So many choices!
This road trip is a bit different from most. The sheer size of Charlotte means visitors can have a myriad of experiences, and we're offering ideas to start your exploration.
Instead of suggesting this bistro for lunch, or that boutique for shopping, we're offering our best information on spectacular ways to enjoy this great city. During your visit, should you find more great destinations, let us know and we'll add them to an ever-growing list of what to see and do in Charlotte.
Seated just above the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, Charlotte is known as the Queen City for good reason. In terms of sheer size, she reigns supreme over the region. Many folks who work in Charlotte live in South Carolina, and others have populated bedroom communities north of this international metropolis.
For our purposes, let's take a close look at what can be done over a long weekend or mid-week getaway.
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SPENDING THE NIGHT
With a city this large (the nation’s 16th largest, drawing 7.4 million to settle within a 100-mile radius), you'll need to carve out your preferred prowling area. There are hundreds of hotels and inns to choose from, but our sources tell us to consider these:
The VanLandingham Estate in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood was built in 1913 and has beautiful gardens. It's a 15-minute walk (or three-minute drive) to Central Avenue shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs; a five-minute drive to the historic arts district NoDa; and a 10-minute drive to Center City. Located near Uptown.
Restaurants nearby include Dish, Soul Gastrolounge, Fuel Pizza and Bistro La Bon.
The Duke Mansion in the Myers Park neighborhood was formerly owned by James B. Duke and now operates as a nonprofit. It's a five-minute drive to the Dilworth/East Blvd. area and Freedom Park; a 10-minute drive to the South End neighborhood; and a five-minute drive to Center City.
Restaurants nearby include Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, 300 East, Copper, Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill, and Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar.
One reviewer had this to say: "Historic architecture enthusiasts who appreciate traditional décor will love the Mansion. It's like taking a step back in time with rooms of varying size and really comfortable beds. Try to stay in one of the rooms with a screen porch/balcony. Enjoy your coffee on the porch while looking at the amazing craftsmanship of the house. They just don't build homes like this anymore."
Included in your room rate is a delicious hot breakfast (try the bacon!), and the staff is very helpful and friendly. Plus, any proceeds go toward the preservation of this historic gem, so you feel good about the money you spend on staying here. Located near Uptown.
The Dunhill Hotel is also an option if you're looking for historic accommodations. It's in the center of Uptown and has a long history with Charlotte.
Restaurants nearby include Haymaker, The King's Kitchen, 5Church, Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina, Essex Bar & Bistro, Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen, Aria Tuscan Grill and Amelie's French Bakery.
For green enthusiasts, The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is located within easy walking distance of NBA games, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Discovery Place Science, Levine Center for the Arts and many entertainment options, among a host of other delectable choices.
LEED® Gold certified, The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte features outstanding dining choices, dramatic skyline views, a penthouse Spa & Wellness Center (with a new salt spa), generously scaled guest rooms, and a commitment to sustainable luxury travel rarely seen in a contemporary urban hotel. In addition to having a AAA five-diamond rating for seven years running, the hotel is also included numerous times on Travel + Leisure World’s Best list.
SETTLED AND READY FOR FUN
As you move around, you’ll notice that new homes are joining those built years ago in these woodsy and inviting neighborhoods. Charlotte has its share of mansions as well. For now, you’ve got decisions to make. What will it be? Arts and Entertainment? Sports? Shopping? Perhaps a mélange of all three?
Let us help you get started.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
The oldest art museum in North Carolina, The Mint Museum also houses one of the largest collections in the Southeast. The nonprofit visual arts institution is composed of two dynamic facilities: Mint Museum Uptown and Mint Museum Randolph. Both offer visitors inspiring and transformative experiences through art from around the world.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is a piece of art in itself, only the second in this country to be designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. It is intimate in scale, delightfully arresting in its spaces and vistas, and simple and elegant in its materials.
The collection presented includes works by the most important and influential artists of the mid-20th century including Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Barbara Hepworth, Nicholson, Warhol, Tinguely, Ernst, Le Corbusier, Chillida and many others. Only a handful of these wonderful artworks have been on public view in the United States. The collection was originally privately held by the Bechler family of Switzerland.
The Levine Museum of the New South draws history lovers. “The New South” refers to the Southern people and places that have thrived since 1865. This interactive history museum provides the nation with the most comprehensive interpretation of the region’s post-Civil War society. Men, women and children, black and white, rich and poor, longtime residents and newcomers have shaped the South since the Civil War. (Don’t miss the museum’s hallmark exhibit, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers.”)
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture features a magnificent permanent collection as well as a variety of exhibitions showcasing the work of important artists and creative minds.
LET THEM ENTERTAIN YOU
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is home to a number of outstanding arts organizations including Opera Carolina, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Community School of the Arts, Charlotte Ballet, On Q Productions, Studio 345 and Caroline Calouche & Company. Throughout the year, theater-goers enjoy the best of dance, opera and symphony, as well as top-rated Broadway shows, plays, music acts and more.
