Afro-American Cultural Center 401 N. Myers St., 704-374-1565 Housed in the old Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church, this institution preserves, promotes, and presents African-American art, history, and culture through the visual arts, the performing arts, and innovative educational programs. The center's permanent art collection consists of more than 100 works from renowned artists such as Romare Bearden and John Biggers. A new 44,000-square-foot center is scheduled to open on Stonewall Street in the summer of 2009. Closed Mon. $5 for adults.
Carolinas Aviation Museum 4108 Minuteman Way 704-359-8442 Housed in two historically significant hangars at Charlotte–Douglas International Airport, this museum is a must for aviation enthusiasts. It displays more than 50 static aircraft and numerous artifacts relating to North and South Carolina, including a small number of historic planes, such as a Piedmont Airlines DC-3, that used to fly the friendly skies. Open daily. Free.
Charlotte Museum of History & Hezekiah Alexander Homesite 3500 Shamrock Dr. 704-568-1774 This museum houses various exhibits highlighting local history. The museum's centerpiece is the eighteenth-century Hezekiah Alexander Homesite, the oldest surviving structure in Mecklenburg County. Solving the Rock House Mysteries, an ongoing, interactive exhibit, explores the lives, lifestyles, myths, and legends surrounding the more than 230-year-old home. Open daily. $6 for adults; discounted rates for groups.
Charlotte Nature Museum 1658 Sterling Rd. 704-372-6261 This small, urban science center exhibits animals and plants of the Piedmont, including a butterfly pavilion. Children are also fascinated with the museum's activity center, where they can play games and create their own puppet show. $5 for children ages 2 and older. Open daily.
Discovery Place & Imax Dome Theatre 301 N. Tryon St. 704-372-6261 This Charlotte staple has been “igniting wonder since 1981.” Discovery Place invites you to explore rainforests, the living planet, and human anatomy in its permanent exhibitions. Although the science museum is directed toward youngsters, whether it's a movie at the IMAX dome or a live science show, the museum will entertain and interest anyone at any age. Open daily. Admission ranges from $8 to $26 depending on your selection of activities.
Levine Museum of the New South 200 E. Seventh St. 704-333-1887 This downtown museum, home to the nation's most comprehensive interpretation of post-Civil War Southern history. Here, visitors learn how the Queen City evolved from a farming community to a mill town and eventually a financial center. Open daily. $6 for adults; discounted rates for families and groups. Free on Sunday.
The Light Factory Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. 704-333-9755 For more than thirty years, this nonprofit arts center has fostered the advancement of photography and film through exhibits and educational programs. It is the largest center for photography and film south of New York. Look for high quality photography exhibits and challenging film presentations. Open daily. Free to visitors.
McColl Center for Visual Art 721 N. Tryon St. 704-337-2000 This neo-Gothic center advances contemporary art by providing a state-of-the-art facility, artists' residencies, affiliation with other arts organizations, exhibitions, educational programs, and community-outreach projects. Closed Sun.-Mon. Gallery admission is free.
Mint Museum of Art 2730 Randolph Rd. 704-337-2000 Originally the region's first branch of the U.S. Mint, this Federal-style building was saved from destruction and opened in 1936 as the state's first art museum. Today, the Mint is renowned for its collections of American art, pre-Columbian art, American and European ceramics, American decorative arts, historic costumes and accessories, African art, Asian art, historic maps, contemporary art, and photography. Closed Mon. $6 for adults; free admission Tues. 5-10 p.m.
Mint Museum of Craft + Design 220 N. Tryon St. 704-337-2000 Opened in 1999, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design celebrates North Carolina's rich craft tradition by showcasing the state's contemporary studio arts -- such as collections of ceramics, fiber, glass, metal, and wood -- and documenting the state's storied handicraft traditions. Of particular note is a commissioned, forty-foot-tall monumental glass wall by Massachusetts artist Tom Patti, which graces the museum's interior carriageway. Closed Mon. $6 adults; free admission Tues. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and the third Thurs. of the month 5-8 p.m.
The Schiele Museum of Natural History 1500 E. Garrison Blvd. Gastonia, NC 704-866-6900 Explore the flora, fauna, fossils, and minerals of the Charlotte region and the environmental, social, and historical effects they have on the ecology. Open daily. $4, $7, or $11 for adults.
York County Culture & Heritage Museums 4621 Mount Gallant Rd. Rock Hill, SC 803.329.2121 Three museums are included in this network: Historic Brattonsville (a working historic farm that was the site of a Revolutionary War battle), Museum of York County (an exciting and diverse collection of artifacts, including more than 200 mounted African animals), and McElvey Center (an entertainment venue featuring a theater, studio, and archives. Call for hours and admission.
This article appears in the March 2009 issue of Charlotte Magazine