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Feast Food Tours
Sea Life Aquarium
Wales Cooking Classes
U.S. National Whitewater Center

Ritz-Carlton | Charlotte, NC



Urban Harvest

Don’t you just love it when life offers you upscale, downtown and agritourism rolled up into one glorious adventure? We do, too. The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte has introduced Urban Agritourism as one perfect, sustainable getaway. Someone has the heart of a farmer here, and you can plan a weekend getaway that will entertain, educate and fill your tummy with hyper-locally sourced cuisine.

In the heart of downtown Charlotte, this LEED® gold certified hotel already had a green roof with 10,000 plants and two beehives. (Make sure you grab a taste of their very popular honey pecan gelato during their ice cream socials.) Now, they’re going farther. The new rooftop garden is amazingly prolific, and guests can take advantage of the bounty through the lobby farmer’s market (and yes, you can take the produce home – on-site consumption not required). Guests will eat, feel and smell the benefits of the garden, with harvests hand-ferried to the chefs, mixologists, and the spa. Check out Bar Cocoa’s Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato – another winner. Note: The hotel’s 15th floor Punch Room has six new libations for your tasting pleasure, presented in a beautifully appointed environment.

Urban Agritourism experiences include:

An expanded garden, which you can visit as a hotel guest; New culinary gardens near the front entrance – sure to inspire green-thumb efforts back home; The lobby farmers market for your agri-shopping. Even if you’re not a guest, passersby are invited to snip a little something to take home for cooking or mixing; Guided tours of Charlotte’s vibrant market and garden scene (the hotel’s bike valet is there to help); Cooking classes: “Live like a local”; Plant life and conservation experiences for the younger guests, via the green wagon; And more. Your room is spectacular as well as your service. This is a AAA Five-Diamond hotel property, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect.

WOW Factor: We do not live by greens alone. That’s why you can also sign up for a cooking class at the on-site Cocoa Lab. Now wouldn’t you really love to learn how to make the perfect chocolate soufflé? Or, you can buy luscious goodies at Bar Cocoa. Macarons, anyone?

Hint: Talk with the professionals at the Ritz-Carlton to discover what’s happening, and when. Much is happening here, even if you never leave the hotel.

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Photo: The Ritz-Carlton | Charlotte NC


Feast Food Tours | Charlotte, NC



First, we found them on Trip Advisor. Then, they surfaced in travel blogs, Southern Living and even HuffPost Lifestyle from the UK. We were intrigued. And we investigated further. And now, we’re eager to share what we’ve learned.

Feast Food Tours offers Charlotte neighborhood Walking Food Tours. It’s the brainchild of owner/tour guide Kristi Martin, who describes her interests as wine tastings and beer samplings, following restaurant openings and food fads, taking cooking classes, reading food blogs, watching Top Chef, stalking kitchen supply stores, shopping at farmer’s markets, and having (an ever-growing) stack of cookbooks! Folks who’ve enjoyed her tours describe her as amazing, a great hostess, knowledgeable, organized, and fabulous fun.

The Soul of the South Uptown tour takes you to restaurants and introduces you to chefs with a passion for their own Southern heritage. You’ll learn how they source the freshest ingredients and what farm-to-table means to them. Along the way you’ll sip and savor, definitely learning about Charlotte and sampling great cuisine that will draw you back, without a doubt.

WOW Factor: Choose from Unwind & Dine in the historic South End, or perhaps Dishes and Delights of Dilworth, where you can immerse yourself in Charlotte’s first streetcar neighborhood with its variety of culinary entrepreneurs. What about trying Local Flavors of Historic NoDa (North Davidson arts district), and new tours covering other Charlotte locations. In other words, she’s got your personal taste preferences covered.

Hint: It is a walking tour, so dress accordingly. Start the tour hungry – you won’t end that way. Expect to learn about Charlotte’s vibrant food culture and its fascinating history. Explore different areas and neighborhoods to find what fits your soul. (Thinking of moving to Charlotte? No better way to learn the city. Take all their tours while you’re deciding where to live.)

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Sea Life Aquarium | Charlotte, NC



You can visit a magnificent Sea Life Aquarium at one of 35 locations and 12 countries worldwide. Fortunately, we’ve finally got one in our own backyard – the only Sea Life in the U.S. east of the Mississippi.

