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 they have to spend, 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 Uptown
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 out 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!).
If quiet and classic are more your thing, a lodging alternate 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.
From your perch downtown, it’s time to go explore. There is so much rich history in downtown Charlotte, but let’s start with Romare Bearden Park across the street from the Kimpton Tryon Park. 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 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.
If you’re traveling with kids — or you’re a grownup who loves nature and space — a stop at Discovery Place is a must. It’s full of hands-on learning and impressively produced exhibits that the whole family will love. For the more artistically minded, 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 from the end of the Civil War on, the Levine Museum of the New South is another fabulous cultural center Uptown.
If you’re tired from a day of Uptown shenanigans, dining at Angeline’s is the perfect option for delicious Italian fare, great cocktails and wines, and sweet treats. If you’re in the mood to explore a new neighborhood, grab a cab (or the hotel shuttle) to Elizabeth. We can’t say enough great things about The Stanley and its seasonally and market-driven farm-to-table dishes. Chef Paul Verica and his son Alex have created a menu that combines familiar Southeranlity 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, read on. One of the cool things about staying at Kimpton Tryon Park is that you’re in the same building as Uptown Charlotte’s hottest bar, Merchant & Trade. Hotel guests can skip the expectedly long weekend lines, hit the button for the top floor, and step off the elevator into an atmospheric adult playground. DJs spin house music while Charlotte’s most coiffed professionals mingle over deservedly pricey drinks — the view and the vibes warrant the fuss of M&T.
Kick Off a Cultural Saturday
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. Not Just Coffee will caffeinate you, and The Yolk’s got a packed menu of breakfast bites to tide you over until lunch. Once you’ve explored the market, 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). Check out this map and see how many galleries you can visit. 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 possesions: its beer. It’s really never too early for one of Charlotte’s 33+ craft breweries. Peppering beer stops throughout your weekend is encouraged and, honestly, quite easy. 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, NoDa. 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 neighborhood that comes alive on weekends. If post-walk appetites are stirring, we suggest lunch at Crepe Cellar. Cozy up in a window-side booth for an overflowing savory crepe, burger or one of their delicious rotating specials. If fish tacos are more your thing, head across the street to Cabo Fish Taco. From lunch, 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. It’s always crowded, but they’re on the No Wait app, so you can put your name on the list and see your wait time. The tapas-style menu is meant to be enjoyed table-wide, and we haven’t tried one thing that didn’t make our mouths fall open in awe. Notions of the Asian Glazed Pork Belly Tacos and Lamb Lollipops will stay with you long after you leave the Queen City. We promise.
A Sunday Well Spent …
Your Queen City adventure doesn’t stop at checkout. Pack up the car and head to 300 East for brunch (beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays). Here you’ll find a creative American-eclectic menu served from within a whimsical, restored 1900s Victorian home on East Boulevard that’s been a local hangout for more than 32 years.
From brunch, your final stop on this 48-hour quest is out to 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!), rock climbing, ziplines, ropes courses, and mountain biking on the more than 50-mile trail system. Afterward, enjoy craft beers and bites at the River’s Edge and Pump House Beer Garden 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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