The Ultimate Guide To #CIAA

updated Jan 2018

What is CIAA?

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) was founded in 1912 as the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association and is the oldest African-American athletic conference in the nation. It is a NCAA Division II conference, where once a year there is a CIAA Basketball Tournament. Outside of the tournament the week is filled with events including parties, numerous educational and healthy-livings components, step shows and a battle of the bands. The men’s and women’s tournament championship games are on Saturday night.

The CIAA is comprised of the the following Black Colleges and Universities:

 More than likely when you hear someone referring to going to CIAA, it is regarding the tournament and the events. The rest of the article will refer to the tournament and events as CIAA (say C I Double A).

Where and When is CIAA?

Currently, it is held in Charlotte each year around late Feb/Early March. Over 100K people attend and it brings in over 50 Million in spend to Charlotte.

Where Should You Stay?

 Book your hotel EARLY (6+ months in advance). Some people book their hotel as soon as the previous year’s CIAA is over so the earlier the better. If you can afford it stay in the Uptown area/Epicentre. If not South Charlotte by the airport may be the next best thing.  Avoid areas like West Blvd and Albermarle road. CIAA offers a discount on a block of rooms but they must be reserved early. If you’re looking to stay in an Airbnb you can receive $40 off your first stay. 

Cheap 4 Star Hotels in Charlotte 

What Is There To Do?

  • ATTEND A GAME: Although this is a basketball tournament it is important to know not many people go to the games (BIG PROBLEM) and the majority of the attendees have no ties to CIAA schools .  If you want to go it’s easy to score free tickets from giveaways at the convention center.  PLEASE TRY TO support the games, the reason for the events! Click to Purchase Tickets for the basketball games held at Bojangles Coliseum and Spectrum Center. At home you can watch the 2017 games on the Aspire channel.
  • Check out a free concert, vendors and celebrity meet and greets at the Toyata Fan Fest in the Convention Center. This is a free event and takes place Thursday-Sunday of the Tournament. Click here for the official schedule.
  • Attend the Career Expo: If you’re a recent graduate or current student of  a CIAA school. Meet with prospective employers and graduate schools.
  • Step Shows
  • If the party scene is your thing the following will help you survive CIAA:
    •    Day parties are better than the night parties, always (especially Friday)! You can pay in advance for a day party or try to take part of free entry that starts at around 12pm, if you do free early admission be prepared to wait for the party to get good around 3pm. Check out frequently updated list of the parties.

  • For best ticket prices to parties buy in January or ASAP to avoid paying ridiculous prices. Even though you have a ticket still try to get to the party early to avoid lines unless you have a table. Please don’t go broke trying to impress a potential CIAA boo, you probably won’t hear from them after CIAA. :/

Read: How To Travel and Not Accumulate Debt

  • If you must attend a celebrity hosted party, verify the celeb is actually going to be there through Instagram or Twitter. There will be TONS of false advertisements for celeb hosted parties.
  •  Uptown is where all the action happens on College Street there is cheap parking behind Ruth Chris on Tryon Street, you can walk over to the action and avoid gridlocked College Street. Stick to parties that are uptown. Harris Blvd., Sugar creek and Albemarle are not where you want to be!  You could also park in Southend catch the Charlotte Light Rail, Lynx  and Uber back to your car if late.

Bonus: Claim$5 of your first 4 Uber Rides


  • Beware of fly by night promoters that pop up during CIAA. I made a mistake of purchasing from a promoter/group I never heard of for a 2 Chainz event under a Tent (hosted by Kenny Johnson, One Productions and Face Jay and the Tent). The event ended up overselling plus they let in more people who had free before a certain time tickets than those purchased.  I lost $45!  Trusted local promoters: King Entertainment, Moxie Society, A-List Entetainment, Eddietainment, Sol Kitchen and Floyd Hodge/Get Live Entertainment.
  •  Be prepared to see some of the MOST interesting fashion you have seen in your life. Just accept it snap a picture (or not) and move on lol.
  • CIAA is not an accurate depiction of how Charlotte really is, so don’t start planning your move to Charlotte based on CIAA.
  • If you are just looking for food after the party, there are breakfast after parties or you can go to the Diner on Tryon, but get there before the parties end, line can be extremely long.  Check out of my picks for restaurant options for Charlotte.
  • Hotel Venues and non-traditional club/bar venues tend to have a limited alcohol selection for parties. 
  •  In the market for a Cat Daddy? There will not be a shortage at CIAA. Good luck and beware lol


  • The police are out in full force for this event. There are a ton of police checks so don’t drink and drive (ever)!

Bonus: Claim$5 of your first 4 Uber Rides

  • If you can’t get into a party or partying on a budget, hang outside in the Epicentre.
  • Download the new mobile app for CIAA to keep up with the games and sponsored events!

As you can see there is a lot to do and people look forward to the week filled with events. What is your favorite thing about CIAA? What do you look forward to? Comment below!


Pin The Knowledge!

A quick guide to navigating through the CIAA Basketball Tournament and Events!

Join Our Mailing List & Receive Access To The Best Travel Discounts!

* indicates required

Powered by MailChimp

Kim H.

Kim H. is the creator and chief editor for Work Hard Travel Well. Born and raised in College Park, Ga. She is a true "FILA" :) and UGA Alumna. Go Dawgs!