Welcome to our Charlotte meeting planning guide – a Charlotte city guide for meeting planners. Small town appeal and big city amenities are apt to draw meetings and events of various size and type to Charlotte. The state-of-the-art facilities at the Charlotte Convention Center attract more than half a million visitors annually to its 280,000 square feet of exhibit space. A convenient location in downtown Charlotte places the center within walking distance to 4,100 hotel rooms, nearly 100 restaurants and several museums and attractions such as the Afro-American Cultural Center and Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
From historic plantations to modern museum complexes, unique Charlotte event venues are varied and numerous. Guests experience Southern hospitality at its finest at the legendary Duke Mansion, a 32,000-square-foot complex set on 4.5 acres, with space for 10 to 300 guests and professional chefs on staff. The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden offers 110 acres of beautiful, lush scenery, perfect for an evening dinner or cocktail reception at sunset for up to 300 guests. The larger-than-life IMAX Dome and aquarium-lined rooms of the interactive Discovery Place Museum make for an unforgettable meeting that attendees are sure to enjoy.
New attractions and event venues in Charlotte include the Bechtler Museum, Mint Museum of Art and the Afro-American Cultural Center. The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its facility; attached to the convention center, it features 50,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 250-seat theater, as well as a museum and retail and dining space.
Charlotte, once known as a sleepy Southern textile manufacturing town, has experienced explosive growth in recent decades that has helped the city reinvent itself as a sophisticated Southern banking powerhouse and one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. Located on roughly 242 square miles of Carolina Piedmont, the city of Charlotte has nearly 630,500 residents, with 1.5 million people calling the greater metropolitan area home. The 5th largest city on the East Coast, it's also the 5th fastest-growing large city in the United States.
Charlotte traces its history, as well as its name, back to the late 1700s when the first settlers arrived and named the area after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of British King George III, in hopes of winning the King's favor. Though the city was the site of the nation's first gold rush, it was not until after the Civil War that Charlotte made a name for itself as a hub for cotton manufacturing and railroad transportation. After the closure of the last cotton mill in 1975, the city evolved into one of the nation's leading banking and financial centers, home to both Wachovia and Bank of America, whose 60-story gothic tower dominates the skyline.
Nearly 200 diverse neighborhoods are scattered throughout Charlotte, from the college town of University City at UNC Charlotte to suburban Highland Creek, a residential area less than five miles from popular attractions Lowe's Motor Speedway and Concord Mills Mall. A bustling hub for both work and play, Center City is one of the most popular areas in the city. This hot spot serves as home to many business complexes and several notable attractions such as the Levine Museum of the New South, Mint Museum of Craft + Design as well as the Charlotte Convention Center . Though residential high-rises and corporate skyscrapers dominate Center City's skyline, Center City also offers visitors the opportunity to experience Charlotte's rich and colorful history. Visit the Fourth Ward neighborhood and explore distinctive restored Victorian homes, shops and restaurants, including the McNinch House, an intimate dining experience found within one such home.
There is much more to Charlotte than what lies within the borders of Center City: take advantage of all the city of Charlotte has to offer. Stroll through the shops and cafes in the historic streetcar neighborhood of the Third Ward. Enjoy a Broadway play or Charlotte Symphony concert at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Trace the city's beginnings and evolution at the Charlotte Museum of History. Or enjoy modern-day racing entertainment, a favorite Charlottean pastime, at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where three NASCAR Nextel Cups race every season.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Located in a humid subtropical climate zone, Charlotte experiences hot, humid summers and mild winters, with an average of 214 sunny days per year. January and February are the coldest months, with January temperatures averaging 32°F, while July temperatures can reach 90°F. Charlotte sees many clear, sunny and pleasant days, with less than six inches of snow annually but more frequent ice storms. March is the rainiest month, with an average 4.39 inches of precipitation. As the city is in the path of subtropical moisture from the Gulf jet stream, Charlotte is at risk for hurricanes, the most devastating of which was Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
The best months to visit Charlotte are May and June, when temperatures range from lows in the 60s to highs in the 80s. For a fall visit to the city, October's weather is ideal with an average temperature of 51°F.
Charlotte Convention Center
Located just 15 minutes from the airport, the Charlotte Convention Center opened in 1995 and attracts more than half a million visitors annually to banquets, conferences, conventions and tradeshows. The center's 280,000 square feet of exhibit space can be partitioned into four halls, each with separate loading docks, allowing for multiple simultaneous shows. Six VIP suites, featuring wet bars and private restrooms, overlook the exhibit halls. The center also boasts a 35,000-square-foot ballroom with accompanying 1,100-seat outdoor terrace and 46 meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art electronics. With the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Complex in 2010 adjacent to the center, 102,000 square feet of space will be added including a new 44,000-square-foot ballroom.
