When people talk about what a great quality of life we have in Charlotte, they inevitably mention the weather, the international airport and the range of culture in town – but they also almost always mention the fact that Charlotte is just a short drive away from some really cool other cities. Craving the cold? The mountains are just two hours away – in two different directions. Want to dip your toes in the sand? The beach is just a car ride away too. Here are five day trips for when you need a little something more than just a staycation. And just in case you decide you’d like to stay a night or two, we’ve also made recommendations for overnight accommodations!
5 Fun Day Trips From Charlotte
Asheville, North Carolina
Travel time: 2 hours via I-40W
SB TIP: You can also take 74 and go through Shelby to see charming Hendersonville, NC
People come from all over the country to spend a long weekend in Asheville – especially during the fall when the leaves are changing. This foodie paradise offers an eclectic downtown full of great restaurants and shops, and the city is home to more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country. (SB TIP: Make sure you check out the Wicked Weed and Sierra Nevada breweries.) While in town, have lunch at the Omni Grove Park Inn, and make sure you sit in a rocking chair by the fire. Peruse the halls of this old hotel that has framed pictures of all their famous guests. Don’t miss the world-renowned Grove Park Spa. If you’re up for some adventure, check out Ascend Adventure Wellness, where you can go for a hike and then cap it off with outdoor spa treatments.
Asheville has a ton to offer for a great meal, but Curate is a can’t-miss — especially since they just expanded with a vermouth bar. There’s a new food hub in West Asheville at Beacham’s Curve (including OWL Bakery and Gàn Shãn Station). Downtown is loaded with eclectic and fun shops. Make sure you check out Malaprops, one of the oldest locally owned bookstores in the country. Desirant has local art and décor. And be sure to hit Biltmore Village – just across from the Biltmore Estate – where you’ll find art galleries and locally owned boutiques. (Bette Boutique has great clothing and accessories, and Porter and Prince has fine linens and more.) And if antiquing is your thing, Antique Tobacco Barn is packed full of fun finds.
Where to stay: The AC Hotel just opened downtown and is a beautiful property with an awesome rooftop restaurant and bar. The Biltmore Inn is perfect if you’re going for the all-inclusive Biltmore Estate experience since it’s on the property. The Aloft hotel in downtown is conveniently located in the heart of the city, and the Grove Park Inn is worth the splurge – especially at Christmastime when they host a national gingerbread house competition and have carolers singing daily.
Greenville, South Carolina
Travel time: 1 hour, 42 minutes via I-85S
Nestled up against the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of South Carolina’s Upcountry, Greenville is halfway between Charlotte and Atlanta. Greenville’s newly revived and now thriving downtown offers cute boutiques, art galleries, museums and lots of outdoor activities.
Downtown is full of fun things to see and do, and Falls Creek is definitely a highlight. Falls Park on the Reedy is located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End and features a beautiful waterfall and the Liberty Bridge. Want to be even more adventurous? Rent bikes from Reedy Rides and head out on the novice-friendly GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail. Stop two miles in to refuel with one of the fresh-made cinnamon buns at the Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery.
If you want something more substantial to eat, Jianna is a modern Italian kitchen that also features freshly shucked oysters. The restaurant has an open kitchen, massive bar and pasta-making area to allow the team to make fresh pasta daily. Sidewall Pizza is known for its eclectic pizzas, beer, wine selection and homemade ice cream. The original location along the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest is a hot spot for travelers on two wheels, but a downtown location is now open as well. Stella’s Southern Brasserie offers small plate options with local ingredients.
Passerelle has won acclaim from The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Garden & Gun and The Local Palate since the French-inspired bistro with Southern influences opened in 2013. The view of the Reedy River Falls and Liberty Bridge makes this the best spot in town for a lazy Sunday. Want a drink with flair? Check out Dark Corner Distillery where they claim to make the “World’s Best Moonshine.”
Where To Stay: The Westin Poinsett is far more than your typical chain hotel. It’s been in downtown Greenville since 1925 and plays host to many an elegant Southern wedding.
Yadkin Valley, North Carolina
Travel time: 1 hour, 36 minutes via 321N
You might be surprised to know that you don’t have to fly all the way out to Napa Valley to be in wine country. You can simply head to Yadkin Valley, home to more than two dozen commercial wine producers. From a downtown storefront to a farm surrounded by llamas, many of these wineries are producing award-winning vintages and getting national attention.
