Charlotte thrives on community. Each neighborhood and suburb is home to local business owners, entrepreneurs, families and students who shape its identity. Around every corner, you’ll find breweries and high-end boutiques, art galleries and food trucks, all working together to create a vibe that’s uniquely Charlotte.
In the heart of the Queen City, beneath glistening skyscrapers, bankers, engineers, developers and creatives shuffle to and from their offices. When the daily grind comes to a close, they flock to restaurants, rooftop patios and colorful taverns—hungry for post-work chatter and play. It’s here in Uptown (not Downtown) that you find the city’s pulse. Named for its geographic positioning, the district’s center is at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, which once served as a Native American trading path. This crossroads, called Independence Square, actually sits on a ridge, so no matter which way you approach it, you travel uphill. Along with symbolic statues, cathedrals and landmarks that evoke its rich history, Uptown’s grid-like design and four wards echo its Colonial roots, as does Tryon street, named for Colonial Gov. William Tryon.
Munch on gourmet sandwiches, pizza and delectable confections—or pick up locally sourced wine, beer, produce and handmade gifts—from the vendors at 7th Street Public Market. Taste the city’s vast cultural canvas with a Levine Center for the Arts pass. For $20, you get 48-hour access to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and the Mint Museum Uptown. If you can’t make daytime museum hours, visit during a free event such as Bechtler By Night or Free Wednesday Evenings at the Mint.
Swing to live jazz over specialty cocktails at The Imperial. The intimate lounge has the power to plant you on the streets of New Orleans without leaving Charlotte. For dinner, indulge in the charred octopus or delicate lamb shoulder at Stoke Charlotte, where renowned chef Chris Coleman shows off his culinary chops right before your eyes. Nightlife hits its stride along 5th and Tryon streets—home to Irish establishments like Dandelion Market, Connolly’s on Fifth and Rí Rá Charlotte. Don’t miss the retro revival at Roxbury Nightclub, a bar that plays 1980s and 1990s hits exclusively.
1) Demolish chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates before a sky-high dinner at Fahrenheit.
2) Dig into Sea Level NC’s crispy corn fritters, which beg to be dipped in the tangy side sauces.
3) Savor The Cellar at Duckworth’s housemade waffle cones, filled with Pongu poke tuna, coconut shrimp or chicken Sriracha honey.
In the mid-1990s, Johnny Harris, grandson of former North Carolina governor Cameron Morrison, had a vision for the vast hunting preserve he and his siblings had inherited. After acquiring more acreage, Johnny and his brother Cameron Harris sold their shares of the land to their brother-in-law Smoky Bissell, who dreamt of creating the ultimate corporate park. Thanks to Bissell’s shrewd eye for development, what was once a secluded section of South Charlotte just outside Interstate 485 (the Weddington area runs to the east, and Pineville runs to the west) has blossomed into a suburban metropolis—all within about two decades. In Ballantyne, manicured lawns, beautiful modern homes and stately retail complexes have proven magnets for residents who crave big-time amenities without the city’s constant hustle and bustle.
Mingle with friends over chocolate hazelnut French toast, mimosas and steaming cups of joe at Rush Espresso Cafe & Wine Bar. Then head to The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge to perfect you swing on PGA links, to toast high tea or to revitalize your skin at a renowned spa, which boasts more than 100 delicate treatments. Don’t skimp on a blowout in the salon or a steam in the sauna.
Whether you’ve snagged a sitter or have the whole brood on board, craft your perfect night at Ballantyne Village. The on-site cinema shows indie flicks and serves a full bar, while a cigar shop and a host of fashionable outposts dish out the best in retail therapy. Rekindle the romance over tapas at Miro Spanish Grille in Toringdon Circle, then send the night off in style over chilly suds and city views on Brazwells Premium Pub’s rooftop.
1) Spoil your dinner with The Blue Taj’s jumbo coastal spiced prawns, which are sauteed in curry leaf masala.
2) Scoop up every last bit of ground beef, potatoes and cheese that falls from the Sambuce at Arooji’s Wine Room.
