Charlotte, N.C. city guide

The best things to see and do in the Queen City

Is Charlotte, North Carolina a banking hub? The jewel of the New South? A craft beer hipster haven? It’s always been hard to describe the Queen City, so most people just call it “nice.” And it is. Center City is pulsing without being overwhelming. NoDa is cool without being smug. The sprawling, leafy suburbs seem to have emerged from a Norman Rockwell painting. Even as it grows and diversifies, Charlotte’s approachability is the key to its charm. Although, of course, having some of the best craft beer in the world doesn’t hurt. 


What’s “Downtown” in most cities is “Uptown” in Charlotte, North Carolina. The gleaming, ever-expanding skyline flags one of the largest financial hubs in the U.S. Bankers and creatives converge on the intersection of Trade and Tryon, once a crossing of two Native American trading paths. After work, laptops close, ties are loosened and drinks are poured on the rooftop of the Tryon Park Hotel. Friends down oysters at Sea Level and head to BB&T Ballpark to catch a game. Uptown is, in more ways than one, the heart of Charlotte.

South End

Not so long ago, South End was a sleepy and slightly shabby area of disused warehouses and textile mills. Today, the city’s Light Rail slinks quietly into a bright and bustling neighborhood, and those dilapidated industrial buildings have been transformed into breweries and restaurants. On Fridays, locals gather at Sycamore Brewing for live music, craft beer and food trucks. The smell of donuts wafts along the Rail Trail from the nearby Carolina Foods—just one of the aspects of this community that seems designed to make you smile.


Once an old mill town, NoDa’s brick walls are now awash with colorful murals, while visitors have their pick of lively restaurants and bars. Drink sangria and play board games at NoDa Company Store or grab tacos at Sabor Latin Street Grill. See a live show at The Evening Muse or play old school video games at Abari. If art is your thing, make sure to check out the amazing work at 35th and North Davidson. Then, later, head to Benny Pennello’s for a pizza slice bigger than your head.

Best restaurants for foodies

Elizabeth Cecil

Kindred, Charlotte NC

(980) 231-5000, 131 N Main St. Davidson, NC 28036, USA

This innovative New South restaurant, owned by the husband-and-wife team Katy and Joe Kindred, has garnered a reputation as one of the best in the country. It’s located just outside of Charlotte—in Davidson, NC—but is worth the half-hour drive just for the famous milk bread.

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The Stanley

(980) 299-2741, 1961 E 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28204, USA

Located in the charming neighborhood of Elizabeth, this popular farm-to-table restaurant is owned and operated by James Beard-nominated chef Paul Verica, along with his sous chef son Alex. Although dishes at The Stanley change daily, expect whimsical takes on regional favorites like shrimp ‘n’ grits and buttermilk fried chicken.

Eric Gaddy


(704) 594-1922, 2000 South Blvd #510, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

Originating in Charleston, South Carolina, O-Ku came to Charlotte to much fanfare in 2016. The restaurant, with executive chef Michael Chanthavong at the helm, serves Japanese food with a twist. Expect specialty sushi rolls and sashimi along with unique small plates. The South End shrimp never disappoints.

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Where to eat Southern food


(704) 817-1084, 3106 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205, USA

Located in artsy NoDa, this southern kitchen and craft cocktail bar serves up sleek versions of regional favorites, such as roasted okra and smoked deviled eggs. Go for the Haberdish mac and cheese topped with spicy chicken skins and stay for the eye-catching cocktails (Instagrammers love the fresh flowers frozen into the ice). The most popular innovation, however, may be the weekday brunch. 

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Price’s Chicken Coop

(704) 333-9866, 1614 Camden Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

This no-frills South End eatery has been in a staple since the 1960s, and while the surrounding area has been transformed, not much has changed at Price's Chicken Coop. As ever, they only offer counter service and it’s strictly cash, so be prepared. Each dish is served with slaw, fries, hushpuppies and a roll.


Restaurants for a quick bite

Yafo Kitchen

(704) 365-7130, 720 Gov Morrison St #120, Charlotte, NC 28211, USA

Ever since Yafo Kitchen splashed onto the Charlotte scene in 2017, it’s been making waves. It’s a casual, Middle Eastern-inspired eatery offering colorful grain bowls, crispy falafel and an addictive Greek yogurt mac ‘n’ cheese. Israeli-born chef Shai Fargian shows no signs of slowing: The restaurant opened two new locations in Charlotte in 2018.

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Futo Buta

(704) 376-8400, 222 E Bland St, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

Futo Buta’s brothy noodle bowls created quite a stir when it opened in 2015 and the small, stylish spot just off the Rail Trail in South End has been going strong ever since. The miso ramen is a crowd favorite, especially with spicy ground pork. Before your bowl, order a round (or two) of crispy rice squares.

