Charlotte, North Carolina, is also known as the Queen City; some might say it is the Queen of the South. We’ve made Charlotte our home and can say it is a beautiful place to live, work, and play. But what is Charlotte, NC known for? Let’s take a look.
What Is Charlotte, NC Best Known For?
Charlotte, North Carolina, is known as a major banking center and home to several Fortune 500 headquarters, including multiple banks. Beyond the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets, it is also known for the Whitewater Center and other cultural and entertainment attractions.
So, let’s explore the top 5 things that Charlotte is known for:
1. Financial Center & Multiple Bank Headquarters
While New York City is the unrivaled leader in banking, Charlotte is the surprising home to the second-largest banking center in the United States. This is thanks in large part to Bank of America calling Charlotte home.
But Charlotte’s history with banking is much more significant than just one company. Wachovia once called Charlotte home, and Wells Fargo still maintains a major presence in the city (Wells Fargo bought Wachovia). Charlotte is home to more than 25,000 Wells Fargo employees, the bank’s largest employment base.
While many locals have called for Wells Fargo to move its headquarters to Charlotte, it’s unlikely since much of the C-Suite is based in New York and elsewhere. Wells Fargo’s 25,000 employees don’t count toward Charlotte’s standing as the second-largest banking center in the United States since the bank is headquartered in San Francisco.
Instead, Charlotte most recently regained this title when SunTrust Bank and BB&T Bank merged to form Truist. The two banks were previously based in Atlanta and Winston-Salem, respectively, but Truist is based in Charlotte.
In many ways, Charlotte punches above its wait. The Charlotte region is also home to several non-banking Fortune 500 companies, including Lowe’s, Nucor, Honeywell, Duke Energy, Sonic Automotive, and a few others.
2. Professional Sports (NFL, NBA, MLS, NASCAR & Golf)
If two things shaped Charlotte into what it is today, then those two things are likely banking and professional sports. The NBA changed the perception of the city when they awarded the city with the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets originally played in the Charlotte Coliseum, which was home to an almost nine-year run of home sell-outs.
The original Hornets had a fun style of play, some of the most recognizable players in the game, and arguably the most eye-catching uniforms in NBA history. The original run for the hornets was ill-fated, and they eventually moved to New Orleans.
Years later, the NBA granted Charlotte a second team, called the Charlotte Bobcats. It wasn’t until the New Orleans Hornets rebranded as the New Orleans Pelicans that Charlotte could reclaim the Hornets’ name and team colors.
While Charlotte loves the Hornets, the Carolina Panthers elevated the city to another level. The NFL and its outsized revenue are kings when it comes to professional sports in the United States.
Sadly, the Panthers, like the Hornets, have endured periods of mediocrity or even below-average play. Still, the Carolina Panthers have played in two Super Bowls. The 2015 Panthers finished with a 15-1 regular season record before losing to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Most recently, the MLS awarded Charlotte FC to the same ownership team that owns the Carolina Panthers. The Charlotte region is also home to NASCAR’s headquarters and Charlotte Motor Speedway, plus several minor league teams. The Charlotte Knights are an AAA baseball team that plays in an Uptown stadium with skyline views.
3. Entertainment Attractions – From Rafting to Concerts and Much More
Outdoor enthusiasts will recognize that Charlotte is also home to the U.S. National Whitewater Center. I’ve always found it interesting that Charlotte is known for something as refined as banking and some things as outdoorsy as the Whitewater Center, but that is what makes Charlotte’s culture so enticing.
Whitewater rafting in an artificial river is the main attraction at the Whitewater Center, but don’t let the fact that it is an artificial river fool you. The Olympic team trains in Charlotte at the Whitewater Center. While it is a controlled environment (i.e., no jagged rocks), the rapids are still tons of fun.
The Whitewater Center also offers rock climbing, ziplining, mountain biking, hiking, and flatwater SUP/kayak. The grounds feature 50 miles of trails, with varying degrees of difficulty in mountain biking and trail running. I’ve gone to the Center dozens of times for nothing more than to run on the trails.
Certainly, entertainment options extend well beyond the Whitewater Center. The PNC Pavilion, the Spectrum Center, and Bank of America Stadium all host headline concerts from the biggest names in music. Everyone from Taylor Swift to The Rolling Stones has made stops in Charlotte.
There are so many things to do in Charlotte, and the sporting venues are a common host for a multitude of events. The Spectrum Center is home to the Charlotte Hornets. While the Hornets don’t often contend for championships, attending NBA games is still a ton of fun.
