I experienced a slower pace of life than I am used to in New York. Lines moved slower, people walked and talked slower, and unlike New York, I didn't really feel rushed, which was nice on a weekend getaway!
The Southern accent is quite different than what I'm accustomed to hearing in New York. Aside from the twang, I also really enjoyed hearing infrequently used phrases in the north like "by golly" and new expressions like, "when you mess with the bull, don't be surprised when you get the horns."
I experienced Southern hospitality at its finest in a lovely establishment called Mert's. This restaurant is in "downtown" (or "uptown" as they call it there) Charlotte. The staff is extremely friendly and easy to engage in conversation with. I ordered the garden omelette with a biscuit (with sweet butter) and grits, along with a traditional southern sweet tea (iced). The tea was extremely sweet (not to my surprise) and the waitress also brought out something called a "Tiger Woods" for me to try (for free). This is the name given to a mix of lemonade and (sweet) tea, which we know back in New York to be an "Arnold Palmer". I told her I liked it, so she even went out of her way to package one up and give it to me to go! I had such a fine dining experience at Mert's that I decided to try more southern delicacies at the same place later on that evening! My dinner that night consisted of some homemade macaroni and cheese, cornbread fresh out of the oven (with that same sweet butter), collard greens (with some onions and tomatoes mixed in) and of course some good 'ol southern sweet tea. What's even more amazing is that this restaurant caters to vegetarians and vegans alike! With tons of ways to tantalize your taste buds, eaters of all types can enjoy some authentic southern style food here.
Other cool food escapades included Bojangles - a southern fast food restaurant where I tried the Cheddar Bo (a biscuit with melted cheddar cheese inside of it) and a cherry soda (not a cherry coke or Pepsi, just a cherry-flavored carbonated drink). I also tried some deep-fried oreos, which were a real treat (though nauseatingly unhealthy). I grabbed the oreos at a street festival called "Speed Street", which is the festival held each year in preparation for the big race, the Coca-Cola 600 (mentioned in the next paragraph).
Another extremely cool experience was better understanding the excitement of stock car racing! It's really popular in Charlotte, and there is a racetrack just outside the city in a town called Concord! Due to a forecast of rain for the big race scheduled for Sunday (The Coca-Cola 600), I ended up attending the XFinity 300 the day before, which was less crowded, probably less touristy, and took place in the sunshine! The cars get really loud as they zoom by the fans, and people get really into the action! Many fans (myself included) either had ear plugs or rented a pair of headphones due to the noise. I also checked out the NASCAR Hall of Fame (located in the Charlotte city center) the next day, which also was an amazing experience! I got the opportunity to learn more about NASCAR, the legendary drivers, and the cars they used to drive themselves into the Hall of Fame. I even got to do a race simulator from inside one of the cars to feel what it's like to be in the action!! This place has a lot of cool interactive displays, highly recommended if you're planning a trip to Charlotte!
Just walking around the city and exploring the sports venues proved to be a worthwhile activity as well. I saw where the Carolina Panthers play, along with the Charlotte Hornets Arena and a minor league baseball stadium.
Other interesting observations:
- Many people living/working in Charlotte are not originally from there. I met many people from other southern states - Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, etc.
- People love riding mechanical bulls...and some are quite skilled at it! More than one establishment had the option to try this (though I did not partake in riding, only watching).
- I heard more Country music than I ever did in New York.
- Many men in this area sport oversized watches.
- More people than I'm used to said "hello" to me on the street and engaged me in conversation.