There’s something about Charlotte. This growing city, named after the Queen of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, may be the only place in the South where you can jump from a boisterous trip to the Nascar Hall of Fame to a trendy rooftop bar overlooking the city’s skyline. From the bustling financial metropolis uptown to the sprawling oak-lined suburbs, the city truly lives up to its slogan—it has a lot. Charlotte plays gracious host to a wide range of folks, from the Carolina Panthers, to Ricky Bobby in Talledega Nights, to you. We’ve rounded up 10 new finds that even some of the locals haven’t heard about yet.
1. Pop(sicle) a bottle of bubbly.
Le Meridien Charlotte’s City Lights Rooftop offers sweeping 360-degree views of Uptown. Cool off with summery Sparkle & Pop, a fruity blend of your favorite bubbly (Cava, Prosecco, or Rose) with a King of Pops’ popsicle dipped upside-down in the glass. citylightsrooftop.com
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2. Visit Germany . . . without leaving North Carolina.
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery strictly adheres to the German Reinheitsgebot beer purity law: Only water, barley, and hops are allowed. Try the seasonal Mecktoberfest, which won a gold medal at the 2015 European Beer Star competition in Germany. oldemeckbrew.com
3. Go birding.
A hidden gem in the historic Myers Park neighborhood, the 3-acre Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary offers beautiful vistas, with formal gardens and woodland areas providing cover, nesting sites, food, and water to birds and small wildlife. winghavengardens.org
4. Explore an urban market (without sweating through your shorts).
7th Street Public Market, in the heart of Charlotte’s center city, features local everything—from pralines to coffee to bath soap. Got a hankering for sweets? Try the praline bar at Local Loaf. Need a gift? We love the peppermint eucalyptus soap from Small Keys bath and body. 7thstreetpublicmarket.com
5. Sip wine and sleep in a treehouse.
Treehouse Vineyards sits atop a 200-year-old farm in Monroe, just a short drive southeast of the city. Here, tours and pours feature semi-dry to sweet varietals, and a one-of-a-kind experience includes the property’s two secluded treetop bungalows, which can be rented for overnight stays. treehousevineyards.com
6. Hide out in a swanky “drinking den.”
The exclusive Punch Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, reincarnates—and reinvents—the drinking dens of the Roaring Twenties. Led by expert mixologist Bob Peters, The Punch Room offers such razzmatazz as Lenny Boy’s Punch, featuring local Lenny Boy Brewing Co.’s ginger kombucha, or the QC Fizz, featuring local Muddy River Distillery’s Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Rum. ritzcarlton.com
7. Rock climb, sans harness.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center may have too many activities to list, but we are most excited for them to open America’s first “Deep Water Solo Climbing Facility”—essentially, four huge rock walls surrounding a 16-foot-deep pool. No need for a belayer—just splash down. usnwc.org
8. Play house.
Besides 380 acres of spectacular gardens, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden has a new “Wee Houses: Places We Play” exhibit—10 interactive playhouses, forts, and tree houses created by local artisans, for kids of all ages. dsbg.org
9. Picnic like Southern royalty.
The 100-year-old Duke Mansion, now a Bed and Breakfast, also offers a Picnic in the Garden package. Even if you aren’t booking a room, you can order a chef-prepared picnic for two, a bottle of wine or champagne, and a blanket in one of twelve picturesque gardens. dukemansion.com
10. Swim in county-run waters
Serene Ramsey Creek Beach, located on the shores of Lake Norman, opened on Memorial Day 2016, making it the first swimming beach at a county-run park since the 1970s. charmeck.org