Charlotte too often gets overshadowed by its nearby southern neighbors—most notably Charleston and Asheville—but it most certainly shouldn’t. In the past 10 years, the Queen City has seen some serious growth—especially in its design and food scene. This means Charlotte is no longer just a city you travel to for work: It’s a place you plan to visit, tour for a few days, and tell all your friends about.
Here’s a look at the can’t-miss spots in the Carolinas’ biggest city.
Where to Stay
The Ivey’s Hotel, 127 N Tryon St
This relatively new boutique hotel is located in the former JB Ivey & Company department store, which means the architectural details from its birth in the 1920s remain. Each of the 42 rooms in the renovated pre-war building are eclectically and elegantly designed—a true combination of art deco meets mid-century modern. But it’s the gathering spaces in the lobby that are the true draw here: Oversized tufted couches and dark wood paneling give way to pops of turquoise and pink that feel effortlessly chic and casual all at once.
Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, 303 S Church Street
Although it won’t open until October, the city’s newest addition is certainly going to be one of its most impressive. The 217-room property is classic Kimpton: There’s an emphasis on architectural details and warm, mahogany millwork, complemented by a modern color palette of rich navy, lilac, and silver. The 4,500-square-foot rooftop bar, Merchant & Trade, is the property’s highlight, thanks to its retractable roof and panoramic view of the city’s skyline—including Romare Bearden Park and the Charlotte Knights stadium.
The Duke Mansion, 400 Hermitage Road
This historic property is located in the heart of Myers Park, one of the city’s most coveted neighborhoods. The recently-renovated gardens by Laurie Durden (easily one of the south’s best landscape architects), serve as the setting for some of the city’s biggest social events and weddings. The mansion’s black-and-white flooring, traditional architectural details and finishes, and muted color palette make it an interior design gem.
Where to Eat
Sophia’s Lounge, 127 N. Tryon St. Ste #D
The brains behind the wildly popular 5Church were enlisted to head up the food at The Ivey’s Hotel restaurant. Helmed by Chef Jamie Lynch of Top Chef fame, the menu features small plates like filet mignon toast and lamb tartare, all of which pair seamlessly with any of the artisan cocktails designed by in-house mixologist and level-two sommelier, Patricia Smith. While the food initially draws you in, the eclectic-yet-casual interiors beg you to stay and unwind with a drink.
Haberdish, 3106 N Davidson Street
With a team like interior designer Kelley Vieregg of Kelley Vieregg Interiors and Cluck Design Collaborative, it’s no wonder this restaurant’s interiors look as chic as they do. The classic Edison light bulbs hang casually above the soapstone bar, and comfy, casual booths are swathed in salvaged denim. Located in the heart of Charlotte’s hip NoDa neighborhood, Haberdish—a reference to “haberdashery,” drawing from Charlotte’s textile history—takes its cues from classic, southern cuisine. (Favorites include fried chicken, house-made pickles, and roasted okra.)Mixologist Colleen Hughes heads up the cocktail menu here, which is inspired by Prohibition-era drinks and features local spirits like Doc Porter’s vodka, gin, and bourbon, as well as Muddy River Distillery’s rum.
The Packhouse, 500 E. Morehead Street, Suite 150-A
There’s so much to love about this recently-opened spot in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood. While yes, the food is outstanding—think skillet tomato pie, sweet tea-brined fried chicken, and deviled eggs—it’s the decor that will really leave you hooked. Owner Deedee Mills scoured local thrift stores for vintage plates, bowls, and casserole dishes in order to keep the vibe relaxed and cozy. And as a nod to the location’s southern roots, metal tractor seats complement the bar—which is made from lacquered tobacco leaves designed by NC-based Artisan Leaf—while antique tobacco baskets hang from the ceiling.
Suffolk Punch, 2911 Griffith Street
South End has fast become a hotbed for microbreweries in Charlotte, and Hyde Brewing is one such spot. The food complements Hyde’s beers (which can easily be paired with each of the menu items), and the menu includes housemade pickles, foie gras popcorn, roasted chicken, and more. The atmosphere is just as impressive as its food and drink, though: A contemporary biergarten features long, rustic wood tables covered by draping white canopies, and is perfect for hot, summer days. The view of the city skyline and perfectly-placed outdoor string lights allow for instant relaxation.
Where to Shop
In the past several years, Charlotte has truly come into its own, and its shopping scene is one such barometer of that. While boutiques and art galleries such as Capitol and Hidell Brooks Gallery will remain the anchors of the Queen City’s style scene, spots like Alton Lane and Beads, Inc. have fast become the can’t-miss spots on Charlotte’s shopping tour. SOCO Gallery, Chandra Johnson’s wonderfully curated art gallery (which boasts a southern comfort-like vibe and feel), is also now a go-to for designers and art collectors alike.
Designers to Know
One of the South’s most impressive designers, Benson’s handprints are all over the Queen City. She designed the interiors of Capitol and Poole Shop, two of Charlotte’s top women’s boutiques, as well as Reid’s Fine Foods, an intimate gourmet grocery in the heart of Myers Park. But it’s Benson’s new furniture line for Highland House that truly encapsulates her talent—the pieces are a modern take on classic, vintage designs, and boast colorful hues and finishes that transcend trends.
One of the most notable up-and-coming designers in the country made her home in the Queen City—and has also been making her mark across the south with a timeless aesthetic that draws inspiration from design idols Albert Hadley and Billy Baldwin. Her latest design foray, though, extends outside her residential projects—a line of textiles and wall coverings she created and designed with her designer sister Liz Carroll. House of Harris LLC features classic prints with a southern twist, with each motif and pattern inspired by the sisters’ Carolina upbringing.
For years, Vieregg helmed two of the city’s best home decor stores—Interiors Marketplace and Post & Gray—and although the stores have since closed, Vieregg’s design work has flourished. Her ability to seamlessly intertwine organic with industrial and elegance with casual to create a timeless interior is why she’s one of the most sought-after designers in not just Charlotte, but the entire southeast.