25 Things You Should Know About Charlotte

The epicenter of America’s first gold rush is now a major financial hub. Present-day Charlotte is practically synonymous with banking—but life there isn’t all business. With its heart-pounding NASCAR races and world-class barbecue, Charlotte residents also know how to have a good time. Here’s a trivia buff’s guide to the Queen City.

1. Downtown Charlotte is called “uptown,” much to the confusion of… well, pretty much everyone who isn’t from there. Locals have been saying it that way for at least 85 years. Apologists will happily point out that central Charlotte does sit at a higher elevation than the rest of the city. “When you go there, you’re going up to town,” says native son Jack Wood. “That’s the proper name for it.” In the 1970s, Wood—a clothier by trade—made a push to preserve this verbal quirk. After some intense lobbying, he convinced the City Council to officially designate the historic sector as “Uptown Charlotte” on September 24, 1974.

2. According to some, the coveted title of Pimento Cheese Capital of the World belongs to Charlotte. The city's Ruth's Salads produces 45,000 pounds of the Southern lunchtime staple every week—the most of any company in the Southeast—and Charlotteans comprise one of the largest markets for the stuff in the nation. (The other biggest market for pimento cheese sellers: Raleigh-Durham.)


In the 1700s, two vital pathways crossed where uptown Charlotte now lies. One was the Great Wagon Road. Built by European settlers, it once stretched from Philadelphia to Georgia—and its existence set the stage for a mass southward migration of colonists. In North Carolina, the route bisected a large Native American trail. Remnants of these two roads still exist in Charlotte, where they’re known as Tryon and Trade streets. Today, their intersection is called Independence Square.

4. The Charlotte metropolitan area is the largest in the United States that doesn’t have a zoo. However, if you’re in town and feel like a road trip, the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro—which one of America’s largest chimpanzee troops calls home—is only 75 miles away.

5. Charlotte was officially incorporated in 1768 under the name “Charlotte Town.” This was a tribute to King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. It's currently a part of Mecklenburg County—which is named after the German region in which she was born.

6. Charlotte’s current NBA team is called “The Hornets.” You might also notice that there’s a hornet nest logo emblazoned on the sides of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police vehicles. Why is this community so infatuated with stinging insects? In 1780, British General Charles Cornwallis marched his men through the city, where they encountered firm resistance. He’d go on to call Charlotte “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.” Little did he realize that the town would wholeheartedly embrace his comment. Today, Charlotte’s two main nicknames are “the Queen City” and “the Hornet’s Nest.”


Some people believe that Charlotte produced its own Declaration of Independence more than a year before Philadelphia did. In April, 1819, the Raleigh Register made a bold claim. Readers were told that, after Lexington and Concord, prominent North Carolina patriots assembled at the Charlotte courthouse. On May 20, 1775, the men allegedly signed a so-called “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence,” which severed their colony’s ties with Great Britain once and for all. Alas, most historians don’t buy this story—and neither did Thomas Jefferson. It is worth noting that no original copies have ever turned up. So far as we know, the document never existed. Nevertheless, Charlotteans still celebrate May 20 as “Meck Dec Day.” Every year, a reading of the text takes place at Independence Square—along with some good, old-fashioned cannon-firing.

7. The NFL’s Carolina Panthers have played their home games in Charlotte since 1996. At present, they’re the only team in the league that’s owned by a former player—ex-Baltimore Colt Jerry Richardson.

8. Astronaut Charlie Duke was born in the Queen City on October 3, 1935. At age 36, he became the 10th man to walk on the moon—something that only 12 people have ever done.

10. Perhaps Charlotte’s oddest landmark is her majestic Firebird sculpture. Completed in 1991, it had roosted in several cities before finding a permanent home on Tryon Street, just outside the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Created by Niki de Saint Phalle, the 17-foot avian is adorned with over 7500 pieces of colored glass. For this reason, his statue is often called “the disco chicken.”

11. Another sculpture worth visiting: Czech artist David Černý's Metalmorphosis, a giant, mirrored, rotating self-portrait installed in Whitehall Technology Park. The piece measures 31 feet tall and weighs around 14 tons.

12. Once upon a time, North Carolina—and not California—was known as “ the Golden State.” In 1799, a 17-pound nugget unexpectedly turned up in Cabarrus County. This event triggered something that the United States had never seen before: A gold rush. Over the next several decades, miners would try to strike it rich throughout western and central North Carolina. Almost overnight, Charlotte went from a small town to a booming metropolis. Profitable mines (such as the McComb) popped up around town and, in fact, many of their tunnels are still hiding beneath Charlotte’s outskirts.

13. Today, Charlotte remains an economic hot spot. Behind New York City, it’s now the country’s second-largest banking center. Bank of America is headquartered here, as are Wells Fargo’s East Coast operations. This reality has given rise to yet another nickname: Banktown.

