At what point does routine become your only reality? At what point do heart-pumping moments and scenes of indescribable beauty become locked away in memories? OK, maybe I am going a little overboard playing philosopher, but I blame it on my rapidly approaching 30th birthday. Certain milestones make you wonder: Am I living this short life to the fullest?
Inspired by this question, the Charlotte Bucket List was born. No, it's not about climbing Mount Everest. It's about finding simple, everyday beauty in this great city. Perhaps you are a young professional who hasn't truly experienced Charlotte aside from the bars, or a married couple with kids who struggles to best use baby-sitter time, or a retiree who hasn't thought of these places in decades. Whoever you are, make time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you in and around Charlotte. Here we go.
420 S. Tryon St. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Monday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.704-353-9200. $4-$8.
Grab the free headphones for historical info and check out some amazing pieces. Gaze at the whimsical "Project for a Monument to W.C. Fields," by Max Ernst, find meaning in Picasso's "Painter and His Model," or whisk to the '60s with Warhol's "Marilyn Monroe." Park across the street or take the light rail in to Stonewall.
1900 East Blvd. 704-432-4280. Free.
Here's nature tucked away in the middle of our city. Grab your bike, pack a lunch and come down through Princeton Street to enter the back of the park. Ride up to Queens Road West and enjoy the most beautiful tree canopy around. Veer right at East and right on Hopedale for a nice incline for those out-of-shape like me, then right on Queens and then back where you started. Stay on the inside and let cars pass you.
Bobcats / Checkers
Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. 704-688-9000. $10-$50 and up.
Ever wonder what watching gladiators in the Colosseum felt like? Go to a Cats or Checkers game. Not sure if you noticed, but we might have a playoff NBA team on our hands. Seeing Gerald Wallace and Rufus is worth the price. If you haven't been to a Checkers hockey game, you don't know what you're missing. Bring a camera, buy some peanuts and enjoy the show. Make a funny sign to hold up and get on TV.
I have a confession: I am now addicted to disc golf. It is the perfect combo of nature and sport on a budget. If you like golf, Frisbees, nature or being cheap, you will love this. Grab a disc from Infinity's End or Great Outdoor Provision Co. (get an $8 midrange to start) and go to the Web site above to find a course. Start at Kilborne Park or try the challenging Renaissance Park.
Victory Lane Indoor Carting
2330 Tipton Drive. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. most days. 704-373-9740. $20-50.
This is not what you are picturing, trust me. This version of carting is as close to actual racing as most of us will ever get. Helmets and fire suit are required and provided at the facility. A huge screen tracks your position and lap time midrace.
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
215 Southside Drive. Wednesday-Thursday 4-8 p.m., Friday 4-10 p.m., Saturday noon-6 p.m. 704-525-5644. $3.50/pint.
If you have ever read or watched "Beowulf," this is as close to the great mead hall Heorot as you will get. Enjoy the company of neighbors while you enjoy refreshing German-style beer and look upon the brewery vats it was just made in. You can buy a refillable growler to take home and enjoy.
511 E. 36th St. 704-358-9298. $10-$30.
This venue has character like no other. Maybe you have never gone to see a jam band before (or any of the other varieties of music there), but you will be blown away. Spend some extra time exploring through NoDa; there is quite a little culture of its own over there. Find your way to right in front of the stage and try out your dancing skills (don't worry, no one is watching you).
Price's Chicken Coop
614 Camden Road. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 704-333-9866. Quarter-chicken, $6.
This is the best fried chicken ever made. The menu includes delicious fixings and sweet tea, of course. Don't forget the hush puppies! Bring cash and obey the signs (don't talk on two-way radios while you order).
Crowders Mountain State Park
522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain.
For nature lovers, this is fun whether you're bundled up in winter or hiking in the summer. Crowders Trail to Backside Trail is challenging, but other options exist. Pack a lunch, bring a camera. There are 378 stairs to climb, then a breathtaking view of Charlotte at 40 miles away.
IMAX 3-D Theaters
7824 Rea Road or 8421 Concord Mills Blvd., www.fandango.com. $11-$15.
It is pretty amazing how far 3-D technology has come. There are two places to go see newer movies in IMAX 3-D: Regal Stonecrest or AMC Concord Mills. Sit in the exact middle or as close to it as you can. Eat before you come unless you are independently wealthy.