Place to take visitors
Levine Museum of the New South/ Mert’s Heart and Soul
Charlotte hasn’t always been about banks, and no place explains that better than Levine Museum of the New South. Here visitors learn how the Queen City evolved from a farming community to a mill town and eventually a financial center. The exhibit even includes a clip of FDR visiting Charlotte in 1936. Afterwards, walk over to Mert’s Heart and Soul for some great soul food. Then walk off your meal by heading to the lobby of the Bank of America Corporate Center, where you can gaze upon the magnificent Ben Long frescoes and pay homage to the bank that built the city. By the end of the day, your friends will want to be Charlotteans.
Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh Street, 704-333-1887
Mert’s Heart and Soul, 214 N. College Street, 704-342-4222
Place to brag to friends about
ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center
A colorful powerhouse of creativity and energy, ImaginOn can evoke a smile from the grumpiest individual, including a crying two-year-old. With two state-of-the-art theaters, a children’s library, a computer lab equipped with art and animation software, and a Teen Loft punctuated with a multimedia production studio, young people can let their imaginations run wild.
300 E. Seventh Street
Lakefront picnic spot
Whether you want to spread a checkered blanket and eat Brie or cook a burger over open flame, Jetton Park has a spot for you. Located on Lake Norman, the 105-acre park offers picnic decks complete with grills. All you have to do is make reservations. If you’re more into impromptu picnicking (guys, this gets the girls every time), you can choose a romantic patch of grass near the water.
19000 Jetton Road, Cornelius
Shakespeare at The Green
Twenty-four-hundred people came to Shakespeare at The Green last spring and more are expected this year when Collaborative Arts presents As You Like It at The Green (an art park in downtown). Singles, couples, and families bring blankets and picnics (you can bring beer and wine, as it’s a private park) to enjoy an evening with The Bard, complete with professional lighting and sound.
Taste of Charlotte
This is Charlotte’s largest food festival, with dozens of eateries offering hundreds of samples of its star menu items to approximately 150,000 hungry people over three days. A bar built for the occasion is called “Tavern at the Taste.” And the outdoor affair is complete with live music, marketplace-style shopping, and family-centered activities. Admission is free.
Tryon Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Sixth Street, June 1-3
Place to feel like Charlotte twenty years ago
Beef ’n’ Bottle
Except for a patio extension added in the 1990s, nothing has changed at George Fine’s joint since it opened in 1978. The main dining room is dark with booths and glass candles encased in plastic netting. It’s all so unconsciously retro 1970s. The service is old-style with “honey” and “sweetheart” thrown around as the waitress brings you a basket of assorted Lance crackers to go with the port cheddar cheese spread. The clientele is as varying as our city, from old timers to business groups to the occasional celeb and youngsters with a hankering for slabs of meat.
4538 South Boulevard
Afternoon movie at Regal Manor Theatre
Even though most movies eventually end up on DVD, there’s still no better way to see a good flick than in a dark theater on the widescreen. Skip out on work and treat yourself to an art house or foreign film on a weekday afternoon. Shows Monday through Thursday are only $6. Recent showings include Becket and The Lives of Others. Turn off that cell phone and let your mind be taken away into movie fantasyland.
607 Providence Road
Little-known fact about Charlotte
Our James Brown moment
The Godfather of Soul recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” at Arthur Smith’s studio on Monroe Road in 1965. That’s right; James Brown’s single featuring a horn section that won’t quit and an electric guitar riff that gave birth to funk was created in the Queen City. The song was Brown’s first single to crack the top ten on the pop singles chart, and is ranked seventy-second on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” God rest Brown’s soul.
Reason the Chamber’s job got a little bit easier
BET.com says we’re the best
In February, BET.com, the Web site for Black Entertainment Television, chose Charlotte as the “Best City for Black Americans.” The multi-city research project reported that amenities such as professional sports teams and a thriving nightlife, as well as the relatively low cost of living, make it a great place for young black professionals. And while the study clearly targets one ethnic group, Mayor McCrory said it best in an interview with BET.com: “We’ve got just 280 square miles, which means every part of the city must cooperate with one another.”
Festival in the Park
Noteworthy event of last 12 months
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Place to feel like Charlotte 20 years ago
Idea of the last 12 months
Hmm, looks like three years of over-priced gas has finally had an impact.