Why Charlotte’s Athletes Love The Queen City | Charlotte’s got a lot | Charlotte NC Travel & Tourism
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Find Out Why Charlotte’s Top Athletes Love The Queen City

âI love the diversity in Charlotte. There are all sorts of different people, food and culture with a presence, but Charlotte still maintains Southern hospitality.â
“I love the diversity in Charlotte. There are all sorts of different people, food and culture with a presence, but Charlotte still maintains Southern hospitality.”

Charlotte is home to six professional sports teams and athletes ranging from NFL superstar Cam Newton to Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.  Get their thoughts on what to do, see and eat in Charlotte.

Ryan Lochte | Zach Boychuk | Cam Newton |
Jimmie Johnson | Cody Zeller

Ryan Lochte
Olympic Swimmer

About You

  • Where are you originally from? Born in Rochester, New York, but primarily grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida (moved there at age 11).
  • How long have you lived in the Charlotte region? Since November 2013, when I moved here to train with SwimMAC’s Team Elite.
  • What are your favorite TV shows? I don’t watch TV very much. I’m more of a movie guy.
  • Which music artists are you currently in to? Lil’ Wayne and Drake.
  • What other sports/activities do you enjoy? I love basketball. I played all the time growing up and in high school. I still love to play now, and I even play HORSE with David (David Marsh — SwimMAC Chief Executive Officer).
  • What is something you want people to know about you/what is something that most people don’t know about you? I like to draw – mostly abstract pictures done with pencil.

About Charlotte

  • Name a few of your favorite restaurants in the Charlotte area. Any favorite menu items? Soul Gastrolounge — especially the pork belly tacos. Baku, Cowfish and Nikko.
  • Name some of your favorite attractions in the Charlotte area. Both Carowinds and the U.S. National Whitewater Center are a lot of fun.
  • What is one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets? Freedom Park. I like to go there to walk with my dog and just relax.
  • What is one place you would recommend everyone visit in Charlotte at least once? The EpiCentre. It has a fun, lively atmosphere, lots of good food options, and you can bowl or go to a movie. Studio Movie Grill has these really comfortable seats, and you can have food or drinks brought to you.
  • When you’re not swimming, what are some of your favorite things to do/places to go? I usually just rest at home with my dog, watching a movie.
  • Who is your favorite Charlotte sports team? The Carolina Panthers, but I’ve never been to a game in the stadium. I’d like to do that.
  • Describe what you love about Charlotte. Everyone here is so nice. Even just walking down the street, people wave or say, “Hello;” it seems like Southern charm. People are incredibly friendly, and it’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to.
 

Zach Boychuk
Left Wing, Charlotte Checkers

About You

  • Where are you originally from? Airdrie, Alberta.
  • How long have you lived in the Charlotte region? I’ve played for the Charlotte Checkers every year since they first entered the AHL (American Hockey League) in 2010.
  • What are your favorite TV shows? Right now I’m watching “Homeland.” I used to be in to “The Walking Dead” and “Entourage.”
  • Which music artists are you currently in to? I’m big into country – guys like Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney.
  • What other sports/activities do you enjoy? I enjoy camping with family, wakesurfing on the lake and golfing.
  • What is something you want people to know about you/what is something that most people don’t know about you? I have a twin sister, who was a national gymnast and won a few world titles.

