Queen City: A Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina

by Anna Cook
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weekend in Charlotte skyline photo

The tagline for the Visitor’s Bureau of Charlotte, North Carolina is “Charlotte’s Got A Lot.” How true that is. One weekend in Charlotte is definitely not enough, but sometimes that cheap flight is just so enticing. Charlotte makes the perfect weekend getaway destination. Charlotte is also the perfect introduction to the south. History, art, craft beer, and adventure – Charlotte really does have a lot to offer.

How to Get to Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte has an international airport that makes travel from other large cities in the country extremely easy and usually budget friendly. If you are coming from the southeast then Charlotte is a quick drive. The major interstates converging on the city are I-85 and I-77.

Whether you fly or drive, it is beneficial to have a car while you’re in the city. Public transportation in Charlotte is better than in other cities across the south, but still not comparable to NYC or a European metropolis.

NODA mural in Charlotte

The mural in front of NODA; on of Charlotte’s many great breweries (Photo Anna Cook)

Where to Stay: Three Hotels, Three Budgets

Since you only have a weekend it would be best to stay downtown so you don’t spend so much time in transit. In Charlotte, downtown is actually called “Uptown” because it’s the highest point in the city. Here are a few options for your stay:

Hilton Charlotte Center City– I have personally stayed here and loved everything about it. The location is great, the people are friendly, and if you need a late-night snack the restaurant is open until 2am on the weekends!

If you are a Hilton Honors gold or platinum member there is also an executive lounge where you can get a continental breakfast and hors d’oeuvre’s in the afternoon. This is a middle-range option for budget.

weekend in Charlotte, Hilton Hotel

A stay at the Hilton Charlotte Center City won’t disappoint (Photo by Anna Cook)

The Ivey’s Hotel – If luxury is more your style then be sure to check out The Ivey’s Hotel. This boutique hotel in the heart of Uptown will make sure you have a relaxing night after a long day of sight-seeing. A stay here includes free breakfast in the Library Lounge where they also have free snacks all day plus charcuterie and drinks in the evening.

The Hotel has partnered with many attractions and museums in the area to offer special rates to their guests. Be sure to stop by their concierge’s desk to take advantage of these deals.

Wingate by Wyndham Charlotte Airport South – If budget is your main concern then stay close to the airport. You can find rooms at multiple different hotels for less than $100 here. The Wingate is still highly rated and a great price per night.

If you decide to stay near the airport you will either need to have a car or plan to use Uber or Lyft during your stay. Be sure to check if the rideshares will end up evening out or if it will even cost you more than staying downtown.

Charlotte, North Carolina Weekend Itinerary

Day 1

On this long weekend you’ll want to arrive at least by noon on Friday, so you can get an adventure in before supper. Head straight for the US National Whitewater Center for an afternoon of fun.

The Whitewater Center opened back in 2006 and has been promoting an active lifestyle and the outdoors ever since. They offer so much more than whitewater experiences. While you can experience the thrill of going through class III and IV rapids, they offer other activities if you aren’t comfortable around water.

You can zip line, hike, mountain bike, try the ropes course, or even rock climb. If you’d like a calmer experience on the water, then they also have flat water kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center offers adventure, adventure, adventure (Photo courtesy Charlotte’s Got a Lot)

No matter what you choose, it will definitely be an adventurous afternoon! Once you’re done with whichever activity you choose, this is also the perfect spot for happy hour. Grab a drink at River’s Edge where you can watch the other paddlers coming down the river.

After the Whitewater Center, head downtown to the Skye Condos where you’ll find Fahrenheit on the top level. Make sure you have reservations because this is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

Fahrenheit is categorized as “New American” food with an Asian-accent. I prefer steak and you won’t be disappointed if that’s what you order. The big draw here though is the patio with modern fire pits and a beautiful skyline view.

Once you’ve finished what I’m sure will be a delicious meal, grab a drink and head to the patio to stay a while. If you’d rather find another spot for drinks then check out Merchant & Trade for more great rooftop views or The Cellar at Duckworth.

Day 2

Saturday will be spent exploring downtown or “uptown” as you’ll hear and see it called.

You’ll want to get an early start so you can see as much as possible today. Have breakfast at Amelie’s where I highly recommend a pastry and mimosa. They also serve breakfast sandwiches that you’ll want so you can fuel your day of sight-seeing.

If there’s a long line at the pastry counter then have a seat at the bar. You can order the same things plus drinks and they’ll bring it all out to you without the waiting.

weekend in Charlotte

At Amelie’s in Charlotte (Photo by Anna Cook)

Next up on the agenda is a history lesson. I have to throw this in here because I’m a history nerd myself. Go on part or all of the Charlotte Liberty Walk. This guided walk takes you to some of the historic parts of Charlotte from the Revolutionary War.

You’ll find placards and monuments that tell you about each spot and its historic value. Some interesting places on the walk are the Thomas Polk Park and the First Presbyterian Church. Did you know that Mecklenburg County was the first political entity to declare independence (according to local legend) before the Declaration of Independence? Learn more fun facts on the Liberty Walk!

