A May 2006 trip
to Charlotte by vampirefan
Quote: Charlotte is trendy, hip, and part of the growing New South. Come see why!
Charlotte is served by the Charlotte-Douglas Airport. More than 500 flights a day arrive and depart from Charlotte. Thankfully we finally got a low cost carrier several years ago, so now Air Trans serves Charlotte as well. You can rent cars at the airport or downtown. If you are downtown and are planning on staying in the region then you really don’t need a car. There are several ways to get around downtown and this area is not so large that it can’t be navigated on foot. Charlotte does have a bus system. CATS (www.charmeck.org/departments/CATS) has routes all over Charlotte and many of the outlying areas such as Pineville-Matthews and Huntersville. They also have several buses that run to some outlying areas where you can park in a designated area and take the bus into Charlotte. Concord is one of those with pick ups daily from Concord Mills. I would not suggest the bus system after business hours though. The bus terminal station isn’t the safest area after hours. I once dropped a friend off there and begged her to let me take her home. The station was filled with vagrant looking people. There is also a trolley that runs through the downtown area. There is current construction of a light rail system that is expecting to be up and running within the next few years reaching many of the outlying areas. The main highways here are I-85 and I-77. I-485 is being worked on to bypass Charlotte to help with congestion. Many parts of this highway are working. Rush "hour" here can start as early as 6am and go to 10am and from 3pm to 7pm. Certain events such as concerts at Verizon Wireless can make the highway a parking lot. Charlotte is as bad as Atlanta or DC when it comes to rush hour traffic problems. Do not drink and drive around here or you will be in trouble. And so you should be. NC is very strict with their DUI laws.
Discovery Place has earned its reputation as NC’s premier hands-on science museum. No matter if you are a kid or simply a kid at heart, you will find things here to stir your imagination.
On the first level kids will enjoy Kids Place, which shows kids how science is used in everyday life. There is also the Once In the Wild exhibit which features animals from North America-stuffed. So I just pass this on by. You can step in front of the weather board and see how it feels to be a TV meteorologist. There is also an aquarium on this level, but nothing to get too excited about since there are only about two-dozen small tanks displaying fish from local streams to the waters of the Amazon. My favorites are the moray eels and the stingrays. The museum even has a new stingray called Ray! There is also a touch tank.
Level two has the rainforest which houses an incredible collection of plants and birds from the rainforest. It often closes earlier then the rest of the museum though, normally closing at 5. This is also the section kids love since there are dozens of hands on displays here. You can step inside a large eyeball to see how it works, climb the ropes in the sports center, or check out how the human heart works. Kids can spend hours here.
Level 3 houses a dinosaur display and The IMAX theater. The normal IMAX movies are shown here, but not the mass market movies that have been show in IMAX theaters like Batman and Harry Potter . Darn it! Surround Snape, Lucius Malfory, or Christen Bale in his batsuit would be quite enjoyable. There is also the Sun Terrace for group lunches.
There is Discovery Café in case you get the munchies while here. They also offer a gift shop and a simulator ride. They do have ATMs on the premises. Credit cards are accepted in the gift shop and café. The museum is handicapped accessible. Discovery Place also owns the Charlotte Nature Museum and you can get a combo ticket for both museums and the simulator ride. Photography is permitted within the museum. The rules vary for changing exhibits.
You can plan on spending no more than 2 hours here. It is an interesting museum though once you see it, it pretty much remains the same except the touring exhibits. Up next is Action! Adventures in Movie Making coming this fall. This exhibit tells all about the movie making experience and displays original scripts, props, and wardrobe from dozens of movies.
General prices and admission: M-F 9-5, Sat. 10-6, Sun 12:30-5. Admission: $8.50 (a) $7.50 (c&s), under 2 free. IMAX and touring admission and hours vary. See www.discoveryplace.org for more information. Located downtown at N. Tyron and 6th. There is a parking deck on 6th. Parking $5.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 31, 2006
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
I have a long-time relationship with Charlotte. Unlike many "locals", I have lived near Charlotte since I was 13 and we returned to NC to live permanently after moving around in the military. I always dreamed of moving to the big city lights of Charlotte. Well I did in 1996 after marrying since this was near where I would attend college and my husband worked. I had a chance to live there 5 years, but now I am very content to live in the country where the only things I hear at night are the owls hooting and the cows mooing into the night. While I prefer living in the country, Charlotte is close enough to visit when ever I want. So here is a real insider’s guide to life in this city.
