Located in south-central North Carolina, Charlotte is a sprawling city of unique neighborhoods that is absolutely packed full of fun and exciting things to see and do. Whether you are looking for arts and culture, outdoor activities, professional sports, or just a great meal, the Queen City has got you covered.
To introduce you to some of the best that Charlotte has to offer, we put together a three-day itinerary that will take you through some of the city’s greatest hits and expose you to a number of different things you might want to explore further on follow-up trips.
Day One – BBQ, Tours, The Cellar, and Cocktails
There are going to be a lot of choose-your-own-adventure options during our stay in Charlotte, but lunch on our first day is not going to be one of them. Welcome to North Carolina, now let’s get you some decent BBQ. Midwood Smokehouse is one of the top rated BBQ joints in all of Charlotte, and you can’t make a trip to the Carolinas without getting some pulled pork.
Once we have our bellies full of some good Q, it’s time to get out and tour the city. And the three best ways to do that are Charlotte Center City Carriage Tours, Queen City Rides, and Charlotte Comedy City Tour. Depending on your preference for horse-drawn carriages, stretch golf carts, or raunchy comedy, you can pick the option that sounds most appealing.
For dinner on our first night in Charlotte, we’re heading underground to The Cellar at Duckworth’s. This American gastropub will blow your mind with their high-end versions of classics like Hand Cut Truffle Fries, Tuna Tartare, and Lamb Chops. You’ll also want to try their House-Made Waffle Cones that come filled with Pone Poke Tuna, Coconut Shrimp, and Sriracha Honey Chicken.
The cocktail menu at The Cellar at Duckworth’s is quite impressive, but when you are ready for a change of scenery, The Cotton Room is just a short Uber ride down the road, and the cocktail craftsmen here will blow your mind with their creations. No matter what your drink preference, there is something new and creative for everyone to try here.
Day Two – Museums, BBQ, Nature, Fine Dining, and Live Jazz
Our second day in Charlotte is going to kick off with a visit to either the NASCAR Hall of Fame or the Billy Graham Library. If you are a race fan or a religious person, this will be an easy choice, but each of these attractions is popular among a much broader base of visitors than you would initially expect, which is why they both rank highly on just about every list of things to do in Charlotte.
For lunch today, we are going to try a very different type of BBQ from what you would expect here in North Carolina. Seoul Food Meat Co. prefers to be known as a southern BBQ restaurant with heavy Korean influences, which means that you are going to get some amazing pork belly and kimchi here. And don’t forget to order the Soy Garlic Wings!
Since we are going to need to work off some calories before dinner, the next stop on our 48-hour tour of Charlotte is either going to be the U.S. National Whitewater Center or Freedom Park. Adventure junkies will jump at the chance to go whitewater rafting on the Catawba River, and those of us who are a little calmer can opt to enjoy the sights and sounds of a calm stroll through Freedom Park.
We’re going classy for our second dinner in Charlotte with reservations at The Fig Tree. The menu here will feature a seasonal selection of French and Italian inspired dishes where seafood and chops are always the stars of the show. You can feel free to order anything off of the menu, but the Elk Chop is the dish that gets the most compliments.
After dinner, we’re heading over to The Imperial where you can almost always enjoy some live jazz music along with one of their famous signature cocktails. And if you need help selecting something from their menu, start off with a Royal Apple Mule, which comes with a flaming lime boat!
Day Three – More Museums, Brunch, and Shopping
On our third day in Charlotte, we are going to start with a trip to either the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art or the Levine Museum of the New South. Whether your preference is for modern art or the history of Charlotte, both of these options will get your mind moving in a way that only Charlotte can.
And once your mind is running, it’s time for one of the best brunches in the area at Haberdish. They like to call themselves a “Mill Town Kitchen,” but we tend to think of Haberdish as THE place in Charlotte for fried chicken, waffles, and biscuits…preferably all mixed together with a healthy side of grits.
Our last stop before leaving Charlotte will be one of the outstanding shopping areas you can find located around the city. If mall shopping is your preference, you can stop at the SouthPark Mall, the Northlake Mall, or the Carolina Place Mall. And if you would rather have a more boutique shopping experience, then head down to NoDa for an eclectic collection of shopping options.
Where to Stay in Charlotte
If your preference is to stay right in the heart of Charlotte, then it doesn’t get much better than the accommodations you will find at The Westin Charlotte. And anytime you can take advantage of sleeping on one of those glorious Westin Heavenly Beds, you should absolutely do it!
Another option that offers more of a resort feel is The Ballantyne Hotel, which provides the ultimate in southern hospitality mixed with first-class amenities. The regular rooms are stunning here, and they also offer larger suites, as well as spa packages and golf course access.
After seeing and doing everything that we have packed into these 48 hours in Charlotte, you are probably going to be pretty exhausted. But you are also going to be excited to start planning your next trip to the Queen City because we have only just begun to scratch the surface of everything that this destination has to offer.
Interested in sticking around for a little or a lot longer than 48 hours? Check out our Charlotte Retirement Guide here.