Dubbed "The Queen City," after Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, Charlotte is an undeniably historic American city. Today, it is one of the top 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States, and home to an endless array of interesting attractions, popular restaurants, and raging late-night hotspots.
Known for its fine dining and great nightlife, skyscrapers line the streets and provide a "big city" feel to this charming Southern metropolis. If you're visiting Charlotte during football or basketball season, be sure to grab tickets for a
It is easy to dine well in Uptown, with upscale choices like
This historic section of Charlotte combines a glimpse of the old with a taste of the new. Beautiful southern homes share the boulevards with tattoo parlors, cafes, art galleries, and record stores. "Historically hip" would be the best way to describe this Queen City neighborhood.
Plaza-Midwood provides enough food options to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Some of the more notable establishments include
Located in the Northeastern part of Charlotte, University City is one of the most densely populated parts of the city. Comprising over 200,000 residents, University City also encompasses the campus of UNC Charlotte and all its students and faculty.
Join students, faculty, and more than 15 million other people and wander through the shops at
Just outside University City, NASCAR fans get their fill of heart pounding excitement at
The 1920s construction boom brought the commuter neighborhood of Myers Park, which is home to some of Charlotte's oldest houses. Lacking the usual grid design, the oak tree-lined avenues of Myers Park are curved to match the landscape, giving it a unique, relaxed feel.
Myers Park was originally a "streetcar suburb" because of the electric trolley that brought commuters to and from work. This same
NoDa, named for a section of North Davidson Street, is Charlotte's equivalent to NYC's SoHo neighborhood. Located directly north of Uptown, NoDa has been transformed from its textile-manufacturing past to an area that oozes creativity. With an extensive collection of art galleries, theaters, hip restaurants, and bars, it is easy to make this your home base. Citizens from all over the region flock to NoDa's twice-monthly
While you're in NoDa taking in the creations of Charlotte's best artists, take time to savor some of the Cajun and Creole dishes at
This area of Charlotte is crowded with seriously upscale shoppers looking to do some damage. Though mostly a residential neighborhood, SouthPark boasts its fair share of high-end stores. Drop by the
The restaurants in SouthPark tend to be a little on the fancy side as well, with such noteworthy fine dining establishments as
The historic area known as South End was once the site of many industrial buildings and cotton mills. Today those buildings have either been revamped or replaced by a number of restaurants, offices, shops and condominiums. These attractions are easily accessible via the
If you grab a slice at
The true-blue neighborhood feel of this Charlotte district makes it one of the more desirable areas in which to live. As with most sections of Charlotte, Dilworth is historically and architecturally significant. Just outside of the city limits, Dilworth was a "streetcar suburb" as well. Houses here date back to the early 1900s, and their architecture goes well with the tree-lined streets of the neighborhood. Businesses here fit right into the history-laden scheme of things as well. In an ancient building with history literally lining the walls, the
Elizabeth is yet another Charlotte neighborhood steeped in history. Originally named after Elizabeth College, an all girls' Lutheran university, Elizabeth began to rapidly evolve around the turn of the 20th Century. During that period, the completion of a trolley line transformed this particular part of Charlotte into a readily accessible section of the city. When one thinks of Elizabeth, they also tend to think of
Located on the south side of Charlotte is the area known as Ballantyne. In recent decades, this part of the city has been blessed with some heavy growth. Ballantyne homes are beautifully structured and historically significant to the city as a whole. This is yet another neighborhood in Charlotte that has done well by mixing the old and the new. Amidst the age-old residential parts of Ballantyne are new restaurants like the
Charlotte was born in the mid-18th Century, at the crossroads of two great Native American trade routes. Scotch-Irish, German, English, and French Huguenot settlers followed the Great Wagon Road into the Carolina foothills, where the Catawba Indians made their home. The settlers set up shop at the aforementioned intersection of trade routes, recognizing the potential of the fertile land and central location.
To further that potential, upon the settlement's incorporation in 1768, settlers christened their home Charlotte Town, after Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III. As their community grew in size and importance, the settlers were itching for a county of their own. So as to expedite the fulfillment of their wishes, they dubbed the prospective county Mecklenburg. Before long, it became apparent that Mecklenburg County needed a county seat, and Charlotte was so designated in 1774 thanks to the timely construction of a modest log cabin courthouse.
