10 things you MUST do around Charlotte in January

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The Carolina Panthers’ Fan Fest at Bank of American Stadium benefits Carolina Panthers Charities.

I’ll be honest: When I think of January in Charlotte, I think of hibernating — ideally on a couch with a soft blanket and Postmates.

But there are actually quite a few fun things to do around town this month that don’t involve a Netflix binge. From cheering on your favorite teams to getting cozy with some hearty, warm-you-up fare, these are the 10 things you must do this month.

(1) Pull for the Panthers

Do I really need to elaborate on this one? Practice your dabbing and put on your #1 jersey. If you’re lucky, you’ve snagged some tickets to the Jan. 17 game. But if not, you can #KeepPounding at popular Panthers bars near the stadium like All American Pub or Draught.

[Related: The story behind that cheesy “Stand and Cheer” Carolina Panthers fight song.]

(2) Indulge in Spicy Mocha at Central Coffee

Consider this the grown-up answer to your favorite childhood hot chocolate. Served in the intimate and inviting Plaza Midwood coffeehouse and made with local hot peppers from Carolina Reaper, this rich drink comes with a spicy kick sure to warm up the coldest morning.

(3) Fall in love with Opera Carolina’s “Romeo & Juliet”

OK, let’s say that you don’t listen to arias on a daily basis and you think Puccini is a kind of pasta. No worries. Opera Carolina’s production of “Romeo & Juliet” this month is the perfect gateway opera. You already know the tragic tale of the star-crossed lovers so the English supertitles during the performance will barely be necessary. And tickets start at $19, which is worth it just for the looks on your friends’ faces Monday morning when you regale them with tales about your sophisticated cultural weekend.

(4) Snag a fireside seat at the Ritz-Carlton

Sure, the cocktails beckon from the Punch Room upstairs, but for the ultimate cozy experience in Uptown’s swankiest hotel find a table near the sleek fireplace in the lobby lounge. You can order savory bites from the bar’s menu, but some of the best choices here are the house-made pastries (order the eclairs) and warm drinks from the adjacent Bar Cocoa.

(5) Join a local gym/studio

You can look at local gyms and fitness studios this month as “crowded” or you can look at them as “full of potential new friends.” If you’re seeking a workout and the chance to meet new people, check out spots like Iron Tribe (opening a new one in Cotswold this month), MADabolic, or 9 Round. Or, join in with groups like F3 or FiA. This is the perfect month to jump in to a fitness scene full of other eager beginners.

(6) Spend a Saturday in Asheville

Just a two-hour drive from Charlotte, Asheville is an easy day trip — and this scenic mountain city knows how to handle a winter day. Relax in the rocking chairs in front of the giant fireplaces at the historic Grove Park Inn. Drink a hot Liquid Truffle at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Gather around the oversized fire pit with beers at the new Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Don’t you feel warmer already?

(7) Back the Buzz at a Hornets game

Our other home team (ahem, looking at you, Panthers) has been getting most of the attention of late and the Hornets could use a little extra sideline cheering. January is packed with road games for the NBA team, but you’ll have — and should take advantage of — a few chances to pull for them at Time Warner Cable Arena throughout the month.

(8) Warm up at Lupie’s Café

Charlotte doesn’t have many landmark restaurants left, which is all the more reason to head to this casual café on Monroe Road. The sweet and spicy Cincinnati chili topped with onions and cheese is the signature dish here for a good reason. Pair the hearty serving with a slice of hot cornbread for the ultimate cozy dinner.

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(9) Get inspired by Dance Theatre of Harlem

The world’s first black classical ballet company, which launched in 1969, is coming to Charlotte for the first time ever this month during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. You can catch one of its five performances in Knight Theater Jan. 22-24. Or, for a behind-the-scenes look, check out the Harvey B. Gantt Center’s “Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts” exhibit, which opens on Jan. 22 and runs through June.

(10) Get out of town

OK, this isn’t exactly in Charlotte. But our thriving airport may be one of the best things about this city. And this month you can find direct flights to places like Aruba, Cancun, Curacao, Grand Cayman, and the Bahamas. This means that there are only a few hours between you and a beach with a fruity drink. It’s time to make reservations.

Photos: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer; Katie Toussaint

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