Charlotte is a city of distinct neighborhoods, and one of the fastest growing is Uptown. In recent years, the city’s business district has also become a lively entertainment district filling up with shops, restaurants and full-time residents. Michael Smith is the President and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, an organization focused on the success of the city’s urban core. He says, “The big change is the people. It’s an exciting time for urban residency in Charlotte. There’s nothing that changes a place, a neighborhood, more than it becoming someone’s home.”

And a lot more people now call Uptown home. Just 15 years ago, barely 6,000 lived in Uptown. That number has since tripled.

Uptown neighborhood spotlight — Charlotte, NC
The resident population of Uptown (aka Charlotte’s downtown district) has tripled in 15 years. Image: Kyo H. Nam

Kyle Bridges moved to Uptown from Manhattan 19 months ago and says, “Charlotte is the perfect mid-level city. It has urban amenities like New York, but it also has the qualities you get from being a little bit smaller. We don’t have the congestion, but we have great walkability.”

And just in case you’re new to town, you should know, Charlotte’s Uptown is what is traditionally called downtown in most other cities. It’s called Uptown because according to historian Tom Hanchett, if you look at a map of Center City Charlotte, you’ll still see the grid of square blocks that points to its time under Colonial influence. Tryon Street, in the heart of Uptown, does not align to the compass, as in many Colonial towns. Instead, it runs along a low ridgeline with a diagonal slant. The Tryon Street ridgeline is the reason behind Charlotte’s custom of calling its downtown “Uptown.” Head to Independence Square at the heart of the Center City; no matter which way you approach it, you’ll be moving upward.

Uptown: A Neighborhood Spotlight

Where to Eat

When 5Church first opened six years ago, there weren’t too many places like it. The hip, upscale restaurant and bar quickly became the place to see and be seen and still regularly hosts just about every celebrity that comes through town. Co-owner Alejandro Torio says they’ve seen big changes in the neighborhood. “A lot more people have moved in Uptown from six years ago, and that’s meant more restaurants, bars and hotels. When we opened 5Church there were probably only two other places doing weekend brunch, and we were struggling in our first year to get 30 covers. Now we’re doing 300-350 covers on a Sunday.”

You could practically hear the cheers go up when Amélie’s French Bakery and Café opened their massive Uptown location almost three years ago. It quickly became the place to talk shop while grabbing coffee and one of their signature caramel salted brownies.

Popular hot dog haunt J.J’s Red Hots opened their third location in Uptown right near Romare Bearden Park, an area that is bustling with new restaurants since the Knights came to play across the street.

Also near the ballpark is the city’s newest (and many would say coolest) rooftop bar. Merchant and Trade has been so popular since opening, there is often a wait just to get to the 19th floor where the upscale bar and lounge sit high atop the Kimpton Hotel. With its fresh take on cocktails, regular DJ and tasty bar menu, this has become the go-to nightspot. (SB TIP: Order the tater tots. You’ll thank us!)

The Ritz Carlton’s Punch Room still draws a big crowd. The intimate cocktail lounge boasts the city’s most well-known mixologist, so you know you’re getting a great drink every time. The views are also pretty great – it’s on the 15th floor of the hotel.

Paul Manley is one of the owners at Sea Level – the seafood restaurant that opened in 2016 not far from the arena. He’s been amazed at the changes in the Uptown skyline in the 12 years since he moved to the Queen City. He says Sea Level does really well at happy hour — they get a ton of business travelers and have a lot of regulars from the neighborhood. “It’s completely different than what I thought it would be because you have so many different types of people outside your front door on any given day depending on what shows are playing, what conventions are in town and who’s in town for business.”

Uptown Charlotte
Enjoy happy hour — or any time — at Sea Level in Uptown.

Speakeasies are the cool new thing to do these days, and few people know about the one nestled deep inside the Marriott Center City. The Dock is open every Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. (And yes, you access it via the loading dock of the hotel.) It’s so secret they don’t even have a website!

Where to Shop

Uptown still needs some work when it comes to retail therapy, but there are a few tried and true spots that every girl who works here knows she can count on.

Ivy and Leo is known for their trendy but affordable clothing, and the popular boutique has a location in Founders Hall (the shopping and dining hall inside Bank of America’s headquarters) in the heart of the Center City.

Just a heartbeat away inside Bank of America Plaza, you’ll find The Beehive, a gift shop run by two sisters that’s a fun mix of clothing, candles and more.

Three friends opened CLT Find inside the 7th Street Public Market, bringing together fun stuff from 40 different local vendors. Here you can find everything from funky socks to locally made honey, to specialty t-shirts and a whole lot of North Carolina-branded merchandise.

Where to Play

The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center knows how to put on a show! The theater hosts all the Broadway shows that come through town and other well-known performers. Look for Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” at the end of February and Waitress in March. This is also where a lucky few will get to see Hamilton, the dates for which still haven’t been announced.

Uptown Charlotte neighborhood spotlight
The new musical Waitress plays at The Blumenthal in March. Image: Joan Marcus

The Spectrum Center is the place where the big names come to play. Also home to the Hornets, the arena has hosted everyone from Taylor Swift to Justin Timberlake.

If you want a heavy dose of culture, check out the city’s museums. From the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, to the Mint Museum and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte is home to some world-class culture — take advantage of it!

Romare Bearden Park has quickly become a favorite in the city. Located just across the street from BB&T Ballpark and bordered by condos full of people, it’s often packed with Charlotteans walking their dogs, or businessmen and women enjoying an outdoor lunch on a nice day. The park hosted the pep rally when the Carolina Panthers went to the Super Bowl, and it’s home to the city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration. Kyle Bridges, the Manhattan transplant, says, “It’s a great place to walk the dog, throw out a blanket for a picnic, and it’s a way for not just people who live around the park but for people around Charlotte to come in to Uptown and enjoy the heart of the city.”

Get out and explore this unique area of Charlotte and relish the magic of the city!


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About the Author
Michelle Boudin