Traveling to the ACC Championship Game? Visit the Queen city’s cultural gems

The skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina in fall 2007.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina in fall 2007.

By Mera D'Aquila, Staff Writer

The indisputable highlight of a visit this weekend to Charlotte, North Carolina will be watching our very own Panthers win an ACC title. But while you’re there, try to venture off the beaten path that leads from your hotel room to the stadium. Check out some of these quintessential destinations for visitors — as well as gems touted by the locals — during your stay in the “Queen” of all cities.

Aliño Pizzeria

Named one of Charlotte’s best places to grab a slice, Aliño Pizzeria serves Neapolitan-style pizza made from scratch and cooked for 90 seconds in authentic wood-burning ovens. Each pizza is made with fresh ingredients, including mozzarella imported weekly from Italy.

Aliño’s Pizzeria has two locations near the Charlotte area, but head over to its home in Concord Mills, just a short drive from the stadium. Aliño’s is open from noon to 8 p.m. on the weekends, making it a perfect spot to grab some pre-game grub. Oh, and don’t forget to order some “dolci” — the pizzeria makes fresh cannoli daily for an after-dinner treat.

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Charlotte Christmas Village

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to spend it than strolling past dazzling Christmas trees and light displays at Truist Field? This immersive experience features a classic European holiday feast, with traditional offerings such as bratwurst, schnitzel, strudel and Gluhwein — a beverage you may remember Dwight Schrute discussing in one of The Office’s holiday episodes. The non-alcoholic alternative, Kinderwein, is also available to purchase.

Tickets can be purchased before you visit or at the Truist Field stadium box office. The price of admission per person is $5 before 5 p.m. and $10 after. Weekend hours can vary, but your best bet is to go this Saturday — the Christmas Village will be open from noon to 10 p.m. 

Charlotte Motor Speedway

If you’re a car racing fan — or just love to live life in the fast lane — a visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway is a must-do. Enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of the race track, or embrace the yuletide cheer with the annual “Speedway Christmas,” which features millions of lights and displays synchronized to holiday music.

If you have a vehicle, you and your party can embark in the hour-long Fast Pass Tour for a $30 admission fee, and the Speedway Christmas experience for $40. Hours for Speedway Christmas are 6 to 10 p.m. rain or shine.

Charlotte Rail Trail

Runners rejoice! The Charlotte Rail Trail — lovingly nicknamed the “Trolley Trail” by local runners — is a 3.5-mile paved path that twists along the Light Rail, taking you into the heart of Downtown Charlotte. Blow off some pent-up frustration from writing end-of-semester papers and jog past a collection of beloved city sites.

The trail’s northernmost point is located off of East 9th Street between North College Street and North Brevard Street, while the southernmost point can be found at the corner of South Boulevard and Clanton Road, but you can hop on the path at any location.

Selwyn Pub

This is one of Michael Jordan’s quintessential Charlotte hangouts, and he’s been known to visit often. Nestled in the heart of Myers Park — and only about a 10-minute drive from the stadium — Selwyn Pub is a Charlotte gem, described as a “quirky little gathering spot” by its owners. Enjoy a pub feast of pizza, sliders and wings and engage in conversation with some locals.

Selwyn Pub is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. this Saturday, and makes for a great spot if you’re looking for some much-needed nourishment after the game.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Looking for a peaceful respite from the game day stress? Find some solace at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden as you walk through 110 acres of flower displays and spectacular fountains. Head down an array of walking trails and admire the natural beauty of the native Carolina gardens.

The weekend hours for Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is $14.95 for adult visitors.

Carowinds

Thrillseekers, have some time to spare before the game? Head over to Carowinds, an amusement park located 15 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, which features over 50 attractions, including two of the tallest roller coasters in the world. Embark on a daring journey upon Fury 325 — which is, you guessed it, 325 feet tall — and dart back and forth between the North and South Carolina state lines.

The cost of admission is $45 per person at the gate and $37 online. Carowinds is open from 3 pm to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, in accordance with their annual WinterFest hours.

Carolina History and Haunts: Beyond the Grave Tour

While we all know that there’s nothing scarier than finals week, the Carolina History and Haunts Ghost Tour certainly comes close. These year-round walking tours through Uptown Charlotte are sure to thrill. You’ll explore sites where immortal souls are rumored to dwell and listen to the spooky local legends uttered by your tour guide, who will lead you through the darkness by eerie lantern light. Grab a friend for some support — these tours are not for the faint of heart.

Reservations are required for the tours, which are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Purchase your tickets — which are $15 for adults — using the link provided on the attraction’s website.