Charlotte is a major international hub in the U.S., where many people find themselves with a layover of a few hours. Our recommendation would be to push back your connecting flight until the following day and use the time to explore this vibrant city, especially if food, art or sport is your thing.
You can jump in a cab at the airport to head into the city centre. It’s known as Uptown, but almost every other North American city calls this area downtown. However, we’d recommend using the Sprinter bus. At $2.20 per person for the 25-minute, 10-mile ride, it really can’t be beaten. The Sprinter terminates at Trade Street, and it’s in this area that we would recommend you choose a suitable hotel.
Art or Sports?
Image via Flickr by C Griffith
Once you’ve checked in, you can choose between art or sports. If you’re an art lover, we’d recommend spending some time at the Mint Museum. Its Native American section is particularly good and has exhibits originating from Canada through to Guatemala. In the same district, you’ll find the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, which emphasizes European works, including some by Barbara Hepworth and Joan Miro. It would be easy to get absorbed into these two institutions for half a day.
If sports are more your thing, you have a great choice. You can take a short cab ride and get out to see the impressive, 75,000-capacity Bank of America Stadium, which is home to the Carolina Panthers NFL team. Stadium tours are available on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
If that doesn’t coincide with your timing, check out the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In the U.K., we know so little about the sport, but in the U.S., it’s huge! The High Octane Theater presentation is an excellent introduction to NASCAR, and then you can explore some of the iconic vehicles that have competed.
The South is all about soul food. We’re talking shrimp creole, fried catfish, fried chicken, cornbread, and barbecue. In Charlotte, soul food is best served up by the husband-and-wife team at Mert’s. The menu wryly recommends that you “save room for dessert.” Good luck with that!
And before your day is finished, stop off at Alexander Michael’s for a drink at the bar. It’s a neighbourhood drinking hole and restaurant with an international reputation.
Working It Off
Charlotte has lots of parks and green spaces, and these are best explored by foot. If you can move after that huge plate of soul food you had the night before, book yourself on a walking tour of Elmwood Cemetery. Ghost tours are also available if you want to be frightened witless!
Maybe unusually for a stopover guide, in Charlotte we’re advising you to head back to the airport early. That’s because one of the gems is on the edge of Charlotte Douglas International itself. It’s the Carolinas Aviation Museum, which has a great collection of civil, commercial, and military aircraft. The pride of place is the Airbus A320 that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River in New York. This “miracle on the Hudson” was recently made into the film “Sully,” starring Tom Hanks.
So go on and turn your layover into a stopover and explore the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina!