With relatively mild weather year-round — with the exception of those hot and humid summer days that one can expect in the South — Charlotte is one of the best cities to spend your day outside. We scoured the Queen City looking for the best outdoor activities from the best farmers markets to the coolest place to enjoy a savory cocktail.
What’s so enticing about relishing a cocktail or dinner at one of Met Midtown’s restaurants — which include the modern Italian at Vivace, upscale dining at Dressler’s Restaurant (think low country crab dip and crispy duck), and margaritas, burritos and more at La Paz — isn’t just the delicious food (though you’ll be more than pleased with one of Vivace’s 10-inch pizzas with toppings such as prosciutto and duck confit). In fact, the best thing about dining alfresco here is the location. Situated on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and with the setting sun as its backdrop, this outdoor area boasts one of the best skyline views of Uptown.
There are plenty of farm stands and markets throughout Charlotte, but this one, tucked just off the main street of the charming town of Matthews (only about a 22-minute drive from downtown Charlotte), is a destination. Beginning in early spring and going throughout the fall (with a winter market running on shortened hours from December to March), Charlotteans flock to this cozy farmers market every Saturday to scour the goods from local purveyors such as Baucom’s Best beef (the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge’s Four-Star Gallery Restaurant features the grass-fed beef in its popular burger), Pasta a Mano (fresh pastas), Cotton Mill Gourmet Mushrooms (oyster, shiitake mushrooms), and some 50 others. The real draw here, though, are the cooking demos, in which some of the area’s top, local chefs perform culinary wizardry using local products and provide recipes for attendees.
Adventure lovers count the U.S. National Whitewater Center among their top spots to go not only in Charlotte, but in the Southeast — and for good reason. This athletic training facility — the U.S. Olympic slalom kayak team trains here — is much more than the world-class, man-made rapids that have made it so popular since its opening in 2006. In addition to whitewater kayaking, rafting and more, you can experience flat-water activities such as paddleboarding on the nearby Catawba River, and thrill seekers can mountain bike, walk or run the more than 20 miles of trails on the 400-acre property. Or, better yet, partake in one of several ropes courses, canopy tours or zip-lines. Afterward, visitors unwind at the USNWC’s alfresco River’s Edge Bar & Grill, which boasts prime views of rafters battling the treacherous rapids, food ranging from fresh salads and burger to burritos and sandwiches, and an ever-changing craft beer menu with local selections from North Carolina.
Walk or Run the Booty Loop
The namesake route of 24 Hours of Booty, a cancer charity cycling event (which got its start in Charlotte) is quite possibly one of the most stunning trails in all of the city. Located in the upscale area of Myers Park, the route follows Queens Road West, Selwyn Avenue and Queens Road, all of which boasts stunning homes and architecture. Massive, century-old oak trees intermingle to create a dramatic canopy over the road leaving it speckled with sun and shade. The 2.8-mile loop isn’t just a great place to stretch your legs; it’s the best place to look at the façades of some beautiful homes.
Photo Courtesy of US National Whitewater Center