How to Host Friends and Family in Charlotte
Treat your guests to exclusive local experiences and flavors.
by Jessica Swannie
Your guests deserve the VIP Charlotte experience. As we begin to host friends and family once again, there’s pressure to make the most of each moment. To help you plan your next gathering, we’ve pulled together tips, tricks and itinerary recommendations to roll out the red carpet for your visitors. From dinner cruises to private workshops and NASCAR track experiences, these ideas are designed to go above the everyday and deliver exceptional memories.
Things to Do
Wow your guests with private events and unique Charlotte-inspired experiences.
Area: Fort Mill, SC
Give your guests the gift of thrills when you plan a day at Carowinds. This entertainment center offers almost 60 rides, a waterpark, live entertainment and family-friendly special events. Adventurous visitors should plan to ride the Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, then plan to explore the Carolina Harbor waterpark featuring slides, currents and places to cool off under the sun. To make the most of your visit, plan to add a few upgrades. The Fast Lane pass grants you the ability to bypass the line on rides and attractions. If you’re planning to spend the day at the waterpark, reserve a cabana, which will allow you to set up camp, lounge in the shade and relax between splash-worthy adventures.
Founded by two friends in Pineville, N.C., A&R Workshop has since grown to more than 150 locations across the country. Whether you’re gathering for a bachelorette party, girls’ night or a group date, this is the ideal spot to make memories with friends and family. Workshop options cover everything from wooden signs to cornhole and centerpieces. Most adult projects range from $40 to $70, and you can bring food and beverages to enjoy during your session. Depending upon the size of your group, you can opt to reserve a table or rent the entire space for a private craft session.
Area: Steele Creek
Enjoy the fresh Carolina air with a side of competition at Topgolf. By making a small party reservation, you can avoid the walk-up wait and enjoy special perks. There are two packages for groups of 7-12 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.
Learn about the Charlotte Motor Speedway — from behind the wheel. On the Fast Pass Tour ($30 per vehicle), you and your guests can experience an hour-long tour around the facility led by an expert guide. From your vehicle’s radio, you’ll learn about the track, pass by the media center and drive by the NASCAR garages. There’s even a chance to ride on the apron around the 1.5-mile superspeedway and pass through the Winner’s Circle for a photo opportunity with your group.
Prefer something more extreme? Drive a NASCAR race car on the Charlotte Motor Speedway for timed racing sessions during the Richard Petty Driving Experience. You’ll get one-on-one instruction from a spotter via in-car radio as you race along the 1.5-mile quad oval track — and pass your guests if they’re driving slowly! Prices start at $199.
Area: Catawba River
A top destination for both locals and out-of-town guests, the Whitewater Center offers a day full of adventure, live music and great food. In addition to land activities such as ziplining, rock climbing and a network of trails, there’s also rafting on the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Spend the day exploring, then grab food and brews while you listen to live music at River Jam. For a more intimate experience, reserve a Paddle to Table dining excursion, where you’ll enjoy a flatwater paddle on the Catawba River before sitting down for a chef-curated meal at the Ridge Pavilion.
Upgrade your basketball experience. Before getting tickets to a Charlotte Hornets game, consider treating your guests to a special group experience. Enter the arena early and watch the Hornets from lower bowl seats during warmups, honor friends and family deserving of recognition on the jumbotron, or commemorate your night out with a post-game group photo on the court. In addition to group experiences, you can also plan to catch a game on a themed night.
For a uniquely Charlotte experience, host your guests at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, where they’ll find interactive exhibits, guided tours and historic cars. If you have company during the week, consider embarking on a guided tour (available Mondays and Fridays). This behind-the-scenes experience will give guests a glimpse into the history and heritage of the sport, up-close views of racing artifacts and exclusive stories. Tours begin at 1 p.m. and last about 2 hours. Tip: Guided tour tickets don’t include admission to the Hall, so if you want to spend the day, plan to get a combo package or daily admission ticket.
Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to enjoy a party with friends, hop on a Trolley Pub Tour. This BYOB, pedal-powered pub can fit up to 14 people at a time to tour Uptown and South End. Expect coolers to keep your drinks chilled, stereo systems and comfortable seats. Private tours can accommodate any party, from bachelor/bachelorettes, birthdays, and even family-friendly options. These sightseeing tours last about 2 hours, stopping at 2-3 customer-chosen spots along the way.
Gather a group to create one-of-a-kind pieces at Hot Glass Alley, where you’ll witness molten glass become art while learning about glass blowing, fusing and design. On the weekend, you can engage in Make-Your-Own workshops, where you can create ornaments, suncatchers, wine glasses, paperweights, pint glasses, high ball glasses, vases or ruffle bowls. If you prefer something more intimate and detailed, you can reserve private lessons for glassblowing and flameworking.
Part distillery, part winery, Seven Jars offers myriad events and classes to keep guests entertained throughout the day. The distillery is home to specially crafted rum, vodka and whiskey, and the adjacent winery produces everything from chardonnay to Moscato and merlot. Take a tour, where you’ll enjoy selections from seven distilled spirits, seventeen local wines and seven craft beers. There are also beer classes offered twice a month on Saturdays, where you and your group can learn techniques, sample beers and tour the expanding facility.