14. In the Queen City, NASCAR is king. Uptown, you’ll find the organization’s 150,000-square-foot Hall of Fame. Racing fans can also head out to neighboring Concord, North Carolina, where the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway resides. Billed as “the greatest place to see a race,” it hosts three of NASCAR’s biggest annual events: The Coca-Cola 600, the Bank of America 500, and the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

15. If you’re dreaming of a white December 25, Charlotte might not be for you. Since 1878, the city has only gotten measurable snow on four Christmas Days: in 1880, 1909, 1947, and 2010.

16. America’s eleventh president and the subject of a catchy They Might Be Giants song, James K. Polk was born just 10 miles south of Charlotte on November 2, 1795, on his family’s 150-acre Mecklenburg County farm. The Polks would later relocate to Tennessee in 1806.

Remember the plane that had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River back in 2009? You can now see it on display at the Charlotte-based Carolinas Aviation Museum. The airbus’s infamous last flight was originally supposed to take it from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to the Queen City. Accordingly, 80 of the 155 passengers on board hailed from the greater Charlotte region. Every so often, a few of them swing by the museum for a “meet and greet” with visitors.

18. Known as “the Jackie Robinson of Pro Golf,” Charlotte native Charles Sifford was the first African American to participate in the PGA Tour. After setting that milestone in 1961, he went on to make history again six years later at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open. There, Sifford did something else that no black athlete had ever done before—win a fully sanctioned PGA event. He was inducted to World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

19. The very first Family Dollar opened up in Charlotte during the month of November, 1959. Within 10 years, it turned into a 50-store chain. By 2013, 78,000 Family Dollars had emerged in 48 states. Since then, the company’s merged with—and become a wholly-owned subsidiary of—Dollar Tree.

20. 2012’s The Hunger Games was almost entirely shot in North Carolina. Charlotte didn’t get left out: Knight Theater on Tryon Street is where the tributes’ interview scenes were filmed.

21. For many Charlotteans, transportation got a lot easier when the LYNX Blue Line began operations in 2007. As of this writing, no other light rail system in America sends its trains directly through a convention center.

22. Barbecue is a huge source of Tarheel State pride. According to food critic and historian Robert Moss, “Charlotte may well have been the home of North Carolina’s first barbecue restaurant.” As evidence, he cites a classified ad that the Charlotte Observer published in 1899. Therein, a Mrs. Katie Nunn promotes her grocery store on South Church Street. To entice customers, the ad alleges that Nunn’s husband, Levi, is “the only barbecuer in Charlotte.” This little notice is one of the earliest-known records of a commercial BBQ establishment in North Carolina.

23. Grab your wet suits: Olympic canoe/kayak slalom competitors train at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Situated on the outskirts of Charlotte, this facility boasts the world’s biggest manmade whitewater river. In roughly 8 seconds, its powerful pumps can unleash enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.


Founded in 1836, the Charlotte Mint was specifically designed to produce one thing and one thing only: gold coins. Ultimately, more than $5 million-worth of these were produced there by the time it was shut down in 1861 and converted into a Confederate hospital.

25. Last year, 92-year-old Charlottean Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman in recorded history to ever finish a marathon. Thompson—a grandmother and two-time cancer survivor—was in her 70s when she first started running competitively. At the 2015 San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon, the North Carolinian trotted onward for 7 hours, 24 minutes, and 35 seconds to complete all 26.2 miles of the race.

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These Are the World's 10 Most Expensive Cities

While Americans in big cities may complain about how expensive the cost of living is, according to a new report, places like New York and Los Angeles don’t even come close to the expense of international cities like Singapore. As Travel + Leisure mentions, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s biannual report on the world’s most expensive cities has named the Asian city-state the most expensive place on Earth to live for the fifth year in a row. No U.S. city even cracks the top 10.

The Intelligence Unit’s survey tracks prices of 160 products and services in cities across the world, including food and drink, clothing, rent, utility bills, transportation, and more. It’s designed to help companies calculate cost-of-living analyses for employees traveling and living abroad, but it also just provides an intriguing snapshot into how the rest of the world lives, and just how expensive your next vacation might be. And, of course, it allows you to feel a little better about your own city. Next time you want to complain about your rising rent, New Yorkers, know that residents of Seoul have to pay 50 percent more than you for groceries.

The prices used in the calculations are converted to U.S. dollars, meaning that the whole thing is tied to how much the dollar is worth—if the euro is worth more than the dollar, you’ll need more dollars to buy things in Paris. A weakening dollar is one reason the report gives for the lack of U.S. cities in the top 10 list, even though American cities are becoming more expensive relative to past years. (New York, currently in 13th place, was in the 27th spot five years ago.)

