Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's the ideal driving tour of Charlotte?

If you’ve got just a few hours to give someone a driving tour of the Charlotte region, what sights should be included?

Thanks to Drew for e-mailing me this question. He lives in Ballantyne:

“I’m curious as to what you would suggest as a route. I’ve tried to hit the following things: a nice view of the skyline; Trade and Tryon where they can see the tree-lined streets and character of uptown; Bank of America Stadium is visible from just about anywhere so that’s easy to point out; since we have young kids, I like driving by Discovery Place, the library, and perhaps ImaginOn; and I somehow snake down to Myers Park and the older homes. I know I’m missing a bunch of things on that drive and I sometimes find myself taking a less than beautiful detour.”

I suggested that while he’s uptown, he should swing through the Fourth Ward neighborhood bounded by Trade, Tryon, Graham and 11th streets to see some of Charlotte’s most historic Victorian-style homes. While there, he could perhaps bring his guests to neighborhood joint Alexander Michael’s on 9th Street for a drink or some fried dill pickles.

I also suggested that from uptown, he could travel to his tree-shaded Myers Park drive by way of Third Street, which changes into Providence and leads to the famously confusing intersection of Providence, Providence, Queens and Queens.

But there’s certainly a lot more of this region to see, from all points of the compass. Where else would you go?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that intersection really that confusing? I mean, street winds around one way and the other street winds around the it really that hard to grasp?

11:50 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

I grew up with it, so I don't find it confusing, but newcomers have repeatedly told me they do. And sometimes when I give people directions through that intersection I forget to tell them they have to turn to stay on the same road.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget to cruise along Wilkinson and West Boulevards so your kids know the world's not all caviar and roses.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be sure to take them through Plaza-Midwood for a trip to the Penguin. I'd be happy to take them for a tour of Central Avenue and East Charlotte and tell them how this used to be a wonderful part of the City before the illegal immigrants turned it into a crime-ridden slum.......

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So "Anonymous" Central Avenue and East Charlotte was crime free and immaculate until illegal immigrants moved there? Because I guess crime only happens in foreign countries and therefore must have been imported by illegal immigrants? I can guarantee you that area was probably crime ridden due to natural born citizens and the only people who were willing and or could afford to live there were illegal immigrants and as soon as the neighborhood begins a turn around and they can no longer afford to live there they will be forced to move to the next "slum" made vacant by the great citizens of the ole USofA.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the funky shops on Central and at the Plaza area are worth driving by/stopping at for a snack or a used book.

If you're willing to drive a bit, if you take 29 to Concord - there's a spot on the hill by the car dealerships before you reach Big lots where you can see the City of Charlotte, the Race track, and UNCC. It's a pretty cool view, actually. Just don't do it this weekend.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the best drive is I-85 North with Charlotte in the rear view mirror.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or 77 North back to LawngIsland.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ya'll ain't helpin'. There aren't but a couple of posts here that actually point out interesting drives. I'm from Union County and am interested myself in the special points of interest Charlotte holds.

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dumbasses,
I am from Long Island and have called Charlotte my home for the past 20 years. I have made numerous investments in this city and I am on my 7th home.

So I actually help this economy more than you blowhard crybabies. I'm glad more of us are moving down here. You aways had the great weather but the food down rignt sucked. Now at least I have many, many options for dinning instead of the local slop and chain dives "most" locals love to frequent.

Outsiders have molded this region into something liveable and enjoyable.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm...Discovery Place and the library?? C'mon!

How many times do we have to hear about Discovery Place or the sports stadiums in Charlotte? Discovery Place gets old after the hundredth time, and if you aren't a sports fan...sorry!

"What's the ideal driving tour of Charlotte?" Let's see... We've got countless, monotonous strip malls, seedy areas, lame dance clubs/bars, and your typical suburban neighborhoods with the minivan. And don't forget about a church on every corner!

I grew up here since I was 4 years old, so I pretty much consider myself a "native"...and I'm anxious to leave. I'm 22 now. Hopefully by the time I'm 27, I'll have money saved, job experience, and I'll be on my way to some place with more to offer...Atlanta, NYC, or Boston (REAL cities with culture, diversity, and character)!

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put !

