Straighten up and fly right on Uptown's west side 

Eight things to do in FreeMore West before you die

33. Delay your death by taking a lesson at the Fencing Academy.

What do George Washington, Ezra Pound and Jimmy Buffett all have in common? They fenced. Be like one of these greats and take an introductory lesson or 10. Fencing Academy offers a one-on-one program of six lessons, ranging from 15 to 30 minutes, for $60. You've seen Zorro; we don't need to tell you how bad-ass you'd look as a master fencer. 1500 W. Morehead St. 980-237-3762.

34. Party at Scorpio like gay marriage is legal in North Carolina.

While we're waiting for conservatives to get off their high horse and legalize something that just makes common sense, spend a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday night at Scorpio. Having been in the biz for 45 years, this LGBT dance club — a staple on the Charlotte nightlife scene, gay or straight — does drag right. 2301 Freedom Drive. 704-373-9124.

35. Put life in perspective by watching the planes at the airport overlook.

There's nothing like staring out of a plane window as it ascends into the air to make you feel some way about life. Maybe that this world is so huge, too huge, and we're just tiny specks of nothing in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it's that no matter what you do, it's all out of your hands anyway. Replicate that same feeling of awe by heading to the Charlotte-Douglas Airport Overlook and watching the planes take off and land. There are picnic areas and benches, or you can gaze up from the comfort of your car.7300 Old Dowd Road. 704-359-4013.

36. Talk to someone who champions growth while preserving history, like Greg Auten.

Not only is longtime west-side resident Greg Auten a cool guy — the owner of Pinky's Westside Grill would have to be — but he knows all the noteworthy spots in FMW. When longtime places close, like Hartigan's, he takes it to heart — "We took a couple hits in the last year over here," he says. 1600 W. Morehead St. 704-332-0402.

37. Get messy at Bar-B-Q King.

While there's much debate on the right way to do barbecue, we won't go into that here. Instead, let's focus on the fact that the drive-in Bar-B-Q King has been around for more than 50 years. The meat is cooked here for 10 hours in an electric rotisserie with hickory wood to add flavor. On a recent episode of Food Rush on the LiveWell Network, chef Ryan Scott visits the restaurant, boasting, "That pork is so tender. I know why you guys have lines out the door. This is amazing." 2900 Wilkinson Blvd. 704-399-8344.

38. Discover the true definition of a neighborhood bar at The Westside Tavern.

While indeed biker-friendly, don't feel like you need a hog to check out this west-side bar. Good times range from karaoke on Friday nights to NASCAR viewing to pool tournaments. No glitz here, but you'll see all types, and the staff's pretty friendly. 3323 Avalon Ave. 704-398-8954.

39. Eat till you get sleepy with a home-cooked meal at Gardenia Restaurant.

Because there's nothing like a meal that tastes like your mama made it. Pro tip: If you go Friday night and get the turkey and dressing special, don't forget the cranberry sauce. 1019 Alleghany St. 704-399-4253.

40. Spark a true cultural exchange at LATIBAH Collard Green Museum.

Founder T'Afo Feimster reopened the LATIBAH (Life and Times in Black American History) Collard Green Museum in this warehouse district last spring, after storms flooded the NoDa location, damaging much of the collection. But never fear, the new digs are larger (and waterproof), and still an excellent place to see cutting-edge art and cultural programming unlike anywhere in Charlotte. 720 Tuckaseegee Road. 704-333-2426. (Emiene Wright)

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