3) Taste the South in Stewart Penick’s Terrace flaky fried green tomatoes, served with warm pimento cheese.
Plaza Midwood’s main thoroughfare, Central Avenue, tells you everything you need to know about the quirky neighborhood: A magnetic blend of consignment shops, watering holes, tattoo parlors and diners rub elbows with fancier restaurants and retailers. The colorful strip of graffiti-clad buildings invites both daytime exploration and nighttime revelry. A melting pot, both in terms of people and places, Plaza Midwood, like many of Charlotte’s neighborhoods, was once a streetcar suburb. Slow to develop due to its location northeast of Uptown, its official boundaries weren’t established until the 1970s. But by then, two hubs, The Plaza (the borough’s backbone) and Midwood (one of the area’s largest subdivisions), were already one. In the 1990s, a large portion of the western edge of Plaza Midwood was designated a local historic district. With a combination of homes built decades apart, a thriving LGBTQ contingent and welcoming community celebrations like Midwood Maynia, 4th of July Pig Pickin’ and Winter Fling, Plaza Midwood has developed an indelible personality that marries trendy with gritty and old with new.
An afternoon in Plaza Midwood is best spent making your way around the corridor of Central, Thomas and Commonwealth avenues. Shop trendy men’s and women’s threads at Boris+Natasha and abode-brightening accessories at Moxie Mercantile. Next door, stop into the Legion Brewing taproom for a round of Freedom Park pale ale and a board game. Then post up with a pint or Irish cocktail and a burger at The Workman’s Friend.
Sunset spirits on The Peculiar Rabbit’s rooftop are the perfect way to drink in the skyline. When the line at Soul Gastrolounge dies down, scoot up to a table for inventive small plates such as shrimp ceviche and lamb lollipops. Stationed below the popular joint, Twenty-Two combines a contemporary art gallery and a bar. Cap off the evening with live funk, punk or bluegrass tunes at music haunts Snug Harbor and The Rabbit Hole.
1) Relish the rich Black Angus raw tenderloin and white truffle oil in Bistro La Bon’s beef carpaccio.
2) Fill up your plate with Yama Izakaya’s edamame; the hot (and salty) commodity isn’t easy to share.
3) Sop up Moo & Brew’s addictive sundried tomato ranch with beer-battered Midwest cheese curds.
With far-reaching academic, business and international communities, University City is essentially (but not officially) its own city. In North Charlotte, the neighborhood is named for one shining tenant: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, open since 1946. Despite its proximity to the city, the university and its lively student culture have brought college town spirit—not to mention fun pubs, dining hotspots and extensive retail—to the area. On Saturdays during football season, academics, students and residents come together to support the Charlotte 49ers. Crowds dressed in green, white and gold pile into Jerry Richardson Stadium to cheer on the relatively new program, founded in 2013. During the week, the neighborhood is all business. With more than 20 regional offices for Fortune 500 companies in this area, the stately University Executive Park, University Research Park and Innovation Park employ thousands, and the completion of the 9.3-mile LYNX Blue Line light rail extension makes access to Center City faster than ever.
Spot birds and botanicals while hiking through Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve’s pine tree-shaded trails and paths. Afterward, cool off with a melty afternoon treat at Ninety’s Sandwiches & Ice Cream. The longtime neighborhood gem puts creative spins on sweet classics. Think macaron ice cream sandwiches. Later on, dive into the area’s international scene at Le Kebab Grill, a Middle Eastern joint serving flavorful falafel, tabbouleh and shawarma. As the name implies, the grilled kebab dishes are the standouts.
Live music, a comfy living room and libations to suit every taste (wine by the bottle and glass as well as hundreds of brews) draw nightly crowds to The Wine Vault. Dinner calls for a stop at Ciro’s Italian Restaurant, where the Cornielle family has been plating generous portions of Italian cuisine since 1995. A magnet for the college crowd, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium invites cold-one connoisseurs to share in late-night camaraderie. Join the UFO beer club to keep track of the number of beers you’ve tried; members who reach 200 earn a Ring of Honor, which is displayed on the bar’s wall.
