Attempting to get up close and personal with airplanes on the tarmac these days can result in an interrogation by federal agents (or worse). Avoid any confrontation and visit the Carolinas Aviation Museum, instead:
The Perfect Family Outing
Located at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, this museum hosts dozens of aircraft that have served military, civil, and commercial purposes. Explore the updated Miracle on the Hudson exhibit, and take a look at the situation wall that displays current air traffic over Charlotte. You can also speak with volunteer aviation experts and have a chance to sit in a cockpit -- without causing any airport alarms.
A Brief History of Aviation in Charlotte:
On May 17, 1938 Eastern Airlines flew the first commercial flight into Charlotte and in the airport's first year of operation six flights took off from Charlotte each day. Two years later, the airport was renamed Douglas Municipal Airport in honor of mayor Ben E. Douglas who headed the movement to build it.
Charlotte Douglas Airport grew rapidly through the years but in 1991 the original hangar was scheduled to be torn down to make room for expansion. Floyd and Lois Wilson heard about the removal of the hangar and decided to step in to save the historical landmark. They organized a small group of aviation enthusiasts and formed the Carolinas Historical Aviation Commission (CHAC).
The organization acquired its first aircraft from the U.S. Army in 1992 - a North American T-28 Trojan, a trainer designed in 1949 to replace the T-6 Texan used during WWII. It was in production from about 1950 to 1957.
Two years after the CHAC was formed, the old hangar officially became the new home of the Carolinas Aviation Museum (CAM). Due to the extension of the new taxiway in 2010, the hangar was moved and the museum was relocated to a new, to them, 40,000 square foot hangar on First Flight Drive. The original hangar is still part of the museum and can be seen across the runway from the new hangar, but it is currently used only for storage of some of the museum's aircraft.
The newest, and perhaps most historically significant, addition to the museum is the plane which flew US Airways Flight 1549 on that fateful day when the plane lost the battle to the birds which flew into its intakes (of course the birds cannot be said to have won either unless they were kamikaze birds) resulting in a masterful, and some of us add miraculous, landing in the Hudson River. No lives were lost, other than the birds, the aircraft was recovered, and after refurbishing resides in a place of great honor at the CAM.
Hours of Operation
Monday-Friday: 10am - 4 pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 1pm - 5pm
Seniors 60+: $10
Students age 6 to 18: $8
College with ID: $8
Active Duty Military: $8
Children 5 and under: Free
(with family visit only)
The Levine Museum of the New South in downtown Charlotte is a nice place to spend an informative afternoon. Although the focus is really on the Charlotte region, not the "new South" in general, the well designed exhibits provide a lively and interesting picture of the region since the beginning of the 20th Century. This would be an especially informative stop for folks who did not grow up in the area or for adolescents with interests in history. Admission prices are moderate (free on the Sunday afternoon when we happened by!), and more than worth the price.
...should actually be The Mint Museums. There are two (and for a while last year, there were three.) The name itself is very interesting. There was once a US Mint in Charlotte, during the era when Charlotte was the primary source of gold ore in this country. I am not certain of the time between the closing of the US Mint and the opening of the Mint Museum but the original location of the mint was on West Trade Street, where the Charles R. Jonas (named for the Congressman who gave me my appointment to the US Naval Academy) Federal Building now stands. To save the remarkable building where the mint had been housed, several civic leaders joined forces to move the building several miles southeast to Myers Park, where the "old wealth" of Charlotte was located.
The other Mint Museum is in Center City. It is called the Mint Museum of Craft + Design and tends to feature glass, crafts, fabrics, etc.
HOURS: Tue 10am-9pm (free 5 -9 p.m.); Wed-Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 1pm-5pm
OFten when dealing with science museums, it can be that they are too complicated, too theoretical, and simply too boring, for children. The Charlotte Nature Museum fixes a lot of that. With interactive, hands-on displays and exhibits, it teaches science like the ecology and species of North Carolina and the life cycle. There's also a small hiking trail through the local forest, though this portion seems yet to be developed. The life cycle is the primary function of the museum, being explained by seeing baby mice and chicks, as well as a neat butterfly exhibit. In the butterfly room, you can see the caterpillars, chrysalises, and mature butterflies. It's a relaxing place to sit, talk, and watch these splashes of color flit around the warm room. Take the kids, and it's fun for adults too.
Admision:$6 per person (regardless of age)
Hours: Open Tues-Sun till 5pm
The Bechtler Museum is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland who assembled and inherited a collection of more than 1,400 artworks created by major figures of 20th-century modernism and donated it to the public trust. The Bechtler collection reflects most of the important art movements and schools from the 20th century with broad exposure to the Paris School. In many instances, the holdings by a particular artist are across various media (painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, and decorative arts). Books, photographs and letters illustrating personal connections to the Bechtler family accompany some works in the collection.
