Things to Do in Charlotte
Named for its former status as a branch of the U.S. Mint, the Mint Museum was, when it originally opened in 1936, the first art museum in North Carolina. Having outgrown its original Federal-style building, the museum was split into two locations in 2010.
The Mint Uptown is focused largely on American and European art from the 18th century on, but also features craft and design galleries of (largely) North Carolina-produced glass, pottery, jewelry and more. There are generally two rotating exhibits here – often by photography and new media artists – and the ongoing exhibition of local artist Romare Bearden’s modernist paintings and prints.
The Mint Randolph houses four permanent collections from the original Mint Museum: Art of the Ancient Americas, including Aztec and pre-Colombian clay and gold objects; a historic costume and accessories gallery that spans three centuries; Native American Art, including performance masks from Mexico and Guatemala.
Visitors get a feel for times of the past strolling through Charlotte’s Fourth Ward. Located in the downtown area, it’s home to 100-plus-year-old Victorian houses and tree-lined streets. Knowing a bit of the Fourth Ward’s history helps you appreciate its persevering charm. In the mid-1830s the city of Charlotte was divided into four political wards. The Fourth Ward was considered to be a prosperous area. The area went through a period of decline and neglect in the late 1900s, before a renaissance in the late 20th century. Now along with restored Victorians there are luxury condominiums, apartments and businesses. Fourth Ward Park is popular place to get outside and enjoy a sunny day. The three-acre park features a playground, walking trails and decorative water fountains.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one of four distinct components of Charlotte’s Levine Center for the Arts. The Bechtler collection includes more than 1,400 works by 20th-century modern artists including Picasso, Calder and Warhol. Visitors should set aside an afternoon to enjoy the Museum in its entirety. A free audio guide and museum map can be picked up at the visitor services desk. The Bechtler also has special materials available for visiting families.
What is now Uptown, Charlotte’s main business district, was historically known as Brooklyn, the centre of the city’s black community. One of Uptown’s main attractions is now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture, an important art museum in a city that is, over 150 years after the Civil War, still divided along racial lines. Providing well-rounded insight into the black communities of both Charlotte and the South as a whole, the museum presents art exhibits, stage performances, lectures and more.
Named for a prominent local architect who served as Charlotte’s first black mayor in the 1980s, the museum’s modern building features an outdoor staircase called “Jacob’s Ladder,” a powerful symbol of African-American ascent through education and enlightenment. A unique pattern of slanted lines symbolizes textile patterns used in West Africa and in quilts during the Underground Railroad era.
More Things to Do in Charlotte
Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Independence Square sits at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets providing a place to take in public art, admire local architecture and people watch. Those who visit the attraction should know they’re standing on a piece of important history, which can be explored through the public art standing on the square.
Littered around Independence Square you’ll find four bronze statues created by sculptor Raymond Kaskey titled “Transportation,” “Commerce,” “Industry” and “Future.” The Transportation statue is of an African American laborer, paying homage to the city’s first railroads from the 1850s. The creation of this metro is what laid the foundation for Charlotte becoming a major transportation hub. You’ll also notice an eagle, which gives a nod to the city’s advancements in aviation.