Like the ruby at the center of the crown jewels, the Queen City’s Center City is both the heart and lifeblood of the metro area. International, national and regional companies call Uptown home, as do small businesses, top-notch restaurants and nightlife establishments and some of the city’s best cultural attractions.
At the very heart of the city, Independence Square stands proudly at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Sts. On most nights, find a variety of public performers, artists and musicians singing, acting or playing out their talents for passers-by. Retailers, too, often set up shop here. And, from time to time, Charlotte’s centuries-long history of public activism stirs at Independence Square, where local lore and history geeks maintain the Mecklenburg Declaration was read aloud as citizens of Charlotte were among the first to declare independence from the British crown.
Up and down Tryon St. find some of the best food and drink around, along with museums and cultural attractions including the Mint Museum, Bechtler Musuem of Modern Art, Harvey Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Wells Fargo Museum and the Levine Museum of the New South, which will feature its first LGBT history exhibit, “LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality,” through January 2015.
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and Spirit Square host regular arts, theatre and musical performances. For the kiddos, take a visit to Discovery Place, Charlotte’s premier science museum. A sports fan? Take a tour of the NASCAR Hall of Fame or grab tickets to the next Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets or Charlotte Knights games.
Each August, Uptown plays host to Charlotte Pride, the largest LGBT Pride festival and parade between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. Each May, join the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network for their AIDS Walk Charlotte, winding its way through the streets of Center City. : :
— Matt Comer
Once the city’s industrial center, historic South End has transformed itself multiple times over more than a century, giving rise to today’s bustling dining, nightlife, retail and residential district. South Blvd. snakes its way from Uptown through South End, with restaurants, coffee houses, small businesses and condos flanking each side. To the east sits Dilworth. One of Charlotte’s oldest “suburbs,” the historic neighborhood is filled to the brim with classic, stately homes and bungalows. To the west, the equally historic Wilmore continues to grow as the up-and-coming, diverse neighborhood complementing South End.
The city’s first lightrail line, the LYNX Blue Line, makes living, working or playing in South End a breeze. Park your car and hop on the train to get around South End and easily connect to Uptown and the city’s southern neighborhoods and suburbs. The future Red Line extension will make it easier getting to and from South End from the city’s north end and University City.
For LGBT attractions, stop by The Bar at 316, one of the city’s oldest, still-running LGBT nightlife establishments. Opened in 1989 as Liaisons, the one-time restaurant and bar still operates as a bar and lounge — open seven days a week with lounges on its first and second floor, which features a wrap-around outdoor balcony. Nearby, take a dive into Cathode Azure, one of the city’s newest LGBT lounges and dance clubs. : :
— Matt Comer
South Charlotte has hidden LGBT-friendly gems
South Charlotte is pretty straight-laced. You can’t swing a Vera Bradley purse without hitting a soccer mom in the yoga pants. There’s a Harris Teeter on almost every corner in its affluent Ballantyne, Providence Road and SouthPark neighborhoods.
Thankfully, it’s not all a den of suburban decay. Temple Beth El is the place for the Jewish LGBT community. Located in Shalom Park on Providence Road, this synagogue has been LGBT-affirming for years. Rabbi Judith Schindler has even performed marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.
If you’re a lady who loves ladies, join Charlotte Lesbian Mingle on Meetup.com. Many of their weekly events are in the SouthPark area. They have hosted a group class at Painting with a Twist in the Sharon Corners Shopping Center and margaritas at Paco’s Tacos on Morrison Blvd.
What the area lacks in LGBT nightlife, it makes up for in upscale shopping. The shoe selection at Nordstrom in SouthPark Mall will melt even the most hardened fashionista. : :
— Joanne Spataro
NoDa is the city’s historic arts district, situated along N. Davidson St. mere minutes from Uptown and nearby Plaza Midwood. NoDa experienced its fair share of hard times over the decades, with a resurgence as an arts district beginning in the late 1980s and carrying through today.
Visit any number of art galleries, tattoo shops, unique clothing and other retailers, coffee shops, restaurants and funky bars and clubs. Several performance venues also showcase a slew of local, regional and national talent, including The Evening Muse, The Neighborhood Theatre and the Chop Shop.
As NoDa’s central business district has grown, so has the outer reaches of the neighborhood. Just south of the central district, visit the shops at NoDa @ 28th St., including local faves like Amelie’s French Bakery. Nearby is the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte and Time Out Youth Center.
On 36th St., the city’s only adult male nightlife establishment, Chasers, welcomes all for an experience that’ll keep you and your friends chatting (and maybe blushing) for days. : :
— Matt Comer
From its roots as a central business district and suburban streetcar neighborhood, Plaza Midwood has grown consistently over the past several decades into the city’s premier “funky” and eclectic neighborhood. Whatever your taste and whatever your style, you’re sure to find it in Plaza Midwood. Once proclaimed the city’s “gayborhood,” Plaza Midwood was home to the LGBT Community Center’s first physical location and several LGBT or LGBT-friendly bars and LGBT-owned businesses.
The neighborhood is known for its locally-owned and -operated restaurants and retailers, from the partly LGBT-owned and -operated Dish restaurant to the historic Diamond diner. At the Common Market — home to a delicious deli and huge selection of domestic and foreign beers — find neighbors of all varieties, from prep to grungy punk, hanging out and having a good time.
LGBT attractions include Petra’s Piano Bar, an LGBT-owned cabaret-style lounge as diverse and eclectic as the neighborhood in which it lives. Each Thursday, visit Snug Harbor for the best alternative LGBT nightlife experience around. Just down Central Ave., stop in at Central Station, a humble LGBT bar with good drinks and space to relax with friends. : :
more: plazamidwood.org, plazamidwood.com
— Matt Comer