Charlotte is not a cute American blonde with a penchant for malls although some would definitely say she is a Southern Belle…

Located in the central, eastern US state of North Carolina (although the locals would consider it to be a Southern State since many fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War 150 years’ ago), Charlotte is the 16th largest city in the USA and the largest in North Carolina with over 800,000 inhabitants.

It is a major financial centre that is second only to New York in terms of banking transactions, and many company head offices base themselves there for this reason. It is an immaculately clean city centre that props up a community culture ranging from artistic and artisanal entrepreneurship through to the middle-American Bible Belt way of life.

Yes, Charlotte is an interesting place. Nurse your beer belly on some fantastic local craft beer in some of the most eclectically revived industrial venues, next to a women’s church group on their monthly lunch meeting. Visit Heist Brewery if you get a chance.

The city is sport mad. The Carolina Panthers had a great season a couple of years ago, reaching the Super Bowl Final (2015), they have since dropped back, but are one of the leagues more successful teams considering they started in 1995. With the 2017 season about to start, they are worth a look.

The basketball team, The Hornets, are mid-table and holding their own (they are owned by Michael Jordan) and the Knights are making waves of their own in MLB’s second division. The city’s stadiums are immaculate, well located within the city centre, and games are well attended.

To give you an indication of Charlotte’s sport culture, the Panthers stadium has a seating capacity of around 73,000 and you will struggle to find a seat at a game. That is just under 10% of the cities inhabitants who attend the matches.

The crown jewel of the sports scene in Charlotte, however, is undoubtedly NASCAR. It’s home to the hall of fame, Charlotte raceway and eight of the tournaments racing teams, including all of the big guys. Tour the main team factory if you get a chance – Hendricks Racing. They have all the top current and past drivers of any substance on their team sheet.

The NASCAR season runs over a calendar year (February to November) with Charlotte Raceway hosting just over 360 events during this time: dirt racing, drag car racing, street racing and of course NASCAR. There are two main NASCAR events in the year: the All Star Race and the 500. With over 120,000 spectators, these are events to attend for reasons that extend beyond racing.

So if you fancy visiting a centre that can offer a little sport on your visit to the USA, try Charlotte. It is a city that won’t disappoint.

Updated – July 2017

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, a travel wholesaler based in South Africa

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