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North Carolina Gay Guide

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Charlotte NC Gay Guide - Charlotte Gay Pride 2014
North Carolina Gay Guide

Charlotte's hip North Davidson Arts District, aka NoDa, abounds with gay-friendly coffeehouses, restaurants, lounges, and galleries.

photo by Andrew Collins
Nearly rivaling Atlanta as an economic powerhouse of the New South, fast-growing Charlotte boasts a formidable skyline of ultramodern office towers and is a bastion of commerce and banking (it's headquarters to Bank of America and the main base of eastern operations for Wells Fargo). With a population of 730,000, it's also the 17th-largest city in America - technically, it's the largest in the Southeast, but if you measure the greater metro region, its population of 2.4 million still lags well behind Atlanta (metro population 5.4 million).

Conservative in style and politics, Charlotte has a comparatively limited gay scene for a city its size (don't let its nickname, the "Queen City", throw you off), and it's also less a leisure getaway than it is a common destination for business travelers. Still, for whatever reason you might find yourself here, you'll find several notable attractions, a smattering of fun gay bars, and a growing number of high-caliber restaurants. You can also explore several appealing residential neighborhoods noted for their fine architecture.

Although downtown (referred to locally as Uptown) comprises a compact clutch of skyscrapers, Charlotte itself sprawls in every direction, and you’ll need a car to get around to the sights and among the most interesting neighborhoods. The city’s most-visited attractions are wholesome and in most cases family-oriented, such as the state-of-the-art Discovery Place science center, the history-intensive Levine Museum of the New South, the impressive NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the Charlotte Nature Museum at Freedom Park. One site that by itself merits a visit to Charlotte is the Mint Museum Randolph, so named for its location inside the very first U.S. Mint. The Federal-style building was converted a century later into an art museum, focusing mostly on works from the Western Hemisphere, and now houses many notable pieces by both American and some European masters. The Mint Museum Uptown, which holds the Museum of Craft and Design, is another cultural must.

A great way to spend an afternoon in Charlotte is to tour some of the city’s historic neighborhoods. Head northeast of downtown to reach the small but thriving North Davidson (NoDa) Arts District, where old brick storefronts and buildings of defunct industrial concerns now house art galleries and coffeehouses - be sure to check out cool shops like The Boulevard and Beet Gallery. Due east the hip Plaza Midwood district, a cluster of tattoo parlors and artsy cafes recalls Atlanta’s funky Little Five Points neighborhood. The nearby Plaza Midwood neighborhood has a discernible gay vibe and plenty of fun cafes, lounges, and restaurants, plus the White Rabbit, the long-running gay bookstore and pride shop.

Drive east and southeast of downtown to reach some of Charlotte’s most affluent residential neighborhoods, notably along Queen’s Road, throughout historic Edgehill, and closer in around the Dilworth section - the western edge of this area also has many very good restaurants. This area leads west into Charlotte’s historic, and once industrial, South End, which has blossomed in recent years with good eateries, cool shopping, and even a couple of gay bars.

For more on visiting the city, check the GLBT site produced by the city's official tourism organization, the Charlotte CVB. Also keep in mind that the city hosts Charlotte Black Gay Pride in mid-July, and Charlotte Gay Pride in late August.

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