Visiting Charlotte - What to See and Do
(Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)
Charlotte doesn't often spring to mind when people plan their trip to North Carolina. However, this city is in a groove, growing by leaps and bounds and luring some serious prosperity to its streets. New skyscrapers seem to sprout every year, and there is even an NFL football franchise now with the Panthers basing themselves here.
This city's attractions are not immediately obvious to the casual visitor, even though Charlotte has been around since the colonial era. It is simply a solid destination is terms of dining, nightlife, outdoor pursuits and cultural entertainment. Stroll the campus of the University of North Carolina and its stunning botanical gardens or explore one of the many parks, like McDowell, that ring the city.
There is a symphony orchestra here, as well as an opera and several impressive theater groups. You can watch a professional NFL football game when the Panthers are in town or take a day drive to visit century old towns and historic battlefields. If you are visiting on business, rest assured that there is plenty of diversion when your meetings are concluded.
Ten things you must do in Charlotte
- Of the handful of cultural attractions in Charlotte, the Discovery Place and Nature Museum is easily the best of the bunch. This hands-on interactive science and technology museum is filled with a great mix of mad scientist exhibits and natural wonders. Its tropical rainforest and aquarium are very popular, while the OMNIMAX theater creates some visually stunning movies.
- The collection of artwork inside the Mint Museum of Art is a solid representation of American and European work from the past few centuries. For a city of this size, the Mint is a worthy destination for an afternoon of cultural browsing. Besides the paintings, the Delhom Collection of pottery and porcelain is well known in the international art world.
- If you are visiting in the spring months of April or May, be sure to visit the campus of the University of North Carolina. Its botanical gardens hit their peak during this season, when the rhododendrons, azaleas and myriad of other North Carolina trees and bushes burst into color. It is free to enter and makes a nice addition to a stroll around the university campus, which is one of the state's best.
- No matter when you visit the city there is some kind of performing art in play. From September to May, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra puts on its concerts, while October to April is the season for the Opera Carolina crew. In between are a steady slew of great theater productions at Theater Charlotte and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
- One of the passions of this city is its NFL football team - namely the Panthers. They play their home games at the shiny new Bank of America Stadium from August through December. If basketball is your choice, you can watch the NBA Bobcats play at their very own brand-new arena in Uptown. Tickets are usually available for both teams if you purchase them a few weeks in advance.
- A wonderful way to spend a nice day outdoors in Charlotte is at the McDowell Park and Nature Preserve. This is one of the nicer parks that the city has on offer, featuring the sparkling Lake Wylie at its heart. You can rent paddleboats to cruise around the lake or even go fishing. The park also has miles of lovely hiking trails through the woods and open meadows within its 405 hectares / 1,000 acres.
- The best outdoor excitement around takes place at the US National Whitewater Center. This is home to the world's biggest artificial white-water river, carved out of the Catawba River. Here, you can go white-water rafting, kayaking or rent a mountain bike to hit the trails. These same trails are also popular for hiking, and everything is laid out and managed as professionally as it gets. Even if you just come to watch, the kayaking on the artificial river is fantastic.
- Just outside Charlotte is the Latta Plantation park, a 1,010 hectare / 2,500-acre site devoted to wildlife and birds. It is a very popular stopover for migrating birds, especially waterfowl who visit its rich wetlands. A great way to experience the park is on horseback from the park's stables.
- Catch some hot blues or other live music at the legendary Double Door Inn. This fun attraction has been the pride of the city's blues scene for decades, luring many bright lights to its intimate stage, such as Eric Clapton. There is live music nearly every night of the week, and the atmosphere is everything you would want from a chilled-out blues club.
- There are NASCAR races several times a year at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the edge of the city. Charlotte is widely regarded as one of the centers of NASCAR racing, hosting three of the top races every season like the Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race. At other times you can tour the grounds or visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame.