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Charlotte has a little bit of everything! Now becoming a technology and business hub on the East Coast, Charlotte has truly had a boom in popularity the past few years. As a result, we have expanded our list of must see places, amazing restaurants, and unique activities you can only do here!
Charlotte is special in that it has the fast-paced city in the center but slows down once you leave the heart. So if you are looking for a big city feel without the big city price tag, Charlotte may just be the place you need to check out.
You have to check out the U.S. National White Water Center! Located just outside of Charlotte, it has an incredible rafting program you can do with coworkers, friends, family, or by yourself. In the summer, the ziplines, ropes courses, and rock-climbing walls help get you moving and out of your comfort zone. In the winter, there is ice skating on an outdoor rink where you can also grab a beverage. Hot toddy’s or just hot chocolates, it’s up to you! Additionally, there are hiking and mountain biking trails open year-round. Be sure to check their website for which trails are open that day.
How to Get to Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte is one of the most convenient cities to get to and get around in. Located right on the border of South Carolina, Charlotte is easily accessible from the North or South. I-77, the highway connecting the two states, recently added express lanes as well.
As a hub for American Airlines, Charlotte International Airport (CLT) has hundreds of domestic and international flights coming and going each day. This is an especially popular option for business travelers. If you don’t want to fly, you can find trains coming from Raleigh or Atlanta directly to Charlotte. From the airport, you can take a Taxi, Uber, or Lyft into the city. It is about 20 minutes from the airport into Uptown Charlotte.
Once you’ve arrived in the city, the best way to get around is by the LightRail! The LightRail is Charlotte’s newest form of public transportation. Connecting the local University UNCC to South End, during Weekdays the LightRail runs every eight minutes during commuting hours. All other times of the day until midnight, it runs every fifteen minutes. On Saturdays, trains arrive every twenty minutes and on Sundays they come every half hour.
This is a great way to get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes or less! A single ride pass is around $2 and a day pass is $6. Parking is free at many LightRail stops as well, but be sure to check online beforehand. You can purchase tickets through the CATS Pass app or at the train stops. After you’ve gotten off the LightRail, you can Bird, Lime, or Spin scooter around the block. Each of these has their own app. Start prices and cost per mile may vary. You can easily find them on practically any street corner!
Where to Eat in Charlotte for Dinner
Get ready Foodies! The food scene has really exploded in Charlotte recently and it’s easy to see why.
Mert’s Heart and Soul // First up on my list, is Mert’s Heart and Soul in the center of Uptown. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, this super colorful restaurant is a popular choice for Southern food lovers and Guy Fieri fans! Inexpensive and home-cooked, the restaurant is run by a husband and wife duo who make some mean ribs.
La Belle Helene // For a more formal option in Uptown, check out La Belle Helene. Not only do they have amazing French cuisine in a gorgeous setting, they also have the most Instagrammable bathroom in the city! Next up, we have two of my personal favorites, both located in NoDa. NoDa is just north of Uptown and has lots of murals, thrift stores, and coffee shops to check out.
Cabo Fish Taco // My all-time favorite restaurant to go to is Cabo Fish Taco. The laid-back environment is great for grabbing a margarita and enjoying their fresh seafood tacos. Definitely give the Jalapeño Mash a try as your side!
Haberdish // Just across the street you’ll find Haberdish. Served family style, this restaurant has awesome brunch and lunch options. The fried chicken is their signature dish but be sure to branch out and give the Pimento cheese ball, Kale Grits, Deviled Eggs, or really anything else on their menu a try! Fair warning, they give you lots of food so make sure you share.
Seoul // Looking for something a little different? Try out Seoul in South End. Their Korean chicken wings are insane and they also have Kim-Bap, the Korean sushi-esque rolls that are to die for! This place gets pretty busy on weekends so be sure to get their early or be prepared to wait.
Things to See in Charlotte at Night
Go brewery hopping // Charlotte has tons to do after 5pm. A really common activity? Brewery hopping on the Rail Trail! The Rail Trail is a walking path located in South End that, aptly named, follows the LightRail. In the afternoons and evenings on nice days, people will walk from brewery to brewery along the Trail.
A great brewery to check out is Sycamore. It has a large outside area and every Friday from 5-10pm is Food Truck Friday! It’s the best place to grab a beer, eat some amazing food, and pet a lot of dogs.
Explore the Discovery Place Science Museum after dark // If you’re interested in playing like a kid, without the kids, once a month the Discovery Place Science Museum in Uptown Charlotte has Science on the Rocks. A 21+ event, you can grab a drink and discover the wonder of science while having a chemical solution of your own. Starting at 8:00 pm, each floor of the Museum is transformed with bars, music, and activities just for adults.
Visit the Carowinds Amusement Park // If you’re interested in doing something really out there, you should check out Carowinds! Open until 8:00 or 10:00 pm depending on the day, this amusement park sits smack-dab on the NC/SC border. Check out the fair food, rollercoasters, and shows if you’re looking for something a little different than your average night.
Learn about Charlotte through a tour // If you want to learn a little something while you’re here, you should check out one of the many tours of the city. Charlotte offers Historical Walking Tours, Comedy Bus Tours, Trolley Pub Tours, and even Haunted Graveyard Tours. TripAdvisor has options you can reserve for groups at any price range. Whether your goal is to learn about the founding of the city in 1768 or how beer gets made, we’ve got something for everyone.
Catch a local game // Finally, if you’re a sports fan you can catch a game while you’re here. Charlotte is home to many professional sports leagues. The most popular teams? The Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Panthers, and the Charlotte Knights. If you are here in the winter be sure to snag tickets to a basketball game at the Spectrum Center, in the fall go cheer on the Carolina Panthers at the Bank of America Stadium, and in the summer you can watch the Knights knock it out of the park at the BB&T Baseball Park. Other times of the year you can find the Charlotte Courage soccer team playing too.
Getting to know Charlotte
Charlotte can be just as cheap or expensive as you’d like to make it! We have tons of truly incredible hotels and gourmet restaurants to enjoy but just as many cheap eats and Airbnb locations that will be just as satisfying.
If you have time, check out both South End and NoDa for completely distinct experiences. NoDa is the hipster area with some amazing murals and the adorable Smelly Cat Coffee Shop whereas South End becomes the party scene with all of the spots to grab a drink and play games.
If you find yourself coming to Charlotte in the Summer or Winter, you may just be here for Restaurant Week. Charlotte Restaurant Week, or The Queen’s Feast, allows restaurants to showcase their menus at a prefix price. Usually $30, Queen’s Feast comes with a selection of an appetizer, main, and dessert and sometimes includes a drink as well. Make sure you reserve a seat ahead of time! This is the most popular time of the year and dinner will be booked quickly!
Last but definitely not least, I had to mention my favorite thing to do any day in Charlotte, go grab a bite and walk around Optimist Hall. The new food hall has stalls selling everything from Dumplings and Tacos to Grilled Cheese and Poke. You can grab a cocktail or a coffee and stop for a gelato or freshly-baked pastry while you roam around the space. If nothing else, you can admire how aesthetically pleasing the building is. From the brickyard exterior of a converted mill, to the white and mint green interior walls decorated with wood and plants, Optimist Hall is a prime Instagram location. Be sure to check out their adorable stationary store Archer. It’s my favorite place to buy gifts!
Guide and Photos by Mac Harrison | The Hello World Files
Also check out:
- River North, Chicago After 5:00 pm
- San Francisco’s Financial District After 5:00 pm
- Plano, TX After 5:00 pm
- Charleston, SC After 5:00 pm
- Charlotte, NC After 5:00 pm
- Kansas City, MO After 5:00 pm