Tucked in the Piedmont region's sleepy rolling hills, this bustling metropolis is anything but a quiet Southern belle. Charlotte, North Carolina, explodes with growing businesses and burgeoning sports franchises. And this ever-expanding city has a knack for keeping an East Coast pace without stomping on its Southern roots; the locals are said to be exceedingly polite and dedicated to keeping classic Southern charm alive. The blending of these two personalities is engagingly energetic.
Uptown Charlotte — be sure not to call it downtown — is crawling with suits and tourists, while the art aficionados and culture hounds flood NoDa (or the North Davidson area). SouthPark's mall district has shopaholics drooling while the party people live it up in South End. And of course, Charlotte is a buzzing hub of NASCAR country, with the Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR Hall of Fame in the surrounding area.
The best time to visit Charlotte is from March through May or from September through November, the shoulder seasons when the city is less crowded and hotels are less expensive. Though it's tempting to visit in summer thanks to the extended hours offered by some of the city's top attractions, June through August is also the busiest (not to mention the hottest) time to be in the Queen City. Plan an early autumn visit and you'll be rewarded with mild temps and agreeable hotel prices. Winters are fairly pleasant — snow is rare and the evening lows hover between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll also find that tourists abandon the city this time of year, and hotel rates take a nose dive.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
If you've come to Charlotte expecting a traditional down-home atmosphere, you're in for a surprise. As the east coast headquarters for Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the Queen City is more of a big business metropolis than a charming Southern hamlet. Case in point: the city's Uptown district. Here you'll find the Time Warner Cable Arena, along with several of the city's best — and also some of the newest — museums, restaurants and hotels.
But though it may have embraced its modern persona, Charlotte doesn't necessarily ditch its roots — its restaurants have plenty of fried chicken and Southern hospitality to go around. To get a taste for Charlotte's emerging art scene, culture hounds should head a little more than 2 miles northeast of Uptown to North Davidson (aka NoDa). Here, art, live music, craft beer and eclectic restaurants abound. Art crawls take place the first and third Friday of every month.
Charlotteans are also especially proud to support their NFL team, the Carolina Panthers. If you're in Charlotte during football season, expect plenty of passionate fans swarming the Uptown area, where the Bank of America stadium (home turf for the Panthers) is located.
Charlotte's restaurant scene is a fair representation of its cultural identity: modern, with a bit of Southern tradition. Though it boasts its fair share of Southern comfort food, the city also shows off its flair for fine dining with a variety of sophisticated international and farm-to-fork menus.
Almost an attraction in itself, Price's Chicken Coop is a must-visit if you're hoping to experience some of the city's best Southern fried chicken. This hole-in-the-wall favorite is carry-out only (bring cash; your plastic is no good here). But what Price's lacks in ambiance it makes up for in crispy, delicious chicken. Beloved by both locals and travelers, Price's counter is consistently busy, so prepare to wait in line (especially at lunch). If you like your fried chicken paired with waffles — a Southern tradition — try another one of the city's cheap eat favorites, the Midnight Diner. For a taste of Carolina-style barbecue, head to Midwood Smokehouse, Queen City Q or Mac's Speed Shop.
If you're in the mood for fine dining, Charlotte's got you covered there, too. Business travelers looking to treat clients to a classic steak dinner will find plenty of chain chophouses in the Uptown area, but for a splurge-worthy meal that celebrates the bounty of the Carolinas, consider Halcyon Flavors From the Earth. If you're willing to travel outside the Uptown area, you'll find a bevy of award-winning restaurants, including Fig Tree, an eatery that occupies a Registered Historic Landmark home, Stagioni, an intimate Italian restaurant, and Good Food on Montford, a tapas-style eatery.
You can't make reservations at Soul Gastrolounge, but you also can't leave the Queen City without trying this eclectic, perpetually busy eatery. Sushi, internationally inspired small plates and handcrafted cocktails are what keep locals and visitors coming back again and again.
And then there's the beer. Charlotte is often overlooked by craft beer aficionados in favor of Asheville's suds, but the Queen City can hold its own. New breweries are opening all of the time — in fact, North Carolina touts more craft breweries than any other state in the South. Luckily, many of them are grouped by neighborhood, making it easy to visit a few in one trip. Standouts include The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (home to one of the largest beer gardens in the city), Sycamore Brewing, Birdsong Brewing Company (don't leave without trying its Jalapeño Pale) and NoDa Brewing Company. If you don't want to venture too far outside the Uptown area, Wooden Robot Brewery and the Unknown Brewing Co. are some of the closest options.
The best way to get around Charlotte is by car. The city's transit system isn't as well-connected as in other major cities, so having your own set of wheels is your best way to navigate the Queen City. You can rent a car at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) — located about 7 miles west of the city center — or you can take a taxi and rent a car once you're in town. Taxi fares from the airport to Charlotte's downtown area cost a flat fee of $25. You can also take a shuttle — the Sprinter bus — from the airport to Charlotte's Uptown area for $2. But the low cost comes with a longer ride due to the multiple stops the bus makes in between the airport and city center.See details for Getting Around
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