US + Canada

Published on January 2nd, 2015 | by Steve Hanley

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Charlotte Is America’s Motor Sports Capitol

NASCAR 2

Are you a NASCAR race fan? While it’s fun to go to the races and watch the cars on track, it’s almost as much fun to visit the race shops where the cars are made and see them being built. Many of the top NASCAR teams have their race facilities in the Charlotte, North Carolina area and most are open to the public.

These are not some old wooden garages with greasy tools scattered about. You won’t find any mechanics in oil stained T shirts, either. These are multi-million dollar, state of the art, air conditioned manufacturing facilities where only the best minds in racing get to work their magic. Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing are located just outside downtown Charlotte. Like most race shops, each has a public viewing gallery where visitors can watch new cars being built or existing cars being repaired.

Roush Fenway Racing  and Hendrick Motorsports also make their home in the Charlotte area. Charlotte Motor Speedway is near the city, too, and welcomes campers on race weekends.  Fans can get an exciting behind the scenes tour or ride around the track in a real race car. Just remember that all these organizations are concerned with racing first, last and always, so call ahead to make sure the Welcome sign will be out when you arrive.

What else is there to do in Charlotte? Quite a lot, actually.

Just across the street from Hendrick Motorsports is the 200 store Concord Mills mall featuring outlet stores from the world’s major manufacturers. Or spend the day at the Carowinds amusement park, home of the most thrilling roller coaster ride in America. In downtown Charlotte, visit the North Davidson Street area, known to the locals as NoDa. That’s where you will find art museums and pubs offering hand crafted beer.

15 miles north of Charlotte is Lake Norman, the largest man made lake in the US. Many of NASCAR’s stars own homes along its more then 500 miles of coastline. You can rent a jet ski or pontoon boat and go exploring the hundreds of coves and inlets. Or tie up to the dock at the Rusty Rudder restaurant for great food and drinks on a deck overlooking the lake.

Lake Norman is home to a large number of restored wooden boats. Stop in at Cruss’n Classics in Mooresville and chat with the owners about their latest restoration project.

Before you leave Charlotte, go outside at the US National Whitewater Center, which has 700 acres of outdoor activities for all ages and skill levels. Guests can enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking, flat water kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour, and mountain biking on our 25+ mile trail system.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff to do. You might have to plan two trips to Charlotte to fit it all in!

Photos: Joe Gibbs Racing, Rusty Rudder, Crusse’n Classics, USNWC.

Jody Austin contributed to this story.



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About the Author

Steve Hanley is a travel writer living in Rhode Island. I have traveled throughout the United States as well as Australia, Hong Kong, Europe and the Caribbean. I write about travel, automobiles and sustainability. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.



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