Live Like a Local: 10 Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina
For local Queen City living, don’t miss these 10 things to get you started
By: Christian Buck, Johnson & Wales University
When you’re new to a place, discovering your surroundings can be a daunting task. Fear not! There are great sources available in each place to help, but right now, take my favorite experiences below for the growing city that is Charlotte, North Carolina.
1) BBQ Charlotte also dubs itself “The New South”. This being said, you are in the south and need to savor the delicious morsels that will take your taste buds dancing into the clouds! There are countless house smoked BBQ joints all throughout Charlotte. Try them all! My personal favorite was the chicken at Queen City Q located Uptown on 6th Street. There is also Jim ‘N Nick’s, Mac’s Speed Shop and Sauceman’s to name a few. Also, Carolina BBQ sauces must be sampled with your BBQ selection. The two kinds you’ll find more frequently will be either vinegar or mustard based – both are delish!
2) Sports One cannot simply enjoy a single type of sport in Charlotte! Home of NASCAR, you must go to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the annual Bank of America 500 night race in Concord but also the NASCAR Hall Of Fame in Uptown. Charlotteans also thrive on Sundays tailgating and cheering for the NFL Carolina Panthers. While the Charlotte Knights AAA baseball team is not new to Charlotte, opening spring 2014 they will have a beautiful new stadium in the heart of Uptown Charlotte plus they boast the largest 4th of July fireworks show in the South East. Additionally, you’ll catch the “buzz” as the much anticipated return of the NBA Charlotte Hornets comes with the 2014 season! For a less commercial feel be sure to pull out your swimsuit and head over to the United States National Whitewater Center. Not only can you enjoy closed course white water rafting, but also zip line, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, flat water paddling and more!
3) Alive After 5 During the summer months every Thursday night Uptown Charlotte turns up the jam! Starting at 5pm hit up the rooftop in Epicenter to catch local and national hit bands to start your weekend early. Having a few cold ones and jamming under the stars, what could be better?
4) Nature Parks One of the gems I finally discovered in my second summer was Freedom Park. This park became my favorite place to enjoy a leisurely summer day. It also connects to the Little Sugar Creek greenway which allows you to walk or bike from the South Charlotte area into Uptown with more greenway being developed. New in 2013 is also the Uptown Romare Bearden Park. This is a great getaway from the hubbub of the daily grind while still keeping you in the heart of Uptown.
5) Amélie’s French Bakery Perfect for the wee night hour study sessions Amélie’s in the NoDa neighborhood (North Davidson) is open 24 hours and produces the most decadent treats one can fathom. If that sweet tooth isn’t as sweet as your friends’ no worries, they also serve a variety of sandwiches and beverages. So grab a group of study buddies, have a girls night out, or just enjoy a book to yourself, but be sure not to miss Amélie’s. By the way, there is an Uptown location but it just doesn’t compare to the original and it has normal business hours.
6) Blumenthal Performing Arts With 6 theatres Blumenthal is the largest performing arts organization in the region. Enjoy a Broadway show (I saw Lion King!) or the symphony at Belk. Catch an intimate Jazz ensemble at Stage Door. Take in a local Poetry Slam at the historic McGlohon in Spirit Square. And be sure to enjoy the newest of the 6 theatres, Knight, as well perhaps with some contemporary dance. The best part is that all 6 theatres are walking distance from each other and located Uptown so you can make a date of it with dinner and drinks. As a student, sign up for the email list so you can get alerts for shows with “rush tickets” which give a hefty student discount but are only available at the given time prior to the show.
7) Carowinds Sitting right on the state border is the largest amusement park in the region. Be sure to take your picture near the entrance with the sign designating that you’re on the border. Also, enjoy riding the Hurler which has two coaster lines, one that rides the South Carolina side, and one that rides the North Carolina side – heck, ride it twice so you can say you rode in two different states!
8) Crowder’s Mountain State Park A short drive outside of Charlotte and just past Gastonia lies the beauty that is Crowder’s Mountain. While it offers a great selection of hiking trails at varying levels of difficulty, you can also stay in the park and camp or head over to the golf course for extended beauty. While hiking in the park you’ll also have an epiphany of why the oh so popular Hunger Games were filmed in North Carolina and Charlotte.
9) Taste of Charlotte Each June make your way Uptown and spend the day strolling Tryon street sampling the local flavors in food & drink and enjoy the street entertainment. A great introduction to the foodie scene in Charlotte and the dozens of local craft breweries – just note, North Carolina law says alcohol can’t be sold prior to noon on Sundays!
10) Blue Ridge Parkway Ok so it doesn’t exactly run through Charlotte, but if you’re there, and especially in the fall, the Blue Ridge is a MUST. While milepost 1 is in Virginia, the majority runs through North Carolina and has several breathtaking stops along the way. Nearing the last quarter of the drive there are 26 tunnels to be passed through and let me tell you, the names along the parkway provide great car entertainment. But don’t think it’s simply a car ride because there are plenty of cyclists to watch for, hikes to try, towns to stop in, waterfalls to divert to, and even for this Colorado mountain driver, the descending radial curves will test any driver’s skills.