- Iranian Group, +1 704-321-3578.
- Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte, +1 704 568-0907.
- Japan-America Society of Charlotte, +1 704 687-2727.
- Korean Association of Charlotte, +1 704 376-8820.
- Laotian Cultural Center, 2208 Rowan Way, +1 704 393-3588.
- Laos American Association of North Carolina, +1 704 393-7363.
- Metrolina Phoenician Club, +1 704 846-2269.
- Taiwanese-American Association of Greater Charlotte, +1 704 847-6340.
- Vietnamese Community Association of Charlotte, +1 704 568-8744.
- Mexico (Honorary), 4424 Taggart Creek Rd, ☎ .
- United Kingdom (Honorary), 301 S College St 9F, ☎ .
Like most cities in the American South, Charlotte's communities have historically been centered around Protestant Christian churches (though this is changing as the city diversifies and urbanizes). A complete list of worship sites is impractical; below are listings which don't fit into a (as of yet) specified district so be sure to check out the district articles.
There are many foreign-language places of worship in the Charlotte area. For information about them, contact the International House at +1 704 333-8099.
- Hindu Center of Charlotte,7400 City View Drive, +1 704 535-3440. A Hindu temple performing Hindu rituals and practices since 1982.
- Wat Lao Buddharam, 1824 Toddville Rd, +1 704 597-5037. Laotian community of Buddhists in a relatively large temple grounds. Services are in Laotian.
- Ash-shaheed Islamic Center, 2717 Tuckaseegee Rd, +1 704 394-6579. Primarily an African-American Islamic community, located on the city's west side.
- Masjid Ali Shah Center, 1230 Beatties Ford Rd, ☎ . Smaller community in western Charlotte.
Charlotte benefits from a highly centralized location in the Carolinas, giving visitors the option of driving to either the beach or the mountains if they choose. Cities within day-trip range include Asheville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and the Raleigh/Durham area. If you are interested in seeing smaller Southern towns, consider a short drive to Matthews, Davidson, or Huntersville; all are within 15 minutes' drive on the interstate.
- Concord Mills - see Malls.
- Lowe's Motor Speedway, Located just out of northern Charlotte in nearby Concord, off I-85. Home of near-constant racing events including NASCAR's All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600. Occasional home of concerts and other special events. Among other special attractions, includes the opportunity to drive around the track or attend racing school.
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. In Belmont (just west of Charlotte), this is one of the most acclaimed attractions in the area. The natural beauty and serenity of the gardens make it a favorite for romantic day trips and family outings. Guided tours offered.
- North Carolina Zoo. Located in Asheboro, about 60 miles northeast of Charlotte. The largest zoo in North Carolina, featuring over 200 species of animal and many more botanical species. Highlights include gorillas, elephants, lions and an aviary.
- Reed Gold Mine. Pan for gold in the USA's first gold mine. Very kid-friendly and educational, besides being pretty fun. Located in Cabarrus County, about 45 minutes from Charlotte.
- Schiele Museum of Natural History. A surprisingly high-quality museum in Gastonia, just west of Charlotte. Includes a planetarium, an aviary, and many special events and exhibits.
- Southwest of Charlotte are the Catawba lands. See how this Native American tribe used to live and lives today.
- South of Charlotte along Route 16, in Waxhaw, is the Mexico Museum. Items of cultural and historical interest include pottery, costumes, and photographs.
- Carowinds. Large theme park with a focus on movies. Many roller coasters and other such attractions; coasters include Top Gun, The Hurler, and the beloved Thunder Road. Give strong consideration to eating beforehand, as concession prices are very high. Go south on I-77 and get off at the state line. Bring sunscreen as most of the park is unshaded.
- Take I-85S to US-321N to Hickory for excellent furniture shopping at a host of furniture outlets. Two such are Hickory Furniture Mart (huge) and the Hickory Furniture Mall (quieter and less expensive).
- Chimney Rock Park. Part of the highly scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachian chain. One of the region's most visited parks, primarily because of its unusual rock formations and waterfalls.
- Nantahala Outdoor Center. About 3–4 hours west of Charlotte in the heart of the Appalachians. Excellent whitewater rafting and tubing for all experience levels; the river runs particularly well after big rains. Charlotte's own rafting center (the U.S. National Whitewater Center) is currently under construction, but will struggle to match the natural splendor of the Nantahala. Also an excellent place to hike, bike, bird watch, etc.
|Routes through Charlotte|
|Wytheville ← Huntersville ←||N S||→ Fort Mill → Columbia|
|Greensboro ← Concord ←||N S||→ Belmont → Spartanburg|
|Greensboro ← Concord ←||N S||→ Belmont → Spartanburg|
|Asheville ← Belmont ←||W E||→ Matthews → Lumberton|