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Best 48 Hours: Charlotte, Queen City of The South

Charlotte, North Carolina may be known for being home to Bank of America, the NFL, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but this burgeoning city is full of sweet southern charm and a progressive cultural landscape, making the Queen City a perfect place to play.

Day 1: Evening

Save on cab fare from the airport and take a $2 shuttle to the City Transit Center. Stay in the heart of the city at a hotel in “uptown” Charlotte (what the locals call their downtown.) Romantics and the literati alike will fall for the Gatsby-esque Dunhill, a historic boutique hotel teeming with 20s nostalgia. Value-conscious travelers, check in to the Hyatt House, just a block form the transit center. Lose the luggage and jump the Light Rail to Historic South End, where you can hop around the galleries and shops to work up an appetite. Share a few small plates at Liberty Gastropub or try Mac’s Speed Shop, where bikers and bankers enjoy filling up on Southern fare. After dinner, grab a pint or two at Triple C Brewery (their Smoked Amber is a seasonable standout). Take the Light Rail back uptown to crash, or continue your beer buzz at the EpiCentre, an epic bar-hopping experience.

Day 2: Morning

Start your day off among the fitted tees and fedoras of Charlotte’s hipster district, Plaza Midwood. Zada Jane’s serves up great coffee and funky twists on staple dishes like their Bunny Rancheros. Stock up on drinks and snacks around the block at Common Market before heading south to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, home to the world’s largest manmade whitewater river. This one-of-a-kind playground for outdoor enthusiasts offers plenty to do on water and land from rafting and kayaking to ziplining and mountain biking. Depending on the weather and your energy level, you can spend the whole day here, or try just one activity. Plan ahead using their thorough website to get the most out of your Whitewater Center experience.

Day 2: Afternoon and Evening

Head just north of uptown for a bite at the Crepe Cellar and some gallery crawling in Charlotte’s artsy NoDa (North of Davidson) neighborhood. After a  stroll, make food your focus for the evening. Head to historic Elizabeth for cocktails and apps at Customshop followed by dinner at Carpe Diem, a staple in the Charlotte dining scene. Bounce back over to the Midwood for dessert at LaBon. If you haven’t filled up, head to Soul Gastrolounge for a late night drink, munchie and music.

Day 3: Morning

People, start your engines! Fuel up on pastries and coffee at Amelie’s cozy uptown locale before heading to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Fan or not, you’ll get a charge out of the interactive Pit Crew Challenge and racing stimulators. Diehards can test their NASCAR know-how with the Ultimate Fan Challenge and relive heart-racing moments with the Greatest Finishes.

Day 3: Afternoon and Evening

Don’t leave Charlotte without sampling some North Carolina barbecue. Both Bill Spoon’s Barbecue and Sauceman’s will satisfy even the most finicky of pig palates.

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