It’s new, it’s fresh and it’s brimming (literally) with more than 5,000 sea creatures including sharks, jellyfish, rays, seahorses and fish of all kinds. This experience is perfect for families. Children will delight in the underwater tunnel when sharks and rays swim languidly overhead. They’ll also be able to hold a crab, or touch a starfish (carefully). The older folks will have just as much fun, with the family, or sans little ones. There are interesting, informative talks by experts, feed shows throughout the day, and 150,000 gallons of water featured in more than 20 displays.

It’s a good time, for sure, but even more important, along the way, visitors will learn how to make the oceans a better place through their “Breed. Rescue. Protect” Conservation Program. Everything they do is about celebrating the sea and its inhabitants. You’ll love the experience and want to return again and again.

WOW Factor: Their independent charity, The Sea Life Marine Conservation Trust rescues hundreds of sick and injured seals and turtles each year, rehabilitating and returning them to the wild. They organize beach clean-ups across the globe (trust me, you’ll never thoughtlessly toss a piece of trash into the water again), and they’ve been known to rescue other creatures who need their help, including dolphins and Minke Whales. They are pioneers in the field of seahorse breeding. Sometimes, they provide homes for damaged or disabled creatures who cannot be returned to the wild. They promise to always be involved in our watery world, which makes your visit even more memorable.

Hint: Prices are $17/person, and hours are Mon-Sat, 10am-9pm; and Sundays from 12 noon to 7pm (last admission, one hour before closing, but please, allow more time than that for your visit). And finally, make sure you see the highly intelligent Giant Pacific Octopus, whose span can reach seven feet. Impressive!

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Wales Cooking Classes | Charlotte, NC



OK, so maybe you don’t envision yourself as the next Food TV star. That’s a lot more work than it seems. But perhaps you’d like to expand your cooking repertoire, or learn culinary techniques that seem unfathomable. We’ve got the plan.

Johnson & Wales University offers Chef’s Choice Recreational Cooking Classes, and with a campus in Charlotte, you can plan a fun visit and add a new skill at the same time. They invite novices as well as serious amateurs – and everyone in between. Professional chef-instructors must stay awake at night thinking of great themes and cool ideas, because the roster of classes sounds like pure fun for a girlfriends’ weekend, a romantic adventure, or a solo expedition.

For example, holiday offerings include Twisted Thanksgiving, Holiday Entrees with Style, Champagne Brunch, and Deep Fried and Proud of It! What about Homemade Dairy, Little Havana, or a Taste of Spain? The selections offer a culinary world tour, as well as basic skills that will impress even your mother-in-law.

WOW Factor: Being in the company of fabulous chefs is a bit awe-inspiring. Having fun while you learn something new is ultimately satisfying. Showing off for family and friends? That’s nothing short of priceless!

Hint: Classes are addictive and fill up very quickly. You may have to haunt the website to reserve a place before others grab their seats.

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Email Patricia DelBello at


U.S. National Whitewater Center | Charlotte, NC



Looking for adventure? The world’s largest man-made recirculating river will provide the thrills you seek – in a controlled environment. With 400 acres of woodlands just minutes from downtown Charlotte, the USNWC features an environment for families and friends to play outside. With something for all ages, it’s an adventure that will draw you back, time after time.

Whitewater enthusiasts of all skill levels can choose between Family Rafting (ideal for youngsters) with Class ll and lll rapids. Adventure Rafting introduces a bit more excitement, with Class ll, lll and lV rapids. And Rodeo Rafting offers the biggest thrill of all, with aggressive drops, technical turns and extreme thrills (and a professional guide to help maneuver). There’s also kayaking for both flatwater and whitewater.

Dry land lovers have choices, too. Adrenalin junkies may want to test their nerve on the Mega Jump (you go first), where you step off a 46-foot Mega Tower and experience a controlled free fall. They promise a gentle landing, courtesy of the POWERFAN ® assisted free fall system that was pioneered in the film industry. Or, test your physical and mental strength on the ropes and plank bridges of the Adventure Course, an aerial obstacle course 20 feet high, in the trees along Adventure Ridge.

WOW Factor: So many thrills – yours for the taking. Visit once and you may want to play it safe. However, after watching more heart-pumping activities, you may decide to up your game. You will have fun, whether with family, friends, or your significant other.

Hint: Weather is a factor, so check out the skies before you arrive. Go online to look over the many activities not described here. With 14 miles of trails, you may decide to include walking, and perhaps a picnic, although a lovely restaurant is on the premises. Let us know what you think. Perhaps we’ll get the nerve to try that Mega Jump – someday.

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