Recently, a friend pointed out that while I often post about where to go in other cities, I’ve never written on here about where to go and what to do in my home town of Charlotte. This is, of course, because if you’re interested in that kind of thing, you should be purchasing 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die.
While you’re waiting for it to arrive (via Amazon Prime!) though, here’s a list of my favorite spots around town right now. Because Charlotte is growing insanely fast, this list is subject to change (possibly tomorrow), but for now, here are the most fun, tasty, cool, and, yes, Instagrammable spots around the city.
Kimpton Tryon Park: Kimpton hotels are always great (dog-friendly and stylish!), and this one is no exception. Request a room with views of Romare Bearden Park and plan on at least one sunset cocktail at its see-and-be-seen rooftop bar, Merchant and Trade.
The Ivey’s Hotel: Housed in a historic department store building smack in the middle of Uptown, this hotel has equal parts character and style (think exposed brick walls and luxe linens). Pro tip: Its cocktail bar, Sophia’s Lounge, shares a kitchen and a chef with next door’s 5Church restaurant, which means top quality fare alongside your drink.
Soul Gastrolounge (All Time Favorite): This edgy small plates restaurant opened up one month before I moved just down the street from it ten years ago. And for ten years, it’s remained my favorite Charlotte restaurant. There’s seriously nothing on the menu I don’t love, but—like everyone else who has ever tasted them—I’m obsessed with the watermelon pork belly tacos.
Haberdish (Best Brunch): There’s not a bad time of day to venture to this bright and airy NoDa restaurant, but Southern brunch on their popular patio is just the best. Leave the diet at home and order the deviled eggs, fried chicken biscuit, and a classic Bloody Mary.
The Stanley (New Favorite): It’s hard to get reservations, but the marble bar is the best seat in the house anyway. This got a well-deserved James Beard nominee nod this year for the country’s best new restaurant. Order the surf and turf (a magical dish featuring layers of beef tartar and fried oysters).
Kindred (Worth the Drive): Sure, it’s in Davidson (30 minutes north of town). But this little college town is adorable. Take a stroll down its charming Main Street before dinner. And then prepare yourself for what will undoubtedly be one of your best meals ever. The Milk Bread lives up to its national rep in this unbelievably innovative and chef-driven restaurant.
Lincoln’s Haberdashery (Casual lunch): Part gift shop, part wine store, part bakery, part coffeeshop, and all amazing, this trendy spot is known for its sandwiches on freshly baked bread. The grilled cheese with gruyere and shallots will change your life.
Bardo (Cocktails): I know there are a ton of bars in town focused entirely on cocktails, but I seriously think that Amanda Britton, the mixologist at this tiny, eclectic South End spot, is doing it better than anyone else. Her drinks are inventive and seasonally-focused, and it’s hard not to order every one on the menu just to taste.
Dilworth Tasting Room (Wine): I’ll be honest. I know almost nothing about wine. But I do know some things about charming white-string-lit gardens and heaping plates of cheese and charcuterie. And this cozy wine bar tucked into the Dilworth neighborhood offers both those things.
Craft (Beer): I recently heard we have more than fifty breweries built or in the works right now around Charlotte. That’s insane. I could obviously do an entire additional list for breweries, but if I want a great beer in a chill atmosphere, I always opt for this cool little bar in South End.
Undercurrent (Coffeeshop): Charlotte has hopped on the coffeeshop craze with the rest of the country/world and while there are so many excellent options (Basal, Not Just Coffee, Hex), I just really love this one. The matcha latte with oat milk and avocado toast is my favorite (very green) order.
NoDa Company Store (Vibe): I didn’t really know where to put this on this list, but as it’s my absolutely favorite place to go have a cold glass of prosecco on a warm afternoon, I felt I should mention it. If you can, snag one of the porch swings on the side or a picnic table out back. This is the kind of place you’ll end up spending a few lazy hours.
Moxie Mercantile: This cute little gift shop (next door to Undercurrent Coffee) is the best place for fun barware and super stylish locally-made jewelry.
Paper Skyscraper: More gifts! This Dilworth institution has been Charlotte’s favorite gift shop for forever, but it’s so on-trend it feels like it could have opened yesterday. Its books, cards, and candles are my favorites.
Mint Museum Gift Shop: Museum gift shops are the best part, right? Housed on the ground floor of the Uptown museum, this gift shop has the coolest finds like fashion books, chic stationery, NC pottery, and jewelry. And they have the best kids’ gifts in town—hands down.
Sleepy Poet Antique Mall: If you’ve got a rainy afternoon in Charlotte, there’s no better place to wander around than this massive antique mall filled with booths that range from records to vintage clothing to mid-century modern decor. On Saturdays there’s usually a food truck or two in its parking lot.
Capitol: To be clear, I can’t afford anything in this store. Not one single thing. I spend all my money on the aforementioned food and drink. But man, if you love designer clothes and shoes—or, like me, just love looking at them—this gorgeous SouthPark store is worth a visit as a fashion tourist destination if nothing else.
Ritz-Carlton Spa (Best Indoor): Book a $45+(on weekdays) or $100+(on weekends) treatment at the luxe spa housed inside this modern Uptown hotel and you get access to the spa’s gorgeous penthouse pool and facilities. (I don’t understand the Himalayan Salt Room, but I love it.)
US National Whitewater Center (Best Outdoor): I wish I could rename this place because visitors and newbies see this name and think “I don’t want to go whitewater rafting,” but oh my gosh it is so much more (and better) than that. I like going for kayaking on the river, walks on the trails, beers next to the water, dinners on the decks, yoga in the woods, and live music in the grass. It’s my favorite place in Charlotte and literally never disappoints any visitor.
Seasonal Spots: In the summer, go for one of the open swim days at Carrigan Farms Rock Quarry. It’s the perfect family-friendly day outside. In the spring, spend an evening at a Knights game in BB&T Ballpark. I don’t care about baseball even a little bit, but I love games in this city center park. In the fall, plan on at least one hike through colorful leaves on a sunny day at the nearby Crowders Mountain (Kings Pinnacle trail is tough towards the end, but so worth it for the view). And in the winter, don’t miss Olde Mecklenburg Brewery‘s German Christmas Market. It’s cheery for even the Grinchiest of us.
Looking for more? I believe I may have mentioned purchasing 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die. I’d also recommend checking out Charlotte Agenda and perusing the #exploreCLT hashtag on Instagram. Enjoy Charlotte!