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Cosmopolitan Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, with towering Uptown skyscrapers, unique museums, and a plethora of lively neighborhoods steeped in history. The municipality rose to prominence in the early 19th century during Carolina’s gold rush, and later prospered thanks to thriving cotton, textile, and banking industries. If you hear someone call it the Queen City, that’s because Charlotte is named after the wife of King George III.
The weather is suitable for adventuring in nature year-round, and the number of indoor and outdoor attractions is staggering; in the morning you can hike the trails in Little Sugar Creek Greenway or spike your adrenaline at the U.S. National Whitewater Center — the world’s largest manmade whitewater river. Later on you can marvel at the NASCAR Hall of Fame or wander the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Finally, you can finish the day strong by sampling craft beers or catching a show at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. These are only a few of the many reasons this place regularly makes lists of the best U.S. cities to live in.
Visitors fly into Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) or drive in from the Southeast, Northeast, or Midwest on Interstates 77 or 85. Amtrak offers three routes that serve the city daily, connecting it with Raleigh, New York, and New Orleans, while Greyhound has buses traveling regularly to and from Raleigh, Atlanta, Richmond, and beyond. Megabus and Wanderu also offer bus service.
Once you’ve arrived it’s convenient to have your own wheels, but Charlotte’s extensive public transportation system, CATS features city buses, the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcars, and a light rail line, all of which are accessible for travelers with disabilities. Rideshares and taxis are widely available, and the city has an electric bike-share program called Charlotte Joy Rides.
The optimal time to visit Charlotte is in the fall or the spring, when the weather is most temperate, crowds aren’t too bad, and parks and gardens tend to look their best. Summer sees a sharp increase in visitors, but it’s also a fantastic time to experience the U.S. National Whitewater Center and then swap adventure tales over al fresco craft brews in one of the city’s numerous beer gardens. Winter does bring colder climes, but the city’s used to it, and businesses remain open throughout the year. Events you may want to plan a visit around include the Taste of Charlotte food festival in early June and Charlotte Pride in mid-August. Motorsports season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway runs from April to November.
The world’s largest artificial rafting river is also a training facility for international sporting events and frequently appears on adventurous visitors’ to-do lists. In addition to truly outstanding river rafting opportunities, the center also offers biking, zip lines, live music, and craft beer.
Step into this fairytale of a park and meander through 380 acres of Seussian gardens featuring bubbling fountains and a lovely conservatory housing tropical plants and orchards. The garden is open to the general public on weekends, and hosts a magical Chinese Lantern Festival every October.
An ode to the history and future of the auto racing company, this shrine-like museum honors exceptionally skilled drivers as well as crews, owners, broadcasters, and other big names in the sport. It also contains interactive exhibits, race car simulators, and theaters for video presentations and live entertainment. Nearby, the Charlotte Motor Speedway features a quad oval track where big-time races take place yearly.