Travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, has already rebounded to its pre-pandemic levels. Perhaps that’s because the city offers spiritual inspiration and an ideal place for entertainment and fun.
Named after the wife of King George III, Charlotte has grown into a major financial hub with a rich mix of cultures. Its downtown is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and residents and guests alike enjoy the city’s great weather and food.
Because the metro area contains one of America’s highest concentrations of places to worship, Charlotte is called the City of Churches. It is the birthplace of Billy Graham, America’s most famous evangelist, and home to the one of the city’s most popular destinations, the Billy Graham Library.
The vibrant city center, called Uptown, serves as a major financial hub with skyscrapers and skywalks and a newly expanded convention center. Uptown also offers guest attractions like the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Levine Center for the Arts, performances at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the Market at 7th Street, and art at the Mint Museum Uptown. Visitors can also take in professional sports, an abundant nightlife and a plentiful array of restaurants to choose from.
Just miles from downtown, the Bojangles Entertainment Complex — called BOplex — holds two venues: Ovens Auditorium, one of the world’s top-ranked stages for annual theater ticket sales, and Bojangles Coliseum, home of Charlotte Checkers ice hockey.
Just southwest of Charlotte on the South Carolina border is Carowinds amusement park, where millions go each year to ride 14 roller coasters and enjoy other fun attractions.
For educational fun, families visit Discovery Place, which has interactive exhibits teaching physics, earth science and other subjects.
The restaurant scene includes Optimist Hall, which includes a collection of eateries, offices and stores located in a former textile mill. And Camp North End has been transformed from a manufacturing plant into a marketplace of restaurants, art studios and stores.
For brews and live music, the South End Brewery District features establishments with cool names like Wooden Robot Brewery and Trolly Barn Fermentory.
“There are 50 new restaurants since 2020 and several new hotels,” said Lauren Hawk, public relations manager for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “We picked up where we left off before the pandemic with all the pent-up demand.”
With many of racing’s famous drivers hailing from the city, Charlotte became the logical place to locate the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which will display Bubba Wallace’s famous No. 23 Toyota Camry until August 1. For the real experience, go northeast of the city to the Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch a race or take a tour. The Carolina Panthers play football at Bank of America Stadium; the Charlotte Hornets play basketball at the Spectrum Center; and Truist Field is the home of Charlotte Knights baseball. This year marks the inaugural season of the Charlotte FC soccer team.
Art and Music
Named after the city’s first African American mayor, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture celebrates the art and culture of Black Americans and those of African descent. On North Davidson Street, visitors flock to the NoDa Arts District with its colorful murals and art galleries. One of the wonders of the city is the giant mirrored bust of stainless-steel plates called Metalmorphosis, a rotating sculpture housed in the Whitehall Technology Park. Music fans can book a show at the AvidXchange Music Factory, a complex of music and comedy venues.
Just 30 minutes from Uptown, an oasis of gardens awaits visitors at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, while one of the state’s most popular outdoor sites, Lake Norman, is north of town. On the Catawba River, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has bike trails and class II-IV rapids, along with paddleboarding and climbing. Walkers and runners enjoy the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which extends four miles and connects the Metropolitan shopping area to attractions like the 98-acre Freedom Park, centered on a seven-acre lake and just three miles downtown.
Malls and Shops
From Sleepy Poet Antiques to the Northlake Mall, Charlotte offers everything from budget shopping to high-end finds. The Atherton Mill and Market is a former streetcar station in Charlotte, while Sleepy Poet is a retailer with “no rhyme or reason, just cool stuff.” SouthPark is an upscale mall with stores such as Dillard’s, Belk, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s. For a taste of home-grown produce, check out the Market at 7th Street, which offers food, wines, flowers, sweets, pizza and great java at Not Just Coffee.