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Things to do in Charlotte and Raleigh

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    An exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

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    iRacing Simulators at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Sean Busher and NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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    Historic Yates MillCourtesy of GRCVB/visitRaleigh.com

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    The Museum Park at the N.C. Museum of Art.Courtesy of GRCVB/visitRaleigh.com

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    July 17, 2012: Visitors walk past "Charlotte" signs at The Green park.AP

North Carolina's two most populous cities offer plenty of fun activities for visitors of all ages. Raleigh has garnered a number of accolades in the last few years and has been named one of the top places to live in the United States. In addition to being the second largest banking center in the country, Charlotte is also known for its race cars and Southern charm. According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, 60 percent of the population of the United States lives within a two hour flight to Charlotte. The International Gateway to the South and North Carolina's capital city lie about three hours apart. From basketball rivalries to Rembrandt exhibits, here are some of Charlotte and Raleigh's must-see sites.

Sports
Fans of North Carolina-based teams and NASCAR, can take part in the action in Charlotte and Raleigh.The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in Charlotte in May 2010 and is the place to go for more than 50 hands-on exhibits related to NASCAR's history and heritage. Hear the roar of the engines firsthand and see the Bank of America 500 race in October or the NASCAR Sprint All-Star in May. If racing isn’t your thing, you can watch NBA legend Michael Jordon’s Charlotte Bobcats play at the Time Warner Cable Arena or stop by Bank of America Stadium for a Carolina Panthers game. The Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament and college football’s Big East versus Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Belk Bowl also take place in Charlotte.Raleigh is part of Research Triangle Park, which is located between the city’s own North Carolina State University, Duke University in Durham and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Not only is the park home to more than 170 global companies, the Triangle has some of the fiercest rivalries in the NCAA, such as UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State, which are all members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Heritage
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority website has a map for a self-guided walking tour to help you get a taste of everything that uptown Charlotte has to offer. Highlights include the historic Dunhill Hotel, the Green, a 1.5-acre downtown park, and Transamerica Square. While in Raleigh, you can take a walk through history with the Raleigh Heritage Trail. Visit the North Carolina State Capitol, which has been restored to its early appearance, and Historic Yates Mill County Park, which includes Wake County's only water-powered gristmill.

Museums
Charlotte boasts some colorful and cool museums. The Levine Museum of the New South focuses on the people and culture of the post-Civil War south. The Levine Center for the Arts is home to the Mint Museum Uptown as well as the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.  Discovery Place, a hands-on science center, is a favorite among kids of all ages. Raleigh has been called the “Smithsonian of the South” because of its many museums. The North Carolina Museum of Art recently displayed “Rembrandt in America,” which, according to its website, was the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings presented in an American exhibition. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the largest natural history museum in the Southeast, and the North Carolina Museum of History both offer free admission but charge extra for admittance to some special exhibits.