1) Dine on deviled eggs topped with bacon and pimento cheese at Edgewater Bar & Grill.
2) Acquire an arsenal of napkins before you tear into Ale’s University’s crazy-good Mofo Wings, dunked in your choice of sauce.
3) Drizzle soy sauce on Thai House’s delicious spinach- and chicken-stuffed pot stickers before you inhale them.
Beloved for its charming bungalows bordered by white picket fences, picturesque Dilworth was Charlotte’s first streetcar suburb, which explains why a large portion of the neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1890s, entrepreneur Edward Dilworth Latta purchased hundreds of acres of property and dubbed it Dilworth in honor of his grandmother. Latta purchased a streetcar line, converted it to electric power and began selling lots at the end of the route, which extended to Uptown. Today, block parties, yard sales and festivals pop up each year in this pedestrian-friendly enclave, seated just minutes from Center City and blocks from South End. Although year-round run clubs, fall pumpkin patches and Christmas tree lots give compact Dilworth its cozy-yet-spirited vibe, much of its character draws on its historical qualities.
Stroll down boutique-filled East Boulevard for your fill of shopping in Dilworth. Score cheeky knickknacks at Paper Skyscraper, find trendy trinkets at Handpicked, and reinvent your wardrobe with stylish kicks and apparel at Revolution Clothiers & Co. Pop into Vestique and McKenzie Claire to find fashionable frocks and handbags, and scoop up handmade collectibles and art at 32 Flavors Boutique. Refuel with coffee and pastries from Joe and Nosh or over sandwiches at breakfast/lunch mainstay The Mayobird, home to Food Network-famous chicken salad.
Looking for a more refined night out? Sip on a wide array of pours and small plates at cozy wine bars like Dilworth Tasting Room or Foxcroft Wine Co. Dine at Southern-inspired culinary havens like The Packhouse or The Summit Room, which are both concepts from the same owner of The Mayobird. The Summit Room is a dinner-only spot that delivers thoughtfully reinvented regional dishes—BLT deviled eggs, pimento cheese gnocchi, lamb ribs slathered with Dr Pepper barbecue—on a spacious terrace.
1) Take your appetizer to Mediterranean heights with Kid Cashew’s creamy spinach and feta dip.
2) Forget what you know about traditional cornbread when you top the moist waffle cornbread at Fran’s Filling Station with pimento cheese and pepper jelly.
3) Toast a glass of cabernet, which pairs beautifully with 300 East’s garlic-filled baked marinated Vermont goat cheese.
Known as the city’s most upscale and robust shopping district, the crown jewel of South Park is retail mecca SouthPark Mall. It’s hard to believe that the expansive mall, which opened in 1970 and houses exclusive luxury retailers (we’re talking Chanel-exclusive), was once a 3,000-acre plot of remote farmland teeming with cattle and hogs. The land was owned by Gov. Cameron Morrison, whose early 20th-century brick manor (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) sits just a few streets from the mall in what is now a shopping center called Morrocroft Village. A vibrant juncture of towering high-end condos, landscaped business parks and fun-filled attractions, South Park is a frequent, if not daily, destination for most locals and visitors. In addition to its anchor shopping hub, the neighborhood is also peppered with outdoor plazas that feature posh boutiques, lounges and eateries. Along the main thoroughfares of Sharon, Fairview and Colony roads, tree-flanked old houses, churches and schools make this a homey place for families and professionals to call home.
Fill up on rich savory crepes and other French delicacies at Café Monte French Bakery & Bistro, voted one of the nation’s top-100 brunch spots by OpenTable users. Then treat yourself to retail therapy and relaxation at Phillips Place, where shops like Luna, Taylor Richards & Conger and Restoration Hardware stock home furnishings and designer labels for men and women. Elegant with a large fountain, bricked pathways and manicured green space, the open-air complex is also home to fine dining, a top-rated hotel and a movie theater.
