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Ask the Locals / USA

Ask the Locals City Guide: Charlotte, North Carolina

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Charlotte skyline dayThis weekend, Peter’s radio show is coming from the brand-new Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, North Carolina.Considering North Carolina’s largest city’s slogan is, “Charlotte’s Got a Lot,” it seemed fitting to find out what the locals have to say about all the attractions of their home town.

John Bordsen, Travel Editor, Charlotte Observer

As you’d expect in any huge metro area, you can find most types of cuisine, but Charlotte’s phenomenal growth in the last 10 years has truly stirred the pot.

Downtown CharlotteThe city’s international flavor really comes out along Central Avenue, just east of the uptown banking/business district. You’ll find an incredibly array of Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Central American, and Lebanese eateries—all small, family-owned places.Of course, when in the Carolinas, you’ll probably want to experience authentic Southern food.

If you’re uptown, head to Mert’s Heart & Soul on North College, which serves up Southern and Low Country comfort food.

For fantastic fried chicken, it’s hard to beat Price’s Chicken Coop, a carryout-only lunch spot just south of uptown.

For a good “fish camp” restaurant, Bordsen suggests Captain Steve’s out on Monroe Road. Order the flounder—and, though not mentioned on the menu, ask for it “pepper style.”

Like barbecue? Check out Ribs, Ribs and More Ribs: The Biggest Barbecue Cook-Off in the West. For Southern-style dining, don’t miss Southern Comfort: Finding Good Food & Down Home Hospitality on the Road.

Bubba’s BarbecueSouthern-style barbecue means chopped pork shoulder. It’s often served with or on a bun, with sides such as greens, French fries or beans. You’ll find ’cue joints all over town, including Bubba’s, right off I-77 on the north side.

For live music lovers, a Charlotte institution since 1973 is the Double Door Inn, a venerable and funky blues club close to uptown on Kings Drive. Eclectic and funky music halls range from Amos’ Southend Music Hall in the South End area, the Visulite in the Elizabeth area, and the Neighborhood Theater in the trendy/artsy NoDa district north of uptown.

Get more ideas for things to do and see in North Carolina with One-Tank Road Trips: Raleigh, North Carolina.

New on the scene is the NC Music Factory, just northwest of uptown. The ambitious complex holds multiple music venues, bars and rehearsal spaces, including the Fillmore—a recreation of the fabled San Francisco concert hall.

As for country music? That would be Coyote Joe’s, near the airport on Wilkinson Boulevard.

Discovery Place CharlotteFamily-friendly activities abound in Charlotte, the biggie being Discovery Place, uptown on Tryon Street. It’s a fabulous hands-on museum that also has an IMAX theater.

In the northern suburbs is Latta Plantation, which includes a historic mansion, nature preserve and the Carolina Raptor Center, a shelter for birds of prey.

Got a car and a day to spare? Less than an hour north on I-77 in Spencer is the N.C. Transportation Museum, the site of a former railroad repair shop, and has dozens of train cars and engines on display.

Kimberly Meesters, NASCAR Hall of Fame

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is slated to open May 11, 2010, with approximately 40,000 square feet of exhibit space to showcase the stories of inductees and racing legends, along with racing simulations and historic artifacts.

Charlotte’s highlights don’t stop within city limits. Among the many nearby communities, Meesters is particularly fond of the I-77 corridor north of town where rapidly growing communities still hold onto their old-fashioned charm. The small towns along Lake Norman are just a few miles up the road but in places have that feel of going to grandma’s cottage for the summer.

Peter’s radio show from Charlotte: check out the guests here.

Dressler’s Restaurant is tucked away in the fabulous Birkdale Village outdoor shopping in Huntersville. While Birkdale is a hotspot in itself (with a wonderful little gallery called Maddi’s, which also has a Charlotte location) Dressler’s is particularly special in terms of both service and its high-end food (definitely try the crab dip!).

Three Goats CoffeeHands down the greatest little coffeehouse is Three Goats Coffee & Espresso in Mooresville. No offense to our friends at the larger, more famous coffee places, but Three Goats brings it back to the culture of authentic mom-and-pop coffeehouses. Chairs are comfy, wireless Internet is free, the walls are lined with local art, and literally everyone knows your name. The owners have done a fabulous job of making it just like hanging out at your friend’s house.

Finally, Davidson is a picturesque walking town anchored by Davidson College and several independent stores. The trees and homes are mature in a perfect way, and the main intersection in town has a large green space this is frequently the spot of family-oriented festivals.

You get the sense that people still meet in the town square and everyone knows the local mail carrier. Life just slows down in Davidson. Grab breakfast on the outdoor patio at Toast and then just stroll around town… all day!

Don’t miss Peter’s radio show from Charlotte. Check out his guests here.

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