If we said two days is enough time to see this amazing Southern city, we’d be lying. Just between Charlotte, NC’s restaurants and craft breweries, visitors could keep busy for several days, maybe longer! But if you’re heading to the Queen City, and a weekend is all you have to spare, we’re here to help you make the most of it. Here’s where to sleep, eat, drink, and play for 48 hours in Charlotte.
48 Hours in Charlotte, North Carolina
Friday Afternoon & Evening
There’s no better launchpad for a fabulous weekend in Charlotte than the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel. From check-in to check-out, the staff bends over backward to help guests make the most of their time in Charlotte. You can text the concierge if you need anything, and they even have a Maserati SUV that will drive you anywhere within a five-mile radius of the hotel. Talk about service (and saving some money on Ubers)! Other well-situated options uptown are the JW Marriott (it has a rooftop pool, spa, and steak house) and the art-filled Grand Bohemian (with its funky South American restaurant Mico).
If quiet and classic are more your thing, a lodging alternative would be the Historic Duke Mansion in the manicured Myers Park neighborhood. It features 20 luxurious guest rooms and magnificent gardens, all on 4.5 acres. Even if the mansion is booked or you choose to stay elsewhere, anyone is welcome to walk through the lush gardens and hotel grounds.
There is so much rich history in downtown Charlotte, but let’s start with Romare Bearden Park located across the street from the Kimpton. Artists designed the park to honor the spirit of Charlottean Romare Bearden and his contribution to art and history. It’s an open, green, communal space perfect for the entire family, and the city organizes markets, movie nights, pep rallies for the many Charlotte sports teams, and festivals in the park. You’ll also see the outskirts of Charlotte’s impressive minor league baseball stadium, home of the Charlotte Knights.
Kick off your weekend with a jaunt through Camp North End, an old Ford factory turned into a magical, ever-expanding campus filled with outdoor and galleried art, walkable pathways, lots of cozy hang space, top-notch food stalls, an airstream bar, and so much more. Explore the book store, plant shop, farmers’ market, and lots of minority-owned businesses including the famed new restaurant Leah & Louise.
Back downtown, kids and kids-at-heart can learn — hands-on — all about nature, space, and more at the impressively curated Discovery Place. For the more artistically inclined, the Bechtler Musem of Art, just a few blocks away, is a modern art destination that houses everything from Picasso to interactive mixed-media exhibits. For a healthy dose of Southern American history, stop by the Levine Museum of the New South.
If you’re in the mood to explore a new neighborhood, have dinner in Elizabeth. We can’t say enough great things about The Stanley and its seasonal farm-to-table dishes. Chef Paul Verica and his son Alex have created a menu that combines familiar “Southernality” with whimsical creativity.
Head next door pre- or post-dinner to Crunkleton for a thoughtfully concocted adult beverage in a super-hip setting. Night owls, grab a nightcap at Aura atop the JW Marriott, and see why it’s everyone’s favorite rooftop bar in Charlotte!
Charlotte’s walkability and its myriad outdoor experiences mean it’s important to fuel up. A quick walk from the hotel will take you to the 7th Street Public Market where Not Just Coffee will caffeinate you for the day. Then, hop on the LYNX Light Rail (there’s a station right outside the market). This rail system is a true game-changer for navigating Charlotte. It’s a cheap, convenient way to get from neighborhood to neighborhood, and you can see a lot along the way.
Your first stop is the Bland Street station to explore the bustling South End neighborhood in all its glory. South End is home to many fabulous restaurants (Bardo, Flower Child, Bang Bang Burgers), ice cream shops (Golden Cow Creamery, Jeni’s, Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream), art galleries (Lark & Key, Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, Coffey & Thompson), and opportunities to shop (Atherton Mill, Magnolia Emporium).
The Rail Trail is a 4.5-mile linear park and pathway that bisects South End and runs parallel to the LYNX Blue Line. It’s a great place to discover cafés and bars, explore galleries, see artists at work, stumble upon an impromptu concert, or find yourself in the middle of a massive new outdoor sculpture.
Let’s move on to another of Charlotte’s prized possessions: its beer. It’s really never too early for one of Charlotte’s 33+ craft breweries. Peppering beer stops throughout your weekend is quite easy and, honestly, encouraged. Aside from the tasty beer, it’s quite a scene. Much of Charlotte’s nightlife and weekend unwinding revolves around the 400,000+ square feet of real estate these taprooms, beer gardens, and rooftop terraces eat up. We love Wooden Robot and Sycamore Brewing in South End, and Birdsong and NoDa Brewing Co. are closer to our next stop on the itinerary, the artsy NoDa neighborhood. Let’s keep moving …
When you’ve had your hoppy fix, head back to the Blue Line station. Next stop: Parkwood Station. This one brings you to NoDa, an artsy area that comes alive on weekends. If post-walk appetites are stirring, The Goodyear House is a cozy Southern eatery with fabulous vibes, creative Southern fare, and renowned cocktails. NoDa’s got a lot of walkable galleries, shops, and music venues — and Smelly Cat Coffee is there for your late-afternoon pick-me-up.
After a well-deserved afternoon siesta, round out your Charlotte culinary tour with dinner at Soul Gastrolounge in Charlotte’s quirky Plaza Midwood neighborhood. The tapas-style menu is meant to be enjoyed table-wide and notions of the Asian Glazed Pork Belly Tacos and Lamb Lollipops will stay with you long after you leave. Soul is always crowded, but you can reserve a table at their cheeky downstairs sister restaurant, Sister, and all-day European cafe.
Your Queen City adventure doesn’t stop at checkout. Pack up the car and head to Optimist Hall to explore the many lunch options and great vibes. If a lively food hall isn’t your thing, we love brunch at 300 East. Here you’ll find a creative American-eclectic menu served from within a whimsical, restored 1900s Victorian home on East Boulevard. It’s been a local hangout for more than 32 years.
After brunch, your final stop on this 48-hour quest is the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) — a perfect Sunday spot that’s also close to the airport if you’re catching a flight. The Whitewater Center’s 1,300 woodland acres offer a huge variety of outdoor activities for all ages and thrill-seeking levels. Take your pick from whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, deep-water solo (rock climbing without ropes above a deep pool!), ziplines, ropes courses, and mountain biking on the more than 50-mile trail system. Afterward, enjoy craft beers and bites at River’s Edge overlooking all the action.
As the official city-wide saying goes, “Charlotte’s Got A Lot!” You’ll find as you go that there’s much left to uncover, and you’re always welcomed back.
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