General information. Charlotte is a city of about a half a million denizens. Add in all the suburb areas and your looking at more than a million people. Like most other major cities, life moves at a much more hurried pace. Walk downtown during work hours and you will find people in a hurry to get from point A to B. The well known idea of charming southern hospitality has no place in a major city. People are here to work and to get where they are needed and heaven forbid you impede them getting to their destination in a timely manor. Come after hours though and you will find folks more agreeable and here you will find that hospitality that southern life is known for.
Quality of life . Banking and medical are the top fields in this area. Charlotte has become a major banking center in the US and the hospitals are on the leading edge of technology. Unfortunately like many people, those in the banking industry are being phased out as outsourcing in places such as India are becoming more common place. But if you are in the medical field, then things are brighter. After all no one wants to be sent to India to have an appendices removed!
Housing here isn’t a problem. We have plenty of houses and housing developments. Problems is the lack of affordable housing. Now granted for what you pay for a dinky apartment in places such as LA or NYC, you can live quite nicely here. But Charlotte seems to be in a race to see how many McMansions we can have. Every week some new development opens up in the city. Neighborhoods that were once primarily minority neighbor hoods located near downtown Charlotte are being cleaned up and revamped. But this now highly desired location carry high prices on these new digs that most lower and lower-middle class families can not afford.
Many housing developments have tried integrating lower income with middle class families. They reserve a certain number of homes with financing through HUD and Fannie Mae. After about a year when these people can no longer keep up their payments, then they are forced to foreclose. You can ride through a number of new housing developments only to find more fore sale signs than people who have stuck it out. This leaves those who can afford to stay in a quandary. Many times the development has gone downhill in its appearance and demand. Yet if they sell they will find themselves upside down in their value. A friend of mine is experiencing this first hand. Her development has turned into a lot of empty homes. They paid $135,000 for their house, yet if they sell it they would be lucky to get $80,000. This is keeping a lot of unhappy couples together!
Unfortunately despite Charlotte emerging as part of the growing new South, which can keep up with any of its northern neighbors, the schools here still languish far behind. Currently 4 high schools in Charlotte are facing the threat of closing down because more than half of their students fail on state exams. There is not a week that goes by when I don’t see on the news where students are bringing guns to school or a major fight has broken out. In many cases these students are as young as elementary school students! Due to the large number of immigrants many schools are suffering from over crowding and their resource are limited. Yet the CMS (Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools) runs on a budget bigger than some 3rd world countries! All of this has lead to may people moving to smaller cities or home schooling. Private schools are also becoming a more variable option. Schools such as Charlotte Latin Day are considered one of the best in the country.
Despite the sorry state of schools here, on the other hand we boast some of the best colleges in the states. Students come from all over to attend UNC-Charlotte. UNCC is well know for both its academics as well as its athletic endeavors. Johnson C Smith is one of the best predominantly black colleges in the country. Other universities such as Davidson, Wingate, and Pfeiffer are well known for their curriculum as well. We have a number of secondary schools such as CPCC, Charlotte School of Art and Design, and the newly built Johnson and Wales may be training the next Emeril or Rachel Ray.
Sports? Oh we do we have that. Welcome to Charlotte…home of the sports arenas! The old Charlotte coliseum was built some time in the 1950s to 1960s. It was replaced with a much bigger and safer coliseum in the 1990s in hopes of drawing a professional basketball team. The old coliseum was then used mainly as the arena for the hockey team and for concerts and other venues. The new coliseum would be used for sports, conventions, and other higher profile concerts. I once had the privilege of seeing Mother Theresa speak here. And they built it and the team came. Once we had the new coliseum, we got the Charlotte Hornets.
All went well for about 10 years but then the team owners and sponsors got greedy and decided we needed yet another sports area. The reason for this? Not because they wanted space for more families to attend, but because they wanted more VIP boxes! They brought it before the voters who overwhelmingly voted against the arena. Well the Hornets went bye bye to New Orleans. Yet we still got yet another arena. We now have the Bobcats arena in downtown and woo wee…we got another basketball team..the Bobcats. The unhappy tax payers have stayed away since attendance for the games are amongst the lowest in the NBA. The women’s basketball team (the Sting) and the hockey team (the Checkers) moved here as well. So now we have two arenas taking up space and used for nothing. In the 90’s we got yet another arena with Bank of America Stadium, home to the Carolina Panthers football team.
