By Melanie Formentin
Named for Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, the Queen City is nestled in a mid-Atlantic location that makes it a perfect hub for business and travel. The city boasts its ability to mix business with culture, entertainment and recreation, and AWSM members visiting Charlotte should have no problem finding fun things to do while attending the annual convention.
- For members interested in racing, the newly opened NASCAR Hall of Fame is one of the go-to places in Charlotte. Located in Center City Charlotte, the interactive attraction includes a wide range of historical and education exhibits. “Glory Road” features 18 cars and highlights 46 current and past tracks, while The Hall offers the chance to test a Racing Simulator before visiting the Hall of Honor. Heritage Speedway highlights NASCAR’s 60-year history, and the NASCAR Vault showcases historic artifacts such as worn uniforms and helmets—including one worn by Dale Earnhardt—and pieces of track. The Hall is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday – Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. An average trip lasts 3-4 hours, and admission is $19.95. Visit http://www.nascarhall.com/ for more information.
- If you’re looking for a chance to get active while visiting Charlotte, the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) provides a number of sporting options. Considering itself “the world’s premier outdoor recreation and environmental education center,” to the USNWC offers whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. The center features mountain biking and running trails, a climbing center and a challenge course. The center is located 10 minutes from downtown Charlotte. Visitors are encouraged to check out the website at http://usnwc.org/ for specific information about park hours, passes, and frequently asked questions. Park hours are from dawn until dusk, weather permitting, and all activities will be operational during the conference. Passes range in price from $15-$49, depending on the types of activities an individual wants to try.
- If you’re interested in theme parks and rollercoasters, Carowinds is a theme park located in South Charlotte that features dozens of rides on more than 100 acres of land. In addition to boasting a 20-acre Australian-themed Outback water park, Carowinds is home to the Intimidator, “the fastest, tallest and longest coaster in the entire southeast.” Prices range from $24.99-$51.99 at the gate, depending on time of admission. Pre-purchasing tickets can reduce ticket prices, and groups of 15 or more can receive discounted admission. Carowinds is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 23-24, 26, and from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on June 25. Mmore information about the park and its rides can be found at http://www.carowinds.com/.
- Although no concert events are currently scheduled, the NC Music Factory in Center City Charlotte features two concert venues—The Fillmore and the Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre—and is surrounded by restaurants and other entertainment options. A converted mill and textile center, the NC Music Factory is also home to The Comedy Zone and a handful of upscale restaurants, pubs, and clubs. The Factory is located less than two miles from the conference hotel. Visit http://ncmusicfactory.com/ for more information. The EpiCentre, located minutes from the Omni, offers similar entertainment options. The restaurants range from quick-service to upscale, and include a variety of options ranging from traditional Mexican, to Italian, to steakhouse. Visitors can go bowling at StrikeCity or visit the bars and clubs that offer nightly entertainment. For more information, visit http://epicentrenc.com/.
- For those who enjoy the arts, Charlotte offers a variety of museums and cultural centers. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (http://www.ganttcenter.org) offers oratory, concert and lecture events and houses galleries feature traveling and permanent works. Admission is $8 and the museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, and 1 – 5 p.m., Sunday. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art (http://www.bechtler.org) showcases a collection of mid-20th center modern art including pieces from Picasso and Warhol. The four-floor museum holds a sculpture terrace, video gallery, and pieces of the Bechtler family’s collection of art. Admission is $8 and the museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. – noon, Sunday. The newly opened Mint Museum (http://www.mintmuseum.org) in Center City showcases the Craft + Design, Contemporary, American, and Romare Bearden collections. Admission is $10 and the museum is open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, and 1 – 5 p.m., Sunday. Finally, the Levine Museum of the New South (http://www.museumofthenewsouth.org/) offers a look at the history of the South since the Civil War. The “COURAGE” exhibit will be featured at the museum, highlighting Rev. J. A. De Laine’s grassroots efforts to challenge segregation in public schools. The museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $6.
- Finally, if you’re interested in checking out Charlotte’s shopping opens, South Park (located about 10 minutes outside of the city) is home to the SouthPark Mall and unique shopping neighborhoods. SouthPark Mall is an upscale mall where shoppers can look for high-end and interesting finds. The Morrison and Phillips Place neighborhoods also offer outdoor mixed-use development shopping and dining, featuring a variety of boutiques and locally-owned restaurants. Unique shops, boutiques and restaurants can also be found in the Dillworth neighborhood along East Boulevard, located five minutes outside of the city. Finally, the Concord Mills outlet mall is located about 20 minutes outside of the city in Concord, NC, and features dozens of national retailers.
Note: Feature in the AWSM Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2011 edition.