How to spend the perfect day in Fourth Ward

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Photo by Austin Caine

Spending a day in beautiful Fourth Ward in Uptown Charlotte is a fun, delicious and entertaining way to experience the city and get your history fix. The area is approximately 30 city blocks lined with Victorian, Queen Anne and Craftsman style homes. It is bordered by Tryon Street, the historic Elmwood Cemetery and Trade Street.

The neighborhood dates back to the 1800s, and was the place to live for the city’s most prosperous dwellers. When the streetcar came along, Fourth Ward started to decline as people moved to the new suburbs in Dilworth and Myers Park.

In the 1970s, the Junior League partnered with Bank of America to start revitalizing the area, and boy has it made a comeback. Today, this area is once again a sought after location. With luxury apartments, restaurants, condos and entertainment venues surrounding the neighborhood, the area has become a perfect blend of Charlotte’s past, present and future.

Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Fourth Ward.

Breakfast

Queen City Grounds mocha. Photo by Katie Toussaint

Rise and shine! It’s time for breakfast, and more importantly, coffee. At Queen City Grounds. (644 N. Church St.) you’re in for a treat. The Nightflyer roaster coffee is roasted in house and will perk up even the groggiest of cells.  You can also sip on teas, hot chocolate and smoothies. Bonus: Queen City Grounds offers a seasonal menu, so you can mix it up or order the usual.

Breakfast is served from 7-11 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on weekends, so you’ll have plenty of time to dive into a rancheros burrito, parfait, grits, jelly, cheese and fig on toast, or go college style with a bowl of cereal (granola and milk).

Late morning

Fourth Ward Park. CharlotteFive archives

With a full belly and caffeine pumping through your veins, take a stroll through one of the Queen City’s most beautiful inner city green spaces, Fourth Ward Park (401 N. Poplar St.). Fourth Ward Park is spread over three acres with surprises around every corner, including a playground, decorative fountains, benches, birdhouses and beautiful plants and roses.

Now that your breakfast is settled, head to AerialCLT (801 N. Tryon St.) and hang from the silks for a serious cardio and core workout. Choose from a Foundation workout, 30-minute ab blast, Flow recovery class or AIR if you are ready to take it to the next level. Advanced registration is encouraged, as classes can fill up quickly. AerialCLT offers a drop in rate of $25 for a 90-minute class.

Get a tattoo, watch the ink experts at work or purchase some merch from Made to Last Tattoo (129 N. Poplar St.) and call it even. Whether you are shopping for your next tat or prefer to just stand outside, the Bagley-Mullen House has a very interesting history that’s too good to pass by. Creepy spoiler alert: The owner died inside the house in 1910.

Lunch

Know one thing; you must try Little Village Grill (710 W. Trade St., Suite G). It’s the place to go when you aren’t quite sure what you are in the mood for— you just know you want something good. It’s a small restaurant with few tables inside and outside and does a banging takeout business. If this is not in your regular stomping grounds, plan a special trip. “Our most popular sandwich has to be our gyros, but our double cheeseburgers are pretty hard to beat as well,” owners John and Cindy Georgopolous said. I hear the homemade falafel also tops the list — you decide.

Afternoon

Tour the Fourth Ward. Friends of Fourth Ward, the neighborhood association established in 1976 that preserves this area of Charlotte, puts on several events a year, including the wildly popular Holiday Tour and The Secret Gardens of Fourth Ward. This year’s garden tour is this upcoming weekend, from noon-4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Complimentary food and craft cocktail tastings will be available while they last along the route as you ooh and aah at the impressive outside spaces.

If you miss these seasonal events, you can still enjoy this charming neighborhood any time of the year. Download a walking tour map, cruise the streets and learn about the history behind the Queen Anne, Victorian and Craftsman bungalows that call Fourth Ward home.

Dinner

Even if you’ve never been to Fourth Ward, you’ve probably heard of (or seen artwork) starring Alexander Michael’s (401 West Ninth St.) and for good reason. First, it has staying power. It opened in 1983, before downtown was widely known as Uptown, and living in the city was cool (or even possible). Al Mike’s is the perfect go-to place for any occasion. It’s an end-of-the-work-day cozy bar where you can make friends as you sit shoulder-to-shoulder sipping your favorite libation, a place for a romantic dinner out, that meetup with friends locale and THE spot to take out of towners if they still need convincing Charlotte is cool. A quick reminder: Al Mike’s does not take reservations, and seating parties larger than six could mean a longer wait time since this smaller restaurant doesn’t have tons of capacity for larger groups. The bright side is more time at the bar and a perfect excuse to order an appetizer.

Poplar Tapas. Photo by Alex Cason

When the nice days and evenings start to stick around, or Charlotte experiences that freaky but fun 70 degree day in January, the place to be is Poplar Tapas (224 W. 10th St). The food is amazing, and the atmosphere makes you feel like your bestie set a place just for you. Poplar Tapas started as a café and two years ago transitioned to the notable restaurant it is today.

[Related: What to order at Fourth Ward’s neighborhood restaurant since its makeover: Poplar Tapas Restaurant & Bar]

The owners managed to merge a full bar and kitchen into this historic home while preserving the cozy feel, and it shows. Their philosophy is simple: “Respect the food, respect the house — because the two have become one,” owner Lucia Zapata Griffith said. Looking for a recommendation to start? Try the prosciutto-wrapped figs and the house-made ceviche.

Late night

Courtesy of AvidXChange Music Factory

Still not done experiencing Fourth Ward? We don’t blame you. There is something for all entertainment aficionados at the AvidXchange Music Factory (1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.) Take in a comedy show, pull up a seat to your new favorite bar, play some games with friends or rock out at a concert. The choices are as big as this venue, with plenty of parking.

The Compromise dessert cocktail. Photo courtesy of Dandelion Market

Dandelion Market (118 W. Fifth St.) is one of those places you simply can’t get out of your head once you’ve been there. Maybe it’s the food, or maybe it’s the cocktails, but I think what sticks is watching a long table being hoisted to the ceiling to make room for dance party. Every Friday and Saturday night, you can find a DJ pumping out some serious tunes, giving you plenty of room to show off your amazing dance moves. If one of your complaints of the city includes, “There’s nowhere to go dance,” consider your problem solved.

This is just a taste of Fourth Ward. After a day and night out exploring the streets of this gem, you are guaranteed to find a new favorite spot. What’s yours?

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