27 signs you’re new to Charlotte

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About 30,000 people live in Charlotte’s center city. That’s about 10 percent higher than the 2016 center city population. Overall, the city’s growth rate was 1.9 percent between 2015 and 2016.

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.

Seriously, just stop. Go to Kindred, whose owner and chef, Joe Kindred, has been previously listed among Best Chef Southeast semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation awards.

Photos: David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer, SouthPark Magazine, Suzanne Summerville/Charlotte Observer, CharlotteFive, LunahZon Photography


  1. To any newcomers: Charlotte’s center city was always known as “downtown” until the late ’80s or so, when the civic movers and shakers decided we should suddenly start calling it “uptown” to give it more panache or whatever.
    My grandfather and grandmother and father worked in “downtown” Charlotte during the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s ’70s and on into the ’80s.
    So don’t feel bad if you call it downtown.

    • This is my experience growing up here as well. It has always been downtown and will always be downtown to me and my family (some of whose ancestors, for the record, have been living in this area since the late 1700’s). I can always tell a newcomer by them calling it ‘uptown’!

    • Amen. My Dad worked downtown for Southern Bell for 40 years. That uptown stuff makes my skin crawl. It’s also about how Charlotte is so South Charlotte oriented now.

    • The area known as Uptown is geographically a high point in Mecklenburg County, therefore referring to it as Uptown is appropriate.

      • Actually, it is not even the high point in Charlotte. Several years ago someone (Observer?) did a story about the high point in Charlotte. It’s in the northern part of the city.

      • Who cares if it is geographically the high point in Meck County? If Ballantyne was the the high point geographically, would you call IT “Uptown”? Uptown is just what pretentious-sounding people call “downtown”. Even New York City knows the difference. In NYC, “Downtown is primarily the commercial center of town, whereas Uptown typically refers to the residential parts of the city, which are often located on the outside of the commercial hub of the city.”

        • It’s simple. Anybody with some sense, knows that the modern day usage of calling downtown “uptown” is racist. And I tell everybody it’s racist. It’s very clear that the paisley attempt to brand the city’s image with some exclusivity was meant for everyone that lives south of the city. Well well well….who lives south of the city…..? Ummmmm CORRECT! Because my college geography class showed me that the topography of living in the Beatties Ford area is looking down on the city….duh! And guess who lives there? So why would I look down towards somewhere and call it “up” whatever…? YES! IT’S RACIST! PURE AND SIMPLE.

          • This is so self-evidently true that I’m surprised CAPS are necessary. It’s blatant branding to make pearl-clutchers feel safer venturing downtown from their leafy sanctuaries to the south.

    • Amen! I always get a little snarky when I hear the 20 somethings​ calling Downtown Uptown! It’s always been Downtown!

    • Amen! I always get a little snarky when I hear the 20 somethings​ calling Downtown Uptown! It’s always been Downtown!

    • I was privy to the Chamber of Commerce and Center City and other downtown promotion groups’ discussions and efforts in the 1970s to rebrand downtown. The story about it always being called “uptown” because of its elevation is sheer baloney. The entire movement came about because promoters thought “uptown” sounded, yes, upbeat. This was the same group that launched Charlotte on its endless – and fruitless – silly fixation on becoming another Atlanta and a “world class” city. It’s OK to call downtown whatever you want. It’s not OK to lie about why.

  2. Any reason for the free plug for Kindred at the end of the article? Did they buy some banner ads this month or do you not like any of the dozen other comparable restaurants in the metro? You talk about saving your mileage and not to drive the 17 miles to Concord but Kindred is 22 miles away from downtown. Err, Uptown.