Bojangles' Coliseum is home to the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers. If hockey’s not your sport, there are great shows held there throughout the year, including world tours by musical groups such as The Backstreet Boys and notable comedy acts and entertainment.
Ovens Auditorium is adjacent to Bojangles' Coliseum and has great events as well, including Broadway touring shows, comedy acts, and Dancing with the Stars live tour.
CERTIFIED KID FRIENDLY!
If you have children with you, take time to visit educationally driven Discovery Place Science. The exploratory science museum shows kids (and their chaperones) how science and nature connect to daily life. Your little ones will be thrilled by the fun as they learn.
In the "Project Build" exhibit, visitors unleash their inner architects to illustrate and conceptualize. They create building sketches, develop floor plans, and design functional and useful buildings through computer-generated programs. A state-of-the-art Microsoft surface table demonstrates how redesign can lead to new ideas by mixing and matching of art and design from different periods.
Visitors young and old can challenge their creativity with the immensely popular “Build It!” blocks, as well as view impressive models of architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower, Transamerica Pyramid and the Temple of Kukulcan.
Guests also gain appreciation for an understanding of biodiversity in the hands-on lab presented in the “Explore More Life Lab” exhibit.
Also, consider ImaginOn, The Joe and Joan Martin Center, where a marvelous collaboration between the Children's Theatre of Charlotte and Charlotte Mecklenburg lets imaginations soar. At ImaginOn, young people learn in many ways, through all five senses and "from the page to the stage." It is the launching pad for remarkable journeys and endless possibilities.
For families and friends, the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) is a favorite year round. The USNWC’s 1,300 acres offer a wide variety of outdoor activities for all ages and skill levels. Guests can enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour, and mountain biking on their 30+ mile trail system. It’s home to the largest man-made whitewater river in the world. Also, they have the first permanent Deep Water Solo Climbing complex in the world.
Throughout the year, the Whitewater Race Series challenges participants through various competitions in different sports including trail running, kayaking, mountain biking, triathlons, ultra-marathons and more.
THE THRILL OF SPORTS
Throughout the year, sports fans will find games, games, games. The Charlotte Hornets provide NBA basketball thrills at Spectrum Center, the NFL Carolina Panthers dominate the football field at Bank of America Stadium, and the Charlotte Checkers provide hockey excitement at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
Minor league baseball offers summertime fun with the Charlotte Knights; the Charlotte Independence team kicks Charlotte soccer into high gear; and the Charlotte Hounds serve up Major League Lacrosse competition. NASCAR races are also held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the fantastic NASCAR Hall of Fame offers year-round interactive racing excitement.
For those who like to play more than watch, golf is legendary in Charlotte and points north. (Case in point: The city hosted the 2017 PGA Championship.) Peruse Charlotte Golf for inspiration on the links; there are dozens of beautiful public courses. Charlotte is also home to the Quail Hollow Club, which hosts the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament each May.
One strong suggestion for those seeking great golf and luxurious surroundings is The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. A member of The Luxury Collection by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, it’s a Forbes four-star and AAA four-diamond recognized hotel. Guests enjoy resort-style amenities such as a lovely spa, a salon, indoor pools, a seasonal outdoor pool, tennis, fitness, a championship PGA golf course, golf lessons from Ballantyne Golf Academy with Dana Rader and four-star dining at Gallery Restaurant.
TIL YOU DROP - BEST LOCAL AREAS
Due to the sheer size of Charlotte’s retail scene, you'll have to be selective about where to shop. Here are a few favorites, by neighborhood, from those in the know.
South Park area: from its string of luxury retailers to locally owned purveyors of style, the area is synonymous with shopping.
SouthPark Mall - a premier shopping destination featuring popular designers and luxury retailers, like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and American Girl, and usual favorites, like J. Crew, Apple and Urban Outfitters.
The Morrison Shopping Center and Lofts - Shopping options include E Martini Fine Lingerie & Swimwear; Winestore, a concept focused on providing an educational and fun wine-buying environment; Earth Fare, a North Carolina-based organic market featuring locally grown produce, artisan cheeses, freshly baked breads and more; B.D. Jeffries, a sophisticated home goods and accessories shop; boutiques such as Capitol Clothing and Luxe Angel, which are filled with designer labels, fashion-forward jewelry and accessories for women; a Barnes & Noble book store; and Mud Facial Bar.
Phillips Place - An alfresco shopping area (packed with women’s and men’s lifestyle shops, home décor mainstays and specialty retailers) adjacent to a movie theater and a host of delicious eateries.
NoDa area: the character-laden community of NoDa offers more than art and music; it’s also home to niche stores like skate shops, women’s clothing boutiques and local craft havens.
Charlotte Premium Outlets is one of North Carolina's newest upscale outlet centers and features an impressive collection of fashion designers, luxury brands and name brand manufacturers. The 398,421 square-foot center offers 100 notable upscale outlet stores including Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, Gap Outlet, Kate Spade New York, Michael Kors, Nike Factory Store and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Plaza Midwood area: The edgy district is home to a host of eclectic and cool thrift shops, filled with vintage clothing, furniture and accessories. Furniture stores, both modern and classic abound, and clothing boutiques, creative gift stores, and record shops round out the scene.