Neighborhood: South End
Instead of cooking for your family and friends, make their visit memorable with a day at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen. Private events include drink packages and come in three options: Hands-On, Chopped Challenges and Tapas Tastings. This private instruction is perfect for celebrations, girls’ getaways and even just a fun night out with close friends. Choose from daytime, afternoon or early evening slots to customize your experience.
Area: Lake Norman
Dine on the water during a dinner cruise on either the Catawba Queen or The Lady of the Lake. The Catawba Queen, a Mississippi River boat, offers chef-serve buffets and hor d’oeuvre selections, complete with an open-air patio deck on which to enjoy lake views. If you choose to dine on the 93-foot luxury Lady of the Lake yacht, you and your guests can expect two floors and an open-air balcony with stunning lake views paired with a three-course gourmet meal. Planning to host a large group or party? Private rentals are available for both boats.
After exploring the city, treat your guests to a rejuvenating spa day, showcasing the best local and natural ingredients. Day packages provide visitors the opportunity to enjoy Carolina lavender spa treatments, whirlpools, lounges and fitness experiences. If you want a more intimate experience, group bookings are available.
Hosting at Home
Check out these locally produced items to add a luxury touch to your home when hosting.
Cheese from The Culture Shop
Neighborhood: Belmont/Plaza Midwood
Planning to prep your own appetizers and charcuterie? Head to The Culture Shop, where owner Catherine Devericks stocks the shelves with everything from domestic and imported cheeses to provisions, wines and organic uncultured meats. Inspired by local food artisans and farms, the shop is dedicated to small-batch goods and rare finds.
Area: North Charlotte/Camp North End
Impress your guests upon arrival with a specialty spread from Babe & Butcher. One board feeds 10 to 15 and can be customized to your tastes. Full-size board options include traditional charcuterie offerings, but the shop also offers dessert boards, fruit and cheese boards, salmon and lox boards and more.
Candles from White Island Candle Co.or Pretty Honest Candles
Set the scene for a warm welcome with the perfect scent. White Island Candle Co. offers hand-poured, wood-wick soy candles to fill your home with scents of vanilla, pineapple and coconut milk — complete with cheeky names. For more creative candles, visit the Pretty Honest Shop (featured in Buzzfeed and HuffPost) for scents with grapefruit, jasmine, lemongrass and more.
Tea from The Pauline Tea-Bar Apothecary
Area: West Charlotte
Entertain guests with hand-selected tea from The Pauline Tea-Bar Apothecary. The tea lounge partners with eco-sourced tea herbalists to ensure all teas are high-quality. Herbal tea selections include lemon ginger, tangerine white, peppermint, cinnamon orange, chamomile, jasmine and more.
Fresh-brewed coffee from Enderly Coffee Co. and Hex Coffee Roasters
As a host, give guests a taste of Charlotte’s locally roasted coffee during their visit. Designed to bring the community together, Enderly Coffee offers beans from Ethiopia and Brazil, as well as iced coffee and espresso blends. At Hex Coffee, simplicity is key. The team is dedicated to sourcing beans with unique, full-bodied flavor in its most basic form. Surprise guests with a seasonal blend or options sourced from Colombia and Peru.
Stock the bathroom caddy with products from Roses + Azalea
Deliver only the best for your loved ones by stocking your space with spa-worthy personal care products. Roses + Azalea creates organic personal care and beauty products with minimally-processed botanicals, meaning your guests will leave feeling refreshed. Options range from geranium and lavender bath soaks to plant-based shampoo and detox masks.
Neighborhood: South End
Cooking at home? Show off your culinary know-how with gourmet spices from Savory Spice Shop. Opt for local favorites such as TSM BBQ Chicken Rub, Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning, California Citrus Rub and Black River Creole. Plus, you can grab last-minute cooking supplies such as sauces, cedar grilling planks and seeds.
Local Charlotte honey from Cloister Honey
Never flavor your dishes or drinks with bland honey again. Cloister Honey will help you up your cooking game, including lavender-, cinnamon- and bourbon-infused options to keep things exciting. All honeys are locally sourced and produced by Joanne de la Rionda and “bee nerd” Randall York, so you can support local while giving your guests a sweet taste of Charlotte.
Crowler from NoDa Brewing Company
Skip the busy brewery and host at home with the same refreshing beer. NoDa Brewing offers crowlers and cans of their draft beers, including Hop Drop ‘N Roll and Jam Session. Don’t have time to run in? The North End location has a “Brew-Thru,” where you can pick up four-packs, crowlers, bottles and merchandise.
Bitters from Earl’s Grocery
Serve memorable cocktails with a few drops of orange, lemon pepper or cherry vanilla bitters from Earl’s Grocery. In addition to mixology supplies, Earl’s sells everything you’ll need to host a meal, from meat and seafood to baking supplies and snacks.
For more distinct getaways in the Queen City, check out these other Charlotte area hotels.