While the countryside of the American South has typically been more of an attraction than its smaller cities, Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina and 16th largest in the United States, has joined Atlanta and Nashville as a top tier metropolis in this corner of the country, as its rapid growth over the past generation has evidenced.
Being the largest city between Washington DC and Atlanta has led to Charlotte being a center of culture within the Carolinas, as museums here detail this region’s history, religious faith, and ingenuity.
Being situated within an enviable geographic and climatic area has led to it being a hub of outdoor sports and spectacular flora; as such, you will find that getting in touch with nature quite easily, whether that means throwing yourself down a frothing whitewater river, or walking amidst a bounty of flowering plants made possible by the area’s subtropical demeanour.
Add in the fact that Charlotte has become a modern hub of finance and commerce, complete with numerous gleaming skyscrapers within its bustling downtown core, and you might find yourself surprised that you hadn’t heard of this rapidly ascending American city before this.
While many have studied the history of the South have focused heavily on the events of the civil war and the causes that led to it, you probably haven’t learned about what happened after the war ended.
The Levine Museum of the New South does just that, focusing on the events that transpired in the Carolinas during the Great Reconstruction, a period of the time that was start of the South’s recovery from the ashes of one of the most tragic wars in American history.
The permanent exhibit focuses on the movement from an economy overwhelmingly dependent on farming to the far more diverse one that exists today. Other exhibits put local art, culture and history into focus in order to deliver a narrative that explains the history of the region in illuminating detail.
Another aspect of American society that has many of its roots in the South is Evangelical Christianity, and there is no better place to begin exploring its philosophical underpinnings than at the Billy Graham Library.
The museum is shaped like a dairy farm to represent Billy’s upbringing on one during his childhood, and true to the theme, an animatronic talking cow within avails you of the miracles of God (seriously), quoting scriptures as it ostensibly takes a break from chewing on cud.
Aside from that silliness, the museum contain artifacts from his lengthy life as a travelling Christian missionary, and the peaceful prayer garden behind the building contains the grave of his dear wife Ruth, surrounded by verdant hedges and flowering bushes that make the place rather special.
More than a century ago, the Wright Brothers determined work on heavier than air flight finally liberated humanity from gravity, a development that ranks among the top advances in the history of humanity. The Carolinas Aviation Museum tells the stories of the planes that followed going forward in history, with displays ranging from aircraft that flew during the Cold War to its recent massive acquisition of the frame of the Airbus from US Airways Flight 1549 (aka The Miracle On The Hudson).
With the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains not far off from the city limits of Charlotte, the rivers that tumble down from its heights has made this region a prime place for whitewater athletes from all over the United States to train.
While many choose to take to the hills to get in their miles, the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte allows these kids to do the same within a controlled environment. At the same time, the general public can get introduced to these sports in a place that is often less intimidating than environments found in the wild, so if you ever wanted to rub elbows with current or future Olympic athletes while having a blast at the same time, this outstanding outdoor sports center is the place to do it.
Having traveled this far South compared to destinations further up the eastern seaboard, you’ll quickly find out that it’s quite a bit warmer down here (especially in mid-summer, when it feels like you could cut the humidity with a knife).
This allows a wide variety of plants to thrive in Charlotte’s humid subtropical climate, and there is no better place to see what is horticulturally possible here then at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
Ranked as one of the top 20 gardens in the United States by national publication USA Today, this facility offers an Orchid Conservatory, gardens, a woodland trail and fountains that pull everything together in one beautiful package.
Racing is an obsession that can be found all over the globe, as F1 and Indycar has devoted following in most places you go. A form of racing that is unique to America, and especially popular in the South is NASCAR, which pits standard street legal automobiles against each other in the pursuit of glory.
Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which opened only recently in 2010. This hall of greatness honors the best in the sport, with drivers and builders honored within its walls.