Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Charlotte-area attractions. The Greater Charlotte
area is full of attractions for all ages. About 250 years ago, Scots-Irish ancestors traveled the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia,
stopping at an Indian trading path crossroads east of the Catawba River to build a settlement. In 1768, the town was incorporated and
named Charlotte, honoring the wife of King George III, reigning English monarch, thus providing for the “Queen City” tag. Locals further
honored Queen Charlotte by naming their new county Mecklenburg after her German homeland. Unearthing of a 17-pound gold nugget in 1799
spawned a proliferation of mines that pulled in prospectors. A Charlotte branch of the U.S. Mint was established in 1837, but the boom
was short-lived as strike-it-richers soon followed the call to California. After gold's boom and bust, king cotton brought prosperity
to the region, and with it came railroads, followed by the interstate highway system and the airport. By the early 1990s, Charlotte had
blossomed into the third largest financial center in the U.S. (behind New York City and San Francisco), and as a wholesale and trading center.
So committed is Greater Charlotte to international trade that its literature is printed with sections in German and Japanese as well as English.
Lake Wylie and Norman and the Catawba River offer boating, fishing, water skiing, and tennis. Arts and entertainment range from the North Carolina
Performing Arts Center at Charlotte to the Mint Museum and Carowinds Theme Park.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area,
with links to more details when available.
- Carolinas Historic Aviation Commission Air Museum
Wood and wires of the first airplanes help celebrate a century of flight at this museum where the F-102, American's first supersonic fighter, is the latest restoration. A flying DC-3, flight simulators, helicopters and jets, and a space capsule are on display.
4108 Airport Drive. (704) 359-8442
- Charlotte Center City & Historic Fourth Ward Walking Tours
Get a sense of Charlotte's dynamic growth with a walk through the Center City, or stroll back into the Victorian past with the historic Fourth Ward walking tour through a neighborhood filled with gingerbread décor, stained-glass windows, flower-filled planters and wide rail verandahs. Hundreds of Victorian dwellings lined Charlotte streets from the 1890s until urban renewal of the 1960s. Among survivors are the Bagley-Mullen House (129 N. Poplar Street), the Overcarsh House (326 W. Eighth Street) and the Queen Anne-style Liddell-McNinch House (511 N. Church Street). The small frame grocery at 401 W. Ninth Street was once the neighborhood commercial center. Other key sites include the Charlotte Cotton Mill Complex (502 W. Fifth Street), First Presbyterian Church (200 W. Trade Street) and Settlers Cemetery (200 W. Fifth Street).
- Charlotte Historic Trolley Museum
Photos, exhibits and trolley rides, too, are all part of the nostalgia that may become daily reality, if the Charlotte Trolley Inc.has its way. As things stand, $2 trolley rides run on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Carolina Panthers Game Days, rides begin two hours before and end one hour after the action. Streetcars leave the barn on the hour and half hour and admission is free to the museum, where each car has a story. Electric streetcars, introduced to Charlotte in May 1891, were essential to development and suburbanization of the city. Ironically, Charlotte Streetcar #85 was the centerpiece of a Good-bye To Trolleys celebration on March 14, 1938, making it the city's last streetcar to operate back then. On Aug. 29, 1996, #85 again began operating on a 1.2 mile stretch of track from the barnwell to stonewall Street in Uptown Charlotte. Charlotte's City Council has earmarked $16.7 million to build a bridge over Stonewall Street, extend the line through the Convention Center, and install overhead wire.
2100 South Boulevard. (704) 375-0850.
- Charlotte Nature Museum
This small, urban nature center adjacent to Freedom Park features live animal room, a nature trail and puppet theater.
1658 Sterling Road. (704) 372-6261
- Charlotte's 10K VolksWalk Trail
Sanctioned by the American Volkssport Association, this map-guided, non-competitive year round walk takes participants through uptown as well as some of the historic neighborhoods. Maps are available at the start and finish points, “INFO!Charlotte.”
