Is Charlotte a banking hub? The jewel of the New South? A craft beer hipster haven? You can try to put the city into a box, but it won’t fit. 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. 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, ties are loosened, laptops close 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 the city.

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. Walk along the main drag and take your 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.

Southern Staples


+17048171084, 3106 N Davidson St, Charlotte

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 mac & 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 brunch, due to the fact that it is served on weekdays.

Zo Ot

Midwood Smokehouse

+1 704-295-4227, 1401 Central Ave, Charlotte

Visited by the likes of Barack Obama and Justin Timberlake, Midwood’s three Queen City locations are go-to spots for good, down-home BBQ. For an authentic taste of North Carolina, go with the pork BBQ plate. The Eastern NC vinegar sauce is a must, but the pimento cheese fries are never a bad idea either.


Price’s Chicken Coop

+1 704-333-9866, 1614 Camden Rd, Charlotte

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 here. 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.

Global Flavors


+1 704-372-8110, 715 Providence Rd, Charlotte

Situated among the tree-lined streets of Myers Park, Stagioni melds tradition and modern on its Italian menu. Located in the historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko House, the restaurant boasts a stunning walled courtyard and gorgeous Tuscan Revival design. Order rich, warm pasta dishes and pizzas cooked fireside.

Za Ot

Futo Buta

+1 704-376-8400, 222 E Bland St, Charlotte,

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

Zo Za


+1 704-594-1922, 2000 South Blvd #510, Charlotte

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.

Za Ot

Bakeries & Coffee Shops

Amélie’s French Bakery & Café

+1 704-899-0088, 380 S College St, Charlotte

Beyond the fact that it never closes, Amélie’s is adored by local coffee and pastry lovers for its flawless fare. They have locations around Charlotte, but the original can be found in NoDa, whose cozy rooms are filled with mismatched furniture whimsical decorations. The salted caramel brownie is their most popular treat.


Not Just Coffee

+1 704-900-7500, 2230 Park Rd Suite 102, Charlotte

A go-to for craft coffee lovers, this shop touts a full spectrum of brewing options, from pour-overs to artfully executed espressos. The shop has multiple locations around the city, but their Dilworth shop has the benefit of craft cocktails.

Sunflour Baking Co.

+1 704-332-5222, 4771, 220 East Blvd, Charlotte

The enormous size is one selling point of this bakery’s signature cheddar biscuit, but it’s the taste that keeps people coming back for more. 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.

Quick Bites

Yafo Kitchen

+1 704-365-7130, 720 Gov Morrison St #120, Charlotte

Ever since Yafo splashed onto the 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.

Sabor Latin Street Grill

+1 980-207-3589, 3205 N Davidson St #105, Charlotte

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.


Pinky’s Westside Grill

+1 704-332-0402, 1600 W Morehead St, Charlotte

Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Pinky’s is a funky joint known for its innovative take on American comfort foods. Try the corn dog shrimp, or, if you want to indulge in a local delicacy, the White Trash Burger, a five-ounce patty with provolone, fried pickles, onion rings and spicy ranch.



La Belle Helene

+1 704-969-2550, 300 S Tryon St, Charlotte

This lively brasserie, whose interior was designed by the Parisian Richard Lafond, opened in 2018 but is already ranked among Charlotte’s best restaurants. Before dining on classic French food in the sleek and spacious dining room, guests can sip cocktails at the extravagant, pewter-topped bar.


The Stanley

+1 980-299-2741, 1961 E 7th St, Charlotte

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 change daily, expect whimsical takes on regional favorites like shrimp ‘n’ grits and buttermilk fried chicken.


+1 980-231-5000, 131 N Main St, Davidson

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.

Zo Ot

Craft Cocktails

The Crunkleton

1957 E 7th St, Charlotte

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

+1 704-547-2244, 201 E Trade St, Charlotte

This 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

+1 980-260-3227, 127 N Tryon St suite d, Charlotte

Located in the sleek Ivey’s Hotel, Sophia’s 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.



