All Hail The Queen City
Planning a day trip to Charlotte? Here’s a few tidbits and must sees to get you ready.
Sometimes you just need to get away, stretch your legs and enjoy a day trip. Here in the South, we’re blessed with scores of quiet getaways and peaceful spots all within a tank of gas. But if you’re ready to try something different, something that blends Southern charm with cosmopolitan culture, it’s just a few hours away. Point your family cruiser up I-95 and enjoy the ride up to Charlotte, the Queen City of the South.
More than just a major airline hub, Charlotte bristles with excitement and energy, spurred by decades of economic growth and influx of new residents from all points of the map. Drawn by the city’s vibrancy, each new transplant has added to the city’s culture, creating a melting pot of flavors, sounds and traditions.
Before you plan your getaway, here are a few things you should know about the Queen City.
Start your Engines
A huge feather in Charlotte’s cap is its bevy of professional sports. Playing in Bank of America stadium, the Carolina Panthers have proven themselves to be the coolest team in the NFL under superstar quarterback Cam Newton. And the Charlotte Hornets never fail to put on a great show at Spectrum Center. (Fun fact: The Hornet nickname comes from the city’s trouncing of Gen. Cornwallis during the Revolution, prompting him to refer to the city as ““a hornet’s nest of rebellion.”). But the true sporting king in Charlotte is NASCAR, with Charlotte Motor Speedway hosting three annual races and the NASCAR Hall of Fame thrilling race fans uptown.
Don’t Miss the “Disco Chicken”
As a cultural hotspot, Charlotte doesn’t disappoint. Among the works of public art you’ll find the famous (or infamous) “Firebird” by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle outside of Charlotte's Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. With its mirror-ball finish and flared bellbottom legs, it’s little wonder why locals have dubbed it “The Disco Chicken.” But it’s not all quirky artistry; Czech artist David Černý's “Metalmorphosis,” located at Whitehall Technology Park is an intriguing, constantly rotating marvel of art and engineering.
The Wild Blue Yonder
North Carolina being the birthplace of aviation, it makes sense that Charlotte would honor that airborne heritage. The Carolinas Aviation Museum celebrates the rich heritage of aeronautics, from the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk to the magnificent flying machines of today. Static displays run the gamut of military and civilian aircraft, with highlights including a replica of the Wright Flyer, a Sopwith Camel, harrier jets, A-4 Phantoms and the famed American Airlines Airbus A320 that crash landed in the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Stroll among displays or hop into the cockpit of a simulator and try your hand at taking to the skies.
North Carolina is famous for many things, but one of their most mouth-watering claim to fame is their slow-cooked BBQ. We’re not going to jump into the oft-heated Lexington vs. Eastern style debate (one which has, in fact, been fought in the halls of the North Carolina state legislature). However you want to cut it and serve it, we’ll eat it. And Charlotte is a hotspot for every style of BBQ under the sun. In fact, it was home to the first barbecue restaurant in the state, a South Church Street grocery owned by Levi and Katie Nunn.
But if you want to talk Charlotte’s culinary specialty, you’re talking pimento cheese. Considered the Pimento Cheese Capital of the World, Charlotte’s Ruth’s Salads puts out 45,000 pounds of the peppery, cheese delight every week. Long before it became the new craze in the foodie world, it was the delicious staple of working-class Charlotte families. Today Charlotte remains one of the biggest markets for it.
And we’re just scratching the surface of the fun and excitement that await you in the Queen City . Want to find out a few more things you have to try? There are only about 101 of them to be found over at Charlotte’s Got a Lot.