Despite those early efforts to honor and respect the monarchy, the citizens of Charlotte soon yearned for independence. It is said that in May 1775, they drafted the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, pronouncing the sovereignty of their city and county. While no concrete record of this mysterious "Meck-Dec" exists, the people of Charlotte recall the story proudly, and the date of its signing is commemorated on the North Carolina state flag. When the American Revolution began in earnest, Charlotte proved to be a key location. Both American and British forces set up camps in the vicinity, and many a bloody battle was fought nearby. The people of Charlotte fought alongside the Catawba Indians, both parties working together to defeat the Brits. Their wily efforts worked: British General Cornwallis famously called Charlotte "a damned hornet's nest of rebellion."
After independence, Charlotte became the site of one of the first confirmed gold finds in U.S. history. The year was 1799, and a young boy returned from a fishing trip with a curious 17-pound chunk of rock. It was used as a doorstop for three years before a jeweler happened upon the chunk and declared it solid gold! Throughout the next century, gold was the talk of Charlotte. Fortune seekers from all over the world poured into the city, and the federal government saw fit to construct a new branch of the U.S. Mint here. While the Charlotte Gold Rush was severely overshadowed by the more famous gold discoveries out West, this episode forever remains an integral part of the city's rich history.
With the gold rush and the Civil War having lured people and resources into the area, Charlotte expanded greatly in the years that followed. In the latter half of the 19th Century, the city grew into an important ginning and distribution center for the region's cotton industry, thereby becoming an integral hub for the nation's burgeoning railroad system as well. Charlotte was soon an ideal place for textile manufacturing, and by the turn of the century, over half of all U.S. textile production occurred in and around the city. After the First World War, the growth of interstate highways like I-85 and I-77 added to Charlotte's transformation into an all-around distribution powerhouse. To keep up with the economic boom, a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank was instated.
In recent decades, Charlotte's distribution networks and control over high finance have done nothing but grow. While the city has become an international banking capital (home to Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America and Wachovia), the people of Charlotte have not forgotten their rich and tumultuous history. Locals cherish General Cornwallis' characterization of their city, and continue to celebrate Charlotte's revolutionary reputation. Contemporary reminders of this section of the city's storied past include major transit corridors like Independence Boulevard and Freedom Drive, commercial hubs such as the Independence Center, community gathering places like Freedom Park and Independence Park. The old mint no longer functions as such, but in its place, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design and the Mint Museum of Art stand as prominent tributes to Charlotte's fabled gold rush and its subsequent establishment as a city of serious financial weight. Charlotte's people have not lost their Revolutionary War-era fighting spirit either. When the Hornets were hijacked to New Orleans in 2002, Charlotte wasted no time securing a new NBA team to call its own. The Charlotte Bobcats entered the league in 2004, and continue to thrill audiences at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. For NASCAR fans, Charlotte is something of a Mecca as well. It is home to the world famous Lowe's Motor Speedway and around 75% of the American motor sports industry's employees are headquartered in and around downtown Charlotte.
You will find everything that a city center should have in this longtime on-the-go district. Catering to any and all food lovers' taste buds, eat comfort food at Zink American Kitchen, have Spanish appetizers and a glass of upscale wine at Arpa, or indulge in food from around the world at Blue. For the after-dinner treat swing by Cans Bar and Canteen, but don't expect to order a draft beer as they specialize in canned brews. For a little late-night 80s dancing and a spandex adventure continue on to the Breakfast Club. As if the options don't already span across the board, relish the new-age ambiance at Liquid Lounge.
Be swept into vibrant cafés and a bustling nightlife when visiting this fringe district. Galleries, unique boutiques, and cafes abound, providing passersby with colorful streets to accompany their stroll. Local art lovers frequent The Evening Muse for the creative atmosphere that stems from live music, artwork and stiff cups of Joe. With eateries named the Mellow Mushroom and the Smelly Cat Coffee House, there is no wonder why the sidewalks are full of people on a sunny day. If you have already had a busy day, a number of inexpensive lunch spots like Boudreaux's Louisiana Kitchen and Cabo Fish Taco will give you a chance to rest your feet.
It is worth a drive through this neighborhood just to admire the beautiful homes that line the curved streets. Park your car and enjoy a walk below the aged oak trees, and for a casual but classy Sunday brunch stop at Providence Café to indulge in everything from sandwiches to prime rib. If you decide to see a show at one of the local theaters, have dinner at Volare, a homey Italian restaurant that uses grade-A products. Most of Myers Park's nightspots double as restaurants. For a nice British breakfast and evening Guinness try Big Ben, while Jackalope Jacks serves up sweet cocktails like the Bikini and Chocolate Martinis.
