Tucked halfway between the Smoky Mountains and the Atlantic Coast, Charlotte radiates graceful charm. Its nickname—“The Queen City”—can be traced back to before the Revolutionary War, to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. But while the city is brimming with historic neighborhoods, don’t mistake its Southern warmth for sleepiness. An explosion of business development has made Charlotte one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and second only to New York City as a banking center. Much of that energy has focused in Center City, where meeting planners will find new hotels, restaurants, and cultural and entertainment districts amid the skyscrapers surrounding the 850,000-square-foot Charlotte Convention Center. And there’s more to come—Charlotte is buzzing as it prepares to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention in September. For more information, visit www.charlottesgotalot.com
. UPTOWN IS DOWNTOWN
Residents call Charlotte’s downtown “Uptown”; it’s also known as Center City. Trade and Tryon Streets divide the highly walkable Uptown into four historic wards. Uptown has EpiCentre restaurant, dining, shopping, and entertainment center; The Levine Center for the Arts, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts + Culture, Knight Theater, and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art; and Time Warner Cable Arena, home to the Charlotte Bobcats.
This whimsical, 1.5-acre pocket park is ringed by restaurants and is directly adjacent to the convention center. Among its features: ceramic sofas, motion-activated walls that chirp and ribbit, book-themed sculptures, giant fish fountains and a built-in hopscotch path.
THE QUEEN CITY’S JEWELS:
Charlotte’s glittering skyline reflects its rank as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Uptown, as the central business district is called, is one of the hottest tickets in town - home to new hotels, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and a cluster of new museums.
Food Lion Speed Street www.600festival.com
In May, Charlotte celebrates its famous ties with motor sports with live music, exhibits of NASCAR show cars and simulators, and appearances by some of the biggest (and fastest) drivers on the track. The festival is bookended by the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 19 and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27 - both at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
King’s Kitchen www.kingskitchen.org
Jim Noble helped pioneer the farm-to- table movement in Charlotte, and at his King’s Kitchen, Southern classics rely on local ingredients prepared with a modern spin: “Aunt Beaut’s Skillet- Fried Chicken” appears on the menu alongside beet risotto. Another nice twist: The restaurant operates as a nonprofit, donating proceeds to food programs and creating jobs and training programs for workers considered unemployable.
The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte www.ritzcarlton.com/charlotte
As an emerging green destination, Charlotte is a fitting site for Ritz-Carlton’s first property built to be LEED Gold–certified. Loaded with green initiatives, such as a plant-topped “living” roof that’s home to honeybees, the 146- room, 18-story hotel also offers 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,035-square-foot ballroom and eight function rooms.
Mint Museum Uptown www.mintmuseum.org
The 145,000- square foot, five-story Mint Museum Uptown, opened in 2010, is home to collections of American, Craft + Design, Contemporary, and European art. It also holds sleek and stylish spaces for events, including a multistory atrium with a 60' x 60' glass-curtain wall, a 240- seat auditorium, and a rooftop terrace.
Charlotte Convention Center www.charlotteconventionctr.com
Charlotte Convention Center, situated within walking distance of 4,200 hotel rooms and scores of restaurants, is a visual treat, with light-filled concourses, arched entryways, and a collection of large-scale public art. The center offers 280,000 square feet of contiguous and divisible exhibit space, 37meeting rooms, a 35,000- square-foot ballroom, and the new, 40,000- square-foot Crown Ballroom.
NASCAR Hall of Fame www.nascarhall.com
Charlotte is ground zero for NASCAR, the nation’s second most popular spectator sport. The NASCAR Hall of Fame mixes meeting space with interactive exhibits, including racing simulators, and race- and driver-related artifacts. Connected to the convention center via a walkway, the Hall of Fame offers a 40,000- square-foot ballroom and award-winning catering.