The largest city in North Carolina and headquarters to Bank of America, Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the country. Local legend says that the city’s Mecklenburg County signed its own Declaration of Independence from the British a full year before the U.S. did, and although proof of the document has been difficult to establish, Meck Dec Day is still observed in the state. After capturing the city, the British fled after only a few weeks, with General Cornwallis calling the town “a hornet’s nest of rebellion,” a term locals embraced years later by naming the local basketball team the Hornets. Although Charlotte enjoys all four seasons, winter is typically short and mild, while summer experiences high temperatures and humidity.
As cities go, Charlotte has a reputation for being laidback, with a pace that often feels more suburban than metropolitan—but residents wouldn’t have it any other way. In North Carolina, barbecue plays such an important role in the culture that laws have been proposed to protect the cuisine, with residents divided on whether Lexington or Eastern should be the official state style. Although the Hornets represent the city in professional basketball, most Charlotteans prefer to root for one of the local college teams, either the Tarheels of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Duke University’s Blue Devils. NASCAR also figures prominently, with the city playing host to several important races as well as the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The outdoors is perhaps the area’s biggest attraction, what with the proximity of both mountains and ocean. History lives on at former President James K. Polk’s log cabin in Pineville and the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander home, a stone plantation house that holds the title of oldest surviving structure in the county. The Levine Museum of the New South relates the area’s history from the post Civil War years to the present, while the Carolinas Aviation Museum has a replica of the Wright Brothers’ first plane. For the adventurous, Carowinds Amusement Park offers plenty of thrill rides, and the U.S. Whitewater Center provides rafting and canopy tours.
Just to be different, Charlotte refers to its downtown area as Uptown, which includes several major sports venues and a bustling nightlife scene. One of the more diverse neighborhoods is NoDa (North Davidson Street), a historic district known for its plentiful arts and entertainment, including regular “art crawls.” Despite its pedestrian name, the up-and-coming Plaza-Midwood area flaunts a funky vibe and a notorious after-hours culture. Affluence abounds in Myers Park, which, although mainly residential, enjoys restaurants in a wide range of price points, as well as the Park Road Shopping Center. The farmers’ markets and art galleries of historic South End have caused a boost in the area’s popularity in recent years.