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Not to brag, but there are so many unique events, activities and places to check out in Charlotte that figuring out what to do during a trip here can be tough.
Whether you’re planning a weekend trip to Charlotte, or you live in the Queen City and you’ve got friends coming into town, we’ve compiled a list of things to do in Charlotte that will make for the perfect weekend visit.
Mix and match these activities to fit your travel schedule, and get ready for a well-spent weekend in the QC.
What to Eat
You can’t call your trip to Charlotte complete without trying some Carolina barbecue. We’re partial to pulled pork, but you could certainly try any of the other smoked meats the following beloved BBQ restaurants have to offer.
- Midwood Smokehouse — They’ve got a few locations to choose from, but we’re partial to the original in Plaza Midwood. Order the Carolina Pork Classic BBQ Plate (with mac and cheese and coleslaw as your two sides) and and thank us later.
- Mac’s Speed Shop — You’ve gotta go for the Carolina Beef Brisket. It’s dry rubbed and slow smoked for 12 hours, then finished up on the grill with their Western NC barbecue sauce and served with caramelized onions. Get it with cheddar grits and collard greens for a true Southern experience.
- Sauceman’s — If you’re headed here for some of the self-proclaimed “Best BBQ in Charlotte,” we recommend keeping things simple with the BBQ Tray. Get it with chopped pork, red slaw, and a side of hush puppies.
Another Southern classic! There are plenty of restaurants vying for the title of “Best Fried Chicken in Charlotte,” but you can’t go wrong with any of these options during your Queen City travels.
- Haberdish — Whether you prefer dark or white meat, you’re going to love the brined, battered and fried chicken at this popular NoDa spot. And you should order charred okra and kale grits to go along with it. Just trust us.
- Price’s Chicken Coop — Nothing fancy here, y’all, just some damn good fried chicken. Get yourself 1/4 chicken (white or dark, your call). It will be seasoned to perfection and served with coleslaw, French fries, hush puppies and a roll. You’ll walk away with it, and you’ll be drooling as you do.
- South 21 Jr — The Golden Fried Chicken plate at this classic Charlotte diner is reminiscent of a traditional Sunday supper. It comes with 1/4 fried chicken, French fries, coleslaw and a roll… all for $5.99.
Sunday brunch (and in particular, boozy Sunday brunch) is a Charlotte weekend staple. Whether you’re looking for a savory or sweet meal, a Bloody Mary or a mimosa, we’ve got plenty of options to choose from.
Pro tip: You can order booze anytime after 10 a.m. on Sunday, so don’t hit up any of these spots before then if you’re itching for some hair of the dog.
- Heist Brewery — Yup, brunch at a brewery. At this indulgent Sunday brunch, you’ll order one a la carte item (we recommend the Southern Eggs Benedict), then you can gorge yourself on endless waffles, bacon and more at the all-you-can-eat brunch buffet. Get your table a mimosa carafe to really get the party going.
- littleSpoon Eatery — We realize everything on the brunch menu here looks delicious, but we can’t recommend the Breakfast Hash highly enough. It comes with sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, onion, peppers, sausage, and your choice of egg. It will soak up your hangover and turn you into a new, totally functional human being. (Like, 99% of the time, at least).
- Terrace Café — If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the brunch spot for you. The Red Velvet Waffle is legendary. And you can add fried chicken if you prefer a meal that’s equally salty and sweet.
Whether you’re looking for a full meal, a cup of coffee, a couple of drinks or something to snack on (or even somewhere to do a little souvenir shopping), Charlotte has plenty of local markets that can help you get the job done.
- 7th St. Public Market — You can order sushi, crepes, burgers, coffee, pizza, pasta, salad, beer… really, the options here are limitless. If you just want to check the place out, but don’t want to eat a whole meal here, you could always snag a charcuterie board from the Orrman’s Cheese Bar and a bottle of wine to share from Assorted Table Wine Shoppe.
- Rhino Market — More of a neighborhood-store-slash-deli, this market’s menu is split into “vegetarian/non-vegetarian,” so there’s a little something for everyone. You can get a cup of coffee from a variety of North Carolina roasters, order either breakfast or lunch for under $10, or find some local craft beer or wine to imbibe along your travels. Try the ABLT if you’re looking for a quick (but delicious) lunch option.
- Earl’s Grocery — As described on its website, “Earl’s is an urban provisions and eatery that’s a bit of food truck, prepared foods and snack extravaganza wrapped into one package.” The Grit Bowl is a breakfast must-do, or try the Harvest Salad for lunch or dinner.
