Your guide for a quick trip to Charlotte
Not too long after graduating college I moved to Charlotte – you know, to finally “leave home” and experience another city (a.k.a. realize how much I actually loved living in Cola).
I only lived in Charlotte for 2 years before Columbia called me back (or when my husband suggested an 800-sqft. apartment in Uptown – with everything we own in a storage unit – wasn’t realistic anymore).
But ever since my short-lived venture as a Charlotte transplant (I never even changed my drivers license from S.C., so no questioning my love for Columbia), people always ask for my recommendations of what to do during a quick trip to the Queen City.
The balcony views that $1,500/month got me | Photo by @samjoking_
Disclaimer: Charlotte is growing so fast it’s exhausting trying to keep up with what’s going on there – i.e. Charlotte Agenda publishing 24 restaurant opening in March, alone, is the norm – so I apologize if my suggestions are old news at this point.
Get on the road early, and make your first stop coffee + breakfast.
9 a.m. | Central Coffee, 719 Louise Ave. – the OG Plaza Midwood location, not the new one in South End
What to order: Dirty chai + spinach quiche. (Actually, order all 3 quiche flavors. I promise you won’t regret the small food baby afterwards. They’re made fresh every single morning, and it’s not uncommon to see the line for them out the door + down the sidewalk. #worththewait)
Quiche + coffee from Central Coffee | Photo by @samjoking_
10 a.m. | A little retail therapy never hurt anyone. Just down the road from Central Coffee is Green with ENVY (1111 Central Ave. #200) – a cute boutique gift shop-esque store, with just about everything from local artists. After that, head to one of my most favorite shops I’ve ever been to: Paper SkyScraper (330 East Blvd.) – another gift shop-type store, filled with all kinds of funky knick knacks, books + cards. If you’re feeling a little more big-name shopping, Crate and Barrel + The Container Store [both in the South Park Mall] are always a good idea in my mind. (Plus, Soda Citizens love them some Cheesecake Factory and that’s also in the same area if y’all are hungry again.)
Merch at Paper Skyscraper | Photo by @thecrown_clt
11:30 a.m. | It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? One of the coolest things about Charlotte is the amount of breweries they have – and all within close proximity of each other, too. Sycamore, Wooden Robot + Triple C are some of my fav in South End, and all along the Light Rail (Charlotte’s transit system). So if you’ve enjoyed a few too many beers, hop on the light to Uptown and do some exploring. Here’s how to use it.
Sycamore Brewing | Photo by @sycamorebrewing
2:30 p.m. | Assuming you’ve decided to catch a ride to Uptown (and left your car at the brewery), these are all fun things you can walk to:
- 7th Street Public Market | The Light Rail will drop you off at the market’s front door, and if you didn’t cave + eat lunch from a food truck at one of the breweries, this place has it all. Remember when we mentioned it in our food halls story? You can grab food from Local Loaf, Hazelnuts Creperie, Pure Pizza or Bonsai Fusion; do a little more shopping from all the local vendors; or continue your beer drinking at Tank’s Tap. // If you drove yourself, here’s how to spend 90 minutes (the length of your free parking) in the market like a pro.
- Romare Bearden Park | I got engaged here, so I’m a little biased. 💁But the views of the city are so pretty from this park. And I would definitely recommend that you go back at night – so you can see the rainbow wall all lit up. It’s also right next to the Charlotte Knights’ stadium – so if a baseball game is going on the day you visit, look into getting tickets + posting up for a few.
- Museum hopping | Levine Museum of the New South (really cool exhibit about how Charlotte developed from “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers”), the Mint Museum (it’s closed right now, but will re-open in mid-August) + Discovery Place (for the kid in you, or the real kid with you).
7th Street Public Market | Photo by @mattshdr
5 p.m. | Now it actually is 5 o’clock somewhere. Time for pre-dinner cocktails. I couldn’t decide on just one or two places to send y’all – so you can pick where to drink depending on the vibe you want.
- Stoke | They have several cocktails on tap, and delicious deviled eggs. ‘Nuff said.
- Haberdish | Their mixologist is a genius. I mean, she freezes flowers in their ice cubes. And their punch bowls are literal artwork. If you’re really feeling yourself here, I’d stay for dinner (and obvi order the deviled eggs, ha).
Fahrenheit’s outdoor deck | Photo by @andrew_gordon7
7 p.m. | You HAVE to go to Seoul Food Meat Company… and this is coming from someone who “doesn’t eat meat.” Order everything: wings (normal + tofu, trust me about the tofu), ramen mac n’ cheese, pimento corn cheese, potato swirl, bao buns – and a side of pulled pork to stuff them. Eat like this is your last meal. Then go outside and play soccer pool, cornhole, beer pong, etc. Their patio is awesome. AND. You can rent karaoke rooms here…
Seoul Food Meat Company spread | Photo by @michellethepig
9:30 p.m. | At this point you’re staying the night. I’ve never stayed in a Charlotte hotel to make a recommendation, so I’ll just send you here for that. (Or try Airbnb; apparently the market there is booming.) Now, go back to Romare Bearden Park to see the city lights at night. Maybe venture over to The Roxburry for an 80s + 90s throwback dance party, or just hang in the Epicenter – because that Tin Roof always has really good live music.
Views from Romare Bearden Park | Photo by @wild_bleu
10 a.m. | Brunch at little spoon – which is most definitely in my top 5 brunch places, ever. They play 90’s hip-hop + serve coffee in a bowl. Order the 8 minute cookies as your app. And then do as you please for entrees; you can’t go wrong with anything here. (But I highly suggest the #BEC + #BTF.)
If you’re not ready to leave the Queen City just yet, I suggest you make the trek to IKEA – and walk off your brunch in the amusement park they call a home store. That should take at least a few hours.
…or if you’re already missing the city of dreams, just hop on 77 and head back south.
While Columbia holds the biggest place in my heart, a little piece of it will always remain in Charlotte, too – after all, it is the city where Brad and I shared our first home together – in the Rosewood-esqe neighborhood of Plaza Midwood – and where some of our best friends live – until they move back to Cola, too. 🙏 (I guess, “technically” they live in Lake Wylie, which is another place to visit in the Charlotte area when you have more time. But it’s no Lake Murray. 🙃)