While you’re basking in the warmth of Charlotte’s gracious Southern hospitality, you might just forget that this is a powerful banking and financial center with assets rivaling those of New York. The city’s architecture is an exciting mix of cutting-edge modern buildings, graceful Victorians and cozy Craftsmans, challenging preconceived notions of a Southern landscape.
Charlotte is still squarely in Dixie, though: the Queen City is home to the South’s beloved NASCAR, the library of preacher Billy Graham, and several restored plantation homes that date to the early 1800s. You’ll also find a rich African-American culture here, with a focus on art, theater and politics, in addition to some of the best soul food you’ll ever eat. Eastern-style North Carolina barbecue is a big player here, with its smoked pork and vinegary, tomato-free sauce, and you’ll find two hometown specialties on just about every menu: fried pickles and Pepsi.
Uptown is downtown, you can hardly go a mile without bumping into a public park or an elegant garden, and the city’s old streetcar lines still define a series of friendly, leafy neighborhoods dedicated to preserving their historical buildings and celebrating their local craftsmen. Wander through art museums, catch some hot jazz or bluegrass, float down the Catawba River, and let Charlotte’s gentle pace wash over you awhile.