  3. How about driving down the street or road and the names changes at a intersection or at bends or in the middle. Crazy. Street signs are small or on the left side of the road or there just aren’t any. Signs on the 485 say South when in fact you are driving North. Watch out for drain covers, you have to dodge them because they are high or low in the road plus they are right where we drive. You can’t buy alcohol on Sundays except for beer and wine and then not until after 12 noon. Cars are taxed annually, along with the need for annual inspections. Drinking beer and going out to bars to eat are some of the more popular events. I guess because there is not much else to do. Food is expensive, variety is getting better. Once the museums are visited there is not much else to do unless you drive for hours. Riding a bike on the streets is at your own risk. Oh and the streets are narrow.
    Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice things here like Freedom park and the Carolwinds and the Concord race track, if you like racing. Great Pro football team and good Pro basketball teams. Don’t hear much about any other sports. What’s up with the NASCAR Hall of Fame downtown, oops! Uptown when the track is in Concord!!!
    I have been here in for five (5) years and it is like going back in time plus a culture shook. I’m from Southern Calif. by the way.

  4. You are new to Charlotte if you think there’s shopping uptown. On uptown vs. downtown, the way I look at it is that uptown is inside I-277/I-77 and downtown includes not only Uptown, but also areas like Dilworth, Southend, Elizabeth, etc. that are clearly “downtown” if you live in Davidson, Matthews, Pineville or an outlying Charlotte neighborhood, for example. You’re also new if you have to ask why Dilworth and Southend seem to overlap. It’s because they’re apples and oranges. Dilworth is a classic “neighborhood” area, defined in various ways, which is an outgrowth of the 19th century Dilworth subdivision, while Southend is a special tax district created to extract more taxes from property owners in the district to be used to promote business interests within the district.

  5. The Charlotte to do list is short and sweet. And whatever need fixing comes to consciousness in the middle of the night, ’tis true, but that doesn’t mean the tweaks and gouges aren’t essential in this diy mecca.

  6. Loved most of this, but let’s be very clear on something – the opposition to I77 toll lanes has ZERO to do with “not liking change”… That’s wrong and mildly insulting. Toll roads are common in the U.S., but lanes similar to this I77 project are not. *Free* lanes will be even more of a parking lot than before, with no widening allowed (without a financial penalty) for 50 years. And it’s absurd to make such a highly populated and congested part of NC pay even more $ just to avoid an impending, predictable mess that we vehemently oppose. That has nothing to do with disliking change, but rather disliking a poor and costly decision that will last 50 years.

  7. Yes when I arrived here I took a trip on the transit .I said Does this bus take us downtown the driver lol.Some of the list items I love uptown and the epicenter cool .I have explored different parts of the city .Now I definitely not the only person who experienced the Charlotte newbie syndrome .

  8. You know you’re new to NC (in general, less so in Charlotte) when you think you’ve just gone back in time 30 years, the politicians are corrupt, and laws being passed are overtly conservative, biased, and some even illegal. The state is also oversaturated with ultra-conservative baptists and evangelical congregations who are stuck living life like it’s 1950. This makes it nearly impossible for a significant population to think objectively about topics and views that may be different from their own. I’d like to see Charlotte (and the greater state) get back to where there was once balance. Love the city, loathe the state politicians and where the state is spending its money.

    • Wow Mike, you must have just parked the UHAUL. The conservative churches are just part of southern living, eventually you won’t feel guilty when you read those stupidgin sayings in the church yard kiosk
      State government has always been real slow about change. The NCdot normally goes out of the way to make sure Charlotte continues to suffer, meanwhile all over Eastern NC you will find empty 4 lane highways.
      We eventually started calling Mecklenburg County….”The great State of Mecklenburg”….
      We have basically financed the city thanks to our banks. Do we need Raleigh?,,,,,,eerrrr
      Do we wait around for Raleigh to get their act together?……generally I say NO…..
      Let’s face it, Charlotte provides the best shopping, NBA,NFL,restaurants, clubs, etc etc. We give people in both NC & SC a taste of the city.
      The states may not agree with how liberal we tend to lean, but we won’t change, we will get the protection for LGBTQ residents.
      Charlotte has an obligation to continue to not only be the best city to raise a family, but also a safe haven for anyone who needs a place they can be creative, expressive, and as different as possible. I th8nk were doing pretty well!!

