The Charlotte, North Carolina region is composed of 16 counties, including four counties in South Carolina, with the city of Charlotte serving as the hub. Located in the heart of the Southeast, Charlotte – lies within the southern Piedmont of North Carolina, along the state’s border with South Carolina. Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and the biggest US banking centre after New York. This means that the Queen City, as it’s also known, attracts the young, the hopeful and the international folks with a drive and ambition as well as a desire for quality and luxury goods. The city has wonderful stately old neighbourhoods to visit and plenty of fine food and good music. People are extremely friendly and hospitable, and the famous southern hospitality has not dwindled away with the flux of the banking sector workers. In fact it seems to have strengthened and the new- comers to town have no choice but to join in, keep the smile going, be friendly, hospitable and helpful to visitors. There are plenty of hotels to choose from – from the upmarket 5 stars to the convenient motels and B&Bs.
Where to Stay – Aloft Hotel Uptown, Epicentre
Aloft Charlotte Uptown at the EpiCentre, is located in the vibrant Uptown District in Charlotte. It is minutes’ walk away from shopping opportunities, dining, sports activities and a short drive away from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Aloft Hotel has a modern, trendy, fresh and fun feel about it. It is most suitable for savvy travellers who want the freedom to control and customise their own adventures, to fit to their personal style and taste. The rooms are spacious, the beds are comfortable and some of the rooms have a beautiful view of the city. The staff are very friendly and helpful. There is a breakfast and a bar area at the reception level with a variety of breakfast options. There is also a mini- kitchen which cooks hot breakfast to order. The gym is extremely convenient with new equipment and there is a swimming pool to recharge and relax. There is also a table tennis and a pool table at the reception area – perfect for a group of friends, to kill time while waiting for the friend who woke up too late or is yet to freshen up! It’s a great package for those hip travellers, looking for a slightly more affordable stay and a chance to meet and mingle with like- minded people, hit the town and have a good time.
Eating and Drinking
Southern food is delicious and addictive! There is plenty to choose from and in the Uptown District – the Midnight Diner, is located about 15 minutes’ walk away from the Aloft hotel. As the name suggests – it is open 24 hours and it is most famous for its “shrimp and grits” dish. A heavenly dish made out of simmered and marinated prawns accompanied by a portion of creamy and tasty grits. They serve American style breakfast of waffles, eggs, hash brown and an addictive dough ball called, hush puppies. A fried savoury dough ball with bits of corn and spices mixed up, served with almost all dishes. They are reminiscent of Jamaican dumplings. You will end up ordering an extra side portion every time. The crowd is friendly and mixed and all ages and creeds are welcomed. Chicken Coop is another local favourite. They sever friend chicken with hush puppies and sides of coleslaw and fried potatoes. There is no place to sit as it’s take away only. However, it’s a privately-run small business and the locals queue to get their daily fix fried chicken, shrimps or alligators. For a sit down and proper service experience – head to 300 East. An old-fashioned restaurant which takes bookings and was visited by Food Network’s successful show: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They serve decorated dishes and have a Michelin-starred chef who experiments with local ingredients and catches. The prawn curry dish is delicate, fresh and not too spicy. They also serve a plush burger, made out of marinated minced beef with rosemary fried potatoes. The guacamole with nachos which is offered on the appetiser menu – is extremely fresh, as if – just made. The avocado is fresh, you can taste the freshly chopped parsley and pressed garlic. The accompanying nachos are made at the premises. They have a selection of good wines and you will overhear the locals exchanging their latest golf scores merrily – sipping quality wines. There are plenty of bars on the high street, serving the latest cocktail, regionally grown and produced wines or and a variety of beers.
What to do
The C-Charlotte Tours will drive you to the most famous sights in town, accompanied by a clear and comprehensible commentary. It is another small and family-run business and each of their sightseeing vans – carries no more than 8 people. It is friendly and informative. The basic city tour takes about 2 and half hours with a comfort break at a local farmer’s market and cost about $35 per person without the tip. There are other tour operators which charge more and take you around town on Segways. They have a weight requirement and seem to be quite popular. Therefor you would be best served if you book in advance. If you like fast cars and petrol – Charlotte is part of the NASCAR country – the US answer to Formula 1. You can visit one of their venues and watch tyres burn and engines rev. Charlotte has hosted many musicians over the years and the PNC Pavilion stadium has had a sought- after line-up of acts from pop music – to country, world, R&B as well as classical music. If you are after something less commercial – the Double Doors Inn is the place to go and check out the up and coming local Blue Grass talent as well as alternative music from the region and the international pool. The place has a pub-like atmosphere with very friendly staff, pool tables and fruit machines. If you like mandolin and banjo – you will have a great time at this place where the likes of Henry River Honey and Mojo Ruckus and the Universal Sigh performed recently. They charge $10 on entry. They will ask for your ID as places where alcohol is served – are legally obliged to check your ID. This can be a driving license or your passport.
How to get there
Charlotte is the largest and most accessible city between Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas. Due to its mid- Atlantic location, getting to Charlotte is easy from anywhere in the country or the world, hence its nickname “the International Gateway to the South.” Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the national hub of US Airways, is the 14th largest airport in the U.S. averaging 655 flights daily by 11 major airlines and 14 regional carriers. These flights provide non-stop service to 179 cities. Charlotte Douglas International Airport hosted over 40 million passengers in 2013. Once there – Charlotte’s highly efficient and growing interstate highway system offers drivers convenient access to the city. I-77 and I-85 connect Charlotte to cities in the Northeast, Southwest and Midwest. Convenient I-40, less than one hour north, provides an important east-west link with coast-to-coast access. In addition, easy access is available on U.S. routes 74, 29 and 21. There is excellent bus service in Charlotte. Greyhound and Trailways serve the area with more than 350 arrivals and departures weekly. Car-hire is affordable and petrol prices are much less than Europe and significantly less than many other states. Charlotte is a pedestrian-friendly place and many visitors and locals chose to walk. There are also cycle-lanes for keen cyclists.
For hotel booking visit http://www.starwoodhotels.com/ alofthotels/index.html
For flights: http://www.usairways.com