For a meal that hits all the right notes, check out Rooster’s Wood-fired Kitchen’s South Park location. The eatery, helmed by noted city tastemaker Jim Noble, prides itself on tried-and-true classics, like their pork chop or barbecue chicken. Happy Hour and nightcaps are Corkbuzz Restaurant & Wine Bar’s specialty. A selection of rich varietals from various regions and fun wine-tasting classes, like Wine 101, make sommeliers of us all.
1) Share a plate of the cedar-planked and roasted Rockville-style North Carolina oysters at Georges Brasserie.
2) Whet your burgushi appetite with The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar’s Minis of the Week—three beef sliders served with bacon coleslaw and the signature Cowfish sauce.
3) Fight over the last rice cracker to scoop up the exquisite Osetra caviar and quail egg in Baku’s bluefin tuna tartare.
When the nation’s first gold rush enveloped Uptown in the 1820s, developers also unearthed a gem in the bordering land to the south. Although it wouldn’t gain its catchy South End title until 1994, the area became an extension of the Uptown gold mining district. Ingenuity struck again in 1893, when Daniel Augustus Tompkins opened Atherton Cotton Mill. Flour mills and more followed suit, making South End the city’s first industrial park. Today, that booming mill town past is still at the heart of this district—the cotton mills (now called Atherton Mill and Market) serve as galleries, furniture studios and trendy housing—but the neighborhood is even more tightly wound into the fabric of the city. The 2007 addition of the LYNX Blue Line light rail has made whizzing to Uptown and back a breeze. Young professionals scoop up apartments and condos in the historic-turned-trendy neighborhood, making it a hotbed for craft beer, culinary creativity and cultural celebrations. If you’re looking for the action on a Saturday afternoon in South End, you’ll find it on a brewery’s sun-drenched patio.
Locals rejoiced as ROOTS Café added a brick-and-mortar location to its food truck and catering resume. People are nuts for the protein-packed deli sandwiches and the “Bowls,” filled with locally grown roasted beets, sweet potatoes, quinoa and more. Soak up South End by creating your own brewery crawl. Most of the neighborhood’s breweries, like Sycamore Brewing, Wooden Robot Brewery, The Unknown Brewing Co., Lenny Boy Brewing Co. and Triple C. Brewing Co., are within walking distance or a stop just a stop away from one another on the light rail. And neighboring Good Bottle Co. and Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop sling more local suds. Work off the calories bouldering and belaying at state-of-the-art Inner Peaks Climbing Center.
An afternoon spent touring South End’s impressive brewery circuit demands a heaping dose of the famous poutine at The Liberty. There’s no judgment if it becomes the main dinner entree, but the cheesy side is unbeatable when paired with one of the joint’s mouthwatering burgers. Afterward, toast to good friends over cocktails and hit the dance floor at the Oak Room, where a DJ spins the latest beats. For VIP treatment, reserve a private table.
1) Smother Tupelo Honey Café’s biscuit crackers in the apple tahini, hominy, eggplant and pimento cheese that fill one of the chef’s Mason Jar Dips.
2) Discover your barbecue allegiance when you try sauces from Eastern and Western North Carolina atop Mac’s Speed Shop’s brisket burnt ends.
3) Try your calamari with a little heat when you order it in the sweet chili-glazed Crispy Shanghai persuasion at Sullivan’s Steakhouse.
Following in Dilworth’s footsteps, Elizabeth, on Center City’s southeast side, was the city’s second streetcar suburb. Although its boundaries weren’t officially determined until 1979, its evolution mirrored that of transportation. In the early 1890s, to match the growth of Uptown’s busy East Trade Street, nearby farmland began to develop into a residential zone, and then, a suburb. The trolley and eventually the automobile connected Center City dwellers and professionals to Elizabeth, and the neighborhood soon became the city’s nucleus for hospitals, churches and higher education—all of which are hallmarks of the district’s character. Adorable Craftsman-style homes and locally owned businesses, shaded by Willow Oaks, give the Uptown-adjacent enclave an irresistible charm. The modern-day CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar rattles along the roads, and young professionals tromp down the main streets of Elizabeth Avenue, Hawthorne Lane and 7th Street to patronize funky retailers, music halls and saloons.