  9. LOVE THIS, Katie! I’m from Detroit, been here 8 years…and I’m still never going to eat at the EpiCentre! KINDRED IS THE PLACE TO BE! Spot on, my friend! 😉

  10. Parallel parking is properly done by pull8ng a bit past the parking spot and backing in association first, not face first. But again we don’t necessarily need to master it down south. Living in Philly is where I mastered the art of parallel parking.

  11. I don’t care if people still think I’m new to Charlotte when I’m 60 years old. As long as I live here, I’m calling it downtown.

  12. One of the items on the list is a misconception (as others have mentioned). For those who have lived in Charlotte long enough, Uptown is still referred to as downtown as it was by everyone up until the mid-80’s. The Uptown moniker was invented by city boosters around that time to get people more excited about what was then not much more than a business district that closed down after 7:00 p.m. and offered virtually nothing in terms of entertainment (and had a reputation for being taken over by prostitutes and drug dealers at night). It started catching on around the second half of the 1980’s, but mostly by the transplants who moved to Charlotte starting around that time. The natives and long time Charlotte residents typically laughed at the contrived moniker. I am a Charlotte native (born and raised), and other than may college and law school years, I have lived in charlotte all of my 42 years. When referring to that part of town with my friends who grew up with me itCharlotte, we typically refer to it as downtown. When talking to people who have not lived here as long, we may refer to it as Uptown to avoid confusing them. In fact, for many years, calling it Uptown was a sign that you were new to town. Now it’s more of a sign that you didn’t live here before the mid-80’s. But to say that calling it downtown is a sign that you are new to Charlotte is incorrect. It may mean that you are a true, native Charlottean.

  13. I think you know someone has been in Charlotte A LONG TIME if they call it downtown, still. I hear many many people still call it that out of habit. I use both terms interchangeably based on who I am talking to. I honestly dont care what people call it. We all know you mean the same place either way

  14. Thanks Katie, for yet another mention today (2/12/18) about our documentary, “Live From The Double Door Inn.” We recently learned that the film has been selected for the Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival in April. PBS ranks Bare Bones among the top 20 festivals for documentaries, so we are thrilled to be included. It is also available on Blu-Ray and DVD via Amazon.

  15. If you can afford to live in Lake Norman and Cornelius, chances are you can afford to use a toll road if you really need to. That’s what happens when everyone and their brother moves to an area with no infrastructure. Maybe the people so opposed to the toll lanes and traffic should have done more research into the traffic issues afflicting those areas before moving into their mansions.

  16. I don’t understand this city’s obsession with being the “Queen City”

    Didn’t we fight a war to away from and not have to be under this royalty?

    Its more that Charlotte has absolutely zero claim to fame and is looking for something… anything… to grasp onto. Not to mention there is absolutely zero to do with being a “Queen City” other than the name and associated marketing.

  17. Seems the author is newer to charlotte than I am 🙂
    Bless your hart
    Probably born after I arrived in 77.
    It’s always been downtown. Never shopped at the uptown Iveys
    To the Double Door, Amos’ South end and Tremont Music Hall you need
    to ad The Pterodactyl and Amos’ on Park Road.
    How about Brown Bagging and Jim and Tammy Fay Baker.
    Ahhh to be young again in Charlotte 🙂

  18. “Uptown is located at a geographic high point and was officially declared “Uptown” to spotlight the shopping and business district in center city”
    I was just wondering where is shopping supposed to be in uptown Charlotte????

  19. Another person already called out the changing of street names. How about the running of stoplights? No local pride in sports teams. Panthers made the playoffs and there was no pep rally. No long term vision by city leaders on building up an identity. Uptown is downtown. There is only one uptown and it is in New York City. I would love for Charlotte to decide on a vision other than overpriced real estate. Look to Indianapolis with its very public support of the Colts, Pacers, Indy 500, Indianapolis Symphony, four universities, and 2 medical schools. Come up with a vision Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau!!

  20. Katie, I would have hoped that CMS taught you better.

    The plural of “sign” is “signs”. Not “sign’s”. It’s not in the graphic, but in the header text.

  21. Not a single mention of the Golf events that draw thousands to Charlotte. And I have no knowledge of locked gates that keep people here that seem so critical of all that makes the rest of us call it “home”!


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