While Charlotte is a city with plenty of savory options, don’t think we’ve forgotten all about sweets. We’ve got all kinds of mouthwatering desserts for you to add to your “things I need to shove in my mouth” list for this trip.
- Amelie’s French Bakery — You can check out any of the Amelie’s locations in Charlotte, but you should know that the one in NoDa is open 24 hours (and thus, is our favorite). Try any of the bakery’s many flavors of French macarons, order an eclair or indulge in their infamous salted caramel brownie.
- Two Scoops Creamery — We can’t get enough of this homemade ice cream, whether in Plaza Midwood or Mooresville. Try a scoop of the Cookie Monster in a waffle cone for a dessert that’s as vibrant as it is delicious.
- Suarez Bakery — Cookies, cupcakes, donuts… whatever sweets you’re craving, this dessert-focused scratch bakery at Park Road Shopping Center probably has it. Personally, we’re obsessed with the Kitchen Sink cookies, which are filled with potato chips, pretzels, graham cracker crumbs, ground coffee, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips.
What to drink
The thing is, there are SO many breweries you should try to see while you’re in Charlotte. In fact, there are more than 30 of them within the city limits at this point. But if you’re only going to see three of them, then the ones below offer three totally different experiences from one another, in three completely different Charlotte neighborhoods.
- Legion Brewing — With a constantly changing tap list and an ever-growing events calendar, Legion Brewing is a must-visit brewery while you’re here in Charlotte. We recommend stopping by for a casual brunch on Sunday and replacing your morning glass of OJ with a Juicy Jay instead.
- Sycamore Brewing — Right on Charlotte’s Light Rail Trail in South End, this brewery is incredibly accessible. They’ve also got tons of (dog-friendly) outdoor space for you to enjoy your beers in the sunshine. We suggest coming by for Food Truck Friday, then enjoying a Southern Girl or two on the patio with some pups.
- NoDa Brewing — Another food truck-friendly brewery (we’re obsessed with the tacos from TIN Kitchen), this is the ideal place to hang out and sample some of Charlotte’s best and longest-standing craft brews. There’s plenty of pet-friendly patio space, and loads of indoor space if the weather’s not so great. We tend to order a Gourdgeous in the fall, or a Hop, Drop N’ Roll any other time of year.
Not a beer person? Don’t worry! Charlotte still has plenty of places for you to go to get a glass (or bottle) of wine that will leave you smiling—with purple lips, of course.
- Dilworth Tasting Room — This neighborhood wine bar also boasts small plates (including some incredible cheese and charcuterie boards) and an outdoor patio, complete with a koi pond and twinkly lights. We recommend getting the Medium charcuterie board, which comes with two cheeses and two salumi, along with whichever of the 400+ curated and worldly wine offerings speaks to you.
- Foxcroft Wine Co. — Whether you visit the SouthPark or Dilworth location, you’ll find simple yet elegant cuisine paired with a glass (or bottle) of anything from the incredibly extensive wine list. Try the House-made Ricotta and their Famous Doughnuts, and pair with reds or whites as you please.
- The Wooden Vine — This “unordinary wine bar and bistro” has 50 wines by the glass and more than 300 wines by the bottle for you to sample during your visit. You can order some Truffle Pasta or Kurobuta Pork Belly to enjoy along with your glass or bottle, then meander through Uptown after you’re finished: no car (your own or a ride-share) required.
Not looking to spend a ton of money (or a ton of time picking an outfit and an Instagram filter) on a bar experience? These Charlotte dive bars are the choices for you, my friend.
- Jeff’s Bucket Shop — Prepare for the most fun, and possibly the most ridiculous, karaoke experience of your life. Walk down the steps to the main entrance to hear the sounds of Charlotteans belting their hearts out (and smell the buttery deliciousness of a popcorn machine). The drinks are cheap and the performances are priceless.
- The Thirsty Beaver Saloon — Look out for the iconic cowboy beaver mural, the wall of bras and the incredibly approachable owners, Brian and Mark. Order whatever the hell you want, because no one cares what anyone is doing in this judgment-free honky-tonk watering hole.
- Sanctuary — Not only can you shoot pool (or tequila) at this bar on the main drag in NoDa, you can also order late-night food from Boudreaux’s Louisiana Kitchen next door. And PBRs are just $2.
What to see
If you’re looking for the picture-perfect view of the Queen City skyline, you can actually catch it at a variety of different angles. But the best-known (and easiest-to-get-to) options for a clear shot of the #CLTskyline are outlined below.
- Romare Bearden Park — Whether you’re just taking a stroll or checking out one of its many events, it’s hard to deny the beauty (or the incredible location) of this Uptown Charlotte park. Head to the corner of 3rd St. and Church St. for a frame-worthy snapshot of the Queen City.