Dilworth/East Blvd area: East Boulevard and Dilworth make shopping a one-stop process. A collection of women's and men's clothing boutiques stock beautiful threads, gifts and accessories, while galleries, gift shops and specialty stores offer heartwarming gifts and one-of-a-kind home goods.
Myers Park area: this oak tree-lined neighborhood is bursting with history, character and charm, offering a picturesque setting for a day of shopping.
Park Road Shopping Center - boasts a wide range of shops and food and is a popular place for locals to shop.
Selwyn Avenue: You’ll find a number of great shops along this strip, including KK Bloom Boutique, Reid’s Fine Foods, FABO coffee art bar, and many more.
GLORIOUS FOOD - LOCAL DINING
Ask any local and you'll get a list of must-visit restaurants and bistros. Here are just a few that hit our radar, in addition to those listed earlier that are near the various B&Bs.
Haymaker: Is generating lots of buzz for its heirloom ingredients, sustainable meats and superb seafood. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, reviewers are positively poetic describing the pork belly, although the vegetables receive rave reviews and the plum cake sounds sublime.
Amelie's French Bakery Cuisine: In addition to sandwiches, soups, quiches and other menu items, this award-winning French bakery serves an entire case of desserts, including light-as-air macarons and a signature salted caramel brownie.
Dandelion Market: Taking its name from the famous outdoor market that thrived in Dublin back in the early 1970s, Dandelion Market provides Uptown Charlotte with a place for friends and family to gather and enjoy the best in food and drink, in a cozy pub setting. They serve lunch, brunch and their signature small plates dinner menu, designed for sharing and exploring. A full bar features 24 craft beers on draft plus a 25 bottle wine list.
Good Food on Montford is the result of hard work from award-winning local chef Bruce Moffett. This tapas-inspired restaurant focuses on the extensive use of local and organic products, combined with comfortably humble décor. Consider the seared scallops with grilled cantaloupe, jalapeno and cilantro.
Carpe Diem Restaurant and Caterers - the menu features longtime favorites, like hazelnut crusted goat cheese salad, but has new items that will keep your palate interested. Carpe Diem Restaurant and Caterers has consistently landed on Zagat's America's Top Restaurants list.
Upstream - with fresh catch and award-winning Pacific Rim cuisine that keeps patrons returning loyally, plus a striking ambience, it has been named one of Charlotte’s 15 must-try romantic restaurants in Dream Vacation Magazine.
Bonterra Dining & Wine Room - enjoy an elegant, casual setting, located in the heart of the historic South End district near Uptown Charlotte. Bonterra is a unique establishment rich with ambience and flavor. Housed in a renovated 112-year-old church, Bonterra's interior manages to blend the original architectural features of its historic building tastefully with modern additions. Menu items include extraordinary cheeses, olives and charcuterie.
Fahrenheit - Rooftop dining at the SKYE Condominiums located in the beautiful uptown.
Heirloom - With a primary focus on serving the best North Carolina foods and beverages, Chef Clark Barlowe enjoys creating original and unique dishes that reflect his travels and training. He’s an avid forager and when he is not in Heirloom’s kitchen, he can most likely be found in forests and fields, sourcing ingredients that are unavailable to most restaurants.
5Church - The Boston Globe called this stylish restaurant “the darling of the downtown scene. American cuisine that’s lauded from Hollywood to Chicago and New York."
WANT ULTRA CASUAL?
Pinky’s Westside Grill has been on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, which makes folks curious, but the food keeps them coming back. For our money, crab-filled hushpuppies and pimento cheese fries are the ultimate decadent treats.
Pick up famous fried chicken at Price's Chicken Coop in the South End neighborhood.
Soak up local flavor at Lupie's Café in the Elizabeth neighborhood.
Stop by Midwood Smokehouse, whose smoker burns hardwood oak logs 24/7. Folks love it!
Mert’s Heart and Soul food has been called Southern, Soul and even Home Cookin’. Try the salmon cakes, or their vegetable plates.
CLUBS AND PUBS
Uptown is hot and happening. The Center City is the place many young professionals go out on the town. Try these:
The Punch Room located on the 15th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, pours signature punches, flavorful wines and creative cocktails.
The EpiCentre, in Center City. This hot venue features an innovative design and accommodating layout and is home to over three dozen unique concepts encompassing over half a million square feet. An open-air pavilion offers dramatic views of the Charlotte skyline. Located at the intersection of Trade and College streets, the EpiCentre is in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, just blocks away from the Charlotte Convention Center and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Avidxchange NC Music Factory offers live music, food, drink and free parking. Lots of options.
Montford Drive, between Park and Woodlawn is quite the gathering area, with an easy vibe and free parking, plus great pubs and restaurants.
There are more than 40 breweries in the Charlotte region. You’ll find them listed by neighborhoods, so wherever you’re staying, you’ll find fun-loving refreshments. Not a fan? Charlotte’s got distilleries and cideries, too.
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