Your Guide to a Layover in Charlotte
Looking to kill the time ‘til your next flight? Try these spots in and around Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
by Dean McCain
Travelers with short layovers can still experience some of Charlotte’s best food and beverage offerings without leaving the airport. Local breweries NoDa Brewing Company and Sycamore Brewing each have oases inside the airport with their own flagship beers on tap. The Broken Spoke serves up favorite local distillery The Great Wagon Road’s best whiskey and vodka. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery brings their well-known hospitality to a new satellite concept, Captain Jack’s Tavern, with some of the favorite foods and draughts found at their biergarten location. Charlotte’s ties to NASCAR are undeniable, and racing fans passing through Charlotte Douglas will love the NASCAR-themed Stock Car Cafe. For a heartier meal, hit up Charlotte-born Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar for an enormous juicy burger and a well-poured cocktail. Or beeline it to the closest Bojangles for the best fried chicken and biscuits the Carolinas have to offer.
Stepping into the city?
Travelers with a longer layover may want to ditch the airport and explore the Queen City. Those that do can check out Bounce Luggage Storage for short-term storage services before heading to some of the best spots in Charlotte to spend a long layover.
Distance from CLT: 7.6 mi. | 15 min. Uber
Luggage Storage: Bounce Storage, North Davidson and 10th Streets
Only seven miles from Charlotte Douglas International, Uptown Charlotte gives visitors a sense of the city’s love for art in a few short blocks. A quick uber ride to Levine Avenue of the Arts will put you in the center of Charlotte’s cultural arts cornerstones: the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture, and the Levine Museum of the New South. This pedestrian-friendly corner of town boasts beautiful architecture and peaceful green spaces alongside fine restaurants like Mariposa and Fin & Fino. Travelers on a time crunch can duck around the corner to a row of fast-casual food options including Rhino Market, Tikka Shack, Valhalla and Nefelie’s Greek Kitchen. Take your lunch al fresco in Romare Bearden Park across the street and follow the winding garden paths for a moment of calm. Got time to kill? Tour the NASCAR Hall of Fame, full of interactive exhibits like racing simulators and a Pit Crew Challenge. Or grab a $20 Levine Center arts access pass to the Mint, Becthler, and Harvey B. Gantt Center, valid for two days. Nearby the light rail connects to other popular neighborhoods South End and NoDa, each with its own unique take on Charlotte.
Distance from CLT: 8 mi. |15 min. Uber
Luggage Storage: Lockers available, backpack sized
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is an outdoors recreational center which provides access to a variety of exciting adventurous outdoor activities. A churning man-made channel built for Olympians training in whitewater kayaking events lies at the center of the facility and anchors the sprawling 1,300 acres of protected land surrounding it. Visitors can explore 50-plus miles of trails (by hike or by bike), take a zipline or canopy tour, climb the world’s first deep water solo climbing complex, paddle along the quiet Catawba River, or hop a raft and hit the rapids. Surrounding restaurants and beer outposts open out to ample grassy seating where spectators watch whitewater rafters go flying. Skip the activities entirely and spend an afternoon reading in a hammock, then catch a riverside concert at dusk. Admission to the center is free ($6 parking charge) and activity passes can be purchased à la carte with necessary equipment included. The USNWC is extremely family friendly and offers activities of all levels and abilities. Locker room facilities offer short-term locker rentals for travelers with small baggage.
Distance from CLT: 7 mi. | 15 min. Uber
This charming downtown area is a tranquil escape from the faster pace of Uptown Charlotte, about 15 miles eastward. Settled in the 1750s, Belmont has a friendly, welcoming feel reflected in its local businesses that gives it a small-town charm. Have an early meal at Honeycomb Café for classic comfort breakfast and lunch fare before wandering the local shops and parks. Nearby, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden (6.6 mi | 14 min. Uber) is open year round and gives visitors the chance to stroll through beautifully designed gardens and greenhouses. For a truly authentic Southern fine dining experience, Heirloom Restaurant is unparalleled. Diners are treated to complex dishes that spotlight locally sourced ingredients and constantly evolving seasonal menus, including a chef-curated six-course tasting menu.