- Fahrenheit — This upscale rooftop restaurant and bar offers the ideal view of the city skyline. Enjoy cocktails and appetizers on the patio while you soak up the unmatched Charlotte scenery from the 21st floor.
- City Lights Rooftop Bar — This is both the city’s largest rooftop bar and it offers the only 360-degree view of the Charlotte skyline. We suggest stopping by around sunset to grab a cocktail, glass of wine or can of local craft beer to enjoy with a spectacular view.
So many incredible local artists create masterpieces on the Charlotte city streets. Though there are dozens of jaw-dropping works of art you could check out during your stay, if your time is limited, these are a few crowd favorites.
- Wall Poems of Charlotte — Not to cheat here or anything, but there are a few #WallPoemsOfCharlotte that you can find scattered around the city, including Bus Stop, Love Comes Quietly, First Novel and more.
- The Magic Carpest — In the South End neighborhood of Charlotte, you can find this magical mural crawling along the Light Rail Trail (there are two others, as well). Pro tip: the easiest way to access it is to pass through Sycamore Brewing’s patio space, then hang a left. (We recommend stopping by Sycamore for a beer after you’re done, if you’ll be gallivanting through their property).
- Drink Coffee, Be Cool — This vibrant mural outside of NoDa’s Smelly Cat Coffeehouse serves as a great, and delightfully photogenic, reminder to order a cup of joe before you go wandering about the city. Pro tip: if you stop by Saturday mornings, you can catch the NoDa Farmers Market n the parking lot here from about 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. You can also hit up the mimosa bar inside of NoDa Company Store starting at 10 a.m.
What to do
Chances are that you’ll be indulging in plenty of Charlotte’s local delicacies while you’re here, so you may as well plan a few fit-and-healthy activities to balance things out throughout your trip.
- U.S. National Whitewater Center — Go whitewater rafting, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, climbing, bouldering, ziplining, mountain biking and more—all in one place. From ropes courses to hiking to whitewater rafting and so much more, there are all sorts of adrenaline-pumping activities to choose from at the USNWC.
- Yoga (& Kombucha) at Lenny Boy — Every Saturday at 10 a.m., you can head to Lenny Boy Brewing Co. for a $5 yoga class, which includes a 6 oz. pour of their Charlotte-brewed (non-alcoholic) kombucha. It’s the perfect way to sweat out any toxins from the night before, and to avoid feeling guilty for whatever you do with the rest of your weekend.
- A Walk In The Park… Literally — Soak up that Carolina sunshine with a walk along the Light Rail Trail or the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, or take a stroll through Freedom Park.
Get artsy at a show, gallery or exhibit
Don’t forget to set aside some time to soak up Queen City culture. There are plenty of other museums and historical sites to check out if you’ve got additional time to spare, but these ones are the basics you should aim to add to your itinerary.
- Mint Museum — View one of the largest art collections in the Southeast at the Mint Museum Uptown or at its Randolph location. You can view both innovative collections and ground-breaking exhibitions, updated regularly. Bonus: if you visit the Uptown location, it happens to be a part of the Levine Center for the Arts, which also includes the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture and the Knight Theater.
- South End Gallery Crawl — The largest concentration of art galleries in Charlotte can be found in the historic South End neighborhood… which is why you’ll find a free art gallery crawl in South End on the first Friday of every month. Find out which galleries are involved here, and check out the event calendar here.
- The Evening Muse — Since opening in 2001, this intimate venue has hosted thousands of original independent music acts, as well as poetry readings, open mic nights, comedy shows, and more. Check out the calendar to find out who’s performing while you’re in town.
Cheer on local teams
Whatever sport you’re interested in, chances are that Charlotte’s got a team playing it! Snag a ticket to check out one (or several) of our local athletic teams in action.
- Carolina Panthers — Whether you actually get tickets to a game or you just hop from one tailgate to the next, there’s nothing quite like the energy you’ll find at a Carolina Panthers home game. Check out the game schedule here, or find tickets here.
- Charlotte Hornets — If you’re an avid follower of the NBA (or just a big Michael Jordan fan), then hitting up the Spectrum Center for a Hornets game should be on your list. Check out the game schedule, or get your tickets now.
- Charlotte Knights — Make your way to BB&T Ballpark to watch Charlotte take on other minor league baseball teams with a spectacular view of the city skyline. Bonus: catch fireworks after any Friday night home game. Find the schedule here, or get your tickets here.
Featured photo: Justin Driscoll