Spend a day enjoying a few of the wineries. Check out: JOLO Vineyards, Jones Von Drehle, Shelton Vineyards, Round Peak and Old North State Winery. JOLO, Shelton and Old North State all have restaurants on site as well. Herrera Vineyards has an amazing brunch, JOLO has great variety of tapas and the restaurant at Old North State Winery has a chef table on Fridays. When you need a break from all the, uh, alcohol, you can go antique shopping in Pilot Mountain, find some sweets at Opie’s Candy Store in Mount Airy and tour the Andy Griffith Museum.
Where to stay: Hampton Inn Shelton Vineyards provides shuttles to and from the vineyard and has a tasting room on site and bicycles available to ride to the vineyards. If you prefer the intimacy of a bed and breakfast, there are several charming options: Pilot Knob Inn, Sobotta Manor and Heart and Soul Bed and Breakfast. Prefer a cabin? They have those too … White Sulphur Springs Cabins in Mount Airy, Frog Holler Cabins in Elkin or try the honeymoon cabin at Jolo Vineyards.
Boone/Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Travel time: 2 hours via I-85S to 321N
The Boone/Blowing Rock area (the towns are just 10 minutes apart) is the “other” mountain destination for people living in Charlotte. Boone is home to App State, but it’s more than just a college town — there’s plenty to see and do, including some great shopping in their adorable downtowns. Lots of people make the trip just to see Grandfather Mountain with its mile-high swinging bridge. You can also hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway between Boone & Blowing Rock to take advantage of great hiking trails and drive across iconic Linn Cove viaduct, the final piece to complete the Blue Ridge Parkway. Kids love the Tweetsie Railroad and theme park. During the winter there are also three ski resorts within 25 minutes of downtown Boone.
Just a short drive from Boone is the small town Valle Crucis, home to the Original Mast General Store. While there, you don’t want to miss eating at Over Yonder, which is in an historic home across the street from the Original Mast General Store. Back in Blowing Rock you’ll find upscale restaurants that feature local ingredients like Vidalia, Joy Bistro, Gamekeeper and Bistro Roca. The Dan’l Boone Inn is a longtime favorite that offers all-you-can-eat family-style dining and includes fried chicken, Salisbury steak, country ham biscuits, mashed potatoes and vegetables.
If you’re in need of some pampering and don’t mind spending a bit, The Spa at Westglow Resort in Blowing Rock was recently named “Best Domestic Destination Spa” by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
Where to stay: Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock also has a nice spa, a pool and a fire pit by the lake. They also have a great restaurant — Timberlakes. The Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis is another option. Boone has a number of chain hotels as well as a number of B&B’s like the Lovill House Inn, The Taylor House Inn and more. You can also spend the night at Westglow’s beautiful B&B.
Wilmington (and Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach), North Carolina
Travel time: 3 hours and 30 minutes via 74E
Okay, we know, this is a little bit of a drive for a day trip, but Wilmington and its nearby beaches (Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville beaches) are one destination with a whole lot to see and do. Wilmington was recently named one of “America’s Coolest Southern Towns,” in part because of the downtown River District that’s walkable and home to more than 200 shops and restaurants and is just a short drive to each of the beaches. So even if it’s too cold to spend the day soaking up the sun, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Start your day leisurely strolling along the 1.75-mile Riverwalk, where there’s a new marina, event pier and a thriving arts center, not to mention some of the cutest boutiques around (Stop in: The Edge of Urge and Island Passage), and it’s worth the short drive to Lumina Station, where you’ll find upscale shops including the original Monkee’s.
You can also find Three Cottages in Wilmington – it’s the biggest consignment shop in the Southeast.
Keep an eye out for places you might recognize – more than 400 TV shows and movies have shot on location here. Athletes love Wrightsville Beach – they get a national crowd for the annual IRONMAN competition and a ton of tourists who want to surf there.
Grab a bite at PinPoint Restaurant — Southern Living named it one of the South’s best restaurants last year. And make sure you order the crab cakes at Top Chef contestant Keith Rhodes’ restaurant, Catch. Wake N’ Bake Donuts is from the winner of The Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showdown,” and you can find them in both Carolina Beach and Wilmington. Save time to stop in at Bitty and Beau’s Coffee – the shop that’s getting national love because it’s run by people with intellectual disabilities.
Where to Stay: In Wilmington, you’ll want to stay at the legendary Graystone Inn or the Front Street Inn. In Wrightsville Beach, opt for the Blockade Runner Beach Resort and Cottage (they also offer sailing adventures) or Shell Island resort.
Enjoy your travels!
Want more wonderful Southern getaway ideas? Check out our travel section!