A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Melissa Toth sprinkles fresh strawberries and blueberries on a waffle, adds whipped cream, then drizzles on Nutella before passing it to a customer across the counter of Sweet Crunch in

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Melissa Toth sprinkles fresh strawberries and blueberries on a waffle, adds whipped cream, then drizzles on Nutella before passing it to a customer across the counter of Sweet Crunch in

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Melissa Toth sprinkles fresh strawberries and blueberries on a waffle, adds whipped cream, then drizzles on Nutella before passing it to a customer across the counter of Sweet Crunch in

A 48-Hour Getaway in the Queen City

Melissa Toth sprinkles fresh strawberries and blueberries on a waffle, adds whipped cream, then drizzles on Nutella before passing it to a customer across the counter of Sweet Crunch in Charlotte. Toth is quick to point out that this is not just any waffle — it’s a liege waffle.

Liege waffles start with a dough-making process that takes 24 hours, after which chunky Belgian pearl sugar is mixed in. These sugar crystals caramelize on the outside of the waffle and create crunchy bits on the inside — the part that Toth says “makes it super delicious.”



Toth and her co-owner, Tyler Lynn, moved their shop to a permanent location in Charlotte this February, and now that they’re settled, they’re excited to explore the city.

To help them — and visitors to their Queen City — experience Charlotte’s hotspots, we compiled a 48-hour itinerary filled with can’t-miss entertainment, shopping, cultural highlights, and, of course, restaurants like Sweet Crunch to sweeten your stay.

 

Friday night check-in:

When you arrive in Uptown, the city’s downtown area and central business district, you’ll have plenty of luxe options when it comes to accommodations. Consider a reservation at the sleek new JW Marriott Charlotte, which offers fine dining, a rooftop bar, and a spa with a cosmopolitan feel. Or settle in at the sophisticated Grand Bohemian Hotel Charlotte, which features Argentinian-inspired guest room decor. You’ll feel like you’re in Paris if you choose to stay at The Ivey’s Hotel, a former department store transformed into an intimate art deco haven.

 

Order delicious pastry with your morning brew at Not Just Coffee. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Day 1: The Morning Ramble

Start your morning with a stroll through The Market at 7th Street, a food hall that features 11 small food and retail businesses. Here’s where you’ll find Sweet Crunch Waffles, along with pour-overs and espressos at Not Just Coffee.

Look for Orman’s Cheese Shop’s impressive selection of local and regional artisan cheeses, like Goat Lady Dairy Chevre. CLT Find sells goods from more than 90 local artists and vendors who create the small-batch artwork, jewelry, and Charlotte-themed gifts. And with the guidance of the Assorted Table Wine Shoppe’s helpful staff, you’ll leave with a wine, vermouth, or craft beer that suits your palate.

 

Try Low Country cuisine at Mert’s Heart and Soul. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Mid-Day Munch

For bold street food favorites like arepas with shredded chicken and rosada sauce, step into the casual and fun Sabor Latin Street Grill.

In the colorful and cozy dining room of Mert’s Heart and Soul, feast on Low Country and Gullah-inspired dishes like shrimp creole with rice.

Or head to Mariposa, a stylish and upscale eatery located in the Mint Museum Uptown whose weekend brunch offers refined farm-to-table meals inspired by flavors from around the world. Share delights like hearth-roasted mushrooms and piri-piri chicken with your tablemates.

 

Explore cutting-edge exhibits at the Mint Museum Uptown. photograph by Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Art Amble or Racetrack Reveries

In the afternoon, choose your own adventure. Art lovers could spend hours at the Levine Center for the Arts, which includes the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Mint Museum Uptown in close proximity.

Fans of racing will find the NASCAR Hall of Fame just a few blocks away. Here, racing simulators, interactive exhibits, and cars — both classic and current — tell the story of stock car racing. Walk the hall at your own pace or take a guided tour to learn the stories behind the legends of the high-octane sport.

 

At La Belle Helene, diners discover delicious French cuisine in a beautiful setting. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Eats and Entertainment

You’ll be glad you’re in Uptown when dinnertime rolls around. At La Belle Helene, classic brasserie stylings set the stage for French cuisine with modern updates. Here, you can select from classics like beef bourguignon or locally inspired dishes like Carolina trout almondine.

Sea Level offers an unmatched oyster farm-to-fork experience. Arrive early and enjoy oyster happy hour, then stay for favorites like fried North Carolina catfish.

For a classic steakhouse vibe, check out Dean’s Italian Steakhouse. Order Wagyu, heritage Angus, or dry-aged USDA Prime with delicious toppings like marsala mushrooms. Prefer pasta? Go with the spicy shrimp strozzapreti.

After a satisfying dinner, sip cocktails at one of the area’s rooftop bars. For spectacular sunset views from the 21st floor, head to Fahrenheit and order a glass from the extensive wine list.

