Exploring Charlotte with Jodi Helmer

1. What’s the one place to go, or thing to do, that a conventioneer visiting Charlotte can’t miss?

Oh, that’s such a hard question! There is so much to see and do in Charlotte. The Levine Museum of the New South has world-class exhibits that offer a great introduction to the people and places that have shaped the South and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture does an amazing job of promoting and preserving African American art and culture. The Green is a quirky little green space filled with public art and an interactive fountain that feels like an oasis in the middle of the city. For a real adventure, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is the best-of-the-best. It’s an Olympic training facility where the public can ride the rapids in a raft, hook up to a zip line and fly or try standup paddle boarding on the Catawba River. For a quick tour of Charlotte, hire a horse and carriage on the corner of Trade and Tryon streets and take a 20-minute narrated tour of all of the highlights.

2. What is the local food specialty and where’s the best place to eat it?

There are two Southern specialties that visitors should try while they’re in the Queen City: Barbeque and fried chicken. The best place for fried chicken is Price’s Chicken Coop. It’s earned several “best” awards for its recipe, which hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened 40 years ago. Grab a to-go box (there is no seating in the restaurant) and see what all the fuss is about. In downtown, which the locals call Uptown, Mert’s Heart and Soul serves great fried chicken and other lip-smacking soul foods. The best barbeque is served at Mac’s Speed Shop in SouthEnd. When it’s served with sweet tea and mac-and-cheese, it’s a true Southern meal.

3. What’s the best bar for a late night drink?

When it’s time to go out for a nightcap, there is no shortage of options in downtown Charlotte. The best place varies: for dueling pianos and a raucous sing-along, try Howl at the Moon; for a VIP experience, check out the top shelf liquors and bottle service at Suite; Blue is known for its martinis; and RiRa pulls pints at an authentic Irish pub with one of the best patios in town.

4. Where’s the best place to go for a morning run or walk?

A lot of people pound the pavement in Uptown, running or walking along the sidewalks and taking in the views of the Bank of America building, public art and horse-drawn carriages. For a less crowded option, check out Little Sugar Creek Greenway. It runs through several of Charlotte’s most urban neighborhoods, including Uptown. It’s part of a 15-mile greenway trail that the city of Charlotte spent a decade developing.

5. For someone who wants to mix political action with shopping therapy, what unique/quirky/artisan/good value shop(s) do you recommend?

The convention is being held Uptown where there aren’t a lot of shopping options. For upscale retail therapy, the SouthPark neighborhood is the place to be. SouthPark Mall and Phillips Place have a mix of national brands like Kate Spade, Hermes, Michael Kors and regional retailers like K-La and Luna. For great local shops, try the SouthEnd neighborhood. It’s Ground Zero for art galleries and unique accessories. The Boulevard at SouthEnd carries everything from handmade jewelry and designer clothing to one-of-a-kind purses and retro aprons. Also in SouthEnd, Lark & Key is the best place to find original artwork by Charlotte artists.

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