Charlotte, North Carolina is one of those Southern cities that awake your senses with food, fun, and frolic. It is an ideal place for a weekend getaway, family fun, or a girls’ trip, and an explorer’s dream city. Charlotte is easy to navigate, since most neighborhoods are located directly off of I-77, a busy interstate through the state of North Carolina. Each neighborhood is unique and offers special things to see and do. It is no wonder Charlotte, North Carolina is the entertainment and cultural leader for Southeastern cities.
Recently, my daughter, Peyton, and I had the pleasure of visiting many new places in the Queen City (Charlotte’s nickname). We share with you a diverse itinerary that will include history, pop culture, delicious dining, and stepping out of our comfort zone. This is how we rolled in Charlotte’s vibrant city.
Where We Stayed in Charlotte, North Carolina
The Le Méridien, in Uptown Charlotte, was our home away from home, providing luxury accommodations. The decor of the Le Méridien is gorgeous, sleek, and contemporary. Flavored water and coffee were available at all times in the impressive lobby. Plush seating groups are scattered throughout the first floor and cool lounge music plays continually. There is an onsite restaurant and bar on the first floor as well as very swank, vibrant rooftop bar, City Lights, which we did not have time to visit. It is, however, one of the more popular and newest places to have cocktails in the city and offers a 360° skyline view.
Peyton and I entered our huge room and immediately loved the gold and black design theme. One wall housed a huge bed with nice linens and plenty of pillows, while a flat screen TV and mini-fridge were located across the room. A functional desk sat in front of the window overlooking the city and held a coffee maker. Le Méridien provided Illy coffee and supplies, a personal favorite. A large lighted closet, leather bedside lamps, and a safe were other noteworthy items in the room.
Where We Ate in Charlotte, North Carolina
We had breakfast at Evoke, Le Méridien’s onsite new-age steakhouse restaurant, and Passion8, located about 10 minutes away.
Upon arrival, they presented us with a small “eye opener” made of Orange Juice with Lavendar Syrup. Nice! For breakfast, Peyton chose the House-Made Granola and Berry Parfait and I, the Goat Lady Dairy Sandy Creek Cheese Omelet, from a specialty menu. My omelet, made with local goat cheese, gets an A+ for originality, though the preparation does take 15-20 minutes. The omelet was well worth the wait and tasted wonderful. The granola parfait was huge and there were an unbelievable amount of berries. Also, note that Evoke was voted Best Steakhouse in Charlotte in 2015.
We were hosted by Passion8 to try their brunch menu, which is much different from their usual 3-4 course dinner experience. The restaurant is drop dead gorgeous and very romantic. They have really outdone themselves with the aesthetics of this place.
Passion8’s brunch menu is limited in choices but covers the basic necessities. I opted for the hearty Breakfast Burger, with house made Truffle Burrata, Proscuitto, and a Fried Egg. Peyton chose the Farm Eggs Benedict, topped with Pork, Grilled Shistito Peppers, and Hollandaise. Before our brunch arrived, we both tried one of Passion8’s special beignets, which were Coffee Mocha Cream that day. Yummy, plus a gorgeous presentation as well. Peyton raved about her coffee press speciality.
The King’s Kitchen
We ate lunch at The King’s Kitchen, a Jim Noble restaurant, who happens to be my favorite chef in the United States. I liked the restaurant’s curb appeal immediately and the huge windows with recipe ingredients etched on them. We shared Pimento Cheese with the King’s Kitchen baguette to begin with and then ordered Southern staples for our entrees. Peyton had the BBQ Chicken with fresh Green Beans and the best Macaroni and Cheese she had ever eaten. My meal was the Braised Beef with Creamed Corn, Potato Salad (the best I have ever eaten), and some Collard Greens that totally rocked my world. The cornbread was a nice touch as well, bursting with whole kernel corn and super crispy edges. We were nearly in a food coma when we left.
The King’s Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner, serving Charlotte’s downtown homeless in between meals. Their mission is clear in their decor, demeanor, and by the wear and tear of the restaurant furnishings: “a Southern kitchen on a local mission“. They have an open-door invitation for Charlotte’s hungry homeless and feed them plated meals of the leftover lunch foods. I hope you will support The King’s Kitchen’s efforts and learn about the program.
For dinner, we ate at City Smoke one night and the Cellar at Duckworth’s the next.
City Smoke is in a fun part of town and is a lovely barbecue style eatery. I liked the look of the decor, open kitchen, and plate presentations. My Charlotte based friend Sean, his daughter, and I started with the North Carolina Cheese Board. My favorite part of the board was the whipped cheese. The crisps that accompanied the cheese board were flavorful; the perfect scoop for the cheese. It paired nicely with my Mango Arnold Palmer.
For dinner, I chose the Hickory Smoked Pork platter with smoked Jalapeño Slaw and White Cheese Grits. The grits were really good and the barbecue was satisfying as well. Sean ordered the ‘Cue Combo, including Brisket, Pulled Pork, and Ribs. Both of our meals came with cornbread. Last, but not least, we shared the attractive Classic Banana Pudding dessert. The meringue was baked to perfection and drizzled with caramel, a nice touch.
The Cellar at Duckworth’s
The Cellar at Duckworth’s was a total change of pace. The striking restaurant is housed in a 1900’s building that was previously a pharmacy turned speakeasy during prohibition. They play on the days of the past by pairing gastropub fare with prohibition style cocktails, which translates to incredibly strong. Peyton and I realized this with the Hard Chai (made with rye whiskey) and Blackberry Mezcal Mule that we ordered. Oh my, we were nearly breathing fire!