Or head to Cloud Bar, where the 360-degree skyline views pair well with a NoDa Hop Drop ’n Roll.

Want to extend your “day with the arts” into the evening? Check out the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ calendar of events. It includes shows at Uptown venues — Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse, Stage Door Theater, Knight Theater, and the Levine Plaza Outdoor Festival Stages — and performances ranging from Broadway hits like Hamilton to intimate jazz concerts and comedy shows.

 

Take a stroll on the Rail Trail to discover the South End neighborhood. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Day 2: Neighborhood Explorer

Charlotte is known for its distinct neighborhoods. Today, spend your day getting to know South End, NoDa, Camp North End, and Plaza Midwood.

 

South End Sunrise

Hop on the LYNX Light Rail and zip to South End Charlotte. After exiting East/West Station, let the water tower at the Design Center of the Carolinas guide you to Pepperbox Doughnuts. Start your day with a cup of locally roasted coffee or artisan donuts with inventive flavors, like the Grown-up PB&J and Cinnamon Spiced Maple Bourbon.

Wander down Tremont Avenue to the Charlotte Rail Trail and keep a lookout for whimsical art installations as you stroll beside the light rail tracks. Within a short walk, you can see Magic Carpet Murals, Steelyard Deck, Camden Wall Mosaic, and Dilworth Artisan Station.

Shop at local boutiques at Atherton Mill in South End. photograph by Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Then mosey down to Atherton Mill and Market in South End for a little shopping. Find something that catches your eye at Uniquities clothing boutique, treat yourself with handmade jewelry and unique home goods at The Golden Carrot, and pick up a bottle of wine at Vin Master.

Ready to up your cocktail game? At the Cocktailery beverage and lifestyle shop, you can learn to create simple but sophisticated cocktails — and buy everything you need to make them.

When your stomach starts rumbling for lunch, Trolley Barn Fermentory & Food Hall will set you up with a bite or a flight. The brewery’s food stalls range from creative salads and bowls, like kebab salads and buffalo chicken bowls, to grilled sandwiches and full entrées, like Philly cheesesteaks and pork belly pierogis. Wash it all down with a house-made Higher Love Hazy IPA.

 

Knock Around NoDa

Take the Light Rail north to North Davidson and East 36th streets to NoDa. This former mill town has become a vibrant, walkable neighborhood where street art abounds. You’ll often find live music and cultural events in the neighborhood, and most nights Evening Muse features performances by up-and-coming musicians.

Pick up stylish, sustainable sunglasses at Johnny Fly; handmade gifts at Pura Vida Worldly Art; and find vintage looks at The Rat’s Nest. Then relax and enjoy a pint at NoDa Brewing, Heist Brewery, or Protagonist, or imbibe among furry friends at Dog Bar and MacTabby Café.

 

Pick up adorable cards and a nice new pen at Good Postage in Camp North End. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Discover a Different Kind of Camp

The sprawling Camp North End has had many lives: The one-time Ford Model T factory turned missile assembly plant turned pharmacy distribution center’s latest incarnation is a dining and retail destination. It’s teeming with public art, people-watching spots, and gathering places.

For an afternoon pick-me-up, order a vanilla draft latte at Hex Coffee, roasters that specialize in flavorful beans from progressive growers. Pair it with a cayenne lemon tart from Wentworth & Fenn for a gourmet afternoon snack. Or have a sweet frozen treat from Pop Bar while you tour the vibrant murals that contrast with the aged brick buildings.

In the lush Grow: A Plant Shop you can choose a succulent to take home and set on your kitchen windowsill. At Good Postage, find note cards printed with co-owner Jane Manfredi’s art among the paper goods and writing supplies. Shop for original artworks by local artists at DUPP&SWAT and Windy O’Connor Art and Home.

 

You’ll want to order everything on the menu at Supperland, a stunning Southern steakhouse inside a former church. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

An Evening in Plaza Midwood

The former 1920s streetcar suburb now known as Plaza Midwood is the perfect place to wine and dine the evening away.

Supperland — a Southern steakhouse, bar, speakeasy, patio, and garden — inhabits the grounds of a restored mid-century church. The establishment sources fresh, seasonal produce from local farmers, and cooks with hickory and oak over a 14-foot fire grill, giving their dishes smoky goodness.

If you’re craving barbecue, arrive hungry to Midwood Smokehouse. With generous servings, you’ll get your fill of smoked wings, ribs falling off the bone, or burnt ends caramelized in cola barbecue sauce.

Workman’s Friend has the feel of a traditional Irish pub and serves staples like shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and Guinness Stout. Its open-air bar overlooking Central Avenue is a great place to take in the character of Plaza Midwood.

For an after-dinner drink, head to Resident Culture Brewing Company for a wide variety of stouts, sours, pale ales, and IPAs.

This story was published on Apr 14, 2022

Lara Ivanitch

Lara Ivanitch is a freelance writer who resides in Raleigh.