It would be hard to pick a more fitting site for the North Carolina Transportation Museum. At one time, its web of train tracks and buildings served as the largest servicing facility for Southern Railway Company's steam locomotives. Today, it performs a different service: preserving an authentic slice of locomotive history, with some early planes and cars thrown in for good measure.
Richard Petty was a race car driver for more than 30 years, an epic career that earned him the nickname "The King" and a slot in NASCAR's Hall of Fame. His last race was in 1991, and he's now happily retired. But at Richard Petty Driving Experience, civilians can re-create his glory during race car rides of their own.
At NASCAR tracks around the country, Petty's eponymous company provides a broad spectrum of high-speed experiences. Amateurs can hop into the driver's seat of a streamlined, 600-horsepower race car and hit the track for as many as 50 laps. However, they can also opt for a ride-along, and enjoy speeds of up to 145 mph without the hassle of steering or hand-cranking the engine.
Unlike their mythical cousin, the velociraptor, modern-day raptors are real birds of prey that strike like death from the sky. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of these fearsome creatures, from eagles to owls, some of which can be seen up close and personal at one of the center's several live programs and tours. On a clear day, fortunate guests can catch a clear view of the resident raptor, Emma, a white barn owl taken under the wing of the center following a series of broken bones. Too fragile to survive in the wild, Emma now pitches in around the center, raising wildlife awareness and taloning up rogue litter.
Photographers, filmmakers, and fans of both art forms unite at the Light Factory, a buzzing cultural center on Charlotte's Central Avenue. Here, visionaries of all stripes have the chance to express their creativity amid the acclaimed?and oftentimes, infamous?images that line the gallery walls.?
In addition to attending events and gathering for exhibitions, folks interested in improving their own skills can enroll in the Light Factory's array of classes. During these sessions, students learn about black-and-white photography, portraiture, and how to handle DSLR cameras, which are especially difficult to house train.
Art bursts around every corner of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Swiss architect Mario Botta designed the intimate museum to showcase art in every arresting space and vista, including works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Max Ernst. The spiraling colors of the European perspective highlight the best of mid 20th-century modern art. The collection showcases the relationships the Bechtler family formed with the art community and the art that followed.
With live animals and hands-on activities, Charlotte Nature Museum has provided families, flora, and fauna a place to mingle for more than fifty years. Childlike adventurers can interact with Mother Earth through an ever-changing variety of interactive exhibits, such as Beginnings, where students assemble to fawn over baby chicks, mice, and tadpoles. Little lepidopterists can scurry through the Butterfly Pavilion, and miniature freshwater biologists can get a head start in Our Big Backyard, where they can splash around streams of water and explore secret tunnels, many of which eventually lead to natural science museums in China. Catch a showing of The Shadow Knows at the Dragonfly Theatre or chat with a naturalist about the museum’s eclectic array of plants and animals.