Inside Charlotte, North Carolina

© Jeff Clare Images

Ten reasons to fall in love with the Queen City.

It’s taken Charlotte, North Carolina, some time to come into her own. Even though the city is one of the fastest growing in the country—its population has increased by more than 30 percent since 2000—it is widely believed to be one part banking, one part NASCAR and not much else.

But the Queen City continues to reinvent itself. Banking heavyweights Wells Fargo and Bank of America are headquartered here, attracting scores of business travelers, but after years of being known for its football and basketball teams (the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Bobcats, respectively), the city is gaining renown as a destination for art and culture, too, with a flurry of museum openings.

In 2009, Charlotte welcomed the Mint Museum Uptown, a contemporary offshoot of the city’s mainstay Mint Museum on Randolph Road. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opened its doors in 2010, and with it came an explosion of public art, most notably Firebird, a mirror-covered sculpture purchased by the museum’s patron and namesake, Andreas Bechtler. And earlier this year a new gallery by Latin American Contemporary Projects (LaCa Projects) devoted entirely to Latin American contemporary art arrived, the first of its kind in the region.

Beyond the new museums, take advantage of B-cycle, the year-old bike rental program, to explore Charlotte’s many manicured parks and greenways­—the perfect way to see the sights while enjoying the city’s enviable weather. When you tire of fried pickles and barbecue joints, find high-end dining at places like Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth, with its seasonal, delicious dishes and striking views of the verdant pocket park across the street through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Here are ten Charlotte finds that represent experiences as diverse as the growing city’s residents and changing cultural landscape.