As a native to Charlotte — which still felt like a sleepy city when I was starting high school — I’m endlessly intrigued by the different factors that entice people to move here. Job opportunities, chasing creative dreams, love…
I’m also amused by the indications that these newbies are in fact new to Charlotte.
Here’s an updated list of 27 signs you’re new to Charlotte:
(1) You don’t know why it’s called the Queen City.
When European settlers chartered the town in 1768, they honored it with the name of King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte. Her birthplace was Mecklenburg-Strelitz in Germany, hence the county name, Mecklenburg.
(2) You don’t know who Sir Purr, Hugo, Lug Nut and/or Chubby are.
They would be the mascots for the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Charlotte Checkers, respectively.
(3) You don’t know who Vi Lyles is.
That would be our Democratic mayor, and the city’s first African-American female mayor, elected in November 2017. She fills the position formerly held by Democrat Jennifer Roberts.
(4) You don’t know what “CMS” stands for in news headlines.
Answer: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. By the numbers: CMS encompasses 146,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 170 schools across Mecklenburg County.
(5) You think the term “booty loop” is a dirty allusion.
The Booty Loop is a biking route in the Myers Park neighborhood that has become known for 24 Hours of Booty, a 24-hour cycling event launched in 2002 that raises funds to support cancer-fighting agencies. You can see avid cyclists flying around the loop year-round.
(6) You think the Panthers stadium has always been called Bank of America Stadium.
Bank of America bought the naming rights to the stadium in 2004. Before that, the Panthers’ home turf was called Ericsson Stadium, with naming rights purchased by Swedish telecommunications firm LM Ericsson Inc. in 1996.
(7) You’re still taking selfies with the Bechtler Firebird.
Sweet tourist, true Charlotteans save their Instagram selfies for rooftop bars or the Matheson Bridge. Or avocado toast.
(8) You’ve never heard of Frank Scibelli — or eaten at one of his restaurants.
Scibelli is the local restaurateur who started Mama Ricotta’s, Cantina 1511, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (formerly Big Daddy’s and now owned by another group), Midwood Smokehouse, Yafo Kitchen and Paco’s Tacos & Tequila. He also became a shareholder in Heirloom Restaurant in 2016. Delicious.
(9) You don’t feel a pang of nostalgia when you hear the term “Common Market South End.”
It was a devastating blow when news got out that Common Market South End, a live-music-venue-meets-breakfast-spot-meets-lunch-counter-meets-coffee-house-meets-watering-hole-meets-convenience-store-meets-patio-hangout, would close in summer 2016. Good thing the funky spot found a new home and will one day open again in another section of South End, likely this spring. Fingers crossed.
(10) You also don’t feel a pang of nostalgia when you hear the terms “Double Door Inn,” “Amos’ Southend” or “Tremont Music Hall.”
Long-time Charlotteans are fierce about their live music venues (hang in there, Neighborhood Theatre, Visulite Theatre and Snug Harbor). The community was so saddened by the closing of some venues that a documentary was made about the Double Door Inn, and new bars like Skylark Social Club and Backstage Lounge honor the venues with their mission and decor, respectively.
(11) You don’t understand the epic quality of Thirsty Beaver Saloon.
All you have to do is drive by the little dive bar off of Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood to get it. At a time that many local loves have been lost to development, the owners of the Beav refuse to take their business elsewhere despite the massive buildings rising around it.
(12) You don’t realize there’s a hornets nest logo on CMPD cars.
The logo looks kind of like a blurry, black-and-white badge, but there it is on CMPD cars next to the blue line of text that reads “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.” The nest is just one more reference to the legend of General Cornwallis calling Charlotte a “hornet’s nest of rebellion.”
(13) You think you can keep feeding the meter on an Uptown street.
Nope, the signs along the parallel parking meters indicate a two-hour limit for a reason. I’ve seen plenty of friends try to feed the meter after two hours and get tickets. Thou shalt move thy car.
(14) You assume the first place you must go out is Uptown. Particularly the EpiCentre.
Uptown has its perks, but the neighborhood pockets surrounding Uptown are where the magic is. Spend a perfect day in Elizabeth, or a perfect day in Plaza Midwood, or perhaps a perfect day in Dilworth.
(15) You also called Uptown “downtown.”
That would be incorrect. Uptown is located at a geographic high point and was officially declared “Uptown” to spotlight the shopping and business district in center city.
(16) You look around for happy hour deals.
That would be against the law in NC. North Carolina ABC permitted establishments are allowed to provide happy hour food specials, though. AND since the “Brunch Bill” passed in 2017, with Mecklenburg County commissioners voting unanimously to allow alcohol sales before noon on Sunday in unincorporated parts of the county, we get to enjoy some bloodies and bubblies at weekend brunch.
(17) You don’t get why things get shut down for snow predictions.
It happens once or twice a year and we can’t get used to it. Leave us alone.
(18) You’re shocked when you don’t have to pay for parking in a deck.
At least, when you’re not in Uptown. It’s not unusual to encounter a free deck around town, like in SouthPark (the mall itself, Whole Foods and Piedmont Row), Midtown (hello, terrifying Metropolitan parking deck), and Ballantyne Village.
(19) You’re seeing cankerworms for the first time in your life.
Pro tip: Breathe through your nose when you’re jogging because these things are busy falling out of trees right now. The little green caterpillars tend to make their appearance around April from eggs laid in December.
(20) Related: You’re seeing banding on trees for the first time in your life.
I got the question “What’s that stuff on the trees?” when driving down Queens Road once. That, dear friend, is banding. The bands of paper-like material are wrapped around trees with a coat of sticky material to stop moths from climbing the trees to lay their eggs, which hatch cankerworms.
(21) You hop on the light rail and expect it to take you EVERYWHERE.
Sadly not. You should expect a fairly linear path from I-485 to 7th Street uptown. The good news: 9.3 more miles of Blue Line will open March 16, extending to UNC Charlotte.
(22) You think Concord is conveniently near Uptown. And is a destination.
Yeah, no, it’s about 17 miles away. And you might want to save your mileage for your first Charlotte Motor Speedway experience.
(23) Oh, and you pronounced it “con-kerd.”
It’s Con-cord. Rhymes with “chord.” And “hoard.”
(24) You don’t understand why everyone is so bad at parallel parking. (So, so bad.)
It’s not part of the NC driver license test. The three-point turnabout was the big deal when I was first on the road.
(25) You’re amazed that you can break a sweat driving with your windows down in April.
Mmm, Southern humidity.
(26) You aren’t concerned about the prospect of toll roads.
Well, we don’t have any (yet), and some people don’t like change. November 2017 was the two-year anniversary for construction beginning on two controversial express lanes on I-77 from Lake Norman to Charlotte.
(27) You make plans for dinner at the EpiCentre.
Photos: David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer, SouthPark Magazine, Suzanne Summerville/Charlotte Observer, CharlotteFive, LunahZon Photography