48 Hours in Charlotte! (And A Lot of Shrimp and Grits)

Following my two days of fun in Georgia, I really didn’t want to come right home. Can you blame me? I was in the South, baby, and wanted to continue the adventure a bit longer. Lucky for me, I hitched a ride with my friend, Amelia, from Passports From the Heart and she dropped me off in the Uptown district of Charlotte, North Carolina.

I’ve had a long desire to visit the Carolinas. I was tickled pink to be in Charlotte and discover their must-see’s. While it was actually less than 48 hours, I think I did pretty well with my stops and excursions, if I do say so myself.

This will be my first in a series of posts about Charlotte. Enjoy!

Arriving to Charlotte

When I arrived Tuesday late afternoon, I was anxious to settle into my room at the Embassy Suites by Hilton.  I loved being directly across from the Nascar Hall of Fame and Museum. As soon as I arrived at my room? I sort of didn’t want to leave. My suite was gorgeous and you couldn’t beat my view. Overlooking the Nascar promenade and even getting to see (and hear) cars being raced in prep for the Coca-Cola 600.

Exhausted, I decided to grab a Starbucks from the E’terie located in the lobby and venture forth for a bit. Excited that Jason’s Deli (think Subway of the South but with much better fast food) was nearby at Charlotte’s Epicentre, I took about a two-mile walk over to check out the offerings at the Epicentre. With Uptown being the heart of Charlotte, with skyscrapers and business centers surrounding me, it was reminiscent to Downtown LA.

The Epicentre is a fantastic option for an array of dining options. From steakhouses to 50’s style diners, as well as fast-casual hot spots like Jason’s and Smoothie King. The crew at Jason’s Deli seemed surprised at my excitement to once again be in the area so I could enjoy one of their sandwiches. They proudly serve Udi’s Gluten Free. Of course I am a fan.

If Jason’s isn’t on your radar yet and you’re near one: They give you free ice cream for dessert. You’re welcome.

A Day of Exploring

After my big sandwich escapade, I admit…I was still exhausted. I decided to head back to enjoy my Embassy Suite and take in my view…and, maybe some room service. How could I resist ordering my 3rd helping that trip of Shrimp and Grits? It hit the spot and was perfect as I relaxed on the couch watching Nick at Nite.

I awoke ready to see as much as I could of Charlotte and started in Uptown on Tryon Street where I would be checking out the Levine Center for the Arts. Waiting for the Mint Museum to open at 11, I stumbled into the Wells Fargo Museum. Free and open daily, the Wells Fargo Museum chronicles the massive financial institute’s beginnings as not only a banking source but your carrier for anything you might have needed to be parceled.

Since Wells Fargo acquired Charlotte-based Wachovia Bank a few years back, much of their artifacts and history in the museum also apply to Wachovia. I was especially intrigued to learn about Lucy Gamble, who was Wachovia’s first bank teller. At first a bookkeeper, Gamble was asked to fill in as a teller when there was a manpower shortage due to World War One.

Another fun fact: Many of the female clients of Wachovia would enter the bank with nearly a million dollars (?!!?) tucked in their stockings. Since this caused some embarrassing moments for other customers as well as the male bank tellers, banks started implementing “Stocking Rooms” so ladies could un-tuck their wad in private. This was a thing until the next great invention: A handbag.
Just outside from the Wells Fargo Museum is a gorgeous courtyard with clever distance signs that pair authors with a town that shares their name. Like this….

The Levine Center for the Arts

Museums in Charlotte

Although I’m not a religious person, I still appreciate visiting churches when I travel. The St. Peter’s Catholic Church nestled here and across from the Levine Center for the Arts, was absolutely stunning and offered me a moment of solace. Oblivious to the busy city outside their doors.

Next up, I was eager to check out the Mint Museum and their current exhibit on William Ivey Long, a Tony-Award winning costume designer. In addition to Long’s remarkable Broadway designs, he has also served as the costume mastermind for such live TV musicals including Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grease. To say that I was fangirling hard is an understatement. Giving us a glimpse into his beginning process to his final pieces of work, stay tuned for more about my experience at the Mint.

