Out and about the Queen City.

Charlotte is the largest city in the Carolinas, home to more than 700,000 people with another 1.8 million living in the metropolitan area. It is the banking hub for the southeast and is also home of NASCAR motorsports. Charlotte was named in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who became the British queen consort just before Charlotte was incorporated in 1768, thus its “queen city” nickname. If you’re planning a trip to the area, the following are among the many fun things to do while in Charlotte.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Just north of Charlotte in Concord, NC, is the Charlotte Motor Speedway, home to one of NASCAR’s finest tracks. This 1.5-mile oval hosts two race weekends in May and one in October including the Coca-Cola 600 and the Bank of America 500.

The speedway also hosts the Charlotte AutoFair, a twice-yearly event that welcomes more than 100,000 visitors in April and again in Sept. AutoFair events include classic car displays, auctions, special shows, and thousands of vendor spots.

The Billy Graham Library

Built in honor of Billy Graham, considered by many as America’s preacher, the Billy Graham Library is more museum than anything else. It occupies land once owned by preacher’s family near Charlotte International Airport.

The library is open free to the public and features highlights of the long preaching tenure of Graham. Videos, artifacts and the burial place of Ruth Bell Graham are among the notable attractions for this Charlotte stop.

Levine Museum of the New South

What is the new south? Why, that would be cities like Charlotte that are diverse, forward-thinking, and honest about its past. The Levine Museum of the New South captures the real Charlotte, tracing its history through the revolutionary war, the war between the states, the Jim Crow era, civil rights, and beyond.

Like other major museums, Levine features both permanent and traveling exhibits. One permanent exhibit is “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,” telling the story of the city’s growth. Special exhibits have included exhibitions about civil rights, Latino culture, and the Iraq War.

US National Whitewater Center

Where else can you go whitewater rafting but in Charlotte? Lots of places, but only Charlotte is home to the US National Whitewater Center. And whitewater rafting is not all that it is about.

Indeed, the USNWC has more than 24 activities available including rock climbing, rope courses, flat water kayaking, and mountain biking. There is also a restaurant, live shows and special events, and summer camps for children.

Carolinas Aviation Museum

The last DC-9 aircraft is on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, located on the east side of Charlotte International Airport and near the Billy Graham Museum. It is one of the best kept secrets in aviation, offering a an excellent perspective of both civil and commercial aviation from the Wright Brothers through the space age.

The museum also features numerous military aircraft including jet fighters and helicopters. The museum recently relocated to a new facility to make way for, you guessed it, the expansion of the airport.

Other Charlotte Attractions

You could spend several days in Charlotte and still not take in everything. The city is composed of several neighborhoods with Uptown its nerve center.

Uptown is where you will find the headquarters for several corporations including Duke Energy and NASCAR. It is also where you’ll find Bank of America Stadium and the Time Warner Cable Arena, home of professional football and basketball franchises respectively.

Other neighborhoods dotting the area include Highland Creek, a planned community, NoDa, Plaza Midwood, SouthPark, Dilworth and Myers Park. Top suburbs include Matthews, NC and Rock Hill, SC.

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