The only thing that makes this town bareable for me personally is because I live uptown. It has a glimmer of soul and is getting better all the time. I actually feel like I live in a city - or at least a few blocks of one.
You may find Charlotte more pleasing in another 5 years.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto !
I live uptown too. It's no NYC but as far as the South goes it's about as good as it gets. Atlanta has too many thugs and Miami is not affordable. Charlotte is all that's left. At least it's not the Burbs. That's a huge plus.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Hey, 9:48 a.m. and later posters: Let's please not make this a referendum on whether Charlotte is lame or whether the newcomers or natives are to blame. If you've followed this blog, you've seen we've had ample opportunity to discuss those points. This is meant to be a helpful post for newcomers, and as you can see from the 6:49 a.m. post, some people actually want to use this information. Please keep within the topic or I'll have to start deleting. Thanks.--Blog administrator

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well ok... I guess if you were forced to take someone on a driving tour of Charlotte...

You would first have to get into/around the city on all the big superhighways, and that can be a time-consuming hassle. Once in uptown, you could probably be in and out in under 30 minutes. There are some relatively interesting skyscrapers that make the country folk around here feel like they are in a BIG city. And there are a handful of restaurants to stop at.

Other than that, it's a lot of suburban type neighborhoods. There are plenty of malls though. South Park is good if you are a doctor or a lawyer with cash to spare. And Concord Mills is ok, but it's nothing special. The same company owns exact copies of this mall all over the country.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leigh - get a real job!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like the one you have trolling the blogs ?

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think an actual 'walk' around UpTown would be a lot better than driving around. You wont have time to enjoy your surroundings/views.

1:06 PM  
Blogger unicorn1824 said...

You don't expect roads to twist and retain their names, so it is confusing at the beginning. I'd just take a random drive throughout the city and let whimsy take me where it wants to take me.

And don't dis Leigh. This blog and her columns perform a valuable service... besides I think she's cute... ;-)

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try the Lake Wylie steel creek area ; The Steel Creek area has not come to a full development yet and drive through shopton rd. area, its real nice. Go down Tyvola to Rt. 49 or YORK rd. same thing and drive down to the LAKE WYLIE bridge and they have parks down that route; They also have eating places in S.C. I used to live in Matthews and its Okay but this new area is real nice;

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay drive to KANNAPOLIS and see where the OLD TRAIN station AMTRACk was and see where PILLOWTEX was; This is a nice area and People out there are still nice and genuine. Kannapolis has a Southern feel and then go to CHILDRESS WINERY it looks just like TUSCANY and has a real ITALIAN look ; Enjoy a Barbeque sandwich from Lexington Barbeque and others out there; They are all real good. Try Cimney rock and on the way stop at BRIDGES barbeque one of the N.C. favorites and in business for 50 years. BOB GARNER stops in to eat there all the time.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop in at SPENCER and see the TRAIN rail museum; They may give you a ride on one; ALSO, go to BRYSOn city and take a train ride through the Fontana lake region and go over real tressels and look down at the water. Then go to ASHVILLE to the Biltmore house and see Cherokee reservation and stop by HARRAHS and help the INDIANS .

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go to RALEIGh if you want to see a MODERN version of a real SOUTHERN town; Raliegh is going to be the next banking capitol with RBC bank building a tower there; RALIEGH was a great breath of fresh air for me; If you would find ANDY GRIFFITH it would be there.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez, I have lived here for two years. My son and his wife are coming to visit Charlotte for the first time next month and I thought the comments to this column might actually be helpful. (Well, a few of them are) We love living here, having moved from a smaller city in Texas, and we want to show off our new home, and maybe convince him he needs to move here too! He's a computer geek, and really shouldn't have a problem finding a job here. Please stop getting off topic and give me suggestions on how to show off this beautiful city!

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no ideal driving tour; get them out of the car and WALK around uptown! This is the part of the city that visitors typically want to see, not the miles and miles of suburban sprawl that lines the highways.

If you MUST drive them around, the best thing is to come in on Wilkinson for the spectacular skyline view and "gritty" feel, catch South Blvd through South End, see Dilworth via East Blvd., catch the tree canopy on one of the Queens Roads, make your way over to 7th/Monroe to see Elizabeth, and then head back into uptown to see the skyscraper canyon and sports arenas.

But seriously. Walk uptown and it's better than any driving tour.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can walk around down (oops, sorry) "up"town. It's just like Chicago or New York!

