Queen City Dreams

Uptown Charlotte
Uptown Charlotte

Charlotte—North Carolina’s largest and most populous city—seems to have it all: sports, culture, entertainment, music, food. The fast growing metropolis is home to the Bank of America Stadium, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Carowinds, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, plus dozens of skyscrapers and historic buildings housing restaurants and bars, shops and museums. Settled by Europeans around 1755, the Queen City—named after the German Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who became the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland in 1761—saw its population boom around the Civil War following the establishment of a cotton processing center and railroad hub. Charlotte’s renowned banking industry emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s when financier Hugh McColl established the Bank of America. Like Raleigh, Charlotte has received accolades for its beautiful weather, abundance of jobs, livability and for brewing some of the best craft beer in the country. But Charlotte’s downtown is bigger than Raleigh’s and it has more professional sports teams; of course, there’s no place like home, but they’re not lying when they say “Charlotte’s got a lot”—and it’s worth seeing for yourself.

EAT

Noble Smoke

Chef Jim Noble’s highly anticipated restaurant opened in July with a mouthwatering menu of wood-smoked barbecue, including chopped pork sandwiches, beef brisket and ribs. Mac and cheese, collard greens, hushpuppies and butter beans are a few favorite sides. Get there early because when it’s gone, it’s gone. noblesmokebarbecue.com

The Waterman

Part neighborhood watering hole, part seafood restaurant and part rooftop bar, The Waterman is a favorite spot in Charlotte’s South End. The menu features Southern-inspired seafood dishes including fried crawfish, cornmeal-crusted catfish and a traditional low country boil. The highlight? North Carolina oysters for only $1 Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. watermanclt.com

Bardo

The year-old Bardo’s sophisticated and innovative dishes have already made a mark on Charlotte’s food scene. Chef Michael Noll’s beautifully crafted small plates include Spanish octopus with potatoes, bacon and chile, shishito peppers with sesame, black vinegar and signature xo sauce and beef tartare with green tomatoes, svanuri and fingerlings. bardorestaurant.com

DRINK

Sycamore Brewing

This family-owned brewery, taproom and beer garden boasts award-winning craft brews that have taken the owners a decade to perfect. Each pint is made with fresh, all-natural ingredients. Flagship beers include the Mountain Candy IPA and Sun Grown Lager; small batch brews like Citrus Gose and Fruit Snacks Session IPA are also popular. sycamorebrew.com

Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

Lenny Boy offers both boozy and non-alcoholic organic kombucha, traditional beers, sours and gluten-free wild ales, which are fermented with an in-house yeast strand. Lenny Boy also hosts art shows, fitness classes, nonprofit events, trivia nights and other events. discoverlennyboy.com

Trade and Lore

Head to NoDa for hip coffee shops. Trade and Lore serves up specialty artisan coffee from local roasters in a rustic, cozy space, along with an outdoor patio that’s perfect for enjoying a warm latte on a cool fall day. Espresso drinks, innovative teas and tasty breakfast treats are also available or swing by at night for a local beer or two. tradeandlore.com

DO

National Hot Rod Association’s NTK Carolina Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Get revved up for the Carolina Nationals, an exhilarating battle for speed during the fourth race of NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship. A ticket gets you access to the pit, where hollering fans are only a stone’s throw away from 10,000-horsepower drag racers. It’s a thrilling experience you won’t find anywhere else in the city. charlottemotorspeedway.com/events/nhra-carolina-nationals

The Light Factory

A unique nonprofit gallery specializing in photography and film exhibits, The Light Gallery’s “New Flesh” exhibit explores gender identity through Efrem Zelony-Minell’s photographs through October 11. Other compelling works are on display from October 21 through November 2, leading up to The Light Factory’s annual auction preview show. lightfactory.org

Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium

Grab your favorite Panthers player’s jersey and rally for North Carolina’s treasured football team this fall. This year marks the team’s 25th season—the perfect excuse to splurge on club seats. Even if you’re not a big sports fan, the exciting energy—and the stadium food (Hot dogs! Pizza! Barbecue!)—makes it a fun experience for anyone. panthers.com

STAY

The Ivey’s Hotel

A gorgeous boutique hotel in the heart of Charlotte’s Uptown, The Ivey’s offers the most luxurious stay in the city. Stylish rooms and suites—no two are alike—are adorned with Parisian Art Deco decor, reclaimed 400-year-old French oak floors, custom lighting fixtures and beds made up with luxurious Frette Italian bedding. Balcony rooms offer a view of the city or the hotel’s grand interior atrium, while executive suites feature large living room areas. theiveyshotel.com

The Duke Mansion

For a relaxing stay just outside the city, book a room at the Duke Mansion, a beautiful, historic Southern home. The five-acre grounds feature delightful gardens and the mansion is a short walk from local shops and restaurants; the city center is just two miles away. dukemansion.com

Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel

Immerse yourself in city life with a stay at Kimpton. The cosmopolitan hotel features a rooftop restaurant and bar with soaring views of the city, chic rooms and yoga classes on an outdoor terrace for the perfect mix of work, play and relaxation. tryonparkhotel.com

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