Without further ado, and with our deepest sympathies to their denizens, here are the top 10 most expensive cities across the world:

1. Singapore
2. Paris, France
2. Zurich, Switzerland
4. Hong Kong
5. Oslo, Norway
6. Geneva, Switzerland
6. Seoul, South Korea
8. Copenhagen, Denmark
9. Tel Aviv, Israel
10. Sydney, Australia

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

19 Must-Visit Stops on Mexico City's Metro

About 5 million people ride the Mexico City subway every day—but most commuters don’t realize how much there is to do and see without ever having to go above ground. From piano stairs to a space tunnel, exploring the attractions hidden within the metro just might be the most fun you can have for 5 pesos (about $0.25 USD). These Mexico City metro stations settle the old question once and for all; it’s both the journey and the destination.


Talisman station (line 4) has a mammoth logo for a reason: Mammoth fossils were unearthed during construction of the metro, and you can see the bones—which date back to the Pleistocene—on display there.


space tunnel at La Raza station
Sharon Hahn Darlin, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

How do you make a long transfer fly by? Transform it into a walk-through space tunnel illuminated by a glow-in-the-dark night sky, the highlight of the science museum located within La Raza station (lines 3 and 5).


Viveros (line 3), a station named for the nearby nursery, is in full flower: It was recently given a jungle makeover complete with imitation palms, jaguars, and snakes to raise awareness for the preservation of southern Mexico’s Lacandon Rainforest.


Complement your day trip to the pyramids at Teotihuacan with a stop at the Pino Suarez station (lines 1 and 2), where you can see a 650-year-old pyramid dedicated to Ehecatl, the Aztec god of wind. Tens of thousands of users go through the station daily, making the pyramid one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. (Though it's referred to as Mexico’s smallest archaeological zone, the National Institute of Anthropology and History doesn't consider it a "proper" archaeological zone "due to its size and the fact of being located in a Metro Transport System facility.")


Hidalgo (lines 2 and 3) may be the most miraculous of all of Mexico City’s metro stations: In 1997, someone (possibly a street vendor) discovered a water stain in the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe in one of its floor tiles. The apparition attracted so many pilgrims that metro authorities eventually had to remove the tile, which is now enshrined just outside one of the exits (follow the signs for Iglesia), near the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Zarco. And if you happen to visit this station on the morning of the 28th of any month, you’ll be swarmed with pious commuters carrying figurines of Saint Judas Thaddeus—patron saint of delinquents and lost causes—who is venerated at the nearby San Hipolito Church.


No time to visit the vast National Museum of Anthropology? You can still catch reproductions of Mesoamerican statues at the Bellas Artes (lines 2 and 8) and Tezozomoc (line 6) stops.


miniatures on the Mexico city subway
Randal Sheppard, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Miniature maniacs shouldn’t miss the scale models of Mexico City’s main plaza at the Zocalo stop (line 2). They depict, in tiny form, the metamorphosis of the capital from the Aztec Templo Mayor to the present-day Metropolitan Cathedral. (And bonus points to anyone who can spot the cat who lives in this station.)


The music-themed Division del Norte station’s (line 3) free karaoke corner draws a crowd gathered to watch fellow riders belt out boleros and ballads on their way to work. The unassuming abuelitas laden with bags from the market always have the most impressive pipes.


piano stairs at Polanco station
Victor.Aguirre-Lopez, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Don’t take the escalators at Polanco station (line 7), because the stairs are a giant musical piano keyboard. Finally, here’s your chance to live out Tom Hanks’s piano dance scene from the movie Big.


The Guerrero stop (lines B and 3) is a tribute to the legends of lucha libre, with costume displays and murals dedicated to 45 of Mexico’s finest masked fighters.


The largest bookshop in Latin America can be found in the long passage between the Zocalo and Pino Suarez stations. The underground emporium known as Un Paseo Por Los Libros sells titles from textbooks to manga and also hosts free workshops, lectures, and movie screenings.


murals in the Mexico City subway
Thelmadatter, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Any visitor to Mexico City should check out Diego Rivera’s murals—but on your way, don’t forget to look up at the murals that decorate many metro stations. Particularly impressive are Guillermo Ceniceros’s ambitious chronicles of art through the history of time on the walls at the Copilco (line 3) and Tacubaya stations (lines 1, 7, and 9). On the kitschier side, see how many famous faces you can pick out in Jorge Flores Manjarrez’s I Spy-style mural of pop stars at the Auditorio stop (line 7).


A museum of caricatures located inside the Zapata stop (line 12) is an homage to Mexican cartooning, including plenty of satirical interpretations of the mustachioed revolutionary who gives the station its name.


If Chabacano station (lines 2, 8, and 9) feels unsettlingly familiar, it might be because it was used as a shooting location for the subway chase scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall. Legend has it you can still spot splashes of fake blood on the ceiling.


Museo del Metro de la Ciudad de México
ProtoplasmaKid, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Has this metro adventure turned you into a super fan? Do a deep dive at Mixcoac station’s (line 12) sleek Metro Museum, where you can learn even more fun facts about the subway’s 50 years of history while you wait out rush hour.


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