Sometime in the next couple of years (2009 to be exact) we get the Racing Hall of Fame. Heaven forbid Charlotte should build something useful like maybe a decent museum or aquarium or something that people might actually enjoy. There is a current drive to get yet another arena downtown for baseball in hopes of getting a professional baseball team. It would also serve as the new home to the Charlotte Knights baseball team. Taxpayers don’t want it and Knights fan enjoy Knights Castle where it is. Course that hasn’t stopped our city council before.
There are also plenty of other sports to be found. Soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and more can be found throughout the area. If you love chasing golf balls then you will be pleased to know there are numerous private and public golf courses in the area. The Quail Hollow Country Club, home to the Wachovia Open , is among them. If you play it then chances are you can find it here in Charlotte.
The best time to be here is either spring or fall. In the spring everything comes alive and the dogwoods and rhododendron are in full bloom. The fall brings a blaze of glory on the tree tops and the leafs give a fiery display for everyone to see. Summers are brutal here though. Temps stay in the 90ºs and often climbs to 100º-plus. It is a sticky heat that just clings to you and makes life miserable. Winters are mild though. It doesn’t get miserably cold here and snow is a rarity. We typically get no more than 2 snow storm and they are only a few inches. Those north of the Mason-Dixon line often laugh at Carolinians when it snows. We do go into a tizzy and only a few inches of snow does shut down the city. So if snow is called for, head straight for the grocery store and stock up! Chances are if you are visiting Charlotte, then you are here for business or a convention. Despite Charlotte’s size, people really don’t come here for vacation. Charlotte has yet to be considered a tourist destination. They would like to be and spend a lot of time debating as to why. Simple fact is Charlotte is not tourist friendly and doesn’t offer much to see here. Most things to see are outside of the downtown area and require a car to see them. We have a few museums downtown, but nothing that can ever compare to cities such as NYC, Philly, or Boston. We have Discovery Place, which is a hit with kids and adults alike. It offers a hands-on exhibit for kids with an ever changing theme, an IMAX theater, and interesting displays for adults. We recently had the Dead Scrolls on display here. The Levin Museum of the New South offers an interesting look at life in the new south as well as life in the Civil War era. The Mint Museum is accessible by bus and it an arts and design museum. On occasion they offer interesting traveling exhibits. In the 1980s the Mint Museum played host to the Ramesses exhibit, which I was lucky enough to get to work with. So that is Charlotte in a nut shell. It can be interesting. If you plan to stay here long you really need a car and get out and see all the wonderful things surrounding. For more information on Charlotte though you can simply click onto www.visitcharlotte.com. Who knows maybe I will see you here sometime!
Jennifer Lewis …voiced Flo….played Aunt Helen to Will Smith in Fresh Price and played the dean on Different World.
Edie McClurg ..voiced Mini…Mrs. Poole on the Hogan’s. Also was on the CSI episode King Baby. Played the shop keeper in a fetish store and asked Grissom is he "was a drinker or a stinker". Also voiced Flora in Disney’s A Bug’s Life.
Dave Foley …voiced one of the ending credit characters…well known from News Radio and currently hosting poker torments on Bravo. Also did the voice of Flick in A Bug’s Life.
Tony Shalhoub …voiced Luigi…..know as cabbie Antonio in Wings and in such movies and 13 Ghosts. Currently playing the lovable germophobe detective Adrian Monk on USA.
John Ratzenberger..voiced Mack….known the world over as Cliff Clavin from Cheers. Currently does a great show on the Travel Channel called Made in America. Disney’s good luck charm since he has voiced a character in every Pixar CG movie.
Cheech Marin…voiced Ramon…come on its Cheech. OK well known as part of the infamous team of Cheech and Chong in movies such as Up In Smoke. Also worked on Nash Bridges.
Bonnie Hunt …voiced Sally the Porsche 911….worked in plenty of movies including Cheaper By the Dozen 1 & 2.
Larry The Cable Guy …voiced Mater…one of the funniest people around. Tours with his friends and fellow comedians Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.
Owen Wilson …voiced Lighting McQueen…smoking hot and sexy. Worked in lots of films including Starkey and Hutch, Armageddon , and last years hilarious hit The Wedding Crashers. Did I mention he is a hottie?
