Heckler, a motivational speaker who twice lived in the North Carolina city, applauds civic leaders for revitalizing the downtown area and appreciates Charlotte’s friendly residents.
“Charlotte has many big-city qualities, while the people’s kindness and cordiality make it feel like a small town,” says Heckler, who lives in Gainesville, Fla.
Such warmth may rub off on convention-goers at the Time Warner Cable Arena and the Bank of America Stadium this week.
When not at those venues, convention-goers and other visitors seeking more Charlotte charm might want to consider USA TODAY’s travel suggestions.
The suggestions are based on recommendations from food guidebook publisher Zagat, Moon Travel Guides, TripAdvisor and USA TODAY’s panel of Road Warriors, some of the world’s most frequent business travelers who voluntarily provide information.
They include road warrior Brian Matos of Frisco, Texas, who has found that charm starts at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
“The wooden rocking chairs at the airport are a great spot to people watch,” says Matos, who works in the supply chain industry. “The lobby bar (First in Flight) with model planes circling overhead is another great people-watching spot, and you can get good sushi there.”
Road warrior Bill Clegg, who moved to Charlotte 19 years ago and flies out of the airport weekly, says security screening is efficient, Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport, and shuttle vehicles and ground transportation run smoothly.
He says there’s a choice of quality food at the airport. But “for a real taste of Charlotte,” he says, head for local restaurants.
Zagat selects Barrington’s, a cozy bistro in South Park, as the Charlotte restaurant with the best food.
“Chef-owner Bruce Moffett’s sublime culinary imagination yields just-plain-wow New American fare — starring gnocchi that’s better than sex,” Zagat and its reviewers rave.
The menu, which changes seasonally, has included such dishes as crispy fried quail with buttermilk sweet potato biscuits, and sesame-crusted halibut with corn and edamame succotash, bok choy and coconut-lobster curry sauce.
Other Zagat recommendations:
•For Italian food, the standouts are Luce, Toscana and Mama Ricotta’s.
•For outdoor dining, Toscana, Pewter Rose Bistro and Soul Gastrolounge are the best bets.
•For a quick bite, go to Bad Daddy’s for burgers, Mac’s Speed Shop for barbecued meats…
Read more: Gary Stoller, USA Today