We’ve been on the road for the past couple of months here at WFAE. Our series “There And Back” has explored places you can visit as a day trip from Charlotte. So, for the last story in this summer series, we decided to stay right here in Charlotte.
We start would be the Charlotte Regional Visitors’ Authority storefront uptown on Tryon Street. They’re the “Charlotte’s got a lot” folks. To the left of the staffed information booth is a wall full of brochures. It’s close to 20 feet long, and sure enough, right in the middle of that wall, a sign says “Charlotte’s got a lot.”
Linda Durkin manages the information center. She says locals who come in are always surprised at how many things there are to do in the area.
“Their eyes get as big as saucers when they see all this,” says Durkin.
It’s usually family or friends visiting from out of town that get them in the door, she says.
“They’re busy and working when they’re in town, and they don’t take the time to get out and explore Charlotte.”
There are brochures of many varieties; self-guided tours with a Dale Earnhardt theme, food-themed excursions, the Charlotte Liberty Walk for Revolutionary War-era history, and neighborhood-specific tours.
My choice? A walking tour of uptown with Charlotte native Genie Hufham, owner of Charlotte Crown Guides. Hufham’s been giving tours of Charlotte for over 12 years. We start out on what she calls the “main drag” --- Tryon Street.
“I get tickled because if people aren’t reading carefully enough, they think it’s Tyrone," she says. "No, it’s Tryon like ‘try on your slacks.’”
Looking at things carefully is a theme with Hufham.
She says, “you forget to look up at the architecture, and the gargoyles and the beautiful art that’s on the exterior of the buildings.”
She’s pointing to the old First National Bank Building, just south of Trade St on South Tryon.
“We keep our head down and we keep on walking. Look at how fabulous this is. You’ve got Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and here’s a guy who looks like Confucius,” Hufham says.
Next door is Thomas Polk Park, built in 1992 to honor the man who founded Mecklenburg County. Modern, angular stonework and waterfalls are shaded by lush trees.
The park opens up to “The Square,” or Independence Square to be more precise, at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets.
There are four statues, one on each corner, representing transportation, industry, commerce, and the future. She’s not sure the thousands of business people who walk by every day get the full meaning as they go about their routines.
“What some people may not know," she says, "is that all three of those are looking towards the future.”
Hufham might want to consider telling people to look down, too. Uptown’s streets are full of sidewalk markers. Some are part of self guided tours, like the Liberty Walk. Others offer information about buildings or events. We stop at a large brass plaque in the sidewalk outside of a restaurant.
“That was where Jefferson Davis was when he learned that Abraham Lincoln had been shot," she points out.
Hufham says she wishes that people would venture outside of their own neighborhoods.
“You know, if you live in Ballantyne," she says, "that’s where you live and move. If you don’t have any reason to come uptown, then you’re not going to see it.”
So, with the kids back in school and the vacation season winding down, don’t forget that a quick getaway may be just outside your backdoor.