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Sabor Latin Street Grill

Sabor Latin Street Grill

(980) 207-3589, 3205 N Davidson St #105, Charlotte, NC 28205, USA

The Charlotte-born, street food-inspired restaurant has a whopping 12 locations around the city, each focusing on authentic flavors from countries like El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. Sabor is a favorite among locals for its affordable menu and no-frills vibe—not to mention the best nachos in the city.


Best coffee shops and bakeries

Amélie’s French Bakery & Café

(704) 376-1781, 2424 N Davidson St #102, Charlotte, NC 28205, USA

Beyond the fact that it never closes, Amélie’s is adored by local coffee and pastry lovers for its flawless fare. There are locations around Charlotte, but the original, with its cozy rooms filled with mismatched furniture and whimsical decorations, can be found in NoDa. Try the salted caramel brownie – you won't be disappointed. 


Sunflour Baking Co.

(704) 332-5222, 4771, 220 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

The enormous size of Sunflour Baking Co.'s signature cheddar biscuit is one selling point, but it’s the taste that keeps people coming back to its numerous locations in Charlotte. The menu features a wide variety of delicacies, from sandwiches and soups to pastries and desserts. Pair your order with a French press coffee or organic tea.

Best cocktail bars

The Crunkleton

(704) 919-0104, 1957 E 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28204, USA

Opened at the end of 2018, this is the second iteration of Gary Crunkleton’s bar in Chapel Hill, which has received national recognition for its modern take on classic cocktails. Most recently, The Crunkleton was named among the “Six Best Bourbon Bars in the South” by Garden & Gun magazine.

The Punch Room

(704) 547-2244, 201 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

The Punch Room, an intimate bar on the 15th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, is known for its signature punches, hand-crafted cocktails and small plates. For local flavor, go with the Blue Ridge: charred wild blueberry, roasted chicory root, maple and Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Rum. Or go with a classic: The Old Fashioned is a trusty stand-by.


Sophia’s Lounge

(980) 260-3227, 127 N Tryon St suite d, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

Located in the sleek Ivey’s Hotel, Sophia’s Lounge is named after the 18th century monarch Queen Sophia Charlotte and is suitably adorned with chandeliers, velvet couches and a clutter of artworks. The Uptown views, meanwhile, are decidedly modern. Charlotte Magazine voted it the “Best Upscale Bar & Place for a Craft Cocktail” in 2018.


Where to drink craft beer

Sycamore Brewing

(704) 910-3821, 2161 Hawkins St, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

Awarded “North Carolina Ale Brewery of the Year” at the New York International Beer Competition, the Sycamore Brewing taproom boasts an impressive list of craft brews. On weekends, find a spot in the garden to listen to live music and load up on calories from the rotating roster of local food trucks.


Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

(704) 525-5644, 4150 Yancey Rd, Charlotte, NC 28217, USA

This German-style brewery, known to locals as OMB, has one of the largest beer gardens in town. Adhering to the world’s oldest beer purity law, the “Reinheitsgebot,” the brewing process uses only four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. As for food: You can’t go wrong with a soft pretzel with beer cheese.

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Brewers at 4001 Yancey

+1 704-452-4001, 4001-A Yancey Rd, Charlotte

Situated in an historic warehouse in South End, the enormous Brewers at 4001 Yancey bar has multiple breweries under one roof, serving up to 40 rotating beers at a time, along with cocktails and wine. They also offer a beer-inspired food menu, including local favorite, the Brewhouse Burger.

Best wine bars

Dilworth Tasting Room

(704) 595-3337, 300 East Tremont street, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

This Charlotte wine bar, located in the Dilworth neighbourhood, is housed in a renovated building from the 1940s. Along with an extensive wine list, the Dilworth Tasting Room serves cocktails, beer and tasty small plates and charcuterie. When the weather is nice, sip your vino beside a koi pond on the charming patio.


Where to do karaoke


(980) 256-4646, 820 Hamilton St, Charlotte, NC 28206, USA

One of the best places to do karaoke in Charlotte, the slick 8.2.0 bar includes a karaoke room, pizzeria and a hidden library lounge. The tradition is down a cocktail or two whilst playing songs on the vintage jukebox, then end the night massacring those same songs in the karaoke lounge.

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Five notable locals show us how to do their town, their way.

Times are changing—fast. Once a compact Southern city known for its banks and barbecue, Charlotte is evolving into a cosmopolitan destination boasting world-class dining, drinking, shopping and hospitality options. And no one knows this better than those who call the Queen City home. In...

Historic Charlotte hotels

The Dunhill

(704) 332-4141, 237 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

Opened in 1929 as the Mayfair Manor, one of Charlotte’s most prized landmarks, The Dunhill hotel is within walking distance of Uptown’s restaurants, bars and museums. Although the hotel has undergone extensive renovations, it retains its original charm. The restaurant, the Asbury, serves locally-sourced cuisine with a nod to the city’s Southern roots.

