Editor’s note: To start the new year, CharlotteFive writers and staffers committed to 7-day, 14-day and 30-day challenges through January to shake up our norms and lifestyles. Other challenges included the Minimalist Game, 14 days of veganism, 14 days of talking to strangers, letting your fiance choose your outfits for 7 days and Whole30.
I tell people I grew up in Charlotte. I went to middle school and high school here. Left for college a few years after, but have been back for about six years. I consider this home.
However, I am a terrible Charlottean. I grew up in south Charlotte and pretty much spent all my time there. When I moved back, my friend from college was also moving into town. He would often ask me about different restaurants or how to navigate different parts of town. In return, he’d get a blank stare from me. I didn’t know this city and hadn’t really experienced anything it had to offer.
This year was different. I would spend seven days experiencing some Charlotte things I had never done before, but always hear others talking about. So, no more blank stares from this guy … hopefully.
Getting cultured at the Gantt Center
My first day of my challenge just so happened to also be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The CharlotteFive podcast was lucky enough to score an interview with former Charlotte mayor, Harvey Gantt, at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. I had never been to any of the museums or art galleries in Charlotte and the Gantt Center was hosting a bunch of activities on this day.
I wanted to get to the center early so I could actually take in some of the activities and experience some of the artwork. Right when I walked in I could hear the music going and the place was pretty crowded. I stood in the lobby and listened to the band for a bit, looking around as people were dancing and clapping along. It was a very celebratory scene, due to the holiday.
I would eventually make my way upstairs to go look at the free art galleries. There were some fantastic paintings that truly made me stop and go in for a closer look. I would have taken a photo, but I never know phone etiquette when it comes to these galleries.
I eventually made my way into a smaller room to watch a panel on education, featuring Harvey Gantt, Judge Rickye McKoy-Mitchell and former CMS teacher of the year James E. Ford. It was inspiring to listen to these knowledgable, passionate people discuss the needs of bettering our education system. I think everyone in the room left wanting to go out and help make some actual change.
Watch out for the giant head!
It’s called Metalmorphosis, can’t fault the word play there, and it’s a 22-foot-tall piece of art that sits in the Whitehall Business Park, just southwest of uptown. It’s meant to resemble a face, but each of the parts can spin around while water shoots around it.
I remember seeing this attraction on multiple ‘Top things to do in Charlotte’ lists. I’ve heard a lot of people debate its merit as a tourist attraction, so I thought I’d go check it out for myself. It’s the winter, so I knew I wouldn’t be getting to see it in all its glory (no water on this trip), but still thought it would be worth a visit.
I must say I did come in with some preconceived notions about this statue. Both my mother and my girlfriend spent quite a few years working in that business park and, according to them, the thing seemed broken about 99 percent of the time. They told me it was often hard to tell what you were looking at because the face pieces were hardly ever in line, but they’d still see cars out there every day with people eager to get a look.
Lucky for me, the face was all lined up for me on this night. It was large and sparkled oh-so-nice when the light would hit its metal surface.
It was also just a head. I didn’t get it. Maybe it looks good when everything is moving and working, but on this night, it was a face just looking back at me. I was happy the face actually looked like a face, but I walked up, looked at it, snapped a few pics and got back in my car. But hey, maybe I just don’t get art.
My trek through the snow and ice of a Charlotte winter storm
I had to do a little improvising on Wednesday because it was the “big snow day” here in Charlotte. I will say this, I think I do all right in snow. Before moving to Charlotte in the fifth grade, I lived in Cincinnati. I went to college in Missouri and spent a few years after college in Indiana, so snow is nothing new to me.
However, I’m not going to be one of those people that acts like snow and ice aren’t dangerous and that I can easily make my way around town during a winter storm. I’ll just say it doesn’t bother me and that I can handle it better than the girl I saw in my apartment complex using a collapsed cereal box to brush snow off her car.
I’ve never been one to run to the grocery store before an impending storm because I know, more likely than not, it’ll melt by the afternoon here. But hey, I’m going full-blown Charlottean this week, so I threw on some warm clothes and made a trek to the grocery for the essentials, bread and milk.
Watching airplanes at ‘make-out point’
It was nice enough on Thursday to get out of my apartment complex, which was much needed after being kind of stuck there the previous day. On this night, I was off to what my coworkers were calling one of the biggest make-out spots in Charlotte, the airport overlook. While my girlfriend did go with me, can’t say the overlook was putting out too many romantic vibes.
There were quite a few people there, though, or at least it seemed. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and we did see one guy really feeling his own dance moves out in front of his car, but there was no chance we were going to get a closer look to see what was going on.
