From the elegant mansions and leafy streets of Myers Park to funky arts districts like NoDa and Plaza Midwood, Charlotte neighborhoods are what make the city great. Each has its own special atmosphere and unique attractions, and making the most of your time in Queen City is all about picking the neighborhoods that best match your vacationing style. Whether you're here for the world-class museums, acres of green space or high-powered NASCAR fun, we bring you a wealth of ideas on what to see and do in Charlotte's most family-friendly neighborhoods.
Charlotte's downtown area is officially known as Uptown, apparently because the land Uptown was built on is slightly higher than the rest of the city. This is the most buzzing of Charlotte neighborhoods, a mix of innovative museums, chic art galleries and upscale restaurants packed into a compact and walkable core. In fact, Uptown crams so much great stuff into a small space that it's sub-divided into four wards, which all have their own distinctive character and style.
Nicknamed the Garden District for its peaceful leafy streets and four-acre First Ward Park, First Ward has its quiet spots but also plenty of hustle and bustle. See the Charlotte Hornets or the 49ers