Charlotte

Picture of skyline The Charlotte skyline is nicely situated atop a hill so it can be seen just about anywhere in the metropolitan area. We should note right away that we only spent a weekend in Charlotte and we skipped all of its museums so this is not a very comprehensive page at all. It was however a lively place to spend the weekend and we never had to get the car out of the hotel as everything downtown is in walking distance.
Picture of oktoberfest One of the reasons we came to Charlotte was Oktoberfest. There's not much relation to its namesake festival back in Germany, but it is a beer festival, there are a whole lot of vendors and it was lovely sunny day. As you can tell from the picture, Charlotte's Oktoberfest was held (this year at least) in a football stadium. Those tents all shelter different breweries, there's a stage at the far end, some games set up on the field at the near end, and food for sale up above.
Picture of stadium A slightly larger stadium is the home of the Carolina Panthers, currently called Bank of America stadium but likely to change any time sponsership does. This was the second reason we came to Charlotte - a Panthers home game. This picture was taken Sunday morning, hence the long line of traffic. The stadium is also nicely in walking distance of downtown hotels.
Picture of raft_side The final reason we came to Charlotte is the US National Whitewater Center. Realistically, Charlotte is barely two hours drive from our house but the whitewater center recently opened and we had to at least get a look at it even though our boat didn't come along on the trip. The center is located along the Catawba River just northwest of Charlotte. The manmade courses start in an upper pool which has two exits. To one side is a relatively tame course on which there are guided raft trips as well as private kayak lessons in rental kayaks. Or you can just bring your own gear and pay by the hour. The course is changeable by means of baffles and other underwater features which are periodically moved to change the rapids above.
Picture of ramp The best part of all? Once you come out in the lower pool you never have to get out of your boat. A moving ramp will carry kayaks and rafts back up to the upper pool, so it is effectively a continuous whitewater circuit. There are nice paths along both sides of the whitewater runs, and the whitewater circuit is surrounded by mountain bike trails, hiking trails, and a soon to be opened rock climbing complex.
Picture of slalom_side Incidentally, the other direction from the upper pool to the lower pool follows a kayaking slalom course, which can also be modified into different configurations. There was no one on the course while we were wandering around it, but it looks to be on par with the natural courses located in the mountains of western Carolina. However, this one always has water as long as the pumps are on.

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