Charlotte is a modern urban and financial center grown up dramatically from its previous agricultural and regional banking roots. Today the city is reputedly the headquarters for more banks than any city outside New York, and is the home to such financial heavyweights as BankAmerica and Wachovia, as well as Lowe’s (home improvement retail) and specialty steel maker Nucor. A diverse commercial and industrial economy has developed around the financial industry. Downtown is a mix of contemporary skyscraper architecture and a number of well-preserved 19th-century neighborhoods.
Charlotte isn’t a world-class entertainment center – yet -- but the city has a good collection of museums, shopping options, and especially sports teams. The city is home to the Carolina Panthers NFL team and was able to defy sports tradition by actually replacing a professional sports franchise it lost, the Charlotte Hornets NBA team (now the Bobcats). There is an active NASCAR racing circuit in the area, centered in the otherwise ordinary Concord 20 miles northeast. The city has modern transportation amenities and even a few direct flights to Europe. Growth-related urban sprawl and related traffic problems are moderate to severe.
Most attractive neighborhoods lie to the south towards the I-485 beltway, with attractive Southern-style homes cut into wooded lots, many on golf courses, being a common find. Gastonia, 20 miles west, returns to the old South, with decrepit old mills and a largely failed downtown area. Although climate, low costs, and familiar jobs make the he area is a favorite for Northeast migrants, the Charlotte area blends the New South with southern-style friendliness, and it has its share of “new south workaholics. These migrations have dramatically increased the area’s diversity and reputation as a cosmopolitan center.
This city complex sits in the Carolina Piedmont, a transitional area of rolling country between the mountains to the west and the Coastal Plain to the east. The mountains to the northwest moderate winter temperatures by blocking and warming cold northwest winds. The ocean is too far away to cool summer temperatures but does supply some warmth in winter. Summers are warm, with days over 90 degrees, while winters are cool. Temperatures fall as low as freezing about 1 in 2 winter days. Winter weather is changeable, with occasional cold periods, but extreme cold is rare. Snow and snow accumulation are infrequent. Late summer and fall hurricanes can produce substantial rainfall but seldom damaging winds.