The Warm Embrace of Charlotte
I just love the city of Charlotte. North Carolina is not the deep South, but its people have that same attitude and air of welcome. This is the type of town where the cashiers at the grocery store say "thanks for shopping here, honey", and the hotel clerks might say "What are ya'll going to see today?". I am just utterly charmed by this city, so much so that the attractions and activities almost take a back seat to the wonderful atmosphere and lovely scenery.
Since this trip was in the company of my sister and my two young nephews, we pretty much had to do the local amusement park. The boys had been reading about Carowinds for a while in preparation, we knew there would be plenty of rides to keep us all busy and amused, and more importantly we knew it was nice weather this time of year and we all wanted to avoid the whole "amusement park at high noon in August" thing ( Did it once, and I am so not doing it again!). Our trip was in September, and this is probably the best possible time of year to visit. Crowds were not at all heavy, and we rarely had to wait more than a few minutes for any ride or attraction. The rides were actually better than I expected and we all had a blast on the Runaway Raptor and Danny Phantom Flyers especially. The "Nick" area, themed after the Nickelodeon kid's network on TV, was really pretty neat and was enjoyed by both the 6 year old and the 12 year old, so we adults were happy with that as well. The best part of the park, however, was the water park. Huge and beautifully kept wave pools, incredibly fun water slides, and again not too much crowding. The kids and grown-ups actually had equal fun here. The only slight drawback is that the in park food is expensive, but that is par for the course with amusement parks today.
On our second day in Charlotte, we fit in several different fun activities, starting off with a ride on the LYNX Blue Line light rail, which was quite the thrill for the boys. They pronounced it "just as fun as the subway but clean" (Who on earth -except little boys- thinks the subway is fun, after all?) and we have to agree that this city has some top notch transport! When you buy tickets, you can use them interchangeably at the LYNX or the Charlotte trolley, an old fashioned street car (like those in San Francisco) that the boys enjoyed even more. We stopped in the South End district for lunch, a museum stop, and some browsing in the tiny boutiques and art galleries there. The hit of the day was the Trolley museum, where we learned more about the history of the famous Charlotte trolleys, and the boys even got to try out a few interactive rides. We were told that Price's Chicken Coop was the place to be for true Southern style fried chicken, and since it is right there in the area we decided to give it a try. Absolutely fantastic! None of us have ever had fried chicken like this before- tender, perfectly cooked, just simply perfect. After that, I am afraid that the local fast food chicken joints at home are just not going to cut it for me anymore.
The Mint Museum Art of was my personal favorite stop for this trip. Since I especially enjoy museums and arts & crafts exhibits, I figured this would be a fun stop. As is turns out, we all enjoyed it immensely. We did the Mint Museum of Craft + Design first, which is next door to the main museum. This is a rather small museum that is chock full of local crafts, with a very notable collection of beautifully handcrafted quilts. This smaller museum really took only around an hour to tour completely, and if you have the time I would highly recommend combining this museum with the Museum of Art next door. You can get free parking at the Dunhill Hotel (adjacent to the museum) for up to two hours. The larger Museum of Art was just a joy for all of us. The kids loved the coins and old pottery displays and my sister and I really loved the history of fashion exhibit. A great family trip, especially if you do both museums.
Charlotte really impressed me with its friendly people and lush beauty. Even in September there were still flowers blooming riotously all over the place, and the weather was just ideal. We had a wonderfully relaxing and fun vacation here, and would love to return one day.