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Charlotte, is an ambitious and very rapidly growing city in the southern part of central North Carolina. It is the largest city in the state 664,332 (2007 estimate), As of 2006,the Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury combined statistical are (CSA) had a regional population of 2,191,604, and Charlotte is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. It is the center of finance, industry, technology, and entertainment for the region. Primarily known in the past as a business center, Charlotte is steadily developing its fledgling tourist industry; currently its central core is one of the most visitor-friendly districts in the Carolinas.
For information on the city's central district, see Uptown Charlotte.
Uptown. The literal and figurative "center of things". Uptown is Charlotte's central district, and the location of its somewhat oversized skyline. It is generally agreed that the word "uptown" refers to anything inside the I-277 loop, though some adjacent entities might describe themselves that way. Uptown is the center of Charlotte's commerce, culture, and government. As recently as the mid-1990s, the area was a virtual "office park" -- home to a lot of business but very few residents -- but is rapidly repopulating with highrise condos. The district is home to several Fortune 500 headquarters, museums, nightclubs, restaurants, parks, city and county government offices, theaters... pretty much anything you'd expect to find in a city center. Most of the bustle is centered around Tryon St., the "Main St." of the city. Note that most east-west streets are numbered, whereas most north-south streets have proper names. It is well worth noting that Uptown is statistically one of Charlotte's safest areas, due in large part to a large flow of human traffic at most hours.
NoDa. NoDa, short for North Davidson Street, is one of Charlotte's most eclectic and original neighborhoods. Also known as the Historic Arts District, NoDa is about two miles north of the center city. The district grew up around a large textile mill that closed in the 1970s, sending the surrounding neighborhood into a long period of decline. After artists began moving back into the neighborhood in the 1980s, they began to revitalize and preserve the old brick buildings and quaint mill houses. Even the old Highland Mill, next to the Johnston YMCA, is being renovated for both residential and retail/office space. Enjoy street level art galleries, several restaurants and other unique shops in the district. There is a "gallery crawl" every first and third Friday that attracts many visitors to NoDa.
South End. This neighborhood is located close to Uptown in the corridor formed by Tryon St. and South Blvd. It was previously a mill district located along the railroad tracks, but has gradually converted into a hip, semi-upscale entertainment/cultural district. The addition of trolley tracks (and soon, light rail) connecting it to Uptown has helped spur expansive development here. Possibly the best place in town to take a walk with children, as the neighborhood features ice cream shops, a trolley museum and several kids-oriented stores. Also home to Charlotte's emerging design industry, South End features several galleries and a "gallery crawl" parallel to those in NoDa.
Plaza-Midwood. Similar in some ways to NoDa and South End, but a little rougher around the edges. Plaza-Midwood (named in part for its location along The Plaza) prides itself on its "old Charlotte" feel, and a grungy underbelly that has resisted gentrification. This neighborhood has quickly become a vibrant alternative to the upscale scene, and is home to several local institutions (including the legendary Penguin restaurant).
Myers Park. Once located altogether outside the city, Myers Park is near the heart of modern-day Charlotte. Its reputation as an "old money" neighborhood is accentuated by its cathedral-esque tree canopy and slowly winding avenues. It is home to some of Charlotte's oldest and most expensive homes (formerly country estates), as well as Queens University of Charlotte and Freedom Park. A driving tour of Myers Park is a popular way for tourists to get acquainted with the city, but bring a map; some of Charlotte's most difficult intersections are located here.
Dilworth. Charlotte's first "streetcar suburb", Dilworth has never lost its reputation as a desirable place to make a home. In recent years the neighborhood has blossomed into an upscale district dotted with eateries and galleries. The promise of increased public transit service has added even more development to this already walkable neighborhood.
SouthPark. An affluent district in south-central Charlotte, and home to the city's second-largest business district. SouthPark is a newer suburb whose development has mostly occurred in the last 40 years, but it has quickly developed into a semi-urban concentration of office buildings, highrise condos, hotels and entertainment options.
Elizabeth. Just outside of Uptown, Elizabeth reflects a transition between elegant Myers Park and gritty Plaza-Midwood. Its tree-lined streets and quiet residential blocks provide an air of relaxation, but its commercial blocks are among the city's most colorful. Sometimes characterized as "a poor man's Dilworth", Elizabeth is coming into its own as a center of activity.
University City. A sprawling 1970s-style suburban district, focused around the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This area is located on the city's northeast side and encroaches somewhat into southwestern Cabarrus County. University City (or UC) is largely an area in transition, having formerly been mostly rural or affluent suburbs; today's growth patterns reflect an influx of minority groups and young families. Aside from the University and related research centers, this area is also home to Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre, a well-defined "downtown" cluster of hotels and retail centers, and many square miles of sprawling shopping centers.
East Charlotte. A somewhat ambiguous, but distinctive, area covering a large portion of the city's eastern end. East Charlotte contains the city's largest concentration of immigrants, and is mostly a middle- to lower-class area. Much of the east side is depressed and unattractive, but it contains some of Charlotte's most interesting cultural development. Virtually any kind of ethnic food can be found here, and much of the city's "street life" gravitates toward this area.
Ballantyne. The most recent large-scale development in Charlotte, Ballantyne is located at the far southern edge of the city. Sprawling and suburban in nature, it is noted for its luxurious "mini-mansions", upscale retail, large hotels and corporate buildings, and distinguised country club. Ballantyne is mostly residential in nature and hosts little tourist traffic (aside from visitors to the Ballantyne Resort).
Heavy growth in the past 20 years has made Charlotte one of the southeastern USA's largest and most successful cities. In many ways, the city is still trying to catch up to its own growth; visitors often comment that it seems understated in terms of culture and development. However, Charlotte is changing at a breathtaking speed. A very rapid influx of population and business investment has given it one of the most dynamic urban areas in the region.
Charlotte's official visitors' center is called "Main Street" (something of a misnomer, as there is no Main St.) and is located in the center of the city, at Tryon and 2nd St. Brochures, souveniers, and advice are available for first-time visitors as well as long-time residents. Along with the public library, this is the best place to go if you are looking for a concentrated source of information about the city. It is worth checking out the brochures for self-guided walking and driving tours.