After the Mint, I walked across the street to visit the Bechtler Museum of Art. Not quite sure what to expect, the Bechtlers were a Swiss family who had an incredible art collection that was donated to the city of Charlotte and opened in 2010. With 3 floors to explore and 1 permanent exhibit, the Bechtler prides itself on rotating exhibits and currently, is home to stunning Contemporary Mexican photography pieces from Mariana Yampolsky and Paul Strand, among others. It was such a pleasure to speak with Bechtler Curator, Jen Sudul Edwards. There will be a more in-depth story on this interview and visit, as well.

Hopping Through the Neighborhoods

After all of this art mingling, I was ready for lunch. I noticed Amelie’s French Bakery and Cafe looked popular and decided to take a peek inside. Large and airy, with windows to see into the kitchen, we all know I sat down immediately once I read ‘Gluten Free Bread’. On top of that, several of their bakery treats were gluten-free. I could have tried every one of their macaroons, but, was a good girl and chose a chocolate cinnamon and lemon. Yum.

With breakfast served all day (FYI–open 24 hours) I decided to get a build your own egg sandwich and it was great. It hit the spot as I mapped out my next neighborhood to visit: Noda.

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse
Painting on a trash can…

Noda is a funky, eclectic neighborhood about 3 miles out of Uptown (3 miles didn’t sound like much, but, I was extremely happy I was not attempting this trek by foot as I watched from my Uber ride.) Reminding me a bit of Haight-Ashbury, Noda has restaurants, bars, some new age shops and loads of street art. Even their trash dumpsters were beautified.

I had read that all the cool kids go to Smelly Cat Coffeehouse, which is where I began. An adorable, intimate coffeehouse (beer on tap, too) with each table painted as a chess or checker board, Smelly Cat also had a massive shelf housing countless games like Yahtzee and Jenga. Something I was interested in was their Cold Brew Tasting. Instead of a wine or beer flight, they invite you to try their 3 Cold Brews on tap. Oddly, I am not a Cold Brew fan, but, when in Rome.

It was fascinating to try out my wine tasting routine on these coffees. They were each robust, and full of different notes and flavors. While I ended up going with my usual (iced espresso with cream), the staff was so helpful and friendly and I loved the vibes.

Moving down from Smelly Cat, I loved the hole in the wall boutiques I came across, like Pure Vida and Ruby’s Gift. Pure Vida is all about the new age. With Buddha quotes, crystals and tye-dye clothing all around you. While Ruby’s Gift had a recurring theme that I loved in Noda and Plaza Midwood; a lot of these shops exclusively carry local artists items.

Buyer’s Books in Midwood Plaza
The Common Market!
Moxie Mercantile

If you are wondering what Plaza Midwood is. Well, it may be my new favorite neighborhood. About another 3 miles from Noda, I decided to see what shops were awaiting me in this part of town. Plaza Midwood, like Noda, is an artistic side of Charlotte with a contemporary flair.

After walking Central Avenue and making a swing into a fantastic used bookshop (highly recommend. Added fun if you’re Vegan as the owner has a Vegan shop in the front. There’s also Dina the cat to greet you! I walked down the street onto Commonwealth Street and unveiled another great stretch of fun, food and new friends.

The Common Market is a special spot. A vibrant mix of a convenience shop, bar with a full wine, beer and spirits list, 3 daily lunch and dinner specials and a great front patio to eat, drink, smoke and catch up with your friends. This is the kind of place I would frequent if I were local, and everyone felt like an instant friend.

And, while I don’t like to get political, let’s just say their flag on top of their roof reading “Dump Trump” made me want to patronize this market as much as I could.

Across the street from the market, pop into Moxie Mercantile. Luckily, I squeezed in before closing time and their shopkeeper, Amy, was such a sweetheart by not rushing me. Tees, coffee mugs, handmade soaps and other nic nacs adorn the walls and like Ruby’s, everything is handcrafted locally.

After my spontaneous excursion in Plaza Midwood, this wanna-be Southern Belle was feeling tired. I headed back to my suite (and hello, complimentary Happy Hour in the bar) and concluded my adventures in Charlotte.

Much more is to come all about my perfect hotel stay and visiting the Levine Center for the Arts. Stay tuned and I hope I have given you some tips for a great stay in Charlotte! xo

(*Disclosure: While some of these visits were sponsored, several mentions are not affiliated with my media visit. All opinions are my own.)