Courtesy The Duke Mansion

The Duke Mansion

(704) 714-4400, 400 Hermitage Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207, USA

Built in 1915 and famously owned by the industrialist James Buchanan Duke, The Duke Mansion is the ultimate luxury bed and breakfast. The stately property has 20 guest rooms blending Southern elegance with modern convenience. Curl up with a book in the library, wander the lush gardens or explore the attractions of nearby Uptown.

Bets luxury hotels

Courtesy of Kimpton Tryon Park

Kimpton Tryon Park

(704) 445-2626, 303 S Church St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

Situated in the heart of Uptown’s Third Ward, the Kimpton Tryon Park is the latest addition to Charlotte’s luxury hotel scene. The rooms are fitted with Italian marble, and many have floor-to-ceiling windows. There are even finer views from the hotel’s rooftop lounge, Merchant & Trade. The restaurant, Angeline’s, serves Italian food in a warm, rustic setting.

Courtesy The Ballantyne

The Ballantyne

+1 704-248-4000, Ballantyne, Charlotte, NC 28277, USA

With its luxury spa, golf course, indoor and outdoor pools and afternoon tea service, The Ballantyne Charlotte is where people go for a bit of R&R. The Gallery Restaurant serves everything from smoked bone marrow to mac & cheese, while the Gallery Bar boasts one of the largest selections of whiskey in the Carolinas.

Courtesy Ritz-Carlton Charlotte

The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte

(704) 547-2244, 201 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

Luxury meets eco-friendly in this LEED® Gold-certified boutique hotel. Visit the penthouse spa for a day of pampering against the gorgeous backdrop of the Queen City skyline. Reserve dinner at BLT Steak, French chef Laurent Tourondel’s take on the classic steakhouse, which uses produce grown in the hotel’s rooftop garden.

Arts and culture

Mint Museum Uptown

(704) 337-2000, 500 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

Housing the renowned Craft + Design collection, along with an array of American and European art, the Mint Museum Uptown also boasts the stylish locavore restaurant Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth. For even more culture, visit The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture nearby.

Courtesy Discovery Place

Discovery Place

(704) 372-6261, 301 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA

At this Center City science and technology museum, kids can experience hands-on labs and exhibits, interactive shows and educational movies in the IMAX Dome Theatre. They also have live animal exhibits. If you’re looking for more of an outdoor activity, head to the nearby Discovery Place Nature Museum.

The Evening Muse

(704) 376-3737, 3227 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205, USA

NoDa’s The Evening Muse is an intimate live music venue and bar, with a friendly neighborhood vibe. Before catching a show, peruse local art galleries and grab dinner at one of the surrounding restaurants. Cabo Fish Taco is a popular spot for margaritas and beer-battered fish tacos.

Best things to do outdoors

The Rail Trail

Charlotte Rail Trail, Charlotte, NC, USA

This lovely 3.5-mile public trail winds right through the heart of the Queen City. Situated alongside the path of Charlotte's Light Rail, the trail is a hit with cyclists, runners and dog walkers. Discover local breweries, restaurants and shops along the way.

Courtesy U.S. National Whitewater Center

The U.S. National Whitewater Center

(704) 391-3900, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28214, USA

Comprising 1,300-plus acres along the Catawba River, this is one of the U.S.’s great outdoor recreation centers. It boasts the world’s largest man-made whitewater river and offers over 30 activities, from rafting and kayaking to rock climbing and mountain biking. For those looking to kick back, head to the Pump House Biergarten for eats and brews.

Courtesy Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

(704) 825-4490, 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012, USA

The exquisite Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden comprises nearly 400 acres of rolling meadows, woodlands and formal gardens in Belmont, NC. Take time to explore the Orchid Conservatory, an 8,000-square-foot glasshouse, or take the kids to explore Lost Hollow: The Kimbrell Children’s Garden.

Shopping in Charlotte

Courtesy Capitol


(704) 366-0388, 4010 Sharon Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211, USA

Opened in 1997, this huge boutique is the ultimate stop for high-end women’s fashion, carrying brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, Chloe and Valentino. On the second floor is Capitol's sister store, Poole Shop, which showcases emerging (and more affordable) designers. Don’t leave without visiting the beautiful interior courtyard, featuring a vegetal wall created by French botanist Patrick Blanc.

Paper Skyscraper

(704) 333-7130, 330 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA

This independent store carries a wide selection of books, cards and fun kick-knacks. Paper Skyscraper been in Charlotte for over 25 years and has been consistently recognized as one of the best gift shops in the city. If nothing else, stop by to say hi to Patsy, the store’s lovable labradoodle.

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