To kick-start your morning or find a midday pick-me-up, order a homemade pop tart or cupcake and a freshly roasted cup of coffee at Sunflour Baking Company. For lunch, check out Viva Chicken. The succulent Peruvian rotisserie chicken is so good, you’ll forget about messy fingers and dive right in. In one of the neighborhood’s funkiest combinations, The Spoke Easy marries booze and bikes. The shop stocks new and used bikes for sale, plus beer on tap and by the can, wine, mimosas, salads and small plates.
Feast on tasty Creole fare at longtime Elizabeth hangout Cajun Queen. The restaurant, set up in a 100-year-old abode, cranks out etouffee, shrimp and grits, jambalaya and live jazz every night of the week. Groove to more live music at the no-frills Visulite Theatre. One of Charlotte’s oldest and still-operating music halls, the Visulite, formerly a movie theater, stages unforgettable indie, rock, country and blues shows in an intimate listening room.
1) Savor Customshop’s chicken liver pate, which combines sour cherry jam, pate and chocolate oatmeal bread in one dish.
2) Forget Buffalo chicken wings when you order Carpe Diem’s Harmony Ridge Farms duck wings with miso butterscotch and chili sauce.
3) Make the French connection with The Fig Tree Restaurant’s escargot topped with cremini mushrooms and a divine Gorgonzola sauce.
Before this edgy North Charlotte borough became the popular arts district it’s known as today, it was a flourishing turn-of-the-century textile mill town, but the area’s original blue-collar community faced desertion as mills began to close in the 1950s and 1960s. Thankfully, in the mid-1980s, artists Ruth Ava Lyons and Paul Sires offered up a new vision. They opened a gallery and, through the years, Charlotte’s thriving arts district formed. Today, NoDa’s (short for main street North Davidson) marriage of old and new is a thing of beauty: Colorful murals dance across aged factory buildings, tunes from up-and-comers seep out of weathered music joints, and inventive restaurants sling plates across reclaimed wooden tables. Gallery crawls, offbeat retailers and a slew of breweries beckon crowds young and old. Families and small-business owners fill the updated mill homes around North Davidson and 36th streets. And with the completion of the LYNX Blue Line light rail extension from Uptown, NoDa only stands to grow more.
Treat your pup to an afternoon of fetching with other pooches while you sip a frosty one at The Dog Bar. The partially shaded, 1,000-square-foot outdoor patio features an AstroTurf play zone for any breed or size of dog. Collect interesting finds from around the globe at Pura Vida Worldly Art, which stocks everything from Tibetan singing bowls to Latin American folk art. For lunch, visit NoDa Bodega, which serves up a sandwich of the day as well as fresh cuts of deli meat, artisan cheeses, wine and beer.
Since Amélie’s French Bakery’s NoDa location is open 24/7, you can indulge in the sinfully delicious salted caramel brownie any time of day. NoDa is home to some of the city’s early breweries, including Heist Brewery, Birdsong Brewing Co. and NoDa Brewing Company, each of which serves award-winning pours. Along your brewery hop, snap a selfie in front of Free Range Brewing’s tractor and Salud Cerveceria’s muraled walls. And let incredible acoustics put you on your feet at The Evening Muse and Neighborhood Theatre, where both local and national artists appear.
1) Abandon all modesty and dive finger first into Cabo Fish Taco’s sushi-style Cabo Roll, a tasty combination of blackened shrimp and crabmeat.
2) Polish off a heaping plate of Crêpe Cellar Kitchen & Pub’s hand-cut and twice-fried pesto brie fries.
3) Transport yourself to the bayou with crispy Gator Bites and Cajun mayonnaise at Boudreaux’s Louisiana Kitchen.