Sycamore Brewing

+1 704-910-3821, 2161 Hawkins St, Charlotte

Awarded “North Carolina Ale Brewery of the Year” at the New York International Beer Competition, this 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

+1 704-525-5644, 4150 Yancey Rd, Charlotte

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.


Brewers at 4001 Yancey

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

Situated in a historic warehouse in South End, this enormous 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 the local favorite the Brewhouse Burger.

Wine Bars

Dilworth Tasting Room

+1 704-595-3337, 300 East Tremont street, Charlotte

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

Foxcroft Wine Co.

+1 704-602-2133, 1235 East Blvd #I, Charlotte

Offering a large and diverse selection of wines in a relaxed, intimate setting, Foxcroft also serves up locally-sourced small plates. The truffle fries are a must-try, as are the bar’s famous house-made doughnuts.



Seoul Food Meat Co.

+1 980-299-5143, 1400 S Church St a, Charlotte

This Korean-inspired BBQ restaurant has four private karaoke rooms. While waiting for your turn to butcher the classics, try the spicy wings or ramen mac & cheese, along with a craft cocktail for a little liquid courage.



+1 980-256-4646, 820 Hamilton St, Charlotte

This slick bar includes a karaoke room, pizzeria and a hidden library lounge. The tradition is to down a cocktail or two while playing songs on the vintage jukebox, then end the night massacring those same songs in the karaoke lounge.


Jeff’s Bucket Shop

+1 704-525-0425, 1601 Montford Dr, Charlotte

This quirky karaoke joint is a local gem hidden in a Montford Drive basement. Before performing tortured versions of “My Way,” locals tend to stop off at one or two of the nearby bars, in order to lubricate their vocal cords.


Historic Hotels

The Dunhill

+1 704-332-4141, 237 N Tryon St, Charlotte

Opened in 1929 as the Mayfair Manor, one of Charlotte’s most prized landmarks, The Dunhill is within walking distance of Uptown’ 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.

The Duke Mansion

+1 704-714-4400, 400 Hermitage Rd, Charlotte

Built in 1915 and famously owned by the industrialist James Buchanan Duke, this 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.

Luxury Hotels

Kimpton Tryon Park

+1 704-445-2626, 303 S Church St, Charlotte

Situated in the heart of Uptown’s Third Ward, this 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.

The Ballantyne

+1 704-248-4000, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy, Charlotte

With its luxury spa, golf course, indoor and outdoor pools and afternoon tea service, The Ballantyne 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.

The Ritz-Carlton

+1 704-547-2244, 201 E Trade St, Charlotte

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 + Culture

The Mint Museum Uptown

+1 704-337-2000, 500 S Tryon St, Charlotte

Housing the renowned Craft + Design collection, along with an array of American and European art, the Mint 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.

Discovery Place

+1 704-372-6261, 301 N Tryon St, Charlotte

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

+1 704-376-3737, 3227 N Davidson St, Charlotte

NoDa’s Evening Muse is an intimate live music venue hosting a variety of local, regional and national talent representing a wide range of genres. The place has a friendly neighborhood vibe, serving up beer, wine and spirits to enjoy during the show. Beforehand, 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.


The Rail Trail

109 E Tremont Ave, Charlotte

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

The U.S. National Whitewater Center

+1 704-391-3900, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte

Comprising 1,300-plus acres along the Catawba River, this is one of America’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.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

+1 704-825-4490, 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont

This exquisite 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.


Capitol Clothing

+1 704-366-0388, 4010 Sharon Rd, Charlotte

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.

Girl Tribe

+1 704-249-9910, 1800 Camden Rd Suite 102, Charlotte

Located in South End, this lively and eclectic boutique is filled with unique clothing, accessories and gifts. Owners Sarah Baucom and Carrie Barker are the powerhouses behind Girl Tribe Co., a clothing brand and roving pop-up shop that supports female-owned businesses in the South.

Paper Skyscraper

+1 704-333-7130, 330 East Blvd, Charlotte

This independent store carries a wide selection of books, cards and fun kick-knacks. It’s 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.