The Panthers are one of the NFL’s younger franchises, having been founded in 1993 by Jerry Richardson and starting play in 1995 at Clemson University before moving into their new home at Ericsson Stadium (now known as Bank of America Stadium) in Charlotte, N.C. for the 1996 season. The Panthers got off to a hot start as a new franchise, making the NFC Championship game in 1996, but have had up-and-down years since entering the league. (The Panthers still do not have back-to-back winning seasons, despite playing in the Super Bowl twice and winning the NFC South three consecutive times from 2013-2015.)
Charlotte sits near the North-South Carolina border and has a small-town charm despite being the most populous city in the state of North Carolina, and it’s filled with a booming metropolitan area that’s home to the second-largest banking center in the U.S. (The headquarters of Bank of America and Truist Financial, and the east coast headquarters of Wells Fargo are located in Charlotte.) The Panthers have leaned into the closeness of Charlotte to the state line with the motto ‘Two States, One Team’, which is also a call back to the team’s inaugural season in Clemson.
What to Eat
Sweet Lew’s BBQ
If you come to North Carolina for any reason, it’s a state law that you must consume barbecue while you’re here (OK, it’s not actually a law, but it should be). One great location to grab some quality BBQ is Sweet Lew’s, an all-wood smoked barbecue restaurant serving pulled pork, brisket, ribs, smoked chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, boiled potatoes, baked beans, Brunswick stew, and dessert. Beer, wine and cocktails are also available. The restaurant is located in a renovated auto repair shop on Belmont Avenue in Charlotte and is open from 11a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
River’s Edge is located at the U.S. National Whitewater Center and is a full service dining option featuring a wide selection of food, beer, and wine. Guests can choose between dining inside or out on the patio overlooking the park’s man-made whitewater river. Guests can enjoy quality food such as pulled pork nachos, fried pickles, southern fried chicken sandwiches and typical American restaurant fare (burgers, fries, etc.).
Biggest tourist attraction
Carowinds is a 407-acre amusement park located just off I-77 in Charlotte, N.C. and sits on the North-South Carolina state line, with half the park located in each state. The Park has been open in the Carolinas since 1973 and is the home of the Fury 325 giga coaster. The 325 in the coaster’s name refers to the maximum height of the ride, which makes it the fifth-tallest roller coaster in the world (and the tallest that uses a chain-lift system). Riders of the Fury experience speeds of up to 95 mph, and it is regarded as one of the best steel roller coasters in the world.
Carowinds sponsors an annual Halloween-themed attraction called SCarowinds, which is presented on select nights in September and October, as well as the first weekend in November. If you’re coming to Charlotte for a Panthers game when SCarowinds is at the park, it’s definitely worth the trip to the park for a unique experience.
Under the radar attraction
U.S. National Whitewater Center
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is a not-for-profit outdoor recreation and athletic training facility for whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and ice skating that opened to the public in 2006. It’s located in Charlotte, N.C. on approximately 1,300 acres of land adjacent to the Catawba River, with more than 45 miles (72 kilometers) of developed trail. The Center’s primary feature is the world’s largest and most complex recirculating artificial whitewater river.
Game day experience
Parking is mostly privately owned lots and garages surrounding the stadium, and fans attending a game should expect to pay an average of $10-$40 depending on distance. For ease of exiting the stadium area, it’s recommended to park on the northerly side near Graham Street. Another great option is to use the light rail, where you can park and ride from one of many stations outside uptown and take the train into the game.
The tailgate scene at Bank of America Stadium is really good, and even if you don’t bring your own big spread, it’s easy to make friends and join another group. Bojangles is a popular choice for fans on game day. There are also several open air bars in the stadium vicinity that throw game day festivities.
A few helpful tips are 1) to know what gate you should enter the stadium to best get to your seat, 2) you should plan to arrive at the stadium a half-hour before any game so you don’t miss kick off and 3) if you’re coming from I-85 and leaving going north, you should take Graham Street instead of trying to get on the highway right by the stadium.