Revered for rows and rows of stunning dwellings that showcase masterful 1920s Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival craftsmanship, the Myers Park ZIP code carries timeless allure. The historic hood is best known for the more than 100-year-old oak trees that canopy its avenues. Their age and grandeur are a perfect complement to the elegant mansions and magnificent gardens on the main drag, Queens Road West. Each of these delicate details was part of a plan to convert cotton farmland into Charlotte’s first suburb back in the early 1900s. The vision was the brainchild of John Springs Myers, who lived in the area and gradually acquired more land. Noted city architect George Stephens and designers John Nolen and Earle Sumner Draper helped translate Myers’ vision into what became one of the city’s most coveted residential areas. Like something out of a rendering, students from Queens University of Charlotte tote books along Selwyn Avenue, bike riders roll down Queens Road’s landscaped loops, and families young and old flock to the delis, specialty shops, galleries and restaurants—often settled in century-old brick buildings—that fill the neighborhood.
Start the day with the famously funky sticky rice breakfast (barbecue pork and a sunny-side egg make appearances) at adorable Little Spoon Eatery. Then peer into far away galaxies, trace constellations and look at life on the moon through the lens of Discovery Place Nature’s extraordinary planetarium. The museum also explores flora and fauna and exotic animals. At Shain Gallery, study contemporary art in a variety of mediums from 40-plus distinguished local and national artists.
Take in a twilight picture at neighborhood landmark the Manor Theatre. Nothing compares to the buttery tubs of popcorn and nostalgia served up in this decades-old cinema. The classic marquee lights up with the names of only handful of select films at a time. Even into the wee hours, soak up homegrown hops and catch college hoops or football on the big screens along Selwyn Pub’s vibrant, always-filled front porch. You might even spot Michael Jordan or Dale Earnhardt Jr., who’ve been known to frequent the friendly locale.
1) Douse each bite of Napa on Providence’s grilled artichoke hearts in the accompanying garlic butter, citrus vinaigrette and lemon aioli.
2) Go ahead and get two servings of the Ma the Meatloaf sea salt tortilla chips and guacamole at RuRu’s Tacos & Tequila; it’ll be gone as soon as it hits the table.
3) Indulge in the rich pesto ricotta, pickled corn and blueberry compote-stuffed cannoli at Stagioni.
Blocks from Uptown, the Midtown neighborhood gushes with its own urban identity. At its core, the ultra-modern Metropolitan complex buzzes with shoppers browsing the latest finds at local fashion boutiques and big-box stores like West Elm, Marshalls and Target. The retail mecca is the fourth incarnation of the space. It started in 1959 as ahead-of-its-time Charlottetown Mall. The first enclosed shopping mall in the Southeast, it touted ritzy department stores, luxe decor and a million-dollar twin theater—North Carolina’s first. Over the years, the once-booming space couldn’t compete with new malls sprouting up around the city, and attempts at reinventions—in which it was renamed Outlet Square and then Midtown Square in the 1980s—were unsuccessful. But in the mid-2000s, developers finally landed on the right combination: a multiple-story mixed-use oasis of offices, condos, posh restaurants and retailers—many with breathtaking skyline views. Midtown Park, bike lanes and the Kings Drive Farmers Market add even more appeal to this not-quite-suburban respite.
Get an incredible workout along Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which runs from Center City through the neighborhood and is dotted with information about the city’s rich heritage, thanks to the Trail of History plaques and statues. Refuel over a piping-hot slice of pie at Pizzeria Omaggio, which dishes out craft pizzas, Italian sandwiches and pastas. Try the Pera Gorganzola, topped with whole-milk mozzarella, Gorgonzola and sweet pears, and don’t skimp on the irresistible garlic rolls.
Add flare to an ordinary evening by two-stepping or tangoing with your number one at Midtown Ballroom. The dance studio offers partner, group and solo dance classes in all varieties of ballroom dance, which means your two left feet are fleeting. Perfect your moves on Tuesday and Thursday nights, when $10 drop-in (appointment-free) group classes are offered. For sweeping skyline views and unmatched ambience, celebrate someone or something special at fancy neighborhood favorite Dressler’s Restaurant. The steaks and seafood reign supreme, and the talented staff is prepared to pair the perfect wine.
1) Indulge in a sweet-and-salty snack with Vivace Charlotte’s prosciutto and juicy melon, which comes kissed with extra virgin olive oil.
2) Find flavors from near and far (North Carolina and Italy) in the warm goat cheese and mascarpone dip at Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant.
