Charlotte is a cosmopolitan city rich in culture and history affording many recreational and educational opportunities. From its humble roots as a Scottish and Irish settlement where two American Indian trading posts were the only signs of commerce, Charlotte has grown into the second largest financial center in the country. Just in the past decade alone, the number of households has doubled and the area is poised for both residential and business growth in the immediate future. The once-primitive roads leading up to those trading posts are now Trade and Tryon streets. This intersection, called the Square, is the center of commerce uptown.
The city of Charlotte has always had a high-tech following, and Southwest Charlotte is quickly taking part in that trend as high-tech companies are now looking to call Southwest Charlotte home. Big-name corporations such as Microsoft Corp., BellSouth, and the U.S. headquarters of Royal & SunAlliance Insurance are all headquartered in Southwest Charlotte. Additionally, approximately 50,000 jobs will be created in the near future at the “Town Center of Southeast Charlotte,” a new development that includes 140 acres of business space, a branch of the YMCA, shops, hotels, an entertainment complex, and luxury townhomes and apartments that give off an old European village feel. The Town Center will be located at I-485 and N.C. 49.
More than 1.3 million residents live in the Charlotte metro area and approximately 500,000 live within the city itself. Ideally located in the center of the "Tar Heel" state, Charlotte gives residents easy access to all the cultural and recreational offerings of this unique region. Two hours to the west are the Blue Ridge Mountains, while three-and-a-half hours to the east are the Atlantic Ocean and its stunning beaches. Charlotte is home to a number of museums including the Levine Museum of the South, the Mint Museum of Art, the Charlotte Nature Museum, the Charlotte Museum of History, the Hezekiah Alexander Homesite, and the Mint Museum of Craft and Design. Those who enjoy live theatre and music will want to check out the performances at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, or the Philharmonic Orchestra.
Plenty of exciting sporting events can be found throughout the city. The Carolina Panthers hike the ball at the Bank of America Stadium uptown, while the Charlotte Checkers, an International Hockey League team, face off at Bojangles' Coliseum. Lowe's Motor Speedway holds stock car races from May to October. The Charlotte Speed Street Festival is held every year in conjunction with the annual Coca-Cola 600, a NASCAR race at the speedway.
Charlotte has more than 100 parks, many with lakes in addition to the usual picnic areas, ball fields and multi-use courts. Jeton Park at Lake Norman offers hiking and bicycling trails. Swimming, boating, fishing, windsurfing, water skiing and sailing are popular activities at Lake Norman. There are public and private golf courses throughout the city and suburbs. Indoor recreational facilities can be found as well. Residents can also enjoy the outdoors at McDowell Park on Lake Wylie, located just minutes from the city. Featuring a boat launch and waterfront deck overlooking the lake, visitors can enjoy a peaceful day at the park by taking a hike along the forest trails, enjoying a picnic, and ending the day by admiring the North Carolina sunset. Other parks include Renaissance Park and the Whitehall Nature Preserve.
Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center and Marion Diehl Pool Center offer swimming and diving. Ice skating is available at The Pineville Ice House and at the Ice Chalet at Eastland Mall. Residents will also want to check out Paramount's Carowinds, a 100-acre water and amusement park that includes over 100 rides, attractions, and crowd-pleasing shows.
Charlotte is a shopper's paradise. There are a number of malls anchored by major department stores, including SouthPark Mall, Northlake Mall, Concord Mills and Carolina Place Mall. The RiverGate shopping center—one of Southwest Charlotte's newest strip malls—includes a variety of retail shops and department stores, including The Home Depot, Best Buy, Target, as well as some restaurants and grocery stores. Compared to other popular shopping centers like Blakeney, Arboretum, Stone Crest and Promenade in Ballantyne, the RiverGate shopping center is sure to please even the most finicky of shoppers. Shoppers should also check out Whitehall Commons, Southwest Charlotte's largest shopping center, which is home to both Wal-Mart and Lowe's. Plans for possible residential projects in the future will turn the area into a mixed-use development, adding approximately 6,500 homes to the area.