Charlotte, North Carolina Is Ready for Its Crowning Moment

The Queen City’s recent developments are making it a metropolis for brewmasters and bankers alike.

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA uptown skyline at dusk.

Thought Charlotte was just a spot for those interested in finance? Think again.

Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Growing up on the outskirts of the Charlotte area, I’ve seen the city transform from a strictly-banking epicenter to a relocation magnet. With people drawn to its Southern charm and cost-of-living affordability that beat out the big cities, Charlotte has rapidly grown to accommodate an entrepreneurial and energetic population. That momentum has nowhere near stopped—every time I come back, friends give me suggestions on places to eat, play, and discover. While some longtime favorites are no longer with us (R.I.P. Price’s Chicken Coop), there are plenty of new happenings contributing to the Queen City’s vibrancy.

Here’s everything you need to know about your next visit to Charlotte.

Staying in Charlotte

JW Marriott Charlotte

Book Now: JW Marriott Charlotte

When the JW Marriott opened its first North Carolina outpost in August 2021, the 381-room luxury hotel stood out in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. Its prime location put it within walking distance of the Bank of America Stadium, the Charlotte Convention Center, and Charlotte’s Museum Row. Additionally, amenities—from a wellness spa (which include six private treatment suites and a couples’ treatment room) to a rooftop pool with private cabanas—gave Charlotte a grand introduction to the JW Marriott brand.

The brand released an VIP luxury experience in August this year to celebrate its first anniversary, including lodging in a presidential suite, a spa experience for two, and private limo service among other perks—all for the price of $8,000 per night.

Eating and Drinking in Charlotte

Optimist Hall

Optimist Hall’s tenants are proving that Charlotte has more to offer than Southern fare.

Photo by Optimist Hall

Optimist Hall

This food hall is just one of many renovated mills that have been given new life as a part of Charlotte’s urban landscape. Since 2019, the spot has spotlighted restaurants that include Indian-focused Botiwalla by Meherwan Irani (his Asheville concept, Chai Pani, was announced as the Most Outstanding Restaurant earlier this year by the James Beard foundation) and Billy Sunday, a Chicago-based cocktail bar.

It’s found quite a home among digital nomads, Uptown employees on lunch breaks and friends meeting. It’s become so popular, in fact, that it implemented a paid parking system in early August to keep parking efficient. But with the constant new additions, including an outpost of local Ethiopian restaurant Enat in May, it doesn’t seem like the crowds will simmer down any time soon.

Midnight Diner

Since 2009, this diner has been a staple for Charlotteans craving comfort food in the wee hours of the night. The late night hours aren’t the only thing drawing people in, though; menu stars like the shrimp and grits and fried chicken and waffles remind you that the Southern options here are next level. The (almost) 24/7 staple won’t be at its 115 East Carson Street location for much longer, due to a $750 million development project taking its place. But fear not: the diner is moving a mile away out to East Trade Street and is expected to re-open in the fall.

Southern Strain

Asheville is a well-known North Carolina favorite for hoppy drinks, but Charlotte’s brewery scene has its fair share of excitement. Southern Strain is one of the city’s latest examples, expanding beyond its Concord location with an April opening in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood in Charlotte. Sit and sip on their signature Hop Helix IPA or indulge in a cherrymosa, their rendition on the brunch classic.

This addition is just one of many breweries arriving into Charlotte lately, with this past spring and summer seeing Asheville-based Bhramari Brewing Company and Burial Beer Co., as well as Charlotte-based Legion Brewing increase their footprints in the Queen City.

Amelie’s

Amelie’s French Bakery has been a mainstay in Charlotte since it opened in 2008 in Charlotte’s NoDa arts district. The local chain moved its flagship location to a bigger space in April, with three total found in Charlotte and one in Rock Hill. The new NoDa location is still very much decorated with European eclectic flair (down to a replica Eiffel tower base attached to the wall). If anything, it’s now easier to enjoy the macarons and salted caramel brownies thanks to the plentiful tables and parking spots at this new flagship spot.

Exploring Charlotte

Nascar Hall of Fame

Learn about the history of NASCAR racing in a city so tied to the sport.

Photo by ZikG/Shutterstock

Independent Picture House

When the beloved Manor Theatre closed in 2020, Charlotte was left without a solid place to watch independent and foreign films. But the film community rallied, raising more than $600,000 to open the Independent Picture House this past June. The film venue is housed in the same building as the Charlotte Art League, and is already coordinating with the organization for events like the Charlotte Film Festival.

Camp North End

The 76-acre property is another one of Charlotte’s renovated historic spaces that’s been transformed into a mish-mash of restaurants, retail stores, offices, and fitness venues—you name it. Take a self-guided tour of the art installations sprinkled throughout the campus and support local Charlotte retailers on a trip to this spot north of Uptown.

The campus has been gradually gaining tenants on its campus since 2017, like James Beard-nominated Chef Greg Collier’s Leah and Louise. Restaurants are especially in the spotlight as places like The Abyss speakeasy and B.A.D. donut shop are planning to open this year, so come hungry.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Buy tickets: Adult tickets are $27; nascarhall.com/tickets

Charlotte-based sports teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers give sports fans plenty to celebrate throughout the year. But come Memorial Day weekend, NASCAR fans flock to Charlotte Motor Speedway to cheer on their favorites for the annual Coca Cola 600 race. Charlotte is the headquarters of the NASCAR brand, so it’s no surprise NASCAR’s Hall of Fame is here too. Peruse the racing simulator and other museum mainstays or exhibits like Chevrolet: Winningest Brand in NASCAR, which debuted in July.

Chloe Arrojado is the associate editor of destinations at AFAR. She’s a big fan of cafés, dancing, and asking people on the street for restaurant recommendations.
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