LGBTQ+ Guide to Charlotte
Vibrant and diverse, warm and welcoming, Charlotte’s tight-knit neighborhood communities are what make the Queen City so attractive to visitors and locals alike. Not sure where to start? Here are our recs for the city’s best in shopping, culture, nosh and nightlife. Each neighborhood is highly walkable, so grab an Uber or park the car and start exploring.
by Dean McCain
Start your day at Queen City Grounds, a comfortable cafe with bohemian style in the historic Fourth Ward. Spend an afternoon touring the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts, all located on the same (beautifully designed) city block. Grab a weekend lunch at Mariposa, the Mint Museum’s fine dining establishment.
Around the corner is Charlotte’s large central park, Romare Bearden, which treats guests to gorgeous views of the city’s skyscrapers and sports complexes. The Charlotte Knights play at Truist Field just across the street while a block away is Bank of America Stadium, home to the Carolina Panthers and our newest team addition, Charlotte Football Club.
For a more intimate look at the city’s center, there are a variety of tours offered around the neighborhood – walking, Segway, bicycle, historic, architectural and even haunted.
Want to eat like a true local? Alexander Michael’s in historic Fourth Ward offers an authentic neighborhood tavern feel and welcomes all who come to visit. For an upscale experience, Poplar Tapas Restaurant and Wine Bar is a must. This hidden gem is located in a beautifully restored historic Victorian home and offers a perfect patio setting for warm summer nights. Stay at a boutique hotel like the Grand Bohemian and visit their chic rooftop bar, Buho Bar, or try the historic Dunhill Hotel. If brunch with a view is on your mind, rooftop restaurants Nuvole and Fahrenheit provide stunning vistas of the Queen City.
Charlotte’s longtime artist community, NoDa, is a bustling neighborhood bursting with creativity. Visitors without a vehicle can easily access NoDa by lightrail, with connectivity to South End and Uptown.
Grab a fresh locally crafted pint with a rooftop view at The Chamber, an extension of one of Charlotte’s most popular breweries, Wooden Robot, right off the 36th Street stop. Find local vendors offering streetside wares like homemade jewelry, vintage clothing and mixed media art on sunny afternoons and late into the evening. Take a walk down North Davidson Street to see some outstanding examples of Charlotte street art and swing through Summit Coffee Co. for an afternoon pick-me-up and plenty of Pridewear.
Enjoy the patio garden of NoDa Company Store, where friends gather to socialize in this cute and casual cantina setting. When it’s time for dinner, treat yourself to a selection of nouveau comfort cuisine at Goodyear House, home to executive chef Chris Coleman of recent “Beat Bobby Flay'' fame. The Artisan’s Palate offers a relaxed restaurant-art gallery environment with shareable plates and craft cocktails, and features the works of local artists (not to mention the occasional high-energy drag brunch).
If Charlotte neighborhoods were musical genres, Plaza Midwood would be punk rock. Plaza Midwood is a hotbed for creative reinvention and go-to neighborhood for all things alt.
Stay in the carefully-curated Refuge, a boutique hotel with Indian and Jamaican creative roots on full display. Stroll down Central Avenue and enjoy local retail shops including CLTCH, where Charlotte creative Scott Weaver curates eclectic jewelry, accessories and gifts for men and women. For gifts of a more adult nature and all your Pridewear needs, White Rabbit has you covered. Plaza Midwood offers several options for easy, no fuss afternoon hangouts including Common Market (split a six pack or bottle of wine and snacks with some friends), and Legion Brewing (home to the Charlotte favorite Juicy Jay IPA).
When the sun goes down it’s time for a stylish and vibrant meal at Calle Sol, where patrons enjoy a colorful and lively dinner lounge serving authentic Latin dishes and cerviche. Nearby restaurants Dish and Diamond Restaurant provide more casual atmospheres and serve classic comfort and diner fare (with plenty of vegetarian options).
If the mood for live performance hits, see who’s on stage at Petra’s. Petra’s Bar offers live music and various other performance types as well as a gallery space for rotating exhibits from local artists. Plan ahead to attend Hazy Sunday with in-the-know locals, an afternoon party featuring deep house cuts on the back patio. Hattie’s Taproom down the street offers similar performances ranging from comedy to burlesque, and whose massive outdoor space is welcoming to patrons with K9 companions.
South End is a fast-growing, energetic neighborhood home to a host of trendy restaurant and retail spaces.
Atherton Mills is an attractive shopping destination perfect for perusing local offerings of anything from leather goods to formal wear and cooking spices to specialty wines. Perfect for pampering are the nearby Polished Nail Bar and the Spa at Selenite Beauty. Let a chef of haute cuisine create a unique dining experience for you at Bardo which offers five-, seven-, and twelve-course tasting menus with wine pairings.
For a later night out, The Bar at 316 is a popular gay hotspot with great dance music and lots of outdoor space. 316 is a natural choice to include in your gay night out due to its location central to South End and nearby Uptown, with plenty of nearby accommodations, including the conveniently located South End Holiday Inn.
Adjacent to South End is Dilworth, a historic residential neighborhood with classic Charlotte charm.
The scenic and expansive Freedom Park is at the heart of Dilworth and offers a peaceful escape from the busy city, including public tennis courts, playgrounds for the kids, and walking paths around a beautiful fountain-filled pond. Dilworth Tasting Room is a favorite hidden gem, where patrons can enjoy meticulously handcrafted specialty cocktails and modern American fare ranging from small plates to entree portions. Looking for brunch? Try 300 East, a neighborhood staple that prides itself on a rotating seasonal menu built around high quality locally sourced ingredients.
This corner of town is home to some of Charlotte’s best kept secrets, adjacent to but away from the glitzy glamor of Uptown.
Pinky’s Westside Grill is a classic dive and your go-to for Southern diner fare, including fried pickles, burgers, corn dogs, tacos, and of course, dessert (get the banana pudding). Cuzzo’s Cuisine is a self-proclaimed “unfussy fast food” joint specializing in all things soul food. Nearby, the Batch House bakes up serious sweets like oatmeal cream pies and pumpkin rolls. Rhino Market is a casual spot for sandwiches and six packs, good for an aimless afternoon hangout. Not Just Coffee will help you shake off the afternoon drowse after your self-guided food tour.
True to Charlotte style, West End has its share of breweries. Find Town Brewing and Blue Blaze Brewing for some stellar examples of local brews. When the mood to dance strikes, it’s time to hit The Scorpio. The oldest gay bar in town, The Scorpio is one of Charlotte’s best and most consistently busy night clubs, catering to a hugely diverse crowd in age, race, and gender expression. Nightly drag shows are the main draw here. Pro tip: the bar is 18+ and cash only.
Camp North End
Though not an actual neighborhood and more of an entertainment district, Camp North End is a destination worth exploring for unique retail, arts and food.
Built into Charlotte’s old munitions factory, Camp North End has turned this historic warehouse space into a sprawling complex that is particularly friendly to small businesses with big ideas. Visit Dupp&Swat, a self-dubbed “creative and expressive platform” space where patrons can shop for fashion and art, attend cultural events, discuss ideas and share their own unique creativity. Goodyear Arts is located nearby and features works from local visual, performance and literary artists. Stop by for a gallery exhibition of wide ranging themes.
Stop in local favorite Free Range Brewing then grab a drink at NoDa Company Canteen, NoDa Company Store’s unique satellite location. Stop by one or both for a cold beverage before settling in with some groovy live music under the iconic Camp North End water tower. There's no shortage of (wildly diverse) food options here, with anchors like Leah & Louise, an updated take on a classic juke joint, serving southern comfort foods with a modern touch.