Relax in Charlotte, where outdoor fun, open-air shops, and alfresco dining await.
1 of 6Photographs Gary Clark
Spring in The City
Charlotte moves and shakes. Growing like kudzu, this banking city is revitalizing its sleek downtown with new places to live, work, and play. Head there this month, when the city buzzes with the giddiness of spring.
Left: The Green makes a wonderful urban picnic spot in the middle of the banking district.
A NOTE TO OUR READERS:
"Spring in The City" is from the April 2007 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.
2 of 6Photographs Gary Clark
Where To Play
Most theme parks don't open daily until May, but roller-coaster junkies get an early fix at Carowinds. Don't miss: Borg Assimilator, the first "flying" coaster in the Carolinas. It propels you Superman style through an adrenaline-laced series of spirals.
Nature lovers should head to the sprawling Latta Plantation Nature Preserve northwest of town. Follow pretty paths through the woods around a quiet lake, or saddle up for a trail ride on a mellow steed. The Latta Plantation Equestrian Center hosts 45-minute guided rides for $23 per person and pony rides for the kids.
Sports fans can catch a baseball game (and maybe a fly ball) at the Charlotte Knights stadium. This AAA-affiliate for the Chicago White Sox is based just across the state line in South Carolina, but it's only about a 15-minute drive from the city.
Left: Take them out to the ball game to see the Charlotte Knights play.
3 of 6Photographs Gary Clark
Where To Shop
Cottage Chic is easy to spot among the row of cute houses in Dilworth. Just look for the pink awning out front. Between the fashionable stationery and candy-colored retro fridges, you'll free your inner diva. Worthy splurges: Bella Notte linens, stylish lamps, kate spade diaper bags, and the mother lode of BedHead pajamas.
Spend an afternoon shopping at Phillips Place, a chichi outdoor shopping street with high-end boutiques, fabulous restaurants, and upscale chain stores. Don't miss: Dean & Deluca, a Euro-style market with fresh-baked breads, international ingredients, and other gourmet culinary treats.
Nearby, nab a sidewalk table at Dean & Deluca's Wine Room, a hot spot for chilling out. Buy a bottle (no corkage fee), or choose from 70 fine wines sold by the glass.
Left: Spoil yourself a little with a purchase at Cottage Chic.
4 of 6Photographs Gary Clark
Where To Eat Your Heart Out
You'll eat well on any budget in Charlotte. For an inexpensive treat, park yourself at South 21 Curb Service. Servers may not wear roller skates, but the rib-eye steak sandwiches and fried trout (both around $6) give this 1955 drive-in a modern twist. Indulge in thick chocolate milk shakes, hot hush puppies, and crispy onion rings.
For an urban picnic, head to The Green, a small but hopping patch of park sandwiched between shiny skyscrapers. Grab a to-go order from Fuel Pizza Cafe, a local retro-style chain that dishes out custom tossed salads, steamy calzones, and oven-baked pizza by the slice. Have lunch on The Green, and then kick off those shoes and cool your feet in the giant fish fountain.
At 300 East, the beef fillet burgers ($10) are served on a garden patio in front of the bungalow-turned-bistro. Local fave: "The Usual"--chicken salad, asparagus, mushrooms, and Cheddar served hot on a hoagie ($8.25). Feeling festive? You can't go wrong with a "Matilda Wong." A combination of gin, rum, Triple Sec, brandy, and a secret blend of juices, it tastes like a SweeTART served in a pitcher. Limit: two.
Left: Want to have what she's having? That's a "Matilda Wong," the house cocktail at 300 East.
5 of 6Photographs Gary Clark
Where to Stay
Charlotte is filled with gleaming high-rise banking hotels, but one of our favorite finds is the Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark at Phillips Place. This hotel anchors one end of a street filled with smart shops and restaurants. Wow factor: Location--just a few footsteps from shopping, wining, and dining. Rooms start at $152.
Left: The swanky Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark at Phillips Place outshines your average chain hotel and lies in the heart of a great shopping and dining street.
6 of 6Photographs Gary Clark
Down to Details
Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark at Phillips Place: (704) 319-5700