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North Carolina’s largest city, Charlotte sprawls 15 miles in every direction from its compact, high-rise core. Futuristic skyscrapers pepper downtown Charlotte, which is officially known as ‘Uptown,’ supposedly because it sits on a barely visible ridge, but really because the council decided that sounds cooler. Uptown holds several fine museums plus the high-octane NASCAR Hall of Fame, while more museums and historic sites are scattered further afield. Hotels and restaurants are also concentrated Uptown, though funkier neighborhoods within easy reach include Plaza Midwood, just east, with its boutiques and restaurants, and hip NoDa, along North Davidson St, where former textile mills hold breweries and cafes.

Named after the wife of George III – hence its nickname, the Queen City – Charlotte boomed when gold was discovered nearby, and later prospered from cotton and textiles. Having pioneered interstate banking in the 1980s, it’s now the third-largest banking center in the US.

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