About Charlotte

  • Name a few of your favorite restaurants in the Charlotte area. Any favorite menu items? I’m a big sushi guy, so Enso Asian Sushi Bar and Bistro is a big one. I like Basil Thai Restaurant, and Blackfinn Ameripub is another one.
  • Name some of your favorite attractions in the Charlotte area. Going down to the EpiCentre is pretty cool. I like to go to Alive After Five on Thursdays in the summer. I also like going up to Lake Norman.
  • What is one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets? There’s a good little two-for-one sushi place called Akahana Asian Bistro that a lot of people don’t know about. It’s pretty good food for a good price.
  • What is one place you would recommend everyone visit in Charlotte at least once? Lazy 5 Ranch. It’s pretty fun. You can drive right through and see all of the animals and stuff. Bring an old car.
  • Who is your favorite Charlotte sports team? I’d have to say the Carolina Panthers. I’m starting to become a big Panthers fan.
  • Describe what you love about Charlotte. Charlotte’s just kind of an up-and-coming city. It’s modern, it’s kind of hip, and they’ve got the EpiCentre Uptown, where you’ve got everything you really need— restaurants and entertainment. Plus, with all of the sports teams around town—the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Knights and ourselves, the Charlotte Checkers— and concerts, it seems like on any given night there’s something to do. The people are really nice, and the weather’s great. It’s a place I’ve been for five or six years, and I definitely consider it as home – and maybe a place I’d like to live and raise a family one day.
 

Cam Newton
Quarterback, Carolina Panthers

About You

  • Where are you originally from? Atlanta, Georgia.
  • How long have you lived in the Charlotte region? Since April 2011.
  • What is something you want people to know about you/what is something that most people don’t know about you? I enjoy walking to the stadium for practice each morning, weather permitting. It’s a great way to start the day. I also like taking my dog, Apollo, on walks. Charlotte has a lot of nice parks for walking, playing or relaxing, like Freedom Park.

About Charlotte

  • Name a few of your favorite restaurants in the Charlotte area. Any favorite menu items? Cowfish, Hazelnuts Crêperie, Sullivan’s Steakhouse and United House of Prayer for All People. I’ve been on a big Hazelnut Crêperie crepes kick lately. The banana split crepe is TOO good! And the Papi Queso food truck has the best grilled cheese in town!
  • What is one place you would recommend everyone visit in Charlotte at least once? A NASCAR race! I’ve been wanting to experience one but haven’t yet.
  • When you’re not on the field, what are some of your favorite things to do/places to go? I like to catch a movie at Studio Movie Grill in the EpiCentre when I can, and I love taking family and friends bowling at StrikeCity.
  • Who is your favorite Charlotte sports team? I’m definitely a Charlotte Hornets fan. Other than that, I just like watching athletes who are the best at what they do!
  • Describe what you love about Charlotte. I love the diversity in Charlotte. There are all sorts of different people, food and culture with a presence, but Charlotte still maintains Southern hospitality.
 

Jimmie Johnson 
NASCAR Driver

About You

  • Where are you originally from? El Cajon, California – just outside of San Diego.
  • How long have you lived in the Charlotte region? I’ve lived in Charlotte since 1997. I had a brief stint after that, where I spent time in Wisconsin, but definitely feel like I established myself in Charlotte in 1997.
  • What are your favorite TV shows? My wife, Chandra, and I have two young daughters, so at our house, there’s usually a lot of Nick Jr. and Disney on the TV.
  • Which music artists are you currently in to? I like all kinds of music. My wife actually is the one who really is in-tune with the whole music scene, so she keeps me up to date with the up-and-coming bands. I’m a huge fan of Jack Johnson and G. Love. I also like Metallica and Kid Rock. I’ve gotten into some country lately, with Kenny Chesney and Eric Church, and I’m good friends with Darius Rucker. So, I really appreciate all types of music.
  • What other sports/ activities do you enjoy? I’ve gotten really into participating in triathlons over the past few years. I’ve done several Sprint and Olympic events and completed my first half Ironman this past January.

