Top non-convention-related sites to visit in Charlotte

You don't have to be a political junkie to head to Charlotte this September.

Thousands are expected to swarm the city for the Democratic National Convention, which runs from Sept. 3-6, but North Carolina's largest city --on any given week-- boasts some of the state's best museums, outdoor attractions and tourist hotspots.

Whether you’re taking part in the political process, want to catch of glimpse of Democratic heavy hitters, or just need a vacation, there are plenty of reasons to visit the city that ranks among the top 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas.

Indoor Fun
You can get a microscopic view of science and nature at the interactive Discovery Place museum. Visitors can walk the rainforest or wander an underwater world in the aquarium. The museum features a 3D theater, so give your legs a break and catch a movie.

The Mint Museum features art, pottery, textiles and historic costumes from around the world.  Visitors have the option to visit the museum’s two locations: Randolph and Uptown. The Randolph location is history in its own right as the first art museum in North Carolina and housed the first branch of the United States Mint. The newer Uptown location features its Contemporary and European art collections, as well as glass, ceramics and wood works.

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Enjoy a journey through history at The Billy Graham Library. Learn about evangelical pastor Billy Graham, one of the most influential voices of the 20th century, whose message of God’s love can be heard through multimedia exhibits, films and memorabilia. Visitors can tour Graham’s family home and shop in Ruth’s Attic and see his influence on the White House as the so-called Pastor to Presidents.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Uptown Charlotte and offers pedal-to-the-metal fun.  Visitors will enjoy NASCAR artifacts, interactive exhibits, simulator rides and shows in the High Octane Theater. The NASCAR Hall of Fame also has a café and gift shop with souvenirs for sale, so the fun continues once you’re home.

Aside from car racing, the South is also known for its plantations. The 1815 historic Rosedale Plantation offers tours of their grounds, which features blooming gardens and century-old trees. Rosedale is famous for its faux grained woodwork and original French wallpaper. You can also participate in the treasure tree leaf hunt or have a picnic on the grounds.

Another stop for the history buffs is the Levine Museum of the New South which offers a look at the post-Civil war era, and how the war impacted different facets of society, including women and children, black and white, rich and poor.

Fun in the Sun
For some fun outdoors, you can ride roller coasters and soak in the sun at a tsunami-sized beach at Paramount’s Carowinds Water & Theme Park. If you need a break from speed or the water, you can enjoy live entertainment at two new park stages. Whether you want to relax in the sun or hear live entertainment, Carowinds promises an exciting day.

A 45-minute drive north of Charlotte will take you to Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in the Carolinas. You can spend the day fishing, rent a jet ski, or relax and let others do the work on a chartered cruise.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) is a one-stop shop for all things outdoors. The USNWC is a recreation facility and home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. The center attracts people of all ages who are enthusiastic about outdoor activities including, kayaking, zip-lines, rope courses, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking and eco trekking.

Game Day
Be sure to reserve a day for tee time at The Golf Club at Ballantyne, which was named a Top 50 Golf Resort by Golf World. Players of all skill levels will enjoy the challenging course with multiple water features throughout. The club includes an 18-hole course, practice area, golf pavilion and a golf pro shop. Golfers who are 21 and up can enjoy a post-game cold one at the Gallery Bar.

Depending on what time of year you visit, you can watch Charlotte’s professional sports, including Carolina Panthers football and a Charlotte Bobcats basketball game.

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