One of the things I love about travelling in the U.S. is that there is so much variation within one country! One destination that doesn’t always get all the press, but which I think deserves a little more attention, is North Carolina. Lying pretty much in the middle of the East Coast, it’s the perfect blend of sea, mountains and cities! The state’s largest city, Charlotte, is the perfect place to kick-start your visit. The city’s best known as a financial capital, but its cultural side is growing fast, making it increasingly popular for a short break. So, look no further for a quick guide to making the most of your trip!
Of course, you can visit Charlotte year-round, but spring is an ideal time to make the most of everything it has to offer. Average May temperatures hover around 20 degrees with not too much rain, ideal for combining sports, outdoor activities and sightseeing. Sports fans will want to schedule some time to visit the BB&T Ballpark, although even those who are less keen on sports will enjoy the views and the free fireworks every Friday. Afterward, head over to the stunning 10-acre botanical gardens, where you’ll be greeted by both outdoor gardens and greenhouses full of exotic plants, with plenty of events as well.
On your second day, squeeze in a little culture with a visit to the Mint Museum. It’s not actually a museum about peppermint treats (more’s the pity), but it does play host to a huge range of American, contemporary and ancient art. It’ll probably keep you busy for most of the morning. In the afternoon, pop in to the Mecklenburg Brewery, where you’ll find not just beer but also an extensive beer garden with food and live music.
For easy access to all the best sights and restaurants in the city, look for hotels in Charlotte within the buzzing center. From there, you can walk to hotspots like the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Nature Museum, and the Bank of America Stadium, or you can easily hop on the light rail to get anywhere in the city center within around 20 minutes.
Of course, don’t forget to leave some time to get out and about in the great outdoors. Charlotte’s well-known for being one of America’s leafiest cities, with plenty of trees along the streets and lovely green parks. However, your visit wouldn’t be complete without heading out to the majestic Blue Ridge mountains – roughly a 2.5-hour drive from the city. You might not fancy climbing all 6,684 feet to the summit of Mount. Mitchell (or who knows, maybe you do!), but anyone can enjoy the amazing scenery and views around the Blue Ridge Parkway.
You’ll probably be hungry after all of this – which is good, because there is no shortage of cheap and tasty eats to be had around the city. Hearty American classics are a theme here, with many locals recommending the fried chicken at Price’s Chicken Coop, which some consider to be an essential part of the Charlotte experience. If, like me, you’re a vegetarian, hit up the Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, which, as the name implies, offers both burgers and sushi for meat eaters and veggies alike. Finally, don’t miss the absolutely mouthwatering pancakes at The Original Pancake House, which is a must for an all-American brunch.
Has anyone else here visited Charlotte? Got anything to add to my list? Let me know in the comments!