Continue your educational morning with some of the many museums in Charlotte. If you love art then head to either the Mint Museum or the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

The Mint Museum was the first art museum in North Carolina and their tag line in “Art Is For Everyone.” They have a wide selection so you’re sure to find something you like.

The Bechtler Museum is of course, full of Modern Art. The focus is on American and European artists so you’ll find Mark Tobey, Edgar Degas, and even Picasso.

Bechtler Museum

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art (Photo courtesy of Charlotte’s Got a Lot)

If art isn’t your cup of tea then check out the Levine Museum of the New South. This museum traces the history of the South and connects those that live here today. Don’t miss this if you are a history lover like me!

Even if you aren’t a racing fan, Charlotte is the birthplace of NASCAR and home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame and museum takes you through the history of NASCAR, how the cars are currently built and the stories behind some of the most famous drivers. There are even interactive exhibits for those bored by typical museums.

NASCAR Hall of Fame and museum

NASCAR Hall of Fame is great for everyone; not just car aficionados (Photo Anna Cook)

Once you’ve had your fill of museums, grab a quick lunch at Rhino Market & Deli. No time to waste!

Rest your feet for a minute while you take a ride on the Funny Bus. This is a 90-minute comedy bus tour of Charlotte that gives you a little bit of history and a whole lot of laughs. The tour is also bring your own beer or wine.

This is the perfect opportunity to take a break from running all over the city and have someone tell you about what makes Charlotte special. I’m always up for a good laugh too. Just be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time.

After a tour on the Funny Bus head out to the artsy neighborhood of NODA to do some brewery hopping. If you’re in need of a snack don’t miss Heist Brewery. They have some amazing small plates and a variety of rotating taps.

If you want to hit one more before dinner then stop by Wooden Robot and enjoy a drink up on their roof top patio. Wooden Robot uses local ingredients whenever possible for their interesting brews. Just check out some of the names and combinations here.

Wooden Robotweekend in charlotte

At the Wooden Robot Brewery (Photo courtesy of Charlotte’s Got a Lot)

Tonight, have dinner at Haberdish but be prepared to wait a bit because they don’t take reservations. There’s really only one thing you should order here and that’s the fried chicken. They do offer other dishes of course plus a vegetarian option, but it’s obvious what their specialty is.

The staff is incredibly friendly and you can’t go wrong with their recommendations whether it be food or drinks. We got the hush puppies based on a tip from our server and I am so glad we did. This is where you want to go for a traditional southern meal with a twist.

Haberdash weekend in Charlotte

Fried chicken is Haberdash’s specialty dish (Photo by Anna Cook)

For after-dinner drinks you can walk to another brewery – NODA. This is one of the most popular breweries in the city. Their OG location is the original spot that opened up in 2011 and they have an incredible line up of seasonal brews on top of their year-round beers.

If you love IPAs then this is the perfect spot for you. Six months out of the year they make a different specialty IPA for that month. Check out their beer schedule here.

Day 3

Get started this morning of the last day of your weekend in Charlotte with a breakfast biscuit from Holler & Dash. These massive sandwiches won’t leave you a bit hungry.

For your last day in the city choose between a day in nature at Crowders Mountain State Park or a day of adrenaline at Carowinds amusement park.

At Crowders Mountain you can enjoy beautiful sweeping views from the Crowders Mountain Overlook or a peaceful walk by the lake. If you are hiking for views be prepared that all the trails are strenuous. Start out at the Linwood Rd. Access and take the Backside Trail to Rocktop and look for the intersection of the Tower Trail that will take you back to the parking lot.

Prefer an easier hike? Take a walk on Fern Trail or the Lake Trail. These will give you beautiful creek and lake views. Park in the Sparrow Springs Access to take either of these trails.

Heist Brewery

Heist Brewery is another of Charlotte’s most popular eating and drinking spots (Photo Anna Cook)

If you decide on Crowders Mountain be sure you have good footwear and are prepared for a hike. Don’t forget water, snacks, and it’s always good to have a first aid kit.

The other option of Carowinds is for you adrenaline junkies. Spanning the state line of North and South Carolina, when you enter the park, you’ll be able to stand in both at once. Carowinds has 14 roller coasters including Fury 325 which is the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster.

Not only does Carowinds offer roller coasters, but it’s actually two parks within one because they have a water park inside. Carolina Harbor offers water slides, a wave pool, and cabanas if you’re looking to relax.

No matter which one you choose, you’ll leave Charlotte with wonderful memories of an adventurous day and weekend.

Your Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina Itinerary

I hope you see why the tagline of “Charlotte’s got a lot” holds true. There are so many things to do and this weekend is just a taste of what Charlotte offers! One weekend in Charlotte just isn’t enough so I’m sure while you’re leaving the city, you’ll be planning your return trip.

weekend in Charlotte North Carolina

A weekend in Charlotte isn’t enough time to fully enjoy all the city has to offer; but it’s a great start. (Photo Anna Cook)

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-All photos by Anna Cook and courtesy of Charlotte’s Got a Lot, as credited. Cover photos courtesy of Charlotte’s Got a Lot.

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