With spacious alcoves, glass concourses and elegantly arched entrances ushering guests inside, the Charlotte Convention Center is not only functional but visually appealing as well. The grand concourse showcases public art displays that represent the history and community of the city created by artists from across the nation. The center has a full service in-house catering department available to meet any event need with delicious cuisine, both regional dishes such as Carolina flounder with smashed potatoes and collard greens and traditional entrees such as lasagna. The College Street Café also seats 375 guests for food court-style dining. An on-site business center, in-house audio-visual provider, and technology services including high-speed Internet access, webcasting and video conferencing are among other special amenities.
Though the center does not maintain its own parking facilities, plenty of parking is available in nearby lots, and the Westin Charlotte hotel adjacent to the center has parking for 1,600 vehicles. For visitors hoping to avoid parking, the LYNX light rail and Charlotte Trolley lines are a great alternative with lines running directly through the center.
In keeping with the efforts to improve the environment through sustainable events, the Charlotte Convention Center is the first in the state to "go green." Among its green initiatives are the usage of biodegradable cups, recycling paper, plastic, cardboard, toner cartridges and batteries, serving bulk teas and waters for large events, and donating leftover food to local food banks. Planners and guests can rest assured that any event at the Charlotte Convention Center will not only be a memorable one, but a sensible one as well.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Approximate taxi fare: $24 USD
As both the nation's fastest-growing airport and its 11th busiest, the city-owned Charlotte Douglas International Airport offers nonstop service to 120 cities on 11 major airlines and 14 regional carriers and is the largest hub of US Airways. The airport's three runways see 640 daily departures. A fourth runway is under construction, as are eight gates to add to the airport's current 85 gates.
Charlotte Douglas International has a business center, spa and food court to cater to travelers. Guests also enjoy being welcomed to Charlotte by one of the airport's most memorable features: its rocking chairs scattered amongst the tree-lined atrium, which create the feeling of a traditional Southern porch. Other notable features include the Just Plane Art program, over 20 art exhibits that help promote the Charlotte arts scene, and the striking 15-foot-tall bronze statue of Queen Charlotte overlooking a 40-foot reflecting pool in the Queen's Courtyard. Concourse E, which services regional carriers, features a half-scale reproduction of the "Wright Flyer," the airplane flown by the Wright Brothers in 1903.
Parking for approximately 23,500 parking vehicles is available at Charlotte Douglas International, which boasts daily parking rates of $6, among the lowest in the nation. Hourly parking is available at a rate of $16 per hour and long-term parking is $3 per day.
For guests expecting an extended stay at the airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum, which preserves Carolinian aviation history, is on the premises next to the runway. Featuring over 45 aircraft, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM. Admission is free. There is no shuttle bus from the terminal to the museum, but taxis can provide transportation.
Airline carriers serving Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Located near downtown, the Charlotte Amtrak station services trains running on three Amtrak routes. The Carolinian train connects with Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh, with more northerly stops in Richmond, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. The Crescent train connects with Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans to the south and with Greensboro, Charlottesville, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York to the north. The Piedmont train connects with the North Carolinian cities of Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh.
The Charlotte Area Transit System, or CATS, operates the largest mass transit system between Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, DC and serves both Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Annually more than 18 million people travel one of over 40 bus routes on the CATS, including 12 express city bus routes that travel to and from uptown and the suburbs. Most buses operate Monday through Saturday from 4:49 to 2 AM and Sunday from 5:25 to 2:00 AM. One-way fare is $1.30 for regular routes and $1.75 for express routes. A weekly pass is $13.
In November 2007, the LYNX light rail system began operation of a 9.6-mile north-south Blue Line that runs from I-485 at South Boulevard to Uptown. Numerous city bus route schedules are timed to connect with Blue Line trains. A Purple Line extension is planned to run 25 miles between Mount Mourne in Iredell County and Uptown.
Trains run daily from 5 to 1 AM every 15 minutes during non-peak times and every 7.5 minutes during rush hour. Trains run Saturday and Sunday every 20 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes at night. A one-ride ticket is $1.30 for adults and $0.65 for children and seniors. A round-trip ticket is $2.60 for adults and $1.30 for children and seniors. One-day and seven-day tickets are available.
The Charlotte Trolley provides a unique, historic way to explore Uptown and the South End. Some trolleys feature onboard history guides. The electric streetcar line operates daily. One-way fare is $1 for adults and $0.65 for children in grades K through 12, seniors age 62 and older and the disabled. Fare for children under 5 is free.
Gold Rush trolleys, also operated by CATS, are rubber-wheeled minibuses that resemble historic streetcars. Gold Rush trolleys run on two circulating routes in Center City along Tryon Street and west on Trade Street through the restored Victorian Fourth Ward. Trolleys run every seven minutes at marked bus stops along the red and orange lines from 7 AM to 10 PM. Fare is free.
Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty rental cars are available at the Charlotte Douglas Airport. Rental counters are in the lower baggage claim level. Courtesy shuttles travel to car rental lots approximately every three to five minutes.
Over 50 taxi services are found in Charlotte. At Charlotte Douglas Airport, taxi service is located at the baggage claim level, with an attendant on duty from 6:45 to 12:15 AM. The average cost of a taxi to Center City is $20.
Photo Credit : Visit Charlotte
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