How to Host Friends and Family in Charlotte
Show off your favorite parts of the Queen City with these ideas for hosting friends and family visiting Charlotte.
by Dean McCain
There’s so much to do in Charlotte that picking just a few activities to entertain guests can feel impossible. Start with our guide to planning a visit and find something for everyone, from festivals and DIY outings to restaurants and nightlife.
1. Spend an afternoon at Optimist Hall
A food hall with dozens of unique vendors and interesting shops, Optimist Hall is perfect for sampling thanks to local favorites like Felix’s Handmade Empanadas, The Dumpling Lady, Botiwalla Indian Street Grill, or Bao and Broth, or try a carefully crafted cocktail from Billy Sunday. Fonta Flora Brewery’s bright and welcoming taproom offers a nice jumping off point to the rest of the hall; stop in for a pint or two to whet your appetite. Don’t miss Paradiso Plant Shop, Collier Candy Company, Archer Paper Goods and Pet Wants for a unique shopping experience.
2. Get hands-on with a DIY outing
Pour your own candle at Paddywax Candle Bar and Lip ‘N Pour. Try your hand at terrarium building at PlantHouse or pick a home decor project to tackle with AR Workshop, a boutique DIY workshop that teaches craft classes, like woodworking and knitting, in a fun and casual environment. Learn to cook dishes from a diverse variety of cuisines with Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen or master Indian dishes with Santhoshi’s Kitchen.
3. Create a family adventure at the U.S. National Whitewater Center
Enjoy year-round outdoor adventure along the banks of the Catawba Rive at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Splash through the roaring man-made whitewater channel in a kayak or group raft, or test your nerves on a treetop canopy tour. Go for a relaxing hike or adrenaline-inducing mountain bike ride on the 50-plus miles of trails surrounding the center. Or, skip the activities entirely and spend an afternoon spectating and enjoying the food and beverage canteens that dot the property. Combine activity and eating with Adventure Dining unique opportunities. From May through September, enjoy the River Jam concert series Thursdays through Sundays and from mid-November to mid-February, ice skate along the Upper Pond of the whitewater system and stroll the half-mile nature trail for Light, an artistic trail-side lights installations
4. Plan your own brewery tour.
A region home to over 60 breweries, craft your own crawl with the Brew Badge. Follow the NoDa Craft Beer Trail for a choose-your-own-adventure type crawl or make your way through South End and LoSo for some of the city’s longest-standing breweries. Hop aboard the Funny Bus, Charlotte’s BYOB comedy city tour or take a curated brewery tour with Charlotte’s Brew Ha Ha Tours.
5. Spend a day in Belmont
Belmont's charming downtown area is a quiet escape from the faster pace of nearby Charlotte. Have a meal at Honeycomb Cafe for classic comfort breakfast and lunch fare before wandering the local shops and parks. Nearby, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden (part of the Explore Charlotte pass) is open year round and gives visitors the chance to stroll through beautifully designed gardens and greenhouses. Make reservations at Heirloom Restaurant for a truly authentic Southern fine dining experience. Diners are treated to complex dishes that spotlight locally sourced ingredients and constantly evolving seasonal menus, including a chef-curated six-course tasting menu.
6. Pick your own fruits and veggies at a local farm.
Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill, Apple Hill Orchard and Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard each offer apple picking as well as other seasonal activities. Windy Hill serves flights of hard apple ciders (in addition to fresh pressed, non-alcoholic ciders). Apple Hill Orchard has group educational tours available and a must-visit bakery. Their apple cider doughnut is worth the trip alone. Blueberry Thrill Farm offers pick-your-own apples, pumpkins, berries, flowers and other produce when in season.
7. Spend an afternoon or evening at Camp North End.
This munitions-factory-turned-entertainment district is a destination worth exploring for unique retail, arts and food. Visit DUPP&SWAT, a self-dubbed “creative and expressive platform” where patrons can shop for fashion and art, and even attend cultural events. Stop in local favorite Free Range BAR at Camp North End for craft wine and beer or NoDa Company Canteen for a cocktail. Peruse the shelves of That’s Novel and Lokal by Hygge, stop in Good Postage for nostalgic art supplies or Grow: A Plant Shop for plants, gifts and fun household decor. See what’s on display at nearby Goodyear Arts, which features works from local visual, performance, and literary artists. Dine unique food stall options, grab a build-your-own charcuterie plate to dine on picnic style from Babe & Butcher or enjoy award-winning cuisine from James Beard-nominated Leah & Louise.
