If you’ve never been to Charlotte, NC, the picture you are holding in your head is almost certainly in need of gentle correction. The name evokes a charming Southern town made good – and that is true enough, but utterly fails to account for what you are in for when you arrive. It is history, but today the city is the country’s second largest financial center, second only to New York. Charlotte has over 250 businesses tied to the new energy sector. It is a gleaming colossus of a city that is at once driving the country ahead and refusing to let go of its charm. It is patchwork of 199 separate neighborhoods held together by some of the best, award-winning, urban greenspaces in the country and a heap old school charm.
Located smack in the beautiful piedmont region, you are never far from the great outdoors; perfect for boating, camping or just taking it all in. As a city, however, Charlotte was never really that sleepy. It’s a sporting place and we aren’t just talking about racing, either. Although it has been the epi-center of NASCAR since that Last American Hero Junior Johnson went careening around the turn with a carload of chickens and moonshine. Charlotte also hosts the Panthers of the NFL, the Hornets of the NBA, The Checkers of NHL and United Soccer League’s Charlotte Independence.
Uptown Charlotte just glitters with culture and charm. The Levine Center for the Arts includes the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey Gantt Center for African American Art & Culture, and the Mint Museum. All of which are open for a single ticket to make an uptown culture crawl easy and affordable. In addition, there is the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center hosting the ballet, symphony and opera, as well as comedy clubs and nightlife.
If you want a little less gleam and a little more grit, try the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Once home to a large and varied immigrant population, now it boasts a vibe that sit tattoo parlors, craft beer taverns and fine dining all in a row. But the truth is that Charlotte offers far too many neighborhoods to mention here, with each its own vibe and feel from gritty and edgy, arts and business, to homey and sleepy. Scattered throughout it all are the craft breweries. The piedmont region has become the “Napa Valley of Beer” making Charlotte the near center of the beer nerd universe.
To say that Charlotte has kept a small town feel despite its size is to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick, though. Charlotte is like a lot of small towns refusing to revolve around a great big city, but through it. With each pass, every neighborhood is picking up new ideas and leaving a little Carolina charm in its wake.
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