PopulationMetro: 2,381,152
Affluent and easy to love for its southern charm, North Carolina’s biggest city is open for business and pleasure.

The Old South is up to new tricks in Charlotte, a global banking powerhouse (the second-most important in the U.S. after New York) and holder of the #23 spot in our ranking for U.S, Prosperity, including the nation’s 13-highest median household income among large cities.

Locals in the Queen City are smart, too; Charlotte ranks #14 in our post-secondary Educational Attainment subcategory. The prosperity is easily accessed and distributed, powered by Charlotte’s Top 10 ranking for Airport Connectivity.

People call their downtown Uptown, but the good news is that it’s all walkable. Beneath its bankerly surface, Charlotte offers unexpected attractions: the Nascar Hall of Fame, for instance, where you can trace the sport from its moonshine-running roots to today’s multi-billion dollar powerhouse. Glory Road is a banked ramp featuring historic cars and tracks, and racing simulators let you be a pitstop crew member, and to see the world from the drivers’ point of view.

Place 63
Product 37
Programming 10
People 52
Prosperity 59
Promotion 7

All that racing ‘round and ‘round builds a thirst, and Charlotte’s nightlife (#29 in the nation) offers lots of play space and time. Locals climb to Rooftop 210 for sunset views, and LGBTQ crowds sway at Cathode Azure. Of course there’s karaoke and Jeff’s Bucket Shop lets you butcher an ungodly catalogue of songs. For a less participatory evening, sidle up to the bar at new and buzzy craft brewery Wooden Robot to see sample the city’s small but mighty microbrew scene.

For a restaurant where you’ll find all 40,000 words of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, not to mention a fresh buttermilk biscuit with wild mushroom, asparagus and truffle cream, have brunch at 5Church, an almost West Coast riff on local cooking. Now that Charlotte city council has passed a so-called “brunch bill,” liquor can be served at 10 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon, so giddyup. A day here will have you understanding why the city’s ascendant Culinary ranking is a very solid #22.

Who says bankers don’t let their hair down?