I will say this about the overlook: it was pretty entertaining. I enjoyed a warm cup of coffee while watching the airplanes take off, in front of a nice view of the skyline. I know it always seems like forever when you’re in the plane and waiting in the take-off line, but it looked like there was a plane taking off every two minutes or so. It was a relaxing time and I would definitely recommend it on a warmer spring or fall night. Plus, it’s free.
Time lapse: Planes take off from Charlotte Douglas Airport
It was cold, but the view was fire (you laugh at my dad joke!)
I was really excited for Friday. This activity is a tried and true staple of Charlotte social media. Does your Instagram really even count if you don’t have a picture at this place of this view? I was off to Fahrenheit to get a rooftop picture of the Charlotte skyline.
I went with a big group of friends and, surprisingly, only one of us had ever been. I walked into the lobby of the Hyatt Place hotel on Caldwell Street and immediately hit the button for the wrong elevator. We were off to a great start.
We finally got on the right elevator and headed up to the bar. The vibe was what I’m looking for in a bar. It had enough people to feel like you’re doing something social, but not so many that you’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting 20 minutes to get a drink.
I got a ‘Have you met my dire wolf?’ mule, with rosemary and pepper herradura tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters and ginger beer. It was quite pricey, but was a tasty drink with a good amount of spice.
After getting our drinks, we immediately went outside to the balcony. There were few of us to brave the outdoors, as it was a little cold and the balcony was still a little icy. We stood next to the fire and took in the evening view of the city. It has to be hard to find a better view of the skyline than the one you can get at Fahrenheit. It was easy to understand why this was such a popular place to snap a picture.
Weighing in on the fried-chicken debate
Where to find the best fried chicken in town seems to be one of the most heated debates in Charlotte. The two biggest contenders seem to be Price’s Chicken Coop and the Quik Shoppe at the Shell Gas Station at the intersection of East Boulevard and South Boulevard.
In my typical terrible Charlottean fashion, I had tried neither. We did go shoot at Price’s for our fried chicken ‘Worth a Taste’ video series, but didn’t try any of it while we were there. Saturday was my day to form my own opinion on this debate. I headed to both Price’s and the Quik Shoppe to do my own taste test.
Quik Shoppe at the Shell Gas Station:
Price’s Chicken Coop:
First and foremost, eating at two fried chicken places in about an hour is a lot of fried chicken. When it comes to the taste test, my vote goes to … the Quik Shoppe. To me, the gas station fried chicken had more flavor and crispier skin. I really enjoyed the little bit of spice that came with Quik Shoppe’s fried chicken. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was enough that you knew it was there.
When it comes to fried chicken, a lot of my enjoyment comes from the crunchiness of the skin and breading. The crunch was definitely more prevalent in Quik Shoppe’s chicken. Both were good pieces of chicken, but if I had to go back to just one, it would be the gas station.
Hooligans … Where everybody knows your name
It was my final day of my all-things-Charlotte week and I got my activity underway fairly early into the day. I consider myself a big soccer fan. I played it up through high school, coached it for a few years and watch it whenever I can, both at the club and international level. I’m that guy that is extra excited for the World Cup this summer.
That being said, I normally like to enjoy all my sports for my place or a friend’s. I don’t like to go to a crowded bar and fight for space to get an unobstructed view of a game I’m trying to watch. But that’s old Sean, and new Sean is trying new things. With that in mind, I went to Hooligans in the French Quarter to catch a Sunday morning Premier League matchup between Tottenham and Southampton.
Right when I walked in it was immediate the vibe of the place. There were probably about 15-20 people, mainly Tottenham fans, already in the bar at 11 a.m. You could tell this was the type of place where regulars come to watch games and hang out with friends. People were joking around with each other and the bartender. Everyone seemed to know everyone.
I pulled up a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. At first, I remained quiet, just trying to blend into the scene. That didn’t last long. I ended striking up a conversation with the guy next to me about his trip to Madrid and the tour he took of Real Madrid’s stadium.
Tottenham was down 1-0, but they would eventually get a goal to tie it up and that’s when everyone really started to have some fun. The noise volume definitely went up, as people started laughing and talking to each other from complete opposite ends of the bar. This was a really fun way to spend a Sunday morning. It was the type of place where you would want to become a regular because it felt like you were just hanging out with your close friends. Out of everything I did this week, this was probably my favorite and I plan on being back soon.
My week is up and I’d consider it a success. While there are still plenty of things I’ve yet to experience in this city, I now feel excited to try more of them. I’m left feeling more attached to the city I call home, but know I’ve just started to scratch the surface.
Photos/Videos: Sean Clark-Weis, Sallie Funderburk