The Queen City: A Beginner’s Charlotte Guide

By: Sarah Crossland

December 18, 2013

Close-in photography of the Charlotte NC skyline, taken at sunset (series of images shows sky changing colors as the sun falls below the horizon). Image includes the new Duke Energy Tower (shown far right).

Charlotte isn’t your typical Southern American city. Yes, you’ll find oak-lined streets, quiet neighbourhoods and traditional Southern fare served up with a “thank y’all.” But as the largest city in the state of North Carolina, Charlotte also features gleaming skyscrapers, a diverse population and an urbane vibe you won’t find in many other places in the South. So whether you’re searching for soul food or in the mood for a modern city’s amenities, take a look at our Charlotte guide for a little local inspiration.

The Queen City

Called the Queen City for its namesake, Britain’s Queen Charlotte, the city was originally settled by people of European decent in the 1700s at the intersection of two Native American trading paths. Today those paths are Trade and Tryon Streets, which mark the centre of the city’s busy uptown. From a gold rush to cotton processing, the city has been home to multiple prosperous industries, but none so prominent as its role as a modern banking hub. Charlotte is the second largest banking headquarters in the United States – something that’s reflected in the city’s fast growth and international influence in recent years.

Bechter Museum of Modern Art | The Queen City | Charlotte Guide

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art famed Firebird sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle © Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

One of Charlotte’s newest additions is the Levine Center for the Arts, a cultural destination in Uptown featuring three museums as well as a state-of-the-art performance venue. You’ll find modern works from artists such as Andy Warhol in the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and an impressive collection of African American Art in the Harvey B. Gantt Center, but it’s the Mint Museum where you’ll find some of Charlotte’s most striking exhibits.

US National Whitewater Center | The Queen City | Charlotte Guide

Soak in the scene at the US National Whitewater Center © Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

To really soak in the region though, you’ll want to spend some time enjoying what many consider its best assets: the gorgeous North Carolina weather and scenery. There’s no better spot to do this than at the US National Whitewater Center. This official Olympic training site for whitewater slalom racing offers whitewater rafting, biking, rock climbing, and the chance to explore the Catawba River via paddleboard, canoe, and kayak.

The Queen City | Charlotte Guide

The NoDa neighbourhood draws hip locals and visitors © Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

If shopping and dining are more your preferred past times, there’s plenty of that to be found in Charlotte’s charming and often eclectic neighbourhoods. Spend an afternoon in Plaza Midwood and NoDa, where you can pop in vintage shops like Hong Kong Vintage, international art stores like Pura Vida, and antique boutiques like Fifteen Ten. Grab a pint of local craft beer at a brewery like NoDa Brewing Company and dig into the city’s most popular fried pickles at historic neighbourhood diner, The Diamond.

5 Church | The Queen City | Charlotte Guide

Uptown Charlotte’s 5 Church offers a stylish setting for cocktails and creative cuisine © 5 Church

Though there are plenty of cosy neighbourhood spots for wining and dining, uptown’s sleek restaurants offer some of the city’s top fare. Sip cocktails and enjoy creative dishes beneath feathery chandeliers in the chef-driven 5 Church. Or dine on locally sourced and seasonally inspired offerings at the bright and airy Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth. From these elegant eateries to the casual food trucks you’ll find around town, the city’s fast-growing culinary scene is just one more reason you’ll likely want to return soon.

Header photo: Home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, Charlotte is a major financial centre © Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

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How well do you know Charlotte? Have we missed any of your favourite spots in the Queen City? Share your tips in the comments below.

Written by Sarah Crosland


Sarah Crossland

Sarah Crosland lives in Charlotte and covers the city and region for numerous publications. The North Carolina native has been a travel writer for almost a decade, but her first love has always been food. She authored the book Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte and her next book, 100 Things to do in Charlotte Before You Die, is available in 2014.

Categories: Our Places