For dinner, we started with a most interesting dish simply called House Made Waffle Cones. Our tray arrived with 3 different waffle cones each stuffed with different blends including Coconut Shrimp, Chicken with Bacon and Sriracha, and my favorite, Ponzu Poke Tuna (with avocado and macadamia nuts). Genius!
Our entrees from the Cellar at Duckworth’s were Grilled Shrimp and Old Mill Cheddar Grits (of course I would choose a classic Southern favorite) and the Filet Mignon. My meal was topped with a 6 minute egg, definitely a great Southern addition. Peyton’s steak was grilled to perfection, with a nice charred exterior; super tender and flavorful. I will come back to this restaurant on a future visit to try out the other things that I missed from their awesome menu, beginning with dessert.
What We Did in Charlotte, North Carolina
Funny Bus Comedy City Tour
This tour was definitely out of my comfort zone as comedy is not something that I typically partake in, but a real treat. I highly encourage you to jump onboard and have lots of fun, for $25. The 90 minute tour departs from the 7th Street Public Market (a great place to visit) and entertains you all the while seeing Charlotte’s hot neighborhoods. There is a lot of history involved and many laughs. You may bring your own food, beer, and wine on the tour, making it economical as well.
Our bus had a great crowd and though it rained part of the time, we did not let that dampen our spirits. I recommend that ladies wear a ponytail as the bus is open and gets to speeds that are not hair friendly. The hilarious tour allows for a 15 minute stop at Wet Willie’s for a bathroom break and drink purchases. We also stopped at 2 gorgeous spots for photo-ops. This tour is fun for any occasion and evokes plenty of laughter. Kudos for being punctual and timely.
NoDa Food Tour- by Tour De Food
I was thrilled to attend one of Charlotte’s gourmet food tours, and in NoDa, North Davidson Arts District, the premier arts community. The tour was led by Jon, a knowledgeable and friendly guide and consisted of 12 of us in total. Our stops for the 3 hour tour included 6 restaurant/drink establishments. Note: the stops change often.
At Heist Brewery, we sampled a variety of Flatbreads (Duck was my favorite!) and handcrafted beers. We were also treated us to sweet treats from Charlotte’s popular bakery, Amélie’s French Bakery. Next up, Southern popsicles (lemonade and sweet tea) from King of Pops to beat the heat as we walked around the neighborhood.
Revolution Ale House prepared delicious Raviolis, Hummus, and Bruschetta for the group, while Füd at Salud offered a Southern favorite, Chicken and Waffles. Boudreaux’s served up a Cajun Carbonara pasta bowl and last, but least was NoDa Company Store poured us Sangria as we snacked on local snacks such as Pimento Cheese and Chips.
All in all, this was an epic food tour. Our group walked about 2 miles around town as our tour guide provided us with details and history. A nice extra touch was that the tour company provided a sheet detailing our stops and foods for the day to make notes on.
The Levine Museum of the New South
The Levine Museum of the New South is an entertaining and hard-hitting museum showcasing the drastic changes of Southern life through the years. Here unfolds the story of how the South has evolved from “cotton fields to skyscrapers”, which is their current offering. The museum depicts a comprehensive story of post-Civil War Southern history and memories while being very well exhibited, though parts of it are hard to bear.
This is the only museum of its type and includes video clips, oral histories, photographs, and artifacts to tell stories about tenant farmers, 1920’s Main Street, and neighbors shaping Charlotte as it is today. One of my favorite parts of the Levine Museum of the New South was seeing a cotton gin. How cool. Their hands-on displays allowed guests to feel the cotton and seed in various forms. Another fun exhibit was the barber shop and nostalgic soda fountain counter, that shared stories from customers and past sit-ins.
Admission is free to the Levine Museum of the New South on the first Sunday of the month. Be sure to stock up on Charlotte magazines, literature, and flyers as they are free here.
Nascar Hall of Fame
Although I have never seen a NASCAR race, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Nascar Hall of Fame. Admission gives you a chance to be up close and personal with all things NASCAR. This is an interactive and highly state of the art facility that will be fun for the whole family.
The Hall of Fame offerings include a shrine dedicated to the hall of famers, photo ops, a behind the scenes look at drivers’ preparation for the race, rotating exhibits, and a High Octane Theater. Glory Road is a spectacular ramp area containing 18 historic cars and highlights from NASCAR’s history and tracks. Drivers often make guest appearances, so be sure to check the schedule.
NASCAR’s Pit Crew Challenge is another cutting-edge hands-on opportunity. Meanwhile, the Hall of Honor is for inductees to the Hall of Fame and has personal photos, vehicles, racing attire, and a few surprises. Do not miss the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s wonderful gift shop and Pit Stop Café.
Hands down, the best thing at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is the simulator ride, which puts you in a race car to compete with other passengers to win the Sprint Cup. Your virtual drive is on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway where you select your car and take a brief driving lesson before taking to the track. I failed horribly at the training because I just wanted to Snapchat my experience. Surprisingly, I ended up finishing 4th of 11 people, many who have annual passes and do this often. High five me for that great score!
Charlotte’s Got A Lot
Charlotte is bursting with offerings, appealing to everyone in your party. I love that this city is home to a plethora of professional sports teams:
- Carolina Panthers- NFL Football
- Charlotte Hornets- NBA Basketball
- Charlotte Knights- Minor League Baseball
- Charlotte Checkers- American Hockey League
- Charlotte Hounds- Major League Lacrosse
- Charlotte Independence- United Soccer League
- Charlotte Rugby Club- Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union
- Charlotte Express-American Ultimate Disc League
- Carolina Queens- Independent Women’s Football League
I hope that your travels will bring you to this cosmopolitan city in the near future and that you have a wonderful time. Do you have any future plans to visit Charlotte?