Richard Petty …voiced "King" Strip Weathers…NASCAR legend, philanthropist, fellow North Carolinian, and all around nice guy.
Paul Newman …voiced Doc Hudson….again who doesn’t know Paul? If you don’t, he is a legend working in dozens of movies most notably Butch Cassidy. Also know for his blue eyes, drives race cars even at 81 (!), and has been happily married to Joanne Woodward for almost 50 years and a philanthropist. His Newman products have raised millions of dollars to proved camps for terminally ill children and their families.
The festive got a late start due to the rain and finally began around 7:30. The guys at Seamore Johnson AFB here in NC provide a marching band that played God Bless America, a precision (and sharp) drill team, and the color guard for the national anthem. The national anthem was sung by country group, Diamond Rio. After that 4 F-14 fighter jets flew overhead followed by a dazzling fireworks display.
Larry the Cable Guy played MC for the evening and was so funny. That alone was worth $10. The money for this event was donated to the Speedway Children’s Charities and the Hole In the Wall camps, so a presentation of one million dollars was made to the charities.
The first of the entertainment was some group I had never heard of and I guess apparently the news camera crews who were in front of us didn’t find important since they stopped filming and sat down during their performance. The sad truth is white people singing Earth, Wind, and Fire tunes doesn’t cut it. Country singer Brad Paisley also performed three songs, including two from the Cars soundtrack. Since I don’t like county music I have no idea what songs he sang. That was followed up with a performance by the legendary Chuck Barry performing Route 66, which is a major song from the movie as well as Johnnie B Good.
If all that wasn’t enough entertainment, there was then a race. Several drivers from the Richard Petty Driving Experience and driver Darrell Waltrip (in the Cars car) went 12 laps. Not surprisingly enough the winner of the race was…you guessed it…Darrell Waltrip! I honestly don’t know how you folks who enjoy racing can watch cars go in a circle for 600 laps. Twelve was enough for me.
After all that excitement we finally got to see the movie. The movie centers on Owen’s character that is a hot shot race car in a three-way tie for the piston cup with King Strip Weathers and Chick Hick voiced by Michael Keaton (who was not in attendance though). On the way to the races in California McQueen gets away from his racing truck and gets stuck in Radiator Springs. Springs is located off of Route 66 which is now being passed by the new highway. The city is filled with rusted out and forgotten cars. McQueen ends up tearing up the city’s pavement and his punishment is to fix the road, which will take him 5 days. Does he get to the race? Does he win? Well I will let you find out for yourself starting June 9th. The movie is a great lesson about friendship and taking the time to see the beauty in all things. The movie is family friendly and adult friendly. Ages from 2 to 102 will find this movie lovable. You can go to www.disney.go.com and click on for the official website.
The movie was project on four huge 64-feet DLP Digital Projection screens making it easier for everyone to see. I wish all movies would incorporate this technology. I mean I would love to see a 64 foot Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow (hey a girl can dream, can’t she?). The movie ended with another incredible fireworks display and 30,000 fans trying to exit the parking lot.
So at least for one night, Charlotte/Concord got to be the center of the entertainment world. We had all the major local news networks here as well as shows such as Access Entertainment, The Inside Edition, and Regis and Kelly . We have had several movies filmed here including Days of Thunder with hottie Tom Cruise, Shallow Hall with the funnyman Jack Black, and this summer the new Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights. But we have never had a movie premier here and this was one of the largest movie premiers there has been. So excuse us for feeling special. Now I can say I was a part of it!
My verdict for the movie? *****, A+, two thumbs up-way up, loved it, a must-see...in other words…just go see it June 9th. You will be glad you did!
Well now that I have told you all about the exhibit, what was my general feeling? Well for one thing I was surprised by the size of the scrolls. They were so small. For some reason I was imagining them to be something like the Torah used by Jewish temples. I am very glad I had a chance to see this exhibit and will never forget it. Though I am not an in-your-face type of Christian, I do consider myself to be a Christian and of the Methodist faith. I felt it to be a great privilege and honor to see where the original words where my faith comes from began. And since I am also a scrap booker it will be something I can pass on to my nephew and soon to be niece (I will be an aunt again this December!). If you do happen to live near where the scrolls are coming, make sure to take the time to see the exhibit. You will be glad you did!
Charlotte, North Carolina