Did you check everything off? Here’s our Charlotte bucket list of the top 10 things you MUST do in 2017.

First published on Jan. 3, 2017

T.ORTEGA GAINES - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Editor’s note: You only have a few days left to check everything off our 2017 Charlotte bucket list. Challenge yourself!

Things like “lose weight” and “save money” don’t exactly constitute making fun plans for 2017. That’s where this list comes in. We’ve found the 10 things you need to do around Charlotte this year to really get a taste of this town — and have a great time doing it. From sipping rooftop drinks after dark to celebrating at festivals on the weekend, consider these 10 resolutions you’ll actually want to keep.

(1) Visit at least three local breweries.

Some of you have done this in an afternoon (we’re not judging), but for those who haven’t explored the city’s brewery scene yet — it’s time. Start with gateway breweries like The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery or NoDa Brewing Co., where you’ll find food, tours and often entertainment along with your brews. But be sure to venture to some of the smaller and newer breweries as well. With more than 20 in the area, there’s no shortage of options for creative craft beer. Pro tip: Charlotte also has craft cideries and distilleries. If beer isn’t your thing, these will count for this 2017 bucket list.

(2) Take the extended light rail from end to end (with at least one stop to explore).

The Lynx Blue Line Extension is scheduled to open in August. This means that you’ll be able to catch the train from I-485 at South Boulevard and ride it through South End, Uptown, and NoDa all the way up to UNC Charlotte. Do you know how many cool restaurants, shops, bars, markets, and breweries are along this full line? Hundreds. Start planning now. Pro tip: Can’t wait until August? Hop on at 7th Street and head south now for the seemingly endless options around Uptown and South End.


(3) Spend a Saturday morning farmers market hopping.

If you’ve spent a spring morning in Atherton Market or stopped by Davidson Farmers Market on a hot summer Saturday, then you know: Charlotte has some seriously impressive local farmers and artisans, and many of the best can be found in its smaller markets. If your usual stop is Kings Drive or Charlotte Regional, switch it up one morning and hit a few new-to-you spots. From cheese makers and bakers to veggie growers and cattle farmers, you’ll find tasty fare — and interesting people — at these local markets. Pro tip: Go early. You’re likely to spot a notable Charlotte chef or two gathering their own ingredients.

Matthews Community Farmers Market
Matthews Community Farmers Market

(4) Check Charlotte’s most famous casual dining spots off your list: Price’s, Pinky’s and Brooks.

OK, so this one may just completely fly in the face of that “lose weight” resolution you just made. (That’s what cheat days are for, right?) While Charlotte offers some great fine dining, some of the city’s most famed food offerings are more laid back. If you haven’t indulged yet, this is your year to eat fried chicken in the grass (just like Jay Leno did) at Price’s Chicken Coop, order up a basket of the fried pickles at Pinky’s Westside Grill, and get in line for the chili cheeseburgers at Brooks Sandwich House. Pro tip: Make a stop at the ATM. Price’s and Brooks only accept cash.


(5) Visit the Uptown Museum Trifecta: Gantt, Bechtler and Mint.

Charlotte has some of the Southeast’s top museums and you’re officially out of excuses for having not already paid them a visit. Plus, it’s easy to make these museums extra fun. Check out the Gantt After Dark series with its rooftop DJ, or Jazz at the Bechtler featuring drinks and music alongside its modern art. And on Wednesday nights the Mint is free, so stop by for a peek of its latest exhibit. Pro tip: For bonus cultural points, pay a visit to other top Uptown museums like Discovery Place and the Levine Museum of the New South.

(6) Spend an afternoon at the Whitewater Center.

We’re guessing this one won’t take much convincing. From kayaking and rafting to zip lining and trail running, there are plenty of active offerings. But for those who just like an afternoon outside with food, music and beer, you’re in luck too. This 1,100-acre recreational center right outside of town is basically a playground for adults. Pro tip: From the Green River Revival to Uncorked, the center holds nine festivals each year. Mark your calendars now.

(7) Catch at least one Knights, Panthers or Hornets game.

You don’t necessarily have to be a sports fan to check this one off the list. The views from the Knights’ BB&T Ballpark, the tailgating before a Panthers game and celeb sightings at a Hornets game are all sufficient reasons to buy your ticket. Throw in the people watching and, of course, the thrill of cheering for the home team and you’ve got yourself some fun. Pro tip: Serious about sports? Check out some of Charlotte’s other teams like the Hounds (lacrosse), Checkers (hockey) and Independence (soccer).

Charlotte Knights Micah Johnson (3) is partially silhouetted against the skyline of Charlotte, NC as he heads to the batters box to face Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders pitcher Bryan Mitchell (15) on Thursday, July 17, 2014 at BB&T BallPark in Charlotte, NC.

(8) Toast the town from a rooftop bar.

Charlotte has some gorgeous skyline views and — if you time it right — some stunning skyline sunsets. On a nice night, head to Uptown spots like Fahrenheit or City Lights to see the skyscrapers up-close as the sun sinks. Or, for a more panoramic view, snag a seat on the roof of Whiskey Warehouse or Peculiar Rabbit and say cheers to Charlotte as you soak in the scene. Pro tip: You don’t have to love heights for cocktails with a side of skyline views. Spots like Vivace’s patio or even Earl’s Grocery’s sidewalk seating are also perfect perches.

(9) Mark your calendars for the city’s top festivals.

If you like parties in the street and cultural events outdoors, you’ve found your city. During the warmer months, Charlotte gets serious about its festivals. Want to hit the top ones? Tuck Fest is April 21-23 and Speed Street is May 25-27, while Yiasou Greek Festival, Q City Barbecue Championship, and Festival in the Park are all in September. Plan accordingly. Pro tip: Bonus points for beer festivals. Top ones include Queen City Brewers Festival, Brawley’s Black and Blue, NC Brewers and Music Festival, Brew Stash Bash, Oktoberfest, and Mecktoberfest.

(10) Picnic in one of the city’s most picturesque spots.

The current weather may not exactly be ideal for dining in the grass. But as soon as spring’s warm days arrive, you’ll want to pull out the blanket and the basket. To keep your al fresco experience interesting, head to Romare Bearden Park (best skyline views), the airport overlook (plenty to watch while you eat), the Duke Mansion gardens (most romantic setting), or Freedom Park (Charlotte’s classic picnic destination). Pro tip: For a musical twist on your outdoor dinner, pack your basket for the Charlotte Symphony’s annual Summer Pops at SouthPark Mall.

Photos: T. Ortega Gaines/Charlotte Observer; Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer; Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer; Ida De Zwaan; Mark Hames/Charlotte Observer.


  1. As a lifelong resident of the Charlotte area, I’m pleased to say I’ve done most of these. But…for fried chicken – no doubt Price’s is great – the best in Charlotte (possibly the entire universe) is South 21 on Independence Blvd!

  2. I wish you would have included some art festivals/galleries/walks/events (I’m definitely not being picky), because not only would I like to attend these, I’d also like to participate in them… but I have yet to find a good place online to get a list of them. I myself do not understand the craft beer and brewery fad (actually, I understand it, people love alcohol, but I suppose as a nondrinker I don’t understand it). I do want to say that I appreciate the time that you obviously spent to put this list together, and if you are open to any ideas, I’d love to see something about art events in the future.


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