8. Get your thrills at Carowids.
This amusement park offers close to 60 hair-raising rides including the world class Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster of its kind, and The Intimidator, one of the top 10 tallest steel coasters in North America. Visitors planning a trip in the fall can experience the park's spooky transformation to Scarowinds or those visiting late in the year can enjoy Winterfest, Carowinds’ Christmas-themed wonderland complete with ice skating and cookie decorating. 2023 will bring the park’s 50th anniversary celebration, featuring Aeronatuica Landing with new rides and experiences for all ages. To make the most of your visit, consider adding the Fast Lane Pass to your ticket which grants users the ability to bypass the line on rides and attractions.
9. Stretch your legs on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway extends nearly four miles from Brandywine Road to Seventh Street in Uptown, creating a stretch of protected pedestrian walkway connecting several points of interest. Enjoy the peaceful loop around the lake at Freedom Park and Discovery Place Nature, pass through the Metropolitan shopping center and Central Piedmont Community College’s hidden garden. Beautiful sculptures and educational posts about local ecology line the paved, wheelchair-, bicycle- and stroller-friendly path.
10. Score tickets to a Hornets game.
Charlotte’s NBA team plays Uptown at the Spectrum Center (adjacent to the Charlotte Transportation Center light rail stop). Surrounded by restaurants (Essex Bar & Bistro, Roosters Wood-Fired Kitchen, Aria Tuscan Grill and Sea Level NC) and entertainment hotspots (The Local, RiRa, Connolly’s On Fifth, SIP and Prohibition), Hornets games are a great choice for hosting your sports-loving visitors.
11. Marvel at Charlotte Ballet.
Charlotte Ballet is known for its impressive dancers and versatile repertoire, ranging from classical ballet like the Nutcracker to bold, contemporary works. The company of 28 professional dancers annually presents six performance series in Charlotte spanning from October to May. With an international roster of choreographers, Charlotte ballet is focused on bringing new works to Charlotte and the Southeast.
12. Jam to live music at one of Charlotte's many music venues.
Discover artists from a variety of genres at live music hub The Neighborhood Theater. Find your new favorite musician at mid-sized music hall Visulite Theater, or catch an intimate show at The Evening Muse. See a chart-topper perform at one of the three Live Nation venues in the AvidXchange Music Factory- The Underground, The Fillmore, and the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater or catch a show at the BOplex, consisting of the historic Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles Coliseum.13. Enjoy the fresh Carolina air with a side of competition at Topgolf. Avoid the wait by making a reservation in advance. There are two packages for groups of seven to 12 guests. The Flex Package includes two hours of golf and a $200 pre-paid tab to be used on any food and beverage options on the menu – perfect to cater to everyone’s preferences. There’s also the Shareable Platter package, complete with platters of favorite menu items plus unlimited non-alcoholic drinks and two hours of golf. Both of these options guarantee two side-by-side bays without any wait, so you can make the most of the time you have with your guests.
13. Enjoy the fresh Carolina air with a side of competition at Topgolf.
Take a swing at Charlotte’s Topgolf locations. Open-air putting bays are open year-round and make for a relaxed day of snacks, games, drinks and time together.
14. Play a round at a local social house.
Enjoy bites, drinks and games from Queen Park Social, Slingshot Social Game Club, Pins Mechanical and Pinhouse Charlotte each offer a variety of games and activities for some friendly competition. Pick from bowling (ten-pin and duckpin), shuffleboard (tabletop and yard), skeeball, foosball, darts, arcade games and so much more.
15. Pursue your professional mini-golf aspirations.
Whether you choose South End’s Puttery or Plaza Midwood’s Stroke for a whimsical, modern adult putt-putt experience. Puttery prides itself on intricately detailed courses and attractive bar lounges. Stroke styles itself as an urban golf club and speakeasy, with 9 unique hand-built holes. Each has curated food menus and cocktail lists for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.