Around Town

How a weekend in Washington, D.C. made me love Charlotte even more

When you run 13.1 miles in Washington, D.C., you see most of the city. (When you run 26.2, you see even more.) I had a lot of time to think while running the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. half marathon over the weekend. I thought mostly about D.C., how I’d never want to live there and how much it made me appreciate Charlotte.

Don’t get me wrong: D.C. is a really cool city. I’ve visited it several times for various reasons and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s a bustling city with a lot of energy, it has the beautiful monuments and architecture, and it’s teeming with young, passionate people.

But this trip reinforced the things I love about Charlotte. And I’m not just being a Charlotte cheerleader because I work for a Charlotte publication.

Sure, there are things that the Queen City could learn from our nation’s capital. I love the old buildings and character-filled neighborhoods of D.C. I’m a big fan of public transportation (though D.C.’s Metro doesn’t always have the best reputation …) and, of course, I loved how many bikers I saw.

I saw protected bike lanes on several busy roads; I saw people heavily using the city’s bike share (like our BCycle) and two friends we met up with in D.C. use bikes as their primary mode of transportation to get around the city.

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But all that — and even an MLS team — wasn’t enough to make me want to live in D.C. Why? Because it feels too cramped, too overwhelming, too impersonal and too hectic.

Charlotte has all of the things I want in a big city — professional sports, museums, arts, music, a national whitewater center, a pretty skyline — without feeling too much like a big city. It moves at a slightly slower pace. It’s not hard to get around the city (better transportation options would make it easier) and, if you live here long enough, it can start to feel like a small town where everyone knows most everyone else. I love that.

Charlotte’s full of passionate people looking for ways to make the city better — we write about them all the time.

Charlotte has funky neighborhoods with creatives and hippies and bros and everything in between.

Charlotte’s a young city, but it still has its own fascinating history — the Meck Dec, Captain James Jack, the Hornet’s Nest — even if you have to look a little harder to find it.

And, most importantly, because it’s a young city, the people here now have a chance to shape it for years to come.

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T. Ortega Gaines ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Plus, Charlotte has more breweries.

Photos: Ryan McDonough/Flickr; Zach Copley/Flickr; File photo.

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