Charlotte’s history is diverse: The colonial city was named after King George III’s wife in 1768, and a few centuries later, it emerged as a major player in the banking world. A 17-pound gold nugget, found by a local boy and initially used as a doorstop, transformed the city overnight into a financial hub by igniting the country’s first gold rush in 1799. Charlotte currently is the third largest banking hub in the country, behind New York City and San Francisco.
While Charlotte has evolved into a modern Southern city, the best way to get a feel for the city is to explore the many neighborhoods that celebrate both Charlotte’s roots and diversity. No matter your interest–history, art, science, beer, or food–there’s a neighborhood for indulging in each. Here’s a recap of four must-visit neighborhoods to help you plan a weekend itinerary in Charlotte.
Best for families, museum lovers, and history buffs
The heart of the Queen City is at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets. The former Native American trading path is now the city center, which locals refer to as Uptown. It’s the best neighborhood for families and museum lovers.
Stop by 7th Street Public Market for breakfast at one of many local vendors, including Hazelnuts Creperie and Not Just Coffee before heading over to Discovery Place. While the hands-on science, nature, and technology museum is geared for all-ages, it’s a highlight for children.
Set aside several hours to explore the Levine Center for the Arts campus that features three world-class museums, as well as the Knight Theater. For Warhol or Picasso, check out the collection at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The Mint Museum Uptown is the sister museum of The Mint Museum Randolph, the oldest art museum in North Carolina, located in Southeast Charlotte. The museums contain the largest art collection in the Southeast. The stunning Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture explores the cultural contributions of Africans and African-Americans. For $20, you can buy a combo ticket for entry to all three museums for two days. There’s no admission charge for children under five.
Another must-visit is the award-winning “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” display at the Levine Museum for the New South. The exhibit focuses on post-Civil War Southern history, which is the most comprehensive interpretation in the nation. Wrap up your day with dinner at Sea Level NC to try farm-to-fork oysters grown in the state.
NoDa (North Davidson)
Best for artsy folk, beer aficionados, and foodies
North Davidson was a mill village in the early 1900s. A century later, the walls of the old town are now covered in funky murals in the bustling arts district known as NoDa. It’s the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. Grab a homemade gelato ice pop from Popbar or head over to Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery to pose for a photo by the “Drink Coffee Be Cool” mural with a latte in hand.
Stop by the NoDa Company Store for a quick drink. The chill cafe/bar/gallery is one of the most interesting venues in town. It’s located in an old house covered in black-and-white murals with multiple large patios and a coin gumball machine that sells almonds and other nuts. Beer lovers should check out local breweries like NoDa Brewing and Heist Brewery. Tuesday is dollar taco night at Sabor Latin Street Grill. (They have specials every night of the week in case you can’t make it on Tuesday.) Try to catch one of the neighborhood Art Crawls, which are held on the first and third Friday of every month.
Best for beer lovers and young professionals
The South End neighborhood was born as the Uptown gold mining district pushed south. The area became the city’s first industrial park with the opening of the Atherton Cotton Mill. Other mills were soon to follow. The mills now serve as galleries, swanky condos, and shops. Proximity to Uptown and the addition of the Blue Line light rail has the made the area a haven for young professionals. Spend a sunny afternoon designing your own self-guided tour of South End breweries. Many are in walking distance of each other, including The Unknown Brewing Company, Wooden Robot Brewing Company, and Sycamore Brewing. Hop the light rail down two stops to check out Charlotte’s first cidery, Red Clay Ciderworks.
Best for shoppers and foodies
Rent a bike and explore the postcard-perfect streets of Dilworth, which are lined with white picket fences and cozy cottages. Famous for being Charlotte’s first street-car suburb, it’s no surprise that most of the neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an excellent neighborhood for shopping. For the perfect gift, stop by Paper Skyscraper for eclectic options ranging from socks to coasters. Other highlights include Vestique, a fashionable boutique focused on affordable women’s clothing that was started by two college friends. For local and American-made jewelry and art, there’s 32 Flavors Boutique. The waffle cornbread at Fran’s Filling Station is a must. For more Southern classics, grab dinner at The Packhouse. The restaurant was built out of recycled materials from old tobacco barns.
–Photos and story by Anna Mazurek
Anna Mazurek is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Follow her adventures on TravelLikeAnna.com and on Instagram at @annamazurekphoto
This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s March 2018 issue. Subscribe today!
Mary Liz Ingram Art
Laura Levie Art
Stansell with his family