Charlotte’s pride: Best spots for visitors during the Democratic National Convention

Tim Skillern
The Lookout

It starts like a riddle: Why do people only visit Charlotte once? asks resident Tyler Graf.

"Because they usually end up moving there right after," he answers. "With that perfect mix of Southern hospitality and big-city living, Charlotte is a great place to live or just to visit."

What is the lure? Is it the growing, burgeoning business metropolis that now tops the scales at 750,000 residents? The sports hotbed of NFL football, NBA basketball and NASCAR? The diversity of cultures and cuisine? The numerous outdoor recreational opportunities?

Ahead of next week's Democratic National Convention, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors, Yahoo! News asked Charlotte-area residents to boast about the Queen City: Why does it appeal to residents and visitors? What are the best places to eat, drink and party? Here's a sampling of what they wrote.

Business swagger, cultural pride

"Charlotte feels like it is built from the large steel structures of finance -- Bank of America and Wells Fargo, to name two locals -- but there is so much more here than steel structures. Charlotte, simply, is where you can find what you want -- from our uptown dining with live jazz to leisure strolls through our beautiful art galleries. There is culture. There is food. There is leisure. Charlotte has it all." -- Mica Gadhia

"I wouldn't be a true Charlottean if I didn't mention that Charlotte is the biggest banking capital in the United States, outside of New York. With the main headquarters of Bank of America and the regional East Coast headquarters for Wells Fargo, serious business goes on around here. The Charlotte Metro is also home to the headquarters of more than 30 major businesses in America." -- Nadirah Khalifah

"First-time visitors to the city can take in the sights below the magnificent skyline. The Levine Center for the Arts, along the southern part of uptown boasts several museums, some of which will offer free entry on Labor Day. Nearby is the NASCAR Hall of Fame, for NASCAR fans and those who are not fans but will be after seeing this state-of-the art facility honoring NASCAR drivers. Also nearby is the Green Uptown, a lush garden park, great for relaxing. Two blocks away is the Bank of America stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte's NFL team. The DNC will conclude in this spot when President Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech on Thursday night." -- CL Claiborne

"The Queen City, as Charlotte is called, has three-quarters of a million residents. Included are people of all ethnicities, races and cultures. Over the last decade, there has been a steady growth of residents from all walks of life from all over the United States and other continents. The diversity in Charlotte is one of the reasons why this city is one of the greatest places to be." -- Heather M. Johnson-Emerson

Culinary diversity

"Jamaican, Moroccan, even Vietnamese. You name it and Charlotte has it on the menu. The North Davidson Arts District is a great place to find a range of cuisines, and it even includes a French Bistro. The Penguin Drive-In is Charlotte's most famous restaurant. The drive-in has been featured on The Food Network and has been a Charlotte institution since 1954 after being founded by a World War II veteran." -- Ryan D. Harris

"Another fine establishment every visitor to Charlotte must enjoy is Amelie's, a French bakery. You'll be transported all the way to Paris while you sit and chat with the most interesting residents of Charlotte. You can wait in the long line on a Friday evening for your authentic chocolate croissant and French-press coffee just soaking in the chatter of the latest gossip. Can't sleep? Amelie's is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year." -- Mica Gadhia

"Although most streets will be closed in the immediate downtown area during the DNC, finding a suitable place to dine won't be an issue. Uptown is saturated with restaurants. Patrons can support a great cause and enjoy a fantastic meal at the King's Kitchen. All of the profits from sales at this local favorite support area ministries and feed the poor. There are many other great restaurants located uptown such as Ruth's Chris, Aria, Blue, and LaVecchia's. The EpiCentre also houses a variety of restaurants and bars, shopping, a bowling alley and movie theater." -- CL Claiborne

"The beautiful thing about dining in Charlotte is that you can go out with any budget and get any type of food you want. Whether you're in the mood for some Southern comfort food, fresh seafood or maybe even a five-star dinner, you can find the right restaurant easily. Some of my local favorites: Pie in the Sky Pizza boasts some great pizza for a great price! Dilworth Neighborhood Grille is a good place to go grab a burger and a beer while watching the game." -- Tyler Graf

The great outdoors

"For the outdoors-lover, there is Lake Norman, a huge man-made lake that is the largest body of water in the state. Just minutes to the north, Lake Norman was created by Duke Energy, which dammed the Catawba River in 1963. With more than 520 miles of shoreline, Lake Norman is home to a host of water sports and activities, including fishing, swimming, recreational boating, and plenty of hiking trails." -- Jeffrey Weeks

"To the south, Lake Wylie is just over the South Carolina state line and offers six public boat access areas. With 325 miles of shoreline, Lake Wylie is a great location for boating, fishing and skiing." -- Emily Oliver

"Though Charlotte, like other large cities in the state, is a bustling complex of skyscrapers, there are plenty of activities and sites in the area for nature lovers. Perhaps the most well-known nature attraction in the Charlotte region is the Whitewater Center. This center offers lots of water activities, such as kayaking, canoeing and whitewater rafting. In fact, this is the site where the U.S. Olympic canoeing and kayaking teams practice! Though best known for water activities, the Whitewater Center also has many land activities for folks of all ages, including mountain biking, zip lines, rock climbing, and 17 miles of trails along the Catawba River." -- Emily Oliver

"A huge attraction for locals and visitors alike is the Blue Ridge Parkway, although it's a bit of a drive from Charlotte. This scenic highway connects travelers to the Great Smoky Mountains with features that include trails, parks, rivers and splendid scenic overlooks. World travelers come to witness the phenomenal splendor of the autumn colors brought on by the changing of the seasons." -- Valerie A. Modreski

"Charlotte has its own draw as a destination, being flanked by two large lakes and overflowing with public parks--17,600 acres in fact." -- Vincent Eagan III

A sports mecca

"The headline attraction is the Carolina Panthers football team, a franchise started in 1995 that regularly sells out its home games at the 72,300-seat Bank of America stadium." -- Jeffrey Weeks

"For those sports fans that have a need for speed, the Charlotte Motor Speedway offers the very best in NASCAR racing. Just 13 miles outside of uptown Charlotte, the speedway brings the best and the brightest out on the track to battle for victory while the crowds cheer them on. As an add-on to their experience, racing fans can drive the short trip into the city of Charlotte to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This state-of-the-art facility is a historical tribute to the NASCAR tradition, and is a one-of-a-kind Queen City experience." -- S.L. Schmitz

"Oh, and did we mention that we have Michael Jordan here in Charlotte? Yeah, that Michael Jordan." -- S.L. Schmitz