The Queen City of Charlotte, NC, delivers a splendid stay for families
Over the past year, our family has trekked to the Queen City several times–for lacrosse tournaments and business trips, in both record-breaking heat and freezing wind chills–and she’s never managed to disappoint us.
That’s because Charlotte is the biggest city in North Carolina, cradling a plethora of things to see and do, eat, and drink, from the bustle of downtown to the great outdoors on the outskirts. And, as a getaway that’s only about a three-hour, 30-minute drive from Myrtle Beach to just north of the border, you can conveniently experience all that Charlotte has to offer, too.
But, before I dive into some more specific suggestions for your getaway, here are just a handful of fun facts about Charlotte:
SEE & DO
U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC)
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway
Located on the outskirts of Charlotte, the USNWC is an amazing all-day destination. Home of the largest man-made whitewater river, the USNWC also serves as an Olympic training site for athletes competing in the kayak and canoe slalom events–and a place your family will get a breath of fresh air in the great outdoors and never forget. Open since 2001, the Center offers more than 30 different recreational outdoor activities across more than 1,000 acres, including ropes courses and rock climbing for all skill levels, ziplines; group whitewater rafting, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding (SUP); mountain biking, running, and hiking trails; and so much more. Word of warning: reserve ahead online for certain activities, as spots fill up fast. They also serve up food and craft beer in an open-air pavilion surrounded by the river when you need to refuel.
Discovery Place Science
301 N. Tryon St.
This hands-on children’s museum is a massive three-story building of exploration in downtown Charlotte. There are some limited seasonal limited exhibits, but on our visit, we got to warm up on a frigid January day in their multi-level, indoor urban rainforest, complete with exotic birds that flew from tree to tree, reptiles, turtles, waterfalls, a canopy rope bridge, and more. The museum also houses sections, such as the World Alive aquarium, cool interactive science stations, Thinker Space labs and, an IMAX movie theatre among many others. Note: They have their own parking garage and will validate your space on your visit.
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
One of the Southeast’s biggest amusement parks, Carowinds has been in town for more than 45 years and is a must-stop for your family while you’re here. The 407-acre park features nearly 60 adrenaline-pumping rides, one of the best waterparks around, and a full schedule of live entertainment and special events. The park even has an onsite hotel, Springhill Suites by Marriott, and a campground, if you decide to stay here for your getaway.
There are so many other places in Charlotte to visit with your family, of course. We’ve also taken advantage of free activities, such as Latta Park and its cool outdoor basketball court, playgrounds, and splash pads. And here are just a few that our family hasn’t made it to yet (and want to in the future): the NASCAR Hall of Fame, an NFL game at the Bank of America Stadium, and a Charlotte Hornets game.
FOOD & DRINK
Charlotte is a super foodie-forward city, so there are thousands of eccentric choices in the culinary scene. Here are a couple of options we can recommend first-hand from our dining encounters.
Brewers at 4001 Yancey
4001-A Yancey Road
This indoor/outdoor megacomplex is a brewery, yes, but it’s one on steroids that serves good food – not your tired soft pretzel-and-beer-cheese bar munchies menu.
We liked the Flash-Fried Cauliflower coated in ranch powder and roasted garlic sauce, the Brisket Meatballs, Butternut Squash Cheese Dip churned with tomato preserves and parmesan naan, the kebab platter, pizza, Floyd’s Frankie Indian burrito, and Carnitos Tacos (we shared a lot). Then there’s the up to 40 rotating craft beers and ciders from resident brewers Victory, Sixpoint, Southern Tier, and Bold Rock, plus beers and bourbons brewed onsite.
While it is a brewery, this space is completely family-friendly–and pets are welcome, too! Plus, 4001 Yancey is community-minded, hosting a full schedule of fundraisers and special events.
3106 N. Davidson St.
Located smack dab in the heart of the trendy NoDa (North of Davidson) section of Charlotte, the hip Haberdish is a little bit Southern country, a little bit modern rock and roll. The clever name is a combo of the word haberdashery, or men’s clothing, and dish, a nod to the town’s textile mill history that hearkens back to the turn of the 20th century.
You must try their pride and joy: the brined, battered, and fried chicken as either tenders, legs, thighs, breast, wings, or half-chicken options. We also recommend the Smoked Deviled Eggs topped with smoked trout; the Smoky Boiled Peanuts; the Shrimp & Grit Cakes served with pan-seared shrimp, pickled collards, Edwards ham, and maple chipotle sauce; and the Sweet Potato Dumplings.
Their rotating craft cocktails from the bar are also a must.
Again, The Queen City has an abundance of hotels and resorts that are fit for royalty, so there is no shortage of posh places to stay.
In addition to reserving a few five-star Airbnbs, we also stayed at this highly recommended hotel:
Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte
4800 S. Tryon St.
It’s a few miles from downtown, 10 minutes from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and right where you want to rest your weary head. The majestic indoor courtyard setting when you enter towers seven floors above the lobby, bar, and dining and lounge areas to a glass ceiling of windows when you enter. Amenity highlights (especially for families) include an indoor pool and whirlpool, free made-to-order breakfast, an onsite restaurant and bar, and free parking. The suites are impeccably dressed in modern design, from the furnishings to the bedding, lighting, and the killer subway tile shower.