We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we’re proud to begin a regular, monthly section to feature destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips enriching and entertaining.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Driving four hours south of Charleston, West Virginia, along the WV Turnpike and across the lush countryside, will bring you to Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte is a city of cultural windfall offering fine arts, tasty meals, world-class sporting events, and designer shopping. Here are some recommendations to help inspire a weekend traveler getaway in the “Queen City” of Charlotte.
Spacious room with lovely amenities at the Le Méridien Hotel. Photo by Melody Pittman.
Breakfast Burger from Passion8: House made burrata, proscuitto, and a fried egg. Creamy goodness over a beef burger and homemade bun. Photo by Melody Pittman.
Tangy Buffalo Chicken Flatbread from Heist Brewery. Photo by Melody Pittman.
The 7th Street Public Market is where delicious prepared foods and interesting market finds collide. It is within steps of the Lynx Light Rail, a sensible and affordable method of transportation in Charlotte. Photo by Melody Pittman.
You do not have to be a NASCAR fan to appreciate and enjoy this amazing experience. Photo by Melody Pittman.
Hands-on cotton gin and exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South. Photo by Melody Pittman.
Where to Stay
For those seeking luxurious accommodations, I recommend Charlotte’s Le Méridien. It is a stylish hotel with trendy onsite restaurants and a killer rooftop bar. A budget friendly option is the Hilton Garden Inn Charlotte Uptown, adjacent from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It has an onsite convenience store and complimentary beverage area. Both hotels are within walking distance of many popular attractions.
Where to Dine in Charlotte
Charlotte has restaurants to please any palate. Intriguing breakfast eateries include Passion8, Flying Biscuit Cafe, and Cafe Monte at Ballantyne. Have a breakfast pastry or bold cup of coffee while shopping at Dean & Deluca, one of the best gourmet food emporiums in the United States. Eat lunch like a local at Price’s Chicken Coop, Brooks Sandwich House & Chili, Futa Buta (serving ramen), Fenwick’s (quiche), or Pinky’s Westside Grill (wings & tacos).
For an upscale dinner, try The Cellar at Duckworths (house-made waffle cones), Heist Brewery (beer and flatbreads), and the Blue Restaurant and Bar (chicken and apricot tagine). Save a few bucks by dining at JJ’s Red Hots (signature hotdogs), and Sabor Latin Street Grill (street tacos, burritos, and margaritas) for $1 Tacos on Tuesdays.
The shops at 7th Street Public Market, a fun urban food destination. The shops here serve fresh and affordable meals from local farms and regional purveyors. From pizza to seafood, specialty coffee drinks, and smooth-tasting glasses of wine.
Learn all about Charlotte’s racing roots at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This state-of-the-art interactive facility showcases famous NASCAR cars on Glory Road, a Pit Crew Challenge, and racing simulator. If you are looking to put yourself in the driver’s seat, go to the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Here, you can complete laps around the track with your hands on the wheel and foot on the gas. Want to leave the driving to a pro? Buckle up and ride shotgun as you complete three laps at speeds up to 165 mph.
Kids and adults will enjoy visiting the Levine Museum of the New South. This hands-on history museum features intriguing displays of Southern life throughout the years. Take advantage of free admission on Sundays from 12-5PM.
The McGill Rose Garden is home to over 1,000 varieties of sweet smelling flowers and plants for nature lovers. Another beautiful place to explore is the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
Family Fun Favorites
A visit to Charlotte would not be complete without spending a day at Carowinds amusement park. Known as the Thrill capital of the Southeast, Carowinds is home to many supreme roller coasters and thrill rides.
Kids will go gaga over Ray’s Splash Planet. This indoor water park (with over 117,000 gallons of water) offers water slides, a lazy river, and spill buckets. Charlotte also has a zoo, children’s museum, a hands-on science museum (Discovery Place) with an IMAX Theatre.
For $25 a person, enjoy a night of rib-tickling laughs onboard The Funny Bus. Bring your own drinks and be entertained by top-notch comedians during this 90-minute interactive comedy and city tour. Music enthusiasts will want to check out The Fillmore’s schedule for musical performances and delight in its kitschy decor and state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.
Where to Shop
Charlotte’s premier shopping is at The SouthPark Mall. It is home to dozens of luxury shops, such as Louis Vuitton, Nordstrom, and Tory Burch. The Plaza Midwood offers shopping for antiques, vintage clothing, used books, and resale items. The Charlotte Premium Outlets are another favorite shopping destination with over 100 coveted retailers, including Kate Spade, J Crew Factory Store, and LOFT Outlet.
Do Not Miss
Food tours are a great way to get to know a city. Tour de Food offers several itineraries, including one in Charlotte Uptown and the NoDa neighborhoods. Check out the River Jam concert series at the US National Whitewater Center from May to September. The River Jam offers a talented line-up of musical acts with a noteworthy craft-beer selection, all for a $5 parking price tag. Visit the same venue for a variety of outdoor adventures, such as kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and zip lining.
Weekend Trip to Charlotte, NC
As you can see, Charlotte is a city packed with fun things no matter what your interests are. Explore Charlotte’s diverse neighborhoods, including NoDa, Plaza-Midwood, South End, and SouthPark. Charlotte is well worth the four hour drive from Charleston to experience the city’s culture, activities, and food.