My mom and I just got back from visiting my sister in North Carolina and were able to enjoy one full day in downtown Charlotte. Our first stop was the Charlotte_Mecklenburg Center City Public Art Walking Tour. It was the perfect day weather wise, clear and warm, but not so hot we couldn’t be outside. This self guiding walking tour is a MUST SEE if you’re in Charlotte for the day or even just driving through town and want to stretch your feet. First of all, it’s FREE and second, it’s a unique way to see the downtown sites!
Charlotte is a beautiful, modern city and I was surprised to see such a concentrated amount of art everywhere we looked. As of 2012-13, the Charlotte City Council allocates 1% of eligible capital investment funds towards public art–no wonder this city is so gorgeous!
According to the Arts and Science Council website, this is a 45 minute self guided walking tour in the downtown area that includes 30 points of interest, plus there’s a free podcast that includes information about the art, artists, and any historical significance. Both the walking tour map and podcast links are included here to make it easier to find this information. The walking tour claims to take only 45 minutes, but after going on this walk, the 45 minutes must just include the central downtown area (or the North Tyron area, which are the first 16 stops on the map.)
I didn’t want to give away what ALL of the stops looked like, but here’s a few of my favorites 🙂
Stop 1: Carillon Building
The tour starts at the Carillon Building, at 227 W. Trade St. There’s actually two artist sites in this building, but this floor-to-ceiling hanging moving display was hands down one of my favorites on the tour! We stood in awe for almost 15 minutes watching all the connected parts whirling around and around.
Stop 2: The Garden
This colorful sculpture is right next door to the Carillon Building and included a small beautiful shaded garden to walk through as we admired this beautiful piece.
Stop 3: Sculptures on the Square– Commerce, Industry, Transportation, The Future
There’s 4 gigantic sculptures on all four corners of the intersection at stop 3. You can see in the photo how large they are compared to the people and vehicles passing by! At this stop there’s also 2 additional art sites to visit.
Stop 4: The Frescos at the Bank of America Corporate Center
There are ENORMOUS! We visited on a Sunday and assumed the bank was closed; the lobby is still open to visitors to see the stunning frescos. I didn’t realize until AFTER I was trying to get a better photo (and was stopped by security), photography isnot permitted. Oops!
Stop 13: The Writer’s Desk
Easy to miss fun typewriter keys and pencils that are a popular spot with skateboarders.
Stop 15: Time Cable Warner Arena
The arena pillars the “Flying Shuttles” were another favorite stop of mine. There’s 5 other art sites at the arena from the tour.
We had numerous sites we wanted to hit in Charlotte, so we visited the first 16, but definitely want to see the other art stops on future visits to Charlotte! If you have extra time, you could drive to the other sites.
Right near the conclusion of the North Tryon art sites, last one aptly named “Queen Charlotte Walks in Her Garden,” we feasted on a delicious authentic southern food at Mert’s Heart and Soul. Mert’s was recently featured on the TV show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” and you can read the episode synopsis here.
The best item we ate were the Soul Rolls, which was one of the suggested items to order from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The crispy eggrolls are filled with beans, rice, chicken and a divine sweet and sour sauce.
We also shared an order of shrimp and grits which were very good. (I will admit after eating Magnolia’s shrimp and grits in Charleston a few years back, it’s been hard to find shrimp and grits that compare.) The corn bread was also very moist and flavorful and I definitely recommend a side a two. Plate after plate of fried chicken wings kept passing our table, while we didn’t order these, it was easy to tell they’re very popular! Homey southern food really hit the spot after a morning of walking.
Downtown Charlotte looks like a brand new cosmopolitan city, when actually it’s historical roots run deep. Tourists might wonder why this city is nicknamed “The Queen City” or why crown signs are practically on every corner. King George III still ruled the Colonies when European settlers chartered the town back in 1768, so this area was named after the King’s wife, Queen Charlotte. Her presence is still very much felt today. To learn more about Charlotte’s history and to learn interesting city facts like why the city downtown is called “uptown,” click here.
Downtown (or should I say uptown in Charlotte like the locals?), we came across many wall murals that weren’t part of the city art walk, but super fun to look at!
After lunch we drove less than one mile down the road to the Fourth Ward area of historic homes and the lovely Fourth Ward Park. Some of these homes were just gorgeous!!
This was my favorite house and I literally could’ve walked the streets staring at houses for hours! This is another FREE Charlotte walking tour that’s very much worth the time. We also saw carriage rides and Segway tours in this area if you’d prefer that option instead.
While there are Fourth Ward Historic District maps posted, I’ve also included a map for you to preview in advance and get more information here.
It was hard to believe how close this cozy community was to the downtown skyscrapers but you feel transported back to another time when walking down the cobblestone paths. But as you can see, the city core is literally right behind you.
Here’s one of the paths into the lovely Fourth Ward Park. This is a favorite spot for locals and includes 3 miles of walking trails.
We really enjoyed exploring this gorgeous community of bright colored historic homes!
I always seek out local treats and dessert hot-spots when I visit a new town. We weren’t able to visit the renowned Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe this visit to town, but it’s a must visit if you’re in Charlotte! It’s well worth the stop if you have a huge sweet tooth like me. Fortunately there’s numerous locations in Charlotte (and even Atlanta!), so easy to find a convenient location. The decadent photos are from their website.
If you have more time in Charlotte, other popular stops include:
- The NASCAR Hall of Fame–I had the chance to visit this on my trip to Charlotte last year. My decreased grandpa was a HUGE NASCAR fan, so it was nice being able to see his favorite race cars in the museum. We all had a blast doing the racetrack simulator!
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
- The Billy Graham Library
- The Levine Museum of the New South
- Discovery Science Place– A fun stop if you’re travelling with kids! I haven’t been there but my sister and her 3 boys really enjoy it!
I hope you enjoy your time in Charlotte as much as I did! You can also read about our four days girls weekend to the Outer Banks here 🙂