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With its fortress-like skyscrapers and buttoned-up business district, North Carolina’s largest city looks a tad stuffy at first glance. But on weekends, it’s a different story – the Queen City knows how to play. Whitewater paddling, a roaring speedway and avant-garde museums testify to Charlotte’s wild side.

A more pious attraction is the popular Billy Graham Library, which honors the native son and revered evangelist. Inside this 40,000-acre complex, multimedia exhibits trace the pastor’s life. Things get splashier at the adrenaline-packed US National Whitewater Center, an adventure center and water park offering Class IV rapids on a man-made river. Need more speed? Catch a NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway outside town.

Refined thrills are found in Uptown, home to eye-catching decorative design at the Mint Museum and mid-century modern paintings at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The South’s post-Civil War history takes the spotlight at the glossy Levine Museum of the New South. After museum-hopping, head to Plaza-Midwood for fancy cocktails, inspired small plates and a dive bar or two.