Fall Weekend: Explore Charlotte

Fill your weekend exploring SouthPark, one of the Queen City's trendiest districts.
Tanner C. Latham

Though Charlotte's Center City thrives with the metropolitan buzz you'd expect in a downtown, we want to take you a little south of the hustle and bustle this weekend--SouthPark, to be exact. Wonderful shops and restaurants fill the neighborhoods in this hip area of North Carolina's Queen City.

Friday: Park Yourself Around Phillips Place
Make your first stop Phillips Place, an outdoor mall featuring known upscale retailers such as Smith & Hawken, Dean & Deluca, and Restoration Hardware. Look closely, and you'll find some wonderful, independent specialty shops, such as B.D. Jeffries ([704] 556-0019), an Atlanta-based store that has been here for almost 10 years. Owners Brad and Debbie Weitz began the business with alligator and crocodile products (belts, wallets, purses, etc.). You'll find that section, but we love their antiques, home furnishings, accessories, and gifts. Pick out your favorite designer dog leash, or flip through their extensive book collection covering subjects from antiques to pets to travel.

The Redsky Gallery ([704] 552-5200) just off Fairview Road features contemporary glass, jewelry, ceramics, paintings, and clothing from more than 250 artists from around the country, including a sizable assembly of works by North Carolina artists.

After shopping, you'll be ready to set yourself and your bags down nearby at The Park Hotel ([704] 364-8220 or www.theparkhotel.com; rates start at $119; ask about the bed-and-breakfast package). If you want to get in the middle of Charlotte's Center City, reserve your room at the Westin Charlotte. Be prepared because the rates fluctuate greatly depending on availability ([704] 375-2600; rates range $119-$229).

For a fine dining experience this evening, make reservations at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room ([704] 333-9463). Located in the former Dilworth Methodist Episcopal Church, the restaurant retains the reverent, classic feel of the sanctuary with the tall windows and balcony in the dining area. The wine list impresses with 200 by the glass and another 300 in the cellar. Ask your server to help you pair something nice with the Roasted Sonoma County Duck Breast ($25).

 


Saturday: Neighborhood Strolls And Bobcat Sightings
Rise for breakfast at Kaffe Frappe ([704] 372-1424) on Selwyn Avenue where they've jazzed up their omelets. Instead of the basic ham and cheese, go with the Bleu Cheese and Bacon Omelet ($8).

You'll find a few shops you'll want to browse next door to the restaurant, particularly The Plantation Shop ([704] 369-0062), which specializes in gifts, home accessories, antiques, reproductions, and children's clothes. This month, the shop will be decked out for the holidays with several Christmas trees full of unique ornaments for sale.

For lunch, try Lupie's Café ([704] 374-1232) on Monroe Road (also the eastern end of Seventh Street). With funky R & B music playing over the speakers and the dark dining area, Lupie's betrays a smidgen of a bar scene, but believe us, this joint takes its food seriously. Lupie (short for Guadalupe) Duran flips some of the best burgers (Chili Slaw Burger, $5.95) in all of Charlotte and ladles a mean bowl of Texas Chili ($5.25). Wanna feel really local? Order the G-Whiz beer, $1 Busch longnecks with a long story Lupie will be happy to share if you ask her nicely.

Get out and enjoy the crisp Carolina air with walks through some of SouthPark's wonderful neighborhoods. Simply pick a street branching from Queens Road or Selwyn Avenue, and stroll the sidewalks. For more of a home base, park at Queens University of Charlotte (off Selwyn; for information visit www.queens.edu). If you're visiting in the early part of the month, you may be lucky enough to still see some color in the trees.

For dinner, try a hip and upscale Mexican dining experience at Cantina 1511 ([704] 331-9222) on East Boulevard. Studying the 35 tequilas on the menu, you may decide to sip a little before indulging in the Top Shelf Guacamole ($6.99), made freshly at your table. Entrées range $9.99-$18.99.

Make dinner reservations early enough in the evening so you'll be able to get downtown for the Bobcats game at the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena ([704] 262-2287 or www.bobcatsbasketball.com; at press, single-game ticket prices had not been set). This is the sophomore season for the NBA franchise, which will host three weekend games this month. The mascot, Rufus Lynx, prowls the arena keeping the games lively and family friendly.

 


Sunday: Fresh Muffins and Art At the Mint
Duck into Nova's Bakery ([704] 333-5566) on Central Avenue for a cranberry scone ($2) or an extra-large banana-nut muffin ($1.75) and a cup of coffee. This Eastern European-style bakery, owned by Vlado and Sladjana Novakovic, has served Charlotte for more than 10 years.

Before heading home, visit the Mint Museum of Art, the state's first art museum ([704] 337-2000; admission: $6 adults, $3 ages 6-17). Housed in the building that was once the first branch of the U.S. Mint, the museum features a diverse collection of American, pre-Columbian, European, and African art. If you have time before you leave town, visit the Mint Museum of Craft + Design located on North Tryon, which focuses more on contemporary crafts. Admission is valid for both museums on the same day.

After a weekend shopping and enjoying some of the best SouthPark has to offer, you should feel pretty comfortable navigating the stylish end of Charlotte. Return often enough, and someone may mistake you for a local.

"Fall Weekend: Explore Charlotte" is from the November 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.