While people thought this eastside neighborhood would mature into Myers Park's sister district, it never developed in the same way. Instead, it acts as a bohemian alter ego catering to the international tongue. For the unique atmosphere that only a home/art store turned restaurant can create, try LuLu or Creation. For both veggies and carnivores, Dish serves up inexpensive southern comfort food in a funky, local-influenced atmosphere. In such a transition neighborhood, you will have little trouble finding a creative bar or lounge to enjoy after-dinner drinks. For a sweet treat try the Fire and Ice lounge, while the Thomas Street Tavern is always brimming with locals who stop in for a beer.
Taking its name from the SouthPark Mall, this upscale area boasts history and class. Since it is home to the historic trolley, take a ride on an age-old artifact before indulging in a fine dining experience. For a romantic dinner for two, eat at La Bibliothéque and be treated to delicious French/American food in an alluring setting. Zebra, also serving up French cuisine, is popular for its delicious, contemporary dishes and a wine list that extends several hundred bottles. With a rustic décor and African wall adornment, make sure to book a table early and avoid the long wait. For Seafood dishes with a high-society crowd, there are an abundance of choices. Upstream offers an always-changing menu, while The Palm is known for its oversized lobster dishes. You can find both wine bars and movie theaters, but this district is generally known for its A-list shops and dainty dining.
Home to the University of North Carolina, this area is dominated by cheap eats and neighborhood hangouts. The Old Hickory House is a longtime favorite, filling empty stomachs with BBQ ribs, and making sure that everyone is enjoying a Western, finger-licking good time. Catering to the large population and diverse taste buds and ideologies, enjoy new-age Asian cuisine at Udipi Pure Vegetarian Cuisine, curry at Bombay Cuisine and the hot sauce that will surely light your mouth afire at Monterrey Restaurante Mexicano. A university district would not be the same without the businesses that allow young adults to let some steam off. Check out JB'z Beach Club for billiards, blues and cheep beer, or swing by The Wine Vault to share a bottle of wine with someone special.
Developed in 1890, this was Charlotte's first streetcar suburb. Now, unique architecture and a thriving, youthful neighborhood make Dilworth the perfect place to stroll through shops and choose from dozens of international eateries. For a daytime break eat at Thai Taste, one of the oldest Thai places around. If you want something lighter, grab a quick treat to keep your momentum going at Dilworth Coffeehouse. With an atmosphere that resembles that of the beat generation, and an unforgettable aroma, it's the perfect side stop. Another hip and delicious eatery is a converted house called 300 East. Expect a diverse clientele, menu and plenty of liquor to keep conversations running long. For other eclectic international menus dine at Nikko, Bonterra, and Sole Spanish Grill. With almost as many nightspots as restaurants you will have an easy time finding somewhere to let loose. For Beer, BBQ and bikes, stop at Mac's Speed Shop and be taken in by the motorbike relics that cover the walls. The Tremont Music Hall boasts live entertainment.
In addition to the grits, cornbread, and chitlins that are staples in southern cuisine, Elizabeth is host to some of the finest restaurants in Charlotte. Deriving its name from the local university, Elizabeth College, which has since been incorporated into the local Roanoke College, this area has long been a residence of choice for the local elite. However, these days you don't have to break the bank just to fill your stomach. Southern fare is still alive and well at the The Cajun Queen, where barbeque shrimp, oysters, and the famous Dixie beer can all be enjoyed with live jazz seven nights a week. If you decide to expand your borders, Cuisine Malaya, a short distance from Independence Park, serves up spicy and flavorful curries, sushi, and other dishes from across the Asian continent. Like many of the restaurants in the area, La-tea-da's teahouse is located in a historic home, and offers traditional catering and event hosting. Also capturing the classical limelight is Carpe Diem, where exquisitely presented, time-honored local cuisine is served in a romantic setting. For the younger crowd, the ever-popular Loft 1523 offers many creative libations as well as a high-energy social scene with live music five nights a week.
Springing from the creative minds of Charlotte city planners, the Ballantyne area accommodates the acclaimed Ballantyne Resort and Golf Course as well as the accompanying Ballantyne Village. As a result, most of the dining options Ballantyne has to offer are in these two areas. Villa Antonio located within the village, seeks to transport you back to Northern Italy with an authentic Italian menu, a traveling guitarist and candlelit tables offering the perfect ambiance. For those watching their weight, but still want to be satisfied, Doc Green's Gourmet Salads offers pleasant health-conscious options. Starving after a round of golf? Relax your feet with a glass of wine within the lodge at the Ballantyne Resort, where acclaimed dining choices include the Gallery Restaurant, renowned for its exquisite presentation and service. Back Yard Burger, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner indulges those with a distinctly American palate.
