Home of the Panthers and Hornets, birth place of NASCAR, and my introduction to America, Charlotte, North Carolina is truly the Queen City. I haven’t lived here since 2006 but visit it several times a year to see all my family and friends. And regardless of where my profession and life take me, it is always the city that refers to “home” in my dictionary.
A few things to know about Charlotte before you visit – A car is necessary to get around; public transportation is up and coming but limited to Uptown and South Charlotte area via the LYNX blue line rapid transit train which currently only has 15 stations covering about 10 miles. Winters are mild and summers are hot and very humid. Shopping is perhaps the biggest pastime. NASCAR is huge here and can result in traffic congestions during race days especially in North Charlotte areas. University of North Carolina at Charlotte is the public university with a nice campus worth driving through. A short 2-hour road trip up north will take you to the beautiful mountains of Ashville (home of the Biltmore Estate) and 3 hours down south takes you to the beautiful beaches of Charleston, South Carolina. Ya’ll is a necessary part of the vernacular. Local public radio station is 90.7 WFAE.
Places to See
- Uptown Charlotte – While it’s hard to find people walking around this fine city, the uptown area is an exception. Lined with museums, restaurants, and sculptures, a stroll through this part of town is a must. Highlights include The Mint Museum, Levine Museum, Discovery Place, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, a beautiful Public Library with a lively fountain, The Green (perfect for picnics), Epi Center (bars, piano bars, and restaurants) NASCAR hall of fame, basketball arena, 7th Street Public Market.
- Art scene in NODA – A must visit for the lovers of art and good food, NODA is the Historic North Charlotte Neighborhood that has gone through considerable gentrification in the recent years. In close proximity to Uptown, it is known for its music and art scene, and independent restaurants. NODA.org includes all the neighborhood happenings for your visit.
- Birkdale Village – Birkdale Commons Pkwy & Sam Furr Rd, Huntersville, NC 28078. Technically in Huntersville, it is just a short drive from Charlotte and includes a great place to shop, eat and play. Nice mom-and-pop boutiques and ice cream stores are mixed in with high-end shopping and restaurants. There is also a nice water fountain for kids to place in during the summer time.
- Shopping Malls – For the shopping enthusiast there are three big malls – Southpark (high end), North Lake (high end), and Concord Mills (outlet). I always end up at Concord Mills while visiting because it has outlet shops of my favorite brands; these days it also includes NASCAR style go-cart racing, an aquarium, and other fun activities for the kids. All malls are surrounded by great family friendly dining options.
Things to Eat
TripAdvisor and Yelp will give you plenty of great restaurant options. There is absolutely nothing fancy about my recommendations; just the greatest places that I haven’t stopped craving since 2006
- Fuel Pizza: NY style pizza which used to be my work-lunch 3 out of 5 days a week. There are several locations throughout Charlotte and each offer varied amount of seating space. My favorite of all is the location at the corner of 6th and College. Be ready for a really long line after last-call from the surrounding bars. Pizzas are sold by the slice or whole. And get that order of the garlic knots without fail.
- Bojangals: This southern fast food chain is everywhere in Charlotte. Please try their seasoned fries, dirty rice, fried chicken, sweet tea, and boberry biscuits and thank me when your life is changed; it is gluttonous and totally worth it. Now I am just waiting for it to make it ways to the Mid-West. There is also a Bojangals at the Charlotte Douglas Airport in case you forget to make time for it while in the city.
- Price’s Chicken Coop: 1614 Camden Ave, Charlotte NC. An Institution for southern friend chicken. It only accepts cash.
- Amelie’s French Bakery (open 24 hours): 2424 N Davidson St., Charlotte NC 28205. There is something so fanciful about this place. It’s a café, a bakery, and a bistro all rolled into it. The interior design is just beautiful and eclectic and the display case is always filled with French pastries. Best of all, they are always open. ALWAYS, YA’LL. So there is no excuse to not make it here.
- 7th Street Public Market: 224 E. 7th Street, Charlotte NC 28202. Newest kid on the block on my list, this place is a combination of indoor farmer’s market and food stalls which include sushi, cheese shop, ice cream, creperie, coffee, pizza, juice bar, among other things.I am absolutely in love with Pure Pizza in here which has a sprouted grain pizza crust as one of their specialties. Being indoors it is also the perfect spot for a hot or rainy summer day with kids. Best of all the market validates for free 90-minute parking.