Charlotte has a little something for everybody; I mean it. This city has so much to do. I could list ’em all, but that’s not what you came here for. Here are my top stops for your weekend in Charlotte, NC:
U.S National Whitewater Center- Located 30 minutes from downtown.
This is a great place for an adrenaline junkie (or someone trying to conquer their fear of heights like me.) Set aside an entire day for this one; between the whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock-climbing, high ropes course, and zip line you will never get bored.
I’ll be real with you guys, this place is a bit on the expensive side- but so worth it. You get the most bang for your buck with the ‘all-sport’ pass ($59 for adults.) This allows you to experience all of the land and water activities in one day. Once you’re all tuckered out you can stop in at the pavilion for a nice cold beer and some fries!
If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Thursday or Saturday they’ve got the River Jam from 7-10pm with plenty of local/national talent to hear!
Crowder’s Mountain State Park: Located one hour North of downtown.
There are tons of trails to be found in this state park. I started out at the park office at the Sparrow Springs entrance and took the Pinnacle Trail. This trail is 2 miles long and leads to Kings Pinnacle at the summit of the mountain. My hike went differently than expected… here are some tips:
- eat some major protein before heading out on the trails.
- bring plenty of water… like more than 20 oz.
- pack food for afterwards because you will be exhausted.
I decided to hike this thing alone after a night of drinking. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was thinking that it would be a quick and easy hike. After all the sign says it is only 2 miles long (easy peasy right? wrong.)
I started out strong and after about a half an hour thought I must be at least half way. After seeing the first sign I realized I was about 1/8 of the way up this mountain. I wasn’t too tired yet so I thought I could make it and kept on trekking. It got a bit rocky and I seemed to be ascending so I thought maybe I had made progress. Second sign basically said, “don’t get your hopes up, you’re not even close.”
Towards the end I had realized I had nearly finished off my water and was starting to get dizzy. At one point it got pretty steep and I honestly thought I might fall down the side of the mountain. I knew I was pretty close so I took a quick break and kept pushing forward. Finally, I had reached the end of the trail! The sign warned against climbing to the very top but I didn’t torture myself for two miles for nothing.
There was about 5 more minutes of uphill climbing (some vertical) and then I MADE IT! I had summited this mountain at 1,705 ft. This 2 mile hike was no joke. I bet it’s a lot easier with the right preparation so don’t forget to follow my tips.
This is a great place to spend a morning in nature. Trails range from easy to advanced so pick your fun! Trail maps are at various locations through out the park, I suggest picking one up before you head out.
Amelie’s French Bakery: Locations in Uptown and NoDa District (open 24 hours).
Amelie’s is a French themed cafe decorated with eclectic artwork. The cafe in NoDa is open 24 hours and has plenty of seating in their maze-like interior. There are about 4 sections of seating in the cafe which provides for a fun experience. Do expect a line if you stop here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I would suggest stopping in during snack time or late night for quicker service.
The cafe offers coffee/espresso drinks, tea, sandwiches, salads, and more. Amelie’s bakery also has over 20 desserts to choose from. During my stops at Amelie’s (I couldn’t stay away), I tried the macaroons, lemon bar, as well as a muffin! If you can only fit one thing in your tummy, definitely go for the macaroons. It’s not easy to find good macaroons but these are perfectly moist and delicate like they should be.
Between the unique visuals, lively ambiance, and memorable treats, Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe is a great place to be.
Soul Gastrolounge: Located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood.
With a 4.5 star rating on Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Google I would not skip out on this one.
From the second I arrived in Charlotte to visit my friend she would not stop talking about Soul. Finally, her sister insisted we try it for her birthday on Saturday night. We put our name on the list and were 36th in line at one point (I suggest to put your name on the “Nowait” app while you’re getting ready to avoid a surprise wait.)
Their menu is mainly tappas so we split quite a few of them. To start, we had the hummus & pita and the flatbread. Those kept us a little less hangry until the Ramen Bowl, Dirty South Nachos, and sushi arrived.
(Pictured: Flatbread & Chicken Nachos)
The chicken nachos were not at all what we expected, they were actual chicken pieces with cheese and toppings. The chicken added more flavor and texture..much better than traditional nachos for sure! The Red Dragon Roll sushi (not pictured) was phenominal. There are plenty of sushi places at home but this is at the top of my list. The Red Dragon Roll had tempura salmon, tuna, cream cheese, and crunchy onion to top it off. Check out the rest of their menu here.
I left the Soul Gastrolounge full, satisfied, and ready for a night on the town!
As a disclaimer, there are hundreds of bars in Charlotte, all of which I’m sure someone would enjoy. The ones I’m going to share with you gave me incredible impressions the minute I walked in the door. Each of these places has something special about them that I want to share. Without further ado, here are my recommendations for your short stay in Charlotte.
Common Market: Located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood.
Everyone and anyone can find a drink to suit them at Common Market, because it’s a liquor store! How cool is that?! At Common Market you can glance around the isles until you find your perfect beverage and then chill at a booth and chat with a friend until you’re ready to make your first move of the night.
It is the perfect place to come unwind after a long day of travel or work. The atmosphere is so relaxed and the people here are super friendly and inviting. It was nothing but smiles around the room. Common Market is a unique experience (and super cheap because you pay shelf price for your booze.) The market is also conveniently located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood so it’s just a quick walk to quite a few bars and restaurants.
Free Range Brewing: Located in the NoDa neighborhood.
This place was my jam.
First of all, I loved the atmosphere. Not only is it family friendly (so pretty chill), they also do yoga classes during the week, have food trucks located right out the door, and have local art displayed through out the brewery.
Second of all, they have the best dark beers I have ever had. I am NOT exaggerating. I am from Kalamazoo, MI so I’ve got Bell’s and Arcadia Ales (both have great stouts/porters) but I hadn’t tasted anything until I had Free Range Brewing’s “With Intent” and “Hello Darkness”.
- “With Intent” is a smooooth coffee brown ale made with Pure Intentions Burundi coffee beans (which they sell at the counter.) It goes down almost like a cold brew coffee; the taste is so distinct and it just slides down with no bitter remarks.
- “Hello Darkness” might be my favorite of the two. This Dark Farmhouse is delectable. It is truly a treat. This beer is brewed with cacao and chocolate making it so sweet and malty it reminds me of a milkshake.
Since both of these beers were so dark I only needed the two to start me off right. I did however try nearly every beer on the menu before deciding on these (they even have kombucha and guest taps.) I’ve gotta tell you they all have very unique, distinct flavors and textures. This place has high quality beer and great service. If I find out you go to Charlotte and don’t stop by Free Range Brewing.. we can’t be friends (I might be kidding.)
Thomas Street Tavern: Located in Plaza Midwood.
Thomas Street is a great place to end the night. It gets pretty busy but there is plenty of room; they have an indoor bar that sometimes has live music (a live jazz band when I stopped in) and they have two outdoor bars as well. The outdoor area is nice and spacious with plenty of seating and the decor is great. There are string lights in the trees and Cornhole available giving it that backyard atmosphere. So. Much. Fun.
Well, friends, thank you for taking the time to read this tour de Charlotte. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and decide to go out and make your own memories! As always feel free to share your time in Charlotte by commenting or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org !