330 South Tryon Street. (704) 331-2700.
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens
With names like Four Seasons, Cottage, Canal, and Perennial, The Gardens are part of the 450-acre, 40-year master plan designed by landscape architect Geoffrey Rausch taking root in phases at between $150- and $200 million for full development. Impetus came in 1991, when Daniel Jonathan Stowe, a retired textile executive, announced a gift of acreage that includes prime rolling meadows, woodlands and lakefront property along with a $14 million endowment. Some 158,000 square feet of planting beds are divided into separate areas, each with a different theme: Four Seasons, near the visitor pavilion, shows off blooms throughout the year, with emphasis on winter; Cottage revels in “pass-along” plantings, not readily available in the nursery trade, that a North Carolina grandmother might have nurtured before 1920; Canal has long rows anchored by fountains on either end; and Perennial in divided into four “rooms” called Allee, Scroll, Ribbon and Serpentine. A capital campaign began in 2002 for The Garden's next big undertaking, construction of an enclosed glass conservatory for tender, exotics. DSGB's master plan eventually calls for an auditorium, Asian garden, rose pergola, waterfall, library and reading garden, and a full service restaurant.
6500 South New Hope Road. (704) 825-4490
- Discovery Place
As one of the nation's top hands-on science museums, Discovery Place provides ever-changing entertainment in areas from life science to space exploration. Each year, more than a half-million people visit its IMAX Dome Theatre and planetarium. 301 North Tryon Street. (704) 372-6261
- Levine Museum of the New South
Charlotte's only regional history museum focuses on the New South period.
An interactive regional history museum features changing and traveling exhibits with a realistic, poignant view of Charlotte's past. It is the only museum in the nation concentrating exclusively on New South history.
200 East Seventh Street. (704) 333-1887
- McDowell Nature Preserve
A playground, picnic area with shelters and decks, hiking tails, boat ramps, canoe and paddleboat rentals are all part of this 956-acre nature center with insect displays and interactive games. Camping (803) 831-2285 is also available on Lake Wylie.
15222 York Road. (704) 588-5224
- McGill Rose Garden
Admission is free at this old-fashioned rose garden near uptown on the site of a one-time fuel and ice company. With more than 1,000 roses with 230 varieties, it has been designated an All-American Rose Selections Public Garden.
940 North Davidson Street. (704) 825-4490
- Mint Museum of Art
North Carolina's first art museum features American and European paintings, pre-Columbian art, regional crafts, historic costumes, African art, gold coins minted in Charlotte and one of America's outstanding collections of pottery and porcelain. Closed on Mondays.
2730 Randolph Road. (704) 337-2000
- Mint Museum of Craft & Design
The renovated five-story Montaldo's department store, designed by Charlotte architect Louis Asbury in 1953, the museum's permanent collection documenting evolution of craft in ceramics fiber, glass, metal and wood. The museum traces the movement's historical roots in the 19th century and relationships to traditional decorative arts and industrial design.
2730 Randolph Road. (704) 337-2000
- Paramount's Carowinds Water and Theme Park
Operating from early spring to early fall, this 105-acre theme and water park has more than 50 attractions, including thrill rides like TOPGUN, the park's biggest, tallest, fastest coaster, and the DROP ZONE stunt tower, along with musical revues and shows, plus a Nickelodeon Central children's area, WaterWorks park, concerts and special events, plus a year-around campground.
14523 Carowinds Boulevard. (704) 588-2600
- Public Art Walking Tour
Lace up the sneakers, and head off to the Charlotte Convention Center (501 S. College Street) to take in Jamie Carpenter's Oculus Reflector, refracting streaming sunlight into shifting floor patterns. Then scope out murals of the Second Street Concourse showing off Charlotte through eyes of six regional artists; Leave the Convention Center main entrance, cross to College Street, and travel one block to East First Street, then turn right on Tryon Street toward the Square to take in Dennis Smith's Fountain Sculptures. Head north on Tryon Street to The Square where, at the Trade and Tryon intersection, are several pieces of art including Raymond Kaskey's Sculptures on the Square. Walk north on Tryon toward Fifth Street, stopping at the Main Library, at 310 N.Tryon Street, where on the main level Romare Bearden's Before Dawn, a glass tile mural is part of her Mecklenburg County series. Leaving the library, turn left on Sixth Street and cross College Street. Look for the 10-story Bank of America Seventh Street Station behind the Museum of the New South. It's only a parking garage, but here is where Christopher Janney's Touch My Building turns it into a work of art, combining glass, neon, paint and sound. Leave the garage, following Seventh Street toward Tryon. Cross College and continue on Seventh to the Tryon intersection, where Charlotte artist Ben Long's fresco Continuum features faces viewers can try to identify. Then from Transamerica Square, turn right and head south along Tryon. At Trade and Tryon streets, turn right on Trade, heading west. Cross Church Street and stop at the Carillon Building (227 W. Trade Street). Here Jerry Peart's The Garden, a painted aluminum sculpture depicting plants and flowers seems to sprout from the ground. Inside the Carillon lobby is Jean Tinguely's Cascade, a moving, splashing piece of motorized sculpture. Note the lion's head once gracing the façade of the Hotel Charlotte, which stood on Carillon grounds. Also here is Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #683, basic geometry punctuated by color. Leaving the Carillon, turn right on Church Street. At the intersection of Stonewall Street, turn right, traveling west on Stonewall to Michael Hayden's Quadrille. This dancing holographic neon light sculpture, although visible by day, is vibrant at night.
