Bopping Around Charlotte, NC

Every Fall the travel bug bites me and I get the crazy notion that K and I need to spice things up with a trip (much to his chagrin). One year we went to Jamaica, one year I took a girls’ trip to the beach. This October my parents gave us their hotel points and we headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We left home Wednesday night after work & got back on Sunday.

Typically we follow the same path south through the mountains multiple times a year, whether we’re going to the east coast or Florida (that’s a hellish drive) or the NASCAR races in Bristol. We’re usually in a car full of people and/or adhering to a strict schedule. Since this trip was just K and I, we decided we wanted to veer off our usually path, add about 45 minutes (which turned into two hours thank to traffic), and spend some time in Charlotte, NC.

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We started talking about a side trip a few days before we left, but we didn’t decided to go for it until we were on the road. (I am a Type-A anal-retentive planner/traveler, but I summoned all my strength to plan nothing [save the hotels and such] and just go with the flow.) We’d both never spent any time in Charlotte- home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame/admin. offices- so it was a unanimous decision to stop and explore.

Originally we planned to leave Thursday, but K and I said ‘goodbye’ to the dogs and packed up the car on Wednesday night. We drove about two hours south to meet my brother & his wife in Circleville, OH. If you’ve never been, there’s really not much except the Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show. K isn’t one for festivals or fairs, but I was annoyingly persistent- plus my baby brother was begging to hang out with us. Around 7 or 8 pm we arrived in town, spent 20 minutes trying to park, and finally left my car in theΒ sketchy backyard of a town resident (for like $10 bucks). Despite a Cleveland Indian’s win that he’d listened to the whole way down, K’s mood was not stellar. Still, he plastered a smile on his face and walked around the crowded streets with us while I stuffed my face with french fries and pumpkin spice pulled pork (oh my gosh- SO good) and apple cider.

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We said goodbye to Fred & Xtina around 10pm and drove an hour to our hotel in Lancaster. We arrived just in time because an insane storm blew in just as we got settled in our room. I have never heard rain and thunder so clearly while staying in a hotel. The flashes of lightning through our drawn curtains were so intense. Of course K slept through the whole thing.

The next morning we packed up our car again and started south. It was a mostly uneventful drive. Traffic getting into Charlotte was a pain, but once we were in the city it was actually pleasant. Brace yourself… here come all the pictures…

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The building was architecturally incredible. The museum was intricate and modern, too. We purchased standard tickets (as in didn’t include a simulation ride or food) and they handed us two access cards. When we registered the cards outside the small informational theater we were able to enter our name, pick out a helmet design, and choose our race car driver tour guide. Obviously I picked Kasey Kahne. K chose Jimmie Johnson.

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This was the waiting area where you registered your card & wait for the 12-minute film.

Upon exiting the theater there was an entire exhibit dedicated to Tony Stewart or “Smoke.” He’s retiring after the 2016 year ends so some of his cars, fire suits, trophies, etc. are on display in the hall. From there you walk up a long, winding ramp that follows the progression of racing and the stock cars involved. It has winning cars from various years as well as details on each NASCAR track- both in-use and retired.

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Cars/Pixar fans might recognize the ‘Hudson Hornet’- which was a real race car!

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Our race track :)
Our race track πŸ™‚

We practically had the entire museum to ourselves, which was glorious. I regret that I took so many pictures & didn’t read more of the information. That said, we were finishing up just as the museum was closing so if I’d have read all the things I wanted to we’d have never made it through in time. We’ll go back someday soon.

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There’s a circular room with all the HOF inductees. Each person has a pole like this that includes their image, information, and a video about their involvement in the sport.

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The museum has a Hall of Fame Room, a pit crew challenge (K beat me… stupid tire was so heavy!), a race simulator, and a top floor dedicated to the history of the sport. Kyle Busch was the champion last year and they had his car and the trophy on display at the museum.

The race simulator was awesome. Our package didn’t include it so we were prepared to pay $5 but the staff member just let us slide through since it was the end of the day. (Honestly, the customer service at NASCAR was ridiculous. Everyone was friendly and helpful and attentive. It was a really great experience for us!) K ran second for most of the race, but he was wrecked right at the end and finished 6th. I got 4th place after blowing my engine at the beginning. Oops…

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We didn’t want to eat at the museum’s BW3 because we have one in our town, so we wandered down the street and found Carolina Ale House. Blogger-fail on my part because I didn’t take any food pictures, but trust me when I say it was delicious! Our pulled pork nachos were incredible. We also has a window seat so I could watch downtown Charlotte and over-analyze everyone. #MyFavorite

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We both wished we’d had more time Charlotte (a.k.a. we later decided we should’ve just vacationed to Charlotte), but it was only meant to be a short stop on our way to our destination. After dinner we hopped in the car and started on the 3 hour drive to the beach.