Only a handful of the artworks in the Bechtler collection have been on public view in the United States.
The collection juxtaposes whimsy with work of significant intellectual depth and historical significance. Cosmopolitan in nature yet intimate in scale, the Bechtler offers a collection that is inspiring and approachable. Owing to its size and focus, the Bechtler will provide an in-depth arts experience that can be explored in an afternoon but still reward repeated visits.
There are four exhibit areas in the modern and ornate main building: the beginnings, transitions, and connections galleries as well as a temporary gallery in the east wing of the second floor (as of March, 2004 the exhibit was "Soldiers Stories: war in the first person"). Corridors can be used for temporary exhibit space. In the Great Hall, there was a bagpiper there and a talk was given on Scottish history. That fits because Charlotte was originally settled by people of Scottish and Irish descent. Mark and I got an overview of what Charlotte looked like in 1775- pretty much a small crossroads town with 200 or so citizens, rather like Virgilina today. We looked at many of the exhibits here, but the inescapable whine of the bagpipes grated at me, so we were off to some of the outer exhibits.
MONEY SAVING TIP: If you can, go on Sunday. It's free to everybody.
The "rock house" house isn't where you would find tributes to Keith Richards or Mick Jagger (go to Cleveland for that). The Hezekiah Alexander House nicknamed the rock house the oldest home still standing in Mecklenburg County, was built in 1774 of locally quarried stone. The architecture closely resembles the stone structures of Pennsylvania and western Maryland from where the Alexander family came. Most of its original stonework remains and it sits on its original location, within view of some ultra-modern flats.
The Belk foundation donated this as a gift to the people from the Carolinas. It symbolises the patriotism and pride expressed by the backcountry patriots of the Revolutionary War. It is 7 feet (2 m.) wide and tall, and weighs 7 tons.
Discovery Place is a science museum for kids and adults. This place has two main floors, and an Omnimax Theatre. The theatre also serves as a planetarium. Also, there is a tropical rainforest, an ocean pool, and exhibits on such things as biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and a lot of hands on stuff too.
There is now a toddler hands on section, for children 6 years old and YOUNGER only. Parents have to accompany their children, and the section is filled with hands on water activities, toys, and games. Your child could spend hours in here and not get bored!!! :-)
Don't miss the tour of the Alexander House and buildings. We had a great docent/guide who helped us understand the day-to-day of colonial living. And, it's a beautiful house and setting. I think they're every day at 1:15 and 3:15
Also worthwhile is the exhibit about the settlement of Charlotte with a lighted diorama that helps you put the city/town layout in perspective.
Staff was also verfy friendly and helpful
Mark and I thought about going in here, but it didn't open until noon. At that point, we were ready for lunch and I was near the end of my last roll of film and needed to purchase more. The museum is about life in the South from 1866 forward.
Located just behind the Charlotte Museum of History is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Completed in 1774 and built from stone quarried from the property, the house was home to the Hezekiah Alexander family. Mr. Alexander was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the family came from Pennsylvania. The style of architecture reflects the family's roots as it is typical of Pennsylvania in the 18th century. You can tour the home at 1:15 and 3:15 every day and it is free with your admission to the museum ($6 for an adult).
If you want to learn about the history of the area, this is the place to go. There are 4 permanent exhibit halls which take you from the 18th century beginnings of the city through modern times. Upstairs you'll find the temporary exhibits. All of the multimedia presentations are offered in both Spanish and English. There is also a research library and reading room upstairs, which is one of the warmest, most perfect places to research in the city. You'll also visit the Hezekiah Alexander house located 500 feet behind the museum, the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Alexander was a signer of the Declaration of Independence among many other things that I can't remember! Here's a picture of the fountain in front of the museum.
The Mint used to be the U.S. Mint and the building itself was moved from Uptown Charlotte to its present location on Randolph Rd. (which is 4th Street).
The permanent collection focuses on art from the Americas (North, South and Central) and includes North Carolina Pottery, Colonial American Art and my personal favorite, The Spanish Colonial paintings. You can see a lot of influence from the Catholic Church as well as from Native American cultures in this colorful collection.
Try to go on a Tuesday night after 5pm when it's FREE.
This recently renovated museum focuses on the southern United States after the Civil War. It is a very interactive museum, so kids will enjoy it and it's one of the best facilities of any of the area museums, so adults will love it too. I learned a lot about the local area and the South as a whole.
Charlotte's Science Museum is a great place to hang out especially if you have kids. They'll love playing with all of the interactive exhibits and you'll love the fact that they're actually learning something.