The Arts & Sciences Council. (704) 372-9667
- Queen's Cup Steeplechase Races
Each year on the last Saturday of April, this all-day outdoor festival features live thoroughbred horse racing, tailgate parties, and more. Jockeys in bright colored silks push their mounts to clear four-foot jumps over a three-mile rolling turf course. The purse is $85,000 plus the prestige of being in the winner's circle. Lawn Boxes and Hospitality Tents on Member's Hill are new to the Queen's Cup. For 2004, Personal Space Licenses (PSLs) also are being offered to patrons so families can enjoy personal tailgating space for generations to come.
112 Somer Street, Waxhaw. (704) 843-7070
- Ray's Splash Planet
Getting soaked is inevitable at Ray's Splash Planet, a one-of-a-kind water park, which also has a fitness center with a cardiovascular theater, free-weights and resistance equipment. Water park attractions include The Blue Comet, a three-story slide shaped like a double figure eight; The Orbiter, which lets tube riders orbit around the Comet; Saturation Station, with four slides and a tumble bucket; Meteor Showers, where brilliantly colored containers fill and spill drenching all around with a gazillion gallons of water, and Sun Drops, with squirters placed around the pool basin; Moon Beach, with gradual beach-like entry pool; and Sea of Tranquility, two lap-lanes for lap swimming or water basketball or volleyball.
215 N. Sycamore Street. (704) 432-4729
- Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site
Location of America's first gold discovery – the nugget was a 17-pounder – is preserved with a museum, orientation film, guided underground tour, a stamp mill and walking trails. Lessons on how to pan for gold are available for a small fee, depending on season. The state-owned Reed Gold Mine, 20 miles east of Charlotte, contains the original 822 acres of John Reed's farm. As the story goes, Reed's son Conrad, found a large yellow rock in the farm's creek while playing hooky from church in 1799. It was used by the family as a doorstop until 1802 when an enterprising jeweler spotted it as something more than a pretty rock and paid the family $3.50 for what was, at the time, worth about $3,600.
9621 Reed Gold Mine Road. (704) 721-4653
- Reedy Creek Environmental Center
This small, remote nature center on a 700-acre preserve features hands-on exhibits, a one-mile nature trail, naturalist guided walks, a naturalist lab, environmental programs and science workshops. Location is between Rocky River, Grier and Plaza Roads in northeast Charlotte.
2900 Rocky River Road. (704) 598-8857
- Spirit Square Center for the Arts & Education
With two theatres, five galleries, and 15 classrooms, Spirit Square features performances, lectures, concerts, and more.
345 North College Street. (704) 333-4686
- UNC – Charlotte Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Garden
Tour the McMillan Greenhouse, featuring orchids, cactuses, carnivorous plant and rain forest, and the VanLandingham Glen. The VanLandingham Estate was built by Ralph and Susie Harwood-VanLandingham in 1913 after Ralph's father invited him to join a brokerage firm in Charlotte. Though already quite wealthy, the textile boom made the VanLandinghams even more prosperous. The couple also owned a mountain home and they re-created the feeling on the estate by covering grounds with cedars and cypress.
Highway 49 North. (704) 331-0664
- U.S. National Whitewater Center
Located on the banks of the Catawba River, this outdoor recreation park features hundreds of wooded acres, miles of bike, hiking and running trails, climbing walls, and a whitewater course on the largest recirculating river in the world which also is used for kayaking and canoeing practice by U.S. Olympic teams.
Belmeade Drive, I-85 exit 12 (Moores Chapel Road), just west of the airport. (704) 391-3900
- Victory Lane Indoor Karting Center
Charlotte's first and only indoor competition go-karting facility has two race tracks averaging 28 m.p.h.
2330 Tipton Drive. (704) 323-9740
- Wing Haven
Four acres combining formal gardens with woodlands in a residential setting.
248 Ridgewood Avenue. (704) 331-0664