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24 thoughts on “Bopping Around Charlotte, NC

  1. Ah my home πŸ™‚ I’m glad you guys had such a good stop in Charlotte! It is a great city for a weekend trip, too! Next time, you’ll have to stop at the US National Whitewater Center. It’s in South Charlotte (about 30 minutes from where you guys were) but it’s where the Olympic whitewater team practices but there is SO much to do: whitewater rafting, flatwater kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, ropes courses, ziplining, mountain biking, hiking trails, bars and a restaurant!

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    1. That sounds AWESOME! We definitely need to plan an entire week or long weekend in Charlotte. We loved the little that we saw and K was already talking about coming back before we left! It was wonderful city!

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  2. The festival in Circleville sounds fun even though K isn’t a fan. I do hate super crowds like that though. Sometimes you just have to deal with them! We brace ourselves every year when we make our annual Gatlinburg trip for annoyingly crowded places.

    I haven’t been to Charlotte in a long time. When I was in high school (I think??) we went there for a race and toured the city a little. I surely wouldn’t mind going back again! Sounds like you guys had fun! So awesome that the staff at NASCAR made the experience a pleasant one. That can really make or break those kind of things.

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    1. Oooh, I’d like to see Gatlinburg during Sept./Oct.! (Is that when the crowds are bad? Haha..) I’d like to see a race at Charlotte. My uncle and my cousins go every year, but we’ve never been for a race. Maybe we’ll tie all that into our next trip there. I’m 100% sure we’ll be back, haha!

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  3. A thunderstorm in the fall… how weird is this year????
    I love a museum to myself. Ricky always says he rented it out for us when things like that happen πŸ˜‰

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    1. Haha, that’s clever! We only saw 4 or 5 other people EXCEPT for the group of post-work business guys that looked like they showed up just to do the simulation game, haha. It was nice to move at our own pace!

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    1. Yesss. I totally understand that! Last year I went to Myrtle Beach with friends in Sept. and we hit the mountains at just the right time. I thought we’d miss the changing leaves this time since we went in Oct. but they changed late and we got to see the colors again! It was perfect!

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    1. North Carolina is a beautiful state, but we really don’t spend much time there- it’s always a drive-thru state for us. We’re going to have to change that soon.
      The Pumpkin Festival was interesting! I think it’s a been there-done that thing, though, so I doubt we’ll ever make the trek again. Haha.

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    1. I love a good road trip, but I think they need to be spaced out so you don’t burn yourself out. Haha. At least for me. I plan on talking about MB itself soon, but we definitely could’ve stopped the travel at Charlotte and been happy πŸ™‚

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  4. What a fun trip!!!! So impressed you guys drove all the way down there, and I would have been like you and wanting to plan out every moment of a side trip πŸ˜‰

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    1. It drives K nuts when I plan things down to the minute, so each trip I’ve tried more and more to go with this flow. Although we discovered on this trip that it’s sometimes more fun when I DO plan some stuff. We got pretty bored halfway through Myrtle Beach- ha.

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  5. Awwww the Hudson Hornet. Cars is my stepkid’s all-time favorite movie.
    I like the spontaneity of this side trip.
    I love how the cars sit on an incline to look like they are going around a track.

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    1. It was a super cool display. I forgot to add this to the post, but the degree of the slope of the track increased as you walked up the ramp. And the individual plaques that described the race tracks were strategically placed at the points in the ramp where the slope matched the slope at the corners of those tracts. It was really, really cool.

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  6. I always try to squeeze detours into our trips. I like checking places out with the idea that we can always go again (with in reason…). Especially here in Belgium, it’s so easy to get to places so you can always go back.

    I love empty museums! It makes it so much easier to enjoy the exhibits and take photos.

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    1. We’ve really never done a last minute side trip but I think it’s going to become a new thing for us. The museum is about 2 hours south of the racetrack we frequent each year in TN so I think we have my dad convinced to spend an extra day and visit the museum with us next time we’re down south!

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