Bank of Ameria Stadium is home to the Carolina Panthers (NFL) and Charlotte FC (MLS). The NFL is king when it comes to professional sports in the United States, but Charlotte FC set records during its inaugural season in the MLS. The soccer team has quickly cemented the game experience as a must-visit Charlotte activity.
4. Cultural Attractions – From Broadway Musicals to Fine Art and Opera
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center might be the best place to start for those with a more refined taste. The Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is home to Broadway musicals, the Charlotte Symphony, Opera Carolina, and more.
Many of the refined Uptown Charlotte experiences can be romantic too. Beyond the Belk Theater, the Levine Center for the Arts is one of Charlotte’s most popular cultural attractions.
The Levine Center for The Arts is a group of four attractions in Uptown Charlotte, and all four are within close walking distance of each other. These attractions include the Knight Theater, Mint Museum, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
The Mint Museum might be the most well-known. It was one of the first art museums in the South and still offers one of the largest collections. The Bechtler is right next door to the Mint’s Uptown location and focuses more narrowly on modern art.
The Knight Theater is like the little brother to the Belk Theater. Shows that aren’t large enough to show at the Belk Theater or that are showing at the same time as Belk shows, instead, show at the Knight Theater.
And after you visit the Harvey B. Gantt Center, you might take a stroll over to Romare Bearden Park. It is among the best parks in Charlotte, right in the heart of Uptown. Its design pays homage to Romare Bearden, who is acclaimed for the way in which he expressed the African-American experience through his art.
What is Charlotte NC known for? Arts and cultural centers attract visitors from all over the South. Charlotte features big city amenities while keeping a small-town feel.
5. Food & Drink Scene – From Breweries and Burgers to Fine Dining
You will find a trendy food and drink scene in most booming cities. Such is the case with Charlotte. Restauranteurs frequently open new spots throughout Charlotte. You will find high-end experiences, such as Fahrenheit Charlotte. Fahrenheit offers a rooftop view, new American cuisine, and popular drinks and cocktails.
Charlotte is home to big chain steakhouses like Ruth’s Chris, but we recommend that you scope out Beef ‘N Bottle for a local favorite. It is our go-to spot for anniversaries and big celebrations.
You will also find modern takes on southern-inspired comfort foods at Leah and Louise, and new takes on fast-food classics, like Ace No. 3 Burgers and Shakes. We recommend that you try Amelie’s French Bakery for Dessert.
And let’s not forget that the best bbq in Charlotte pays homage to classic Texas BBQ as well as NC vinegar-based barbecue. The result is a BBQ lineup that is unique to Charlotte. It’s fitting for a city of transplants to have a food scene that honors multiple heritages. In fact, the best pizza in Charlotte does the same thing.
Food Along Rail Trail and in Optimist Hall
If your time is limited, we recommend that you visit the Rail Trail in South End or Optimist Hall.
Restaurants, bars, and breweries line the Rail Trail in South End. The Rail Trail is a protected pathway that runs parallel to the light rail. Because it is protected and runs along so many places to eat and drink, it is one of Charlotte’s most popular and trendy destinations.
South End is one of the few neighborhoods in the Southeast where you don’t need a car.
While there is plenty to do along the Rail Trail, there are even more options within close proximity at Optimist Hall. The old mill was turned into a modern and trendy food hall featuring a full range of cuisine, including gourmet grilled cheese, dumplings, empanadas, ramen, sushi, desserts, and more.
If you visit both the Rail Trail and Optimist Hall, check out Camp North End next if you are still looking for things to do.
This Is What Charlotte, NC Is Known For
Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the premier destinations in the South. Charlotte is known as a major banking center. It is also known for professional sports, such as the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets, outdoor activities, like the Whitewater Center, and many other cultural and entertainment attractions.
These are just some of the reasons that Charlotte is so popular.
You will also find that Charlotte is full of friendly people representing Southern hospitality at its best. Charlotte is one of those rare big cities that still have pockets that feel like a small town. In comparing Charlotte vs. Raleigh, one of the big differences is that Charlotte has that big city feel and the skyline to match.
And while Charlotte is known for its big city vibes, the Carolinas are known for its beautiful beaches and mountain adventures. We love that this big city is only a few hours from the Appalachian trail or sandy beaches along the Atlantic!
If you are looking for a guide to Charlotte, NC, we recommend starting with the Whitewater Center, exploring Uptown, and finishing with a stroll along the Rail Trail.
Still, the impressive skyline and the big city feel don’t diminish The Queen City’s charm. Charlotte, North Carolina, is worth visiting.