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Charlotte, NC (Population: 664,342)

Charlotte, with an estimated population of 664,342, is the largest city in North Carolina and the 18th largest in the United States. The area of the city has been the site of many significant events throughout it's 300 year history. It was first the intersection of two American Indian trading routes, later the site of an encampment for both American and British armies that saw many bloody skirmishes, which earned one of its nicknames of "Hornet's Nest" from a frustrated Lord General Charles Cornwallis. Other nicknames include "Queen City," "The City of Trees," and "The City of Churches."

In 1799, the first verified gold deposits were found, which gave rise to a lively and profitable beginning for the new city. North Carolina led the nation in gold production until the California Gold Rush of 1848. People still pan for gold in rural streams and tourist areas throughout the state. The first coin mint was located in Charlotte and remains as the Mint Museum of Art.

Today, Charlotte is the Southeast's financial and IT hub, driven by the city's banking and information technology industries. The banking industry of Charlotte found significant recognition in the 1970s and 1980s. Bank of America and Wacovia helped to make Charlotte the second largest banking headquarters in the United States, second only to New York City. Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Charlotte metropolitan area are Duke Energy, Family Dollar, Lowe's, Sonic Automotive, and SPX Corporaton. Major corporations also calling the city and surrounding areas home include Belk, Harris Teeter, Meineke Car Care Centers, LendingTree, Carlisle Companies, Food Lion, Time Warner Cable, and Bojangles.

Charlotte is home to the NFL's Carolina Panthers, and its second NBA expansion team named the Charlotte Bobcats. The team plays in the Charlotte Bobcats Arena, which opened in the fall of 2005 in downtown Charlotte. Charlotte is also the central home of NASCAR, housing multiple offices and the Lowe's Motor Speedway. Approximately 75% of the industry's employees and drivers are based within two hours of downtown Charlotte. Charlotte is also the future home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, expected to be completed in 2009.

Colleges and universities in the area are the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Johnson & Wales University, Kings College, Central Piedmont Community College, Pfeiffer University at Charlotte, and Johnson C. Smith University.

Charlotte's sites of interest in the area provide event venues, collections of art and history, music, dance and theater performances, amusement parks, sporting events, and nature exhibits. Some of these can be found at the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Bank of America Stadium, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Centre, the Charlotte Convention Center, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's Botanical Gardens, the Levine Museum of the New South, the Carolina Raptor Center, and Paramount's Carowinds, to name only a few.