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She helps people explore the city

As Betsy Gustafson's three sons were getting older, she decided to look for a part-time job.

"What would I enjoy doing," she thought to herself, and the answer was "talking about Charlotte."

Instead of a part-time position, Gustafson, 50, accepted a full-time position as a visitor information specialist uptown at the Visitor Info Center on South Tryon Street.

Gustafson is not a native Charlottean, but she has lived here for 25 years.

She enjoys keeping up to date on Charlotte's history and, for the past two years, sharing her knowledge with visitors. Gustafson is originally from Fayetteville, about three hours east of Charlotte, and currently lives in the Cottonwood neighborhood with her family.

Her favorite part of her job is interacting with people and introducing them to our city.

"We hear (from) people from all around the world and other parts of the country tell us how beautiful and how clean Charlotte is...," she said. When individuals or groups call the Visitor Info Center, Gustafson and her colleagues try to determine from where they hail and what their interests are.

"Some people from out west may not have seen a home dating to the late 1770s before, a plantation, or a Revolutionary War battleground,, so we could help direct them to areas of historic significance," said Gustafson.

"Some people have a particular interest in art, gardens, dining or shopping," she said. "Others may have young children, so we might suggest Imaginon, Discovery Place, Lazy Five Ranch, Ray's Splash Planet or a park."

Some visitors who have been sitting in conferences or offices for hours may want to seek outdoor adventure at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

Gustafson and her colleagues try to help visitors narrow their focus no matter the length of time they have in Charlotte. They also sell memorabilia and tickets to local events through Ticketmaster, such as those at Ovens Auditorium, Time Warner Cable Arena, NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Gustafson's personal "must-sees" based on her love of history are the Levine Museum of the New South and at least one of the four former plantation homes in the area: Hezekiah Alexander (the oldest home in Charlotte dating from 1774), Latta, Rosedale, or Brattonsville.

She loves that Latta Plantation sits on such a large property, "so a visitor really gets the feeling of plantation life," said Gustafson. "Latta is also located near the fascinating Carolina Raptor Center and an exquisite nature preserve complete with a lake, equestrian center, and sunset Segway tours."