Road Trips: City Brimming with Things to Do and See
By Zenda Douglas/Special Correspondent
Explorers and adventurous business men and women have always been attracted to Charlotte, a city founded in 1769 and named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England.
Its beginnings at the intersection of two affluent American Indian trading paths foretold its remarkable future as the nation’s second leading financial center. Through the gold rush, development of the railroads, commercial industrialization of textiles, streetcars, skyscrapers and suburbs, Charlotte has continuously been a leader in the Southeast and later, the nation.
The same is true when it comes to attractions and entertainment. Charlotte is brimming with things to see and do, places to stay and dine, and it is replete with outdoor opportunities and nightlife. Two professional sports teams keep spirits high.
Set aside some time to attend a performance at the Blumenthal Theatre. Stroll through the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Levine Center for the Arts and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture, to name a few.
And don’t forget about NASCAR. Combine history and thrills at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Get a rush from the rapids at the U.S. National Whitewater Center where Olympic champions train.
Steeped in culture, history and action-packed fun, Charlotte remains comfortable and friendly — New York smart, Boston sophisticated, Los Angeles chic and Denver active — all warmed by a Southern sun.
Visitors this holiday season will find singing, dancing, lights and plenty of cheer for the whole family:
Dr. Pepper ACC Championship and Belk Bowl, Dec. 1 and 27, Bank of America Stadium, 800 South Mint St., (704) 358-7000, www.panthers.com: Charlotte has two championship football games that have quickly become signature events for the region.
Christmas at The Billy Graham Library, Dec. 2-22, 4330 Westmont Drive, (704) 401-3200, www.billgrahamlibrary.org: Christmas at the library gives visitors the chance to explore a nativity scene with real animals, ride on horse-drawn carriages and take in the incredible lights display and merry carolers.
Holiday Jazz at the Bechtler, Dec. 7, 420 South Tryon Street, (704) 353-9200, www.bechtler.org: Ring in the season with mid-century art and music at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s “Jazz at the Bechtler” holiday concert featuring the Ziad Jazz Quartet and vocalist Noel Freidline.
Annual Singing Christmas Tree, Dec. 8 and 9, Ovens Auditorium, 2700 East Independence Blvd., (704) 374-1564, www.carolinavoices.org: It was the first Singing Christmas Tree production in the country in 1953, and today it’s one of Charlotte’s most beloved performances — Carolina Voices’ The Singing Christmas Tree. With more than 80 members of the MainStage Choir standing atop a 32-foot glimmering tree, this magical show features everyone’s favorite holiday songs. A special, kid-friendly performance featuring puppets and dancers will also be offered.
North Carolina Dance Theatre, “Nutcracker,” Dec. 8-23, Belk Theater, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon Street., (704) 372-1000, www.ncdance.org/nutcracker.asp: You’ll watch performers gracefully spinning in this year’s performance of the “Nutcracker.” This holiday ballet spotlights choreography by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and live music from the Charlotte Symphony.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Dec. 18-23, Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, 430 South Tryon St., (704) 372-1000, www.blumenthalarts.org: Cirque, the French word for “circus,” describes this astonishing performance directed by Neil Goldberg. With an international cast of more than 30 artists, the show features flipping gingerbread men and soaring reindeers accompanied by hundreds of spectacular costumes.
Speedway Christmas, Dec. 30, 5555 Concord Parkway South, Concord, (800) 455-FANS, www.charlottemotorspeedway.com: Charlotte Motor Speedway welcomes holiday revelers to a Speedway Christmas for one of the nation’s largest drive-through holiday light shows featuring more than three million LED lights in 800 displays, an outdoor ice skating rink, a festival of trees, a Bethlehem-themed live Nativity scene and a Christmas Village.
First Night Charlotte, Dec. 31, noon to 12:30 a.m., Uptown outdoor venues, (704) 332-2227, www.charlottecentercity.org: Complete with dancers, comedians, magicians and musicians to help you celebrate New Year’s Eve in Uptown. Started in 1976, First Night is an alcohol-free community celebration of the New Year that is now celebrated in more than 200 cities internationally. This family-friendly cultural celebration includes family-friendly events, performances and a countdown to 2013. With more than 75,000 attendees, it has grown into one of the biggest and best known events in the Southeast to visit for New Year’s Eve.
WBT Holiday on Ice, through Jan. 6, Corner of MLK Blvd and Brevard St. on The NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza, (704) 930-4926, www.wbt.com/holidayonice: Come glide on the coolest surface in town. WBT’s Holiday on Ice brings an outdoor ice skating rink to the heart of Uptown. Located on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Ceremonial Plaza, the rink has more than 7,000 square feet of ice and a view of the city skyline.
For more information on event locations and schedules, attractions, hotels, dining and more, go to www.charlottesgotalot.com or call the Visitor Info Center at (800) 231-4636.