Named in the mid-1700s after the wife of England’s King George III, Charlotte is still referred to as the “Queen City.” After a boy discovered a 17 lb. gold nugget near Charlotte in 1799, settlers flooded the region in the nation’s first gold rush. Shortly thereafter, the first branch of the US Mint was established here in 1837. Now the biggest city in the Carolinas, Charlotte has expanded both outward and upward. For visitors, the city offers top-notch museums, ritzy clubs, and a wide variety of professional sports.
The nucleus of Charlotte, the busy Uptown area, has numbered streets laid out perpendicular to named streets in a grid pattern. Tryon Street, which runs north-south, is the major crossroad. I-77 crosses the city from north to south, providing access to Uptown, while I-85 runs southwest-northeast, connecting Uptown to the UNC-Charlotte campus. Uptown is also accessible from I-277, which circles the city and is called the John Belk Freeway to the south of Uptown and the Brookshire Freeway to the north.
Charlotte has a number of museums, most of which are located in the Uptown area. The |Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St., explores the history of Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont area with outstanding interactive exhibits that will engage even the most museum-weary traveler. From a working cotton gin to a recreation of a soda fountain that was occupied during the civil-rights sit-ins, the Levine shows how the “New South” developed from the end of the Civil War to the present. The Mint Museum of Craft and Design, 220 N. Tryon St., in Uptown, features contemporary work in glass, wood, metal, and textiles. The Mint Museum of Art, 2730 Randolph Rd., about 2 mi. southeast of downtown, focuses on American painting and decorative arts from ancient Mesoamerican civilizations to the present. A single admission fee grants entry to both museums.
Charlotte has something for everyone. Click the links to explore and book tours and local guides.
Be prepared for some good home cookin’. Fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and collard greens are some highlights of Southeastern cuisine. Cheese grits or cornbread are a savory supplement to lunch and dinner dishes.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.