About Charlotte

  • Name a few of your favorite restaurants in the Charlotte area. Any favorite menu items? I grew up in Southern California, so Mexican is always a go-to for me. Cabo Fish Taco in NoDa is one of my favorites in the Charlotte area. I also love a good brunch with my girls at the Original Pancake House in South Park or Zada Jane’s in Plaza Midwood.
  • Name some of your favorite attractions in the Charlotte area. I might be biased, but I think we’re really fortunate to have the NASCAR Hall of Fame here in Charlotte. So much of the history of our sport is down there (including a few artifacts I’ve lent from throughout my career); it’s definitely a great trip for any  NASCAR or sports fan.
  • What is one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets? The SOCO Gallery on Providence Road in Myers Park. It’s a contemporary art gallery with a focus on photography, and they just recently launched their bookstore. Some of the books in there are works of art in their own regard, and I think it represent how Charlotte has started to become established in the art world in the past few years. I may be a little biased, since my wife, Chandra, founded and runs the gallery, but the space is incredible and the books/art they offer are on par with what you’d find in major art cities like New York and Paris.
  • What is one place you would recommend everyone visit in Charlotte at least once? If you haven’t been, a trip to the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a must. They’ve got great mountain biking trails, whitewater and flatwater sports, and just a great family environment.
  • When you’re not on the track, what are some of your favorite things to do/places to go? I really enjoy our local mountain biking trails, including Back Yard Trails and Sherman Branch.
  • Describe what you love about Charlotte. Charlotte is a great city for so many reasons. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve seen more art, restaurants and culture flood into the city. It’s neat to live somewhere that is growing and moving in a very cool direction. It’s also a wonderful place to raise kids. We’re so fortunate to have wonderful parks, schools and learning opportunities just minutes from our house.
 

Cody Zeller
Center, Charlotte Hornets

About You

  • Where are you originally from? Washington, Indiana.
  • How long have you lived in the Charlotte region? Two years.
  • What are your favorite TV shows? “Duck Dynasty.”
  • Which music artists are you currently in to? I listen to anything country. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Kenny Chesney.
  • What other sports/activities do you enjoy? Tennis. I played the sport in high school. I played a lot of doubles – I just stood at the net and slammed the ball back at our opponents. It’s a great sport, and I still play it today.
  • What is something you want people to know about you/what is something that most people don’t know about you? I was the salutatorian at my high school and graduated with a 3.99/ 4.0 (grade point average). I received one A- in English, my freshman year.

About Charlotte

  • Name a few of your favorite restaurants in the Charlotte area. Any favorite menu items? Cowfish is my spot. I wasn’t a sushi fan when I arrived in Charlotte, but I really like it now. I’m also a big fan of Mac’s Speed Shop – [they have] great barbecue, nachos and pulled pork sandwiches there.
  • Name some of your favorite attractions in the Charlotte area. Charlotte Knights games are really fun. I live a few blocks from the stadium and have had the opportunity to go to a few games – nice stadium and a cool backdrop of the city of Charlotte.
  • What is one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets? Hiking at Crowders Mountain (State Park). I don’t know if it is a secret, but it has a crazy view at the top. Discovery Place is another one. We took my nephew there one time. My brother Luke and I had even more fun than he did!
  • What is one place you would recommend everyone visit in Charlotte at least once? That’s easy: a Hornets game. And I’d recommend going several times. The crowds last year were awesome, and the city was so excited to have the name back where it belonged. My teammates and I are really looking forward to an exciting 2015-16 season.
  • When you’re not on the court, what are some of your favorite things to do/places to go? There is a lot to do at the EpiCentre, so I spend a good amount of time there. You can watch a movie or go bowling, and there are a bunch of good spots to eat. I’m a big fan of Blackfinn Ameripub. Plus, it’s close to Time Warner Cable Arena, where I spend a lot of time.
  • Who is your favorite Charlotte sports team? The Charlotte Hornets.
  • Describe what you love about Charlotte. I’m originally from a small town. When I was entering the NBA Draft, I wasn’t very excited about moving to a big city. Charlotte is the perfect place for me. It has all the big city elements—sports, arts, concerts, events— but it doesn’t feel like a big city; it still has the charm of a small town. The downtown is so easy to get around, which is a huge advantage. I absolutely love the Southern hospitality; the people here are great!
 
This article ran in the October issue of Charlotte Happenings.