A Look at Charlotte, NC with the Executive Director of Race Team Alliance

Charlotte is Definitely Thriving and Should be More Talked About as a Candidate for Vacation Spots


Originally a railroad town turned textile powerhouse, Charlotte is now a pinnacle city for banking in the southeast. Positioned just north of the North and South Carolina border, the city is now growing, with a population becoming increasingly younger and revitalizing the city. Currently rated by Niche as the #32 city in the United States to live in right now, it has an overall grade of A (Niche). The greater metro area is set within Mecklenburg county and has a population of over 860,000.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Charlotte and definitely would like to go back frequently. This article will cover my experience and offer some honest reviews of the city and locations I was able to visit in my short time in the Queen City.

If it were a nicer day I’m sure we would be having much more fun.

— Johnathan Marshall

The Setting

The Fourth Ward, rated as the #1 neighborhood in the city (Niche) was where our accommodations for the weekend were located. We stayed just off of Interstate 277, the neighborhood was very conveniently located near the city center and any activity you could wish for was within a 2 mile radius, making it a very walkable community. For reference, Bank of America Stadium, the Spectrum Center, and Truist Field were all a shorter than 20 minute walk. However, this is not just a unique feature of where we stayed, anywhere within the Center City area is just as easily accessible by foot. My Dad and I were going to be attending the Heat-Hornets game and we were invited by our relative, host, and the Executive Director of Race Team Alliance, Johnathan Marshall. Johnathan oversees operation of the group that is a combination of many of the NASCAR teams that make up the most popular motor racing franchise in the United States. The role of the Alliance is to work with NASCAR teams “collaboratively for the betterment of the sport and to create value for its members and their partners.” (RTA Website).

The Tour

For the better part of the afternoon we decided to take a trip on the tricked out golf cart toย see the city. The tour party consisted of my Dad, Johnathan, his wife, Courtney, and myself. We navigated around the city to all the major sports venues, concert halls, and the main city area of Uptown. While it was a rainy day that oddly got progressively colder as the day went on, I was surprised by how many people were still outside in the city. I think even with nicer weather, we might have enjoyed the day more, but the volume of people enjoying Charlotte may have been similar. The first event of the tour was definitely the creme de la creme, leaving me in awe for the remainder of the excursion. The first event took us to a graveyard near where we were staying to view a few memorials to historical events that were commemorated.

We were there to see the gravestones of circus trainers Charlie Houck, who was eaten by a lion and John King, who was crushed by an elephant. These true pieces of history were definitely the highlight of the city tour, regardless ofย  if they were influenced by sequencing bias. The gravestones can be seen in the images. The broken one, which is more worn and tough to read is in memory of Charlie Houck. The one with the elephant, ironically is for John King.


Noble Smoke-ย This local barbecue joint was founded by Jim Noble and now has 2 locations, also servicing other restaurants in the local area that serve their smoked meats. They have a massive variety on the menu that has drawn inspiration from barbecue restaurants all over the southeast. The smoked meat options range from traditional pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey, chicken wings, and the great pork ribs. A detail that I personally enjoyed were the sauce choices. They had sauces from both the eastern and western styles of North Carolina barbecue. The eastern being a more vinegar based, liquid sauce with a tang and kick. The western sauce is a more sweet sauce, with a ketchup or tomato base. Everything I tried including 4 meats and 4 sides were all delicious compared to most of the great barbecue I have had in Charleston. If you are interested in this style of restaurant and type of food, I would compare it to Lewis’ located in Downtown Charleston.

Optimist Hall- While we did not dine here, we took a walk around the old textile mill, now converted to a food hall and business space. Opening in 2019, the food hall now features 25 tenants that serve a large variety of cuisine from Asian, Italian, Hispanic, and Indian culture. Out of those 25 a few of these are also local businesses from a pet store to a craft shop. There was spacious seating outside and even on the gloomy day we were there, it was packed full of hungry locals and visitors tasting all the different options. This place gives off the vibe that you could eat there every day for a year and not get bored of the food because of the sheer amount of options and the volume of foot traffic implies that the food at all of the tenants is fantastic. If it were a nicer day I’m sure it would have been almost impossible to find a place to sit and it would have left the outside standing areas full for hours.

Spectrum Center

The main reason for the trip was to visit the home of the Charlotte Hornets to see them face off against the Miami Heat. We were graciously gifted tickets that placed us in seats located about 15 rows up from the floor. While the atmosphere at the game was not particularly exciting, when the game got close late in the 4th quarter the fans for both teams came to life. The Hornets controlled the lead most of the game and held off a late Miami comeback, resulting in a 108-103 win for the home team.

Honestly, the stadium environment was not very exciting. For a Saturday night, the concourse was pretty quiet and there was very little to engage fans before or after the game even though it was a themed night. The theme was 704, the area code for Charlotte and the events they had taking place were supposed to honor the history of the city, but very little was going on to do so. There were very few food options and the fan experience was lackluster. There was very little to look at in the concourse, and the one major team store was small and did not have a variety of items. I do have to give it credit for the look of the stadium, the color scheme and cleanliness of the stadium were fantastic. Another thing that may have drawn fans away from the game was that Charlotte FC, the MLS team was having its opening game of the season at Bank of America Stadium across town. This could have drawn some Hornets fans away and made the game seem less lively.