North Carolina has a lot of attractions. And many are within an easy drive of Charlotte.
*Asheville & Surrounding area
Myrtle Beach didn't excite me much
Raleigh didn't do much for me
Fondest memory: Mark and I have been friends for a long time. He has been to Richmond twice (as of July, 2004) and I've been to Charlotte twice as of March, 2004. As some have read, when we get together, excellent adventures are guaranteed. Mark and I tease each other so much that some folks might think we don't like each other at all, but we tease each other because we do. This picture was taken by the waitress at Brazas where we celebrated Mark's birthday.
Favorite thing: I don't think I'll ever understand modern art. (Enlarge the photo.) The top one is simply a sculpture of the school's mascot, the 49ers. That is a reference to Charlotte's one-time prominence in gold before the gold rush in California. The bottom one is one I don't get. It looks like a tornado pulling some kind of banner.
Favorite thing: UNCC is Mark's alma mater. Its campus is about 8 miles (5 km.) north of uptown. When it comes to their athletic programme, their teams are simply referred to as Charlotte, but in academic circles it's UNCC. Beyond some typical brick architecture, the campus is right bland in those terms. There are a few statues, some ponds by which to sit and meditate, botanical gardens, and if that's not enough to distract you, the Halton Arena is home to the school's basketball team, not to mention the Barhardt Student Activity Centre.
The most impressive aspect of Charlotte is its clean, best-face-forward downtown district, which is often called by different names. You might hear it referred to as "uptown" because of its physical setting on relatively high ground. Sometimes its referred to as "center city" because of the move to revitalize the area and bring more people into the are to live. And, of course, the more generic term "downtown" gets thrown around at times. The Bank of America Tower (the tallest building of the nouveau-styled skyline) is one of a handful of attractive and cleanly designed buildings. The second-leading banking center in the US (only New York is bigger), Charlotte's downtown is evidence that corporate dollars abound.
Recent efforts to vitalize downtown have brought a number of trendy and sometimes high-priced restaurants and condos.
Your best bets downtown are as follows:
Restaurants. Eat, eat, eat. There are plenty of good ones here.
Discovery Place- nice science museum, IMAX theater.
Public Library- was national library of the year in 1996.
Erricson Stadium- completed in 1997, home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
The Mint Museum of Craft & Design- a surprisingly nice offshoot of the larger Mint Museum, which is located 5-8 minutes south of downtown on Randolph Rd (4th Street turns into Randolph)
Fondest memory: Eating dinners at the Cajun Queen, a restaurant on 7th Street (near the intersection of Pecan in the heart of the Elizabeth neighborhood).
Cajun Queen has excellent steaks, seafood, and New Orleans cuisine.
It is located in a large (or 'big ole' as they say in the South) house that can provide a romantic or a casual atmosphere. Downstairs, there are two or three fireplaces and upstairs the 7th Street Gator Band will keep your toes tapping with their brass and piano ensemble.
But it's the food that will keep you coming.
(entrees range from $10-$30)
Fondest memory: The best part of a trip to a friend's house is arrival, when the adventures have just begun. Mark was waiting for me at the unimpressively designed Charlotte train station at 1914 N. Tryon. We took a nice late meal at Don Quijote on the way in. We were doing the Spanish thing all the way, eating Spanish food at the same time of day they would take supper in Spain. On arriving to Mark's house south of Uptown, he showed me to the most comfortable room in the house. He introduced me to Kirby, his security-conscious cat. You will be even more amazed by Mark's VT page building abilities when I report to you that he did all this (through March, 2003) with a 56K dial-up modem. Shortly after this picture was taken, Mark got a new laptop and a high speed connection!
Favorite thing: The Green is a new development just across from the Charlotte Convention Center Uptown. In this picture, you can see the Wachovia tower in the background and the top of some luxury condos that are very characteristic of the type of housing in Uptown. These places are nice, but extremely expensive (as in $1.3 million).
Well, in late February of 2004, Charlotte had the worst blizzard that I've ever seen down here. In fact, it was the second most snowfall in the history of the city with about 15 inches falling in my backyard.
Not surprisingly, the city shut down. I even got my car stuck in my driveway trying to drive to the store to get some groceries.
If you know where to look, you can easily escape the crowds in Charlotte. Whether you're on the busy streets of Uptown or in a thriving South Charlotte shopping mall, you can always find a little peace in a tucked away corner. This photo was taken at the pond that's directly behind the Arboretum Shopping Center in South Charlotte, one of the busiest and nicest strip malls in the city. A lot of locals don't even know it's there, but if you look for it, you'll be rewarded with a small trail and most likely some quiet time with just you and the birds.
Fondest memory: The Arboretum is located at the intersection of Highway 51 (Pineville-Matthews Road) and Providence Road in South Charlotte.
Fondest memory: As I alluded to in my transportation tip, a group of 117 students from Harrisburg (Cabarrus County, NC) Elementary School together with teachers and chaperones boarded the southbound Carolinian from Raleigh through to Kannapolis (the penultimate stop for the run). Why didn't I move from the car taken over by the 4th graders? The train was packed and the only other available seat was my original seat next to a guy with a cold. I reasoned I could get rid of any headache faster than a cold. Instead of letting it get me down, I made the best of it. I saw the teachers really earned their pay and the chaperones the appreciation from the school system. I tried to keep their minds off causing their teachers Maalox moments by challenging them with mathematical story problems such as, "I was born in 1969. I never failed a single year in school and I graduated from university on time. What year did I graduate from university?". I kept this kind of thing up and listened to them from Raleigh through to Kannapolis. I only had about 30 minutes from Kannapolis to Charlotte to decompress from that interesting adventure. Mark will bear witness that I arrived to Charlotte frazzled. To be honest, it was more from lack of sleep the previous two nights than anything else. The experience with the fourth graders brought me back to my own fourth grade (1978-79) experience.
Favorite thing: Although Charlotte is a big city and financial centre, it enjoys its parks. Once upon a time, Freedom Park was a "warning and danger" tip at night. However, better policing sent the deviants, perverts and pushers to other places. In this snap, a family was dining underneath a blooming tree and next to a World war 2 memorial.
Fondest memory: Mark gave a great tour of Uptown Charlotte, showing me the transforming architecture of the fourth ward, that of the downtown skyline, and other points of interest throughout this largest city in North Carolina. My favourite part of the tour was The Green.
Fondest memory: During my extensive acemj tour of uptown Charlotte, he showed me the Gateway Village office complex where he works. This appears to be a nice environment in which to work. Despite being in Uptown Charlotte, it has a suburban office park type atmosphere. Not being in one of the tall buildings, it seems to a less attractive target for evildoers.
Favorite thing: Charlotte is a hotbed for antique stores. You'll find many by just opening the yellow pages (phone book). Since, antiquing isn't really my thing, I'll recommend a used book store instead. Buyers Books on Central Ave (at The Plaza) looks like my old elementary school library inside. Very simple. Just some bookshelves and a great selection of used books at great prices. I recently bought two books that would have retailed for $37 for only $9! (See more under Must See Activities)
Favorite thing: The Green is actually a literary-themed park that is full of art and is a peaceful spot in the middle of the city. This is a photo of a sculpture of a stack of books. There are also sensors in the park that make noises as you walk by. You might here the low gurgle of the whale and find yourself becoming a character in Moby Dick, so be warned.