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, more ugliness from native and transplant alike. [sigh]

This native would walk the center city. Start at the new Wachovia campus on South Tryon and walk north. Wachovia Corp Ctr will include 3 new museums-Mint, Bechtler, Afro American. Notice St Peter's RC on the right as it is a 19th century church. Don't forget to point out the pre-WWII towers on the left as you move north-Johnston and (the other name I have forgotten, sorry.)

BofA Plaza comes up on right at the Square. Built in 1974. Just north of the Square is the BofA Corp Ctr, designed by Cesar Pelli and opened in 1992. Next door is the Hearst, opened 2002. It's a study in Art Deco both in and out.

Keep moving north and note St Peter's Episcopal, also a 19th century church and 1st Methodist, the last church to be established uptown, 1927. Both are on the left. Turn left on 8th and wander through 4th Ward, kept alive by then-NCNB, today Bof A tax breaks and foresight (thanks again, Hugh McColl.) Turn south on Church and note The Avenue, about to open and 1st Presbyterian on the right, the oldest church in the center city, 1852. Settler's Cemetery is there too and lovely and not spooky at all. Yes, Charlotte has a lot of churches.

There's more to see and do center city but I would also drive. Out Morehead to Dilworth, bear right on Dilworth Road, Charlotte's first suburb, 1891. Wander Dilworth and end up on South Blvd in South End. Have lunch there, maybe the Brewery (the name has just changed, right?) Make your way down to East Blvd and turn left off of South. Stop at Paper Skyscraper on the right. Best place in town to buy cards. Note the Greek Orthodox Cathedral also on the right; come back for their Yiasou festival around Labor Day. Follow East down to Queens Road W and turn right onto it. Go to Selwyn; do a U-turn and glide back down again on one of Charlotte's prettiest streets. Helps if you know it dates to 1911, last of the streetcar suburbs, once a farm and nearly all the trees were brought in and planted. Continue back down to the intersection with East and turn right; you're still on Queens Road West. Follow it to its end (beginning, actually) and turn right onto Queens Road itself. At the famous intersection of Queens and Queens, continue straight, you're now on Providence. Follow Providence to Sharon Lane and turn right; this is Foxcroft. Follow to Sharon Road, turn left and SouthPark comes up on right. Go shopping.

My fingers are tired. Hope that helps.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, go the road less traveled. If coming in from 85, a great view of uptown is if you take the Graham Street Exit.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the holidays approaching, we'll take our out-of-town guests to Peppermint Forest Christmas Shop for a uniquely Charlotte experience. Designated as a North Carolina tourist attraction by the North Carolina Department of Tourism, it is not unusual to find visitors from all over the region in there. It's more of a destination trip than part of a driving tour since it is located in Pineville -- plus you'll want to spend some time enjoying the winter wonderland effect.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous jlnd said...

Oh my goodness, how can anyone be negative about this city? We moved here from Houston, Texas 8 years ago, and live in Fort Mill. I love Charlotte. To me, it has everything.. Even though I came from a city great for ethnicity, shopping, and dining out, it's just too big. Charlotte is the perfect size, has wonderful weather, and has beautiful, colorful seasons. Plus, it has plenty of good shopping and eating out... maybe not NYC style, but not NYC crowds and prices, either! It's fairly easy to get around, except at peak times, but what city isn't crowded at peak times? And it is just beautiful. There are so many pretty drives in and around Charlotte. There may not be that many big name tourist attractions, but to me just the city itself, and surrounding areas, are attractions. So many beautiful neighborhoods... Yeh, it can be confusing to a newcomer, but with a good GPS, it's easy enough. I can't see a thing to complain about. Thanks for the ideas for driving / walking tours, as we occasionally have out of towners and like to show them around.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Summer said...

Charlotte Native here, I’m proud to show our guest around town, recently I started with Airport overlook, with a trip to Dairy Queen on Wilkinson blvd first, then off to those quaint streets near Queens University and Myers Park where the trees cross over the streets, then off to NODA at the Penguin or grab a pastry from Amelia’s French Bakery, then off to downtown to grab lunch at Rira’s Irish Pub on the rooftop, maybe some antique shopping at Gibson Mills. Fun day!

9:18 AM  

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