3) Swap out your usual Miso soup starter for a plate of the crispy cream cheese- and crab-packed dumplings at Pisces Sushi Bar & Lounge.
The growing town of Matthews, set between Charlotte and Monroe southeast of Uptown, was home to just under 200 residents when it was officially chartered in 1879. The history of this once-sleepy borough is beautifully preserved in Downtown Matthews, where an old rail car, hardware store and history museum now mingle with a larger strip of up-and-coming bars, coffee shops and restaurants. Community vibes spark at Jekyll & Hyde Taphouse Grill, an Irish/English joint with a heady beer selection. And local talent shines at Matthews Playhouse, where kids take acting classes and more seasoned thespians take the stage.
Part of the Charlotte metropolitan, the hopping suburb of Mint Hill is settled just outside of the city in the southeastern portion of Mecklenburg County. Here families pack picnic tables outside local dessert destination Carolina Creamery, which serves homemade goodness. And Tuesday through Sunday, Barking Duck Brewing Co. beckons with tasty bites and cold, homegrown small-batch brews. Among the most creative pours are the Chinese chicken Sriracha pale ale and the Juice is Loose New England IPA. The brewery even hosts Food Truck Fridays once a month.
The charming town of Davidson, which is adjacent to Lake Norman, lies 20 miles north of Charlotte. Founded concurrently with the establishment of prestigious Davidson College in 1837, it’s a place that beats with the heart of a college town and the soul of a close-knit community. On Main Street, you’ll find scholars and locals scanning the aisles for classic novels and children’s books at longtime literary staple Main Street Books. Down the block, foodies fall in line to visit Kindred, led by 2016 James Beard semifinalist Joe Kindred and his wife, Katy.
First a mule bartering post and then a stop along the Charlotte and Colombia Railroad, the sprawling town of Pineville sits just 11 miles south of Charlotte city limits. Aptly named for its stately pine trees, the town was incorporated in 1873. Visitors of the President James K. Polk State Historic Site can pay tribute to one of the town’s most famous former residents, the nation’s 11th president. The site features a late-18th century cabin that rests on the site of Polk’s birthplace. The enclave has also caught Charlotte’s craft beer fever with hot spots like Pintville and Kit’s Trackside Crafts. In Pineville’s historic district, patrons can order a slew of suds and enjoy family-friendly fun.
Originally a magnet for cotton, the lakeside town of Cornelius, in northern Mecklenburg County, was incorporated in 1905. To get the best taste of the town, spend a day skipping waves on serene Lake Norman. Whether you’re dining dockside, chartering a pontoon boat or showing off your board skills, you’ll find a day is well-spent here. The covered, year-round heated patio at the Port City Club ensures lake lovers have the best view available, and the tasty, made-from-scratch menu keeps them coming back for more. Or more inland, Fork! serves up fascinating food and wine in a 100-plus-year-old home with a wraparound porch.
Thanks to fertile acres and a prolific rail line, the charming town of Huntersville, which borders Lake Norman, attracted enough residents to become incorporated in 1873. Hallmarks of Huntersville, the Carolina Raptor Center and Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve are popular spots for families who appreciate birds of prey and the outdoors. And at Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville, imaginative exhibits and rich play experiences bring learning to life for the little ones. Meanwhile, those craving retail therapy will appreciate the dazzling array of shops, like Williams-Sonoma, Pier 1 Imports, lululemon athletica Bevello, at Birkdale Village.
The charming city of Belmont rests about 15 miles west of Uptown Charlotte. Settled in the 1750s, the town was originally called Garibaldi Station, but was renamed Belmont (“beautiful mountain”) in 1833 because of its proximity to the majestic Crowders Mountain State Park. To enjoy the town’s old-time appeal, order a plate of biscuits and a side of banana pudding at Nellie’s Southern Kitchen, a cocktails and comfort food venture started by the Jonas Brothers’ father, Kevin Jonas Sr. Fittingly, the restaurant has a stage for live music. Then stroll through local claim-to-fame Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, open year-round.