South End is a historic part of town that has grown out of the ignominy of its industrial past, into a stylish, bustling new identity. That means that there are plenty of new restaurants and bars to try out, running the gamut from cheap and dingy to pricey and highbrow. Most of the food can be found along a stretch of South Boulevard that starts with Carabbas Italian Grill, which is part of an upscale Sicilian-American chain. Down the road is Pewter Rose Bistro, offering expensive fusion cuisine and a huge wine list. At night, the Pewter Rose morphs into Tutto Mondo, a slick nightclub that continues to serve the Bistro's dishes. For somewhat cheaper fare, go a block further to Pike's Old Fashioned Soda Shop where you can get a BLT and, obviously, a tall soda. Pike's is neighbors with the Tyber Creek Pub, an Irish bar perfect for a late night drink. Walk a few more blocks to the only slightly tamer Tea ReX Teahouse, where you can munch muffins while listening to live music. The Villa Antonio Restaurant brings fine Italian cuisine and an atmosphere that ensures a long stay. You won't find as much off of South Boulevard. Quaint but hip Camden Road runs parallel for part of its length, and features the beautifully cheap Price's Chicken Coop, where you can fill up for a fiver but won't find a place to sit. Also on Camden is Queen's Beans Coffee, offering fair-trade coffee and a seating area where you can prop your feet up and rejuvenate.
Charlotte is a regional center for museums, art, music, theater, sports, and other cultural and entertainment activities. The city's diverse population is able to support a variety of entertainments, some of which are the envy of the entire country.
Since the team's inception in 1993, the NFL's Carolina Panthers have called Charlotte home. The Panthers wow crowds on many a Sunday on the field at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. For basketball fans, the NBA Charlotte Bobcats and the WNBA Charlotte Sting keep audiences on their feet year round at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Charlotte, of course, is one of the prime destinations for NASCAR fans. Racing enthusiasts can go hog wild at the world famous Lowe's Motor Speedway.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has entertained the people of Charlotte for decades, performing a lengthy series of classics (from Tchaikovsky to Wagner) every year at historic Ovens Auditorium, and the architectural marvel Belk Theatre (where even the cheapest of seats are never more than 135 feet from the stage). Opera Carolina, based in Charlotte, performs four epic productions at Belk Theatre each year (from "Porgy and Bess" to "La Boheme"), as well as an annual holiday production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors," and an extensive series of Education & Outreach productions all over both North and South Carolina.
Giving Belk Theatre a run for its money, Tremont Music Hall likes to say that here, "you're never more than 50 feet from the stage." At such close range, audiences are continually bowled over by their favorite national touring rock bands (like X, MXPX, and KMFDM). The Visulite Theatre, hosts rock bands as well (such as the Reverend Horton Heat and Birdmonster), this time in a retired movie house setting. The Milestone Club provides Charlotte with easy access to the underground music scene, playing host to punk and metal bands from all over the world, not the least of which are the Melvins and Green Milk for the Planet Orange. For folk aficionados, The Evening Muse just might be a home away from home. Up-and-coming singer-songwriters like Gary Jules and Dan Bern take the stage at this intimate venue, where the walls are adorned with the works of local artists.
The Comedy Zone brings Charlotte the most sought-after national touring comedians, from Dave Chappelle to Jerry Seinfeld. The Charlotte Comedy Theater, on the other hand, is a local improve troupe dedicated to making their community laugh.
In the refurbished remains of the historic Charlotte Mint lies the Mint Museum of Art, home to a number of exciting collections, from ancient American art, to Spanish Colonial, European, and contemporary. For a more bohemian experience, one can venture into Charlotte's "NoDa" arts district, where galleries and art studios like Hart Witzen Gallery and the ArtHouse line the boulevards. On the first and third Fridays of each month, art lovers are invited to visit such establishments on NoDa's famous Gallery Crawl.
The Afro-American Cultural Center works to preserve African American art, culture, and history, and present it to audiences for educational purposes as well as sheer enjoyment. The center features two galleries which include within them the permanent John and Vivian Hewett collection of African American Art, which features over fifty works by African American artists. The center also hosts many programs throughout the year like workshops and lectures. Housed partly in the original 1936 hangar of Charlotte's original municipal airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum is an aviation nut's dream. Their collection includes everything from a replica of the Wright Brothers' 1902 Wright Glider to the Grumman F-14D Super Tomcat, made famous by the film Top Gun. Also on display are a startling array of jets, helicopters, ordnance and missiles, rockets, and even spacecraft. The Levine Museum of the New South bills itself as an "interactive history museum," and, as such, uses a wide variety of multimedia exhibits to tell the story of the South since the end of the Civil War. The museum tells this story from many different perspectives, with an eye toward creating greater understanding and painting a more complete picture than traditional history books have attempted.