Pineville, North Carolina is an as-yet unspoilt suburb of Charlotte located in Southern Mecklenburg County just north of the state line, There is a small downtown area with what a lot of urban types would call quaint antique shops. By 2010, you may well see Pineville lose its rural nature from both sides: from the north- upscale suburbs moving south from Ballantyne. From the south, less upscale homes in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
Concord, North Carolina is a suburb of Charlotte just across the Cabarrus County line. It is famous for two things: the Lowes Motor Speedway and Concord Mills Mall. People who visit only concentrate on those things, but there is a perfectly good downtown area with notable architecture (exemplified by the old courthouse). There are no chains to be found, but there is the Cabarrus Creamery.
Pineville is on the southwest side of town along the South Carolina border. The easiest way to get there if you're not familiar with Charlotte, is to head south on South Blvd. until you reach Hwy. 51. Hang a right and you'll be driving through downtown Pineville. It's a quaint little strip of shops and is a nice diversion from the relative hustle and bustle of the city of Charlotte. Antiques are the most notable merchandise on sale and there are also a few good restaurants in the area including El Vallarta and The Cajun Queen, both of which I've listed in my restaurant tips.
Lake Norman is a man-made lake to the north of Charlotte. It is surrounded by Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville, Lincolnton, and Denver. Huntersville is great for shopping, and Mooresville is great for race fans. There are a lot of parks around the lake for boating or fishing.
About a 30-40 minute drive from Charlotte is this wonderful retreat for any nature lover. The botanical gardens are composed of a series of gardens linked by beautifully landscaped pathways and fountains. If you love flowers and landscape, this place is a must.
You can reach DSGB by taking I-85 South toward Gastonia and then taking the Belmont/Mount Holly Exit heading south (Hwy 273). You'll see signs for the gardens. The address is 6500 South New Hope Road in Belmont.
The South Carolina line is just a few minutes from Mark's doorstep or any point in Charlotte. The proximity is so close that a good number of people who work by day in Uptown Charlotte commute to places like Fort Mill and Rock Hill in York County, just across the line. It should further be noted that the local theme park called Carowinds is bisected by the state line.
In March, 2003, Mark and I had an unexpected wild adventure passing through South Carolina. The original plan was for Mark and me to briefly cross into South Carolina during the course of our first tour of Charlotte, but on the way home from Asheville, Mark took a wrong turn and followed Route 26 as opposed to route 74. This detour to South Carolina turned out to be about twice as expensive as a meal for 2 at one of the fancy restaurants I call "Food Network Specials". A South Carolina state trooper paced him going 80 mph (129 km./hr.) in a 60 mph (97 km./hr.) zone. The trooper flashed his headlights and pulled Mark over. The police don't give you any kind of break when you speed in South Carolina.
On the second trip (where parts of South Carolina were on our itinerary), I attempted to snap a photo of a welcome sign on I-77 en route to Columbia. The photo did not turn out as well as I would like, so my friend and native South Carolinian "ClarkRB" hooked me up with one. This one says "Spartanburg County" which is near Charlotte and through which I have passed on a couple of occasions before.
Even in the midst of the skyscrapers in Uptown Charlotte, it's possible to find a quiet spot to ditch the crowds. If you're visiting the city, grab a sandwich and head to this courtyard of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Or you can find plenty of peace in the tiny squares in the Fourth Ward district. You might also try the area around the Old Settler's Cemetery between 5th & 6th near First Presbyterian Church.
The gardens on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate are full of interesting things to see. It's a whole lot more than just the house itself. The gardens are especially great in the spring and summer and you'll also find an equestrian center, miles of pathways for horseback riding, creeks and lakes, and gorgeous open fields.
If you have an extra day, spend it at the Biltmore. It's a 2 hour drive from Charlotte and about $35 to get in, but worth every penney. This is the largest privately owned home in America. It's more like a castle, built in the French Chateau style and owned by the Vanderbilt family. The collection of furnishings and art-work alone is priceless and the grounds of the estate are gorgeous. The property is hundreds of acres of beautiful land, a winery, an equestrian center, rivers, lakes, a waterfall and 3 great restaurants. Well worth a trip.
Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord. It's only about 20 minutes north of Charlotte (take I-85N). Charlotte is the undisputed home of Nascar. Personally, I don't get it. I've been to two races and all those constant left turns just didn't do it for me. However, seeing 200,000 crazy fans in one place is quite a spectacle!
Okay, not really off the beaten path, but the British Barber Shop is down the road in Matthews, NC (near Mario's) and its where I've been getting my haircut for over 9 years.
It's owned by the Little family who are originally from London, but now reside in the area. That's Mike and Trish in the photo!
Watch out for Mike. If he gets to know you like he knows me, he'll start to abuse you. He usually squirts me with his water bottle at least once every time I visit. Definitely a prankster!
I haven't been to Linville in a couple of years, so maybe it's about time I returned. There are so many small waterfalls in the mountains that are worth seeking out. I've hiked three trails in Linville, but there are hundreds to choose from. Some are easier than others so whether you're a serious hiker or a novice, you can find something appropriate.
If you don't want to drive the hour and a half to Asheville, but you still want a taste of the beauty of the North Carolina mountains, just drive the 35 minutes to Crowder's Mountain National Park on the west side of Gastonia (Take I-85 or Hwy. 74 West).
The trails are lovely and the views at the top are worth the hike.
Wilmington makes a great weekend trip from Charlotte. It's about a three hour drive and you'll find the state's largest historic district. Charming southern mansions and a beautiful waterfront location on the Cape Fear River make it a great place to visit. Please check out my Wilmington, NC page for more information.
Charleston is another great weekend trip for those of us who live in Charlotte. Along with Savannah, Georgia and Beaufort, South Carolina, Charleston is one of the great southern towns for graceful mansions and charming sights. You can walk along the battery, take a tour of the homes in the area or just relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
It's about 3 1/2 hours from Charlotte.