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Summer Vacation: Charlotte, North Carolina

The Southeast’s best-kept secret is now emerging as one of the region’s top destinations.

Written By:  Blake Miller

Photographers:  Supplied

Downtown Charlotte
Photo courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

To the City

For the last decade, North Carolina’s biggest, most populated city has been undergoing an evolution. For years, the Queen City has sat in the shadows of its Carolina neighbors, Asheville and Charleston. But, slowly, Charlotte is transforming itself from a banking city into a serious destination. There’s much to do in this one-time quiet city, especially during the summer months.

Located in the heart of Uptown and with sweeping 180-degree views of Romare Bearden Park and the Charlotte Knights baseball stadium, the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel has fast become one of the hottest stays in the Queen City. The interior design is sleek and modern, yet welcoming. (Keep an eye out for the eye-catching crystal glass installation hanging in the three-story lobby, plus the series of contemporary artwork by artist Nellie King Solomon behind the front desk.) Pop art is featured throughout each guest room, many of which boast floor-to-ceiling views of the park and stadium.

With an influx of new microbreweries, South End is a must-visit corner of town. It was a one-time hub for textiles decades ago but is now home to some of the state’s best breweries and tasting rooms. Head to Sycamore Brewing, which sits along the popular LYNX light rail and features an expansive beer garden, where you’ll find live music to pair with their award-winning brews. Nearby, Triple C Brewing Co., Wooden Robot Brewery, and The Suffolk Punch are also worth a visit.

For a little adventure, spend the day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where you can throw down a blanket and watch the kayakers and rafters hit the man-made rapids. (Or jump on a boat, and tackle the water yourself.) Plan to stay through the evening for the RiverJam Series, featuring live music, which runs Thursday through Saturday, May through September. (The BrewStash Bash is also a great festival on property in June with beer from local microbreweries.) Spend another day touring Uptown, where several museums, including the Mint Museum and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, are located. Though there’s little in the way of shopping in Uptown, a visit to 7th Street Public Market showcases several local vendors, from sushi and cheese purveyors to bakeries and wine shops.

>>> To the Beach: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

>>> To the Mountains: Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, TN

 

Along with Charlotte’s transformation has come a renewed excitement in the dining and drinking scene—making the city’s now top-notch restaurants and bars a big part of any visitor’s stay. Headed by executive chef William Dissen, Haymaker is easily one of the city’s top spots these days. A successful restaurateur and chef in both Asheville and Charleston, Dissen designed Haymaker’s menu around heirloom ingredients and sustainable meats and seafood. The result: outstanding dishes, such as the crispy pork belly with a sorghum glaze, field-pea succotash, Benton’s bacon, roasted onion broth, and peanuts. And don’t miss a visit to the bar. A nod to mid-century modern design, its navy woodworking and brass accents and cognac leather details will have you feeling Mad Men-sophisticated, while drinking the Benton’s Old Fashioned, made with bacon-infused bourbon.

At The Punch Room, mixologist Bob Peters has created a craft cocktail menu so varied, so unique, and so delicious that he now has a cult following, which is exactly why you should plan to arrive to the 15th-floor speakeasy-style bar lounge early, as only 37 patrons are allowed in at a time. Peters sources his fresh ingredients straight from the Ritz’s rooftop garden to create artisan cocktails, like the Green Bird, which features Cardinal Gin, salted English pea syrup, muddled mint, and Cardamaro wine. Pair it with a rainbow assortment of house-made macarons.

One of the city’s great Italian spots, Angeline’s is situated at the bottom of the new Tryon Park Hotel. Its Northern Italian fare, with a contemporary twist, means you can expect Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas and house-made pastas, but, more importantly, classic mains, such as pork shank osso bucco and wood-fire roasted branzino. After dinner, head upstairs to the hotel’s rooftop deck, Merchant & Trade, which overlooks Romare Bearden Park and the Charlotte Knights Stadium.

The interior of Haberdish, a hip NoDa restaurant, is reason enough to visit. Designed by Kelley Vieregg of Kelley Vieregg Interior Design, Haberdish was recently named the Southeast’s top restaurant by Southern Living. Husband-and-wife duo Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown have already proven their culinary chops at their wildly popular Crepe Cellar down the street, and they’re doing it again here, with elevated Southern-style plates, such as biscuits and bacon jam, liver mush toast, brined and battered fried chicken, and cast-iron North Carolina trout.

Saddle up to the classic picnic tables, and prepare for some of the city’s best modern Southern eats at The Packhouse. Classic chicken and waffles feature sweet tea-brined fried chicken, buttermilk waffles, and pecan syrup, while The Packhouse supper club dip, with whipped goat and cream cheese, served with house-made pepper jelly, can’t be missed. And it offers a delicious way to tie up your trip.

How to Get There

It’s a relatively easy seven-hour drive from Nashville to Charlotte. You can also get there via a direct flight with American Airlines.

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