So many cities to choose from it is hard to decide which is the biggest value and most fun to explore. For me, Charlotte, known as Queen City, North Carolina, is one of my favorite East Coast cities that is packed full of amazing things to do, see, taste, and explore. Whether you are spending a day or a week, you are sure to be entertained to the fullest in this thriving upscale haven.
Where to Dine in Queen City
Charlotte is jam packed full of fantastic and unique restaurants. I recommend one of my all-time nationwide favorites. Rooster’s Wood Fired Kitchen at Southpark (formerly Noble’s), has an upscale atmosphere, a killer wine and cocktail list, and is the epitome of the perfect southern menu. Begin your meal with Beef Carpaccio, followed by steak, scallops, or pasta; they are all delicious.
Two other great choices are located at Phillips Place: Upstream, featuring scrumptious Pan-Asian seafood cuisine, and The Palm, where anything on the menu will do. You may be rubbing elbows with the Carolina Panthers while there. My favorite lunch spot is Fenwick’s at 511 Providence Road for the best tomato bisque ever plus the quiche of the day is always an excellent choice. Chain favorites include Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant, and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
For special occasions, I recommend Blue Restaurant and Bar in the Hearst Tower. Sophisticated ambiance and palates will agree, this restaurant is a hot spot for people watching or celebrations. The Moroccan Tagine will awaken your taste buds and the live jazz creates the perfect feel. Finish off your night with one of their cool martinis or the Raspberry Semifreddo dessert. Adorned with local artwork, you can literally buy the pieces right off the wall.
Where to Shop in Queen City
Wow, so many choices, so little time! I prefer the SouthPark Mall for nice, yet typical expensive stores. They feature Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus as their anchor stores, as well the best Belk store I have ever been to. Right down the street, Phillips Place has a very professional golf store, Fore the Links, and B.D. Jeffries is perfect for classic home decor, accessories, and gifts. The two stores I never miss are The Buttercup, an adorable store for invitations, seasonal, and novelty items, and Paper Skyscraper, which is “the” place to browse for hours, exploring their stylish gifts, eclectic party items, books, and gag gifts.
Queen City is the home to **BlackLion, a furniture, gift, and design center which houses dozens of little stores/shops that showcase many different items under one roof, similar to an antique mall. Another fun shopping area is Concord Mills, complete with 200+ stores, Dave & Buster’s entertainment complex, a 24 screen movie theater, and the Bass Pro Shop. Charlotte is also one of the top destination to antique shop and browse stately art galleries.
**BlackLion is currently closed as of 2016
What to Do in Queen City
Charlotte is home to several sports teams, including football, basketball, stock-car racing, baseball, and hockey. You can find a sporting event, art show, concert, or play nearly every day of the week. Time Warner Cable Arena, in center city, is the premier entertainment address. Check out the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, which is a center for displaying local artists studios and exhibits. Charlotte has both a zoo and children’s museum. Need more adventure? Carowinds amusement park is a short drive outside the city.
The ‘Hoods: Southend/Dilworth, situated very near southwest downtown, is an artsy area complete with a young, hip crowd and cozy neighborhoods. I recommend Historic South End Charlotte for browsing Atherton Mill and Market stores and farmers market, shopping, and nightlife. SouthPark, in the south central area of Charlotte, is the premier shopping mecca and home of trendy boutique neighborhoods.
Where to Stay in Queen City
The Marriott is always my top pick, so the conveniently located Charlotte Marriott South Park is my pick. This hotel is minutes from the Specialty SouthPark, SouthPark Mall, and Phillips Place. Look for discounts online which are almost always available. Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge is another good choice, or for a mini-vacation, as they have a top-notch spa, delicious restaurants, a stellar golf course, and the Dana Rader golf school. Do not miss their Sunday brunch.
Not to miss in Queen City
My favorite thing about Charlotte is the Dean and Deluca European-style market emporium. Here you will find the most amazing gourmet food products, fantastic bakery and cheese shop, a huge selection of wines and beers, and prepared foods. We always visit the mother store in Soho, NYC, but this small scale store is every bit as exciting for me. Food enthusiasts, brace yourself.
Trivia: Known as “Queen City”, Charlotte was named in honor of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, wife of King George III. After being driven out during the American Revolution, British General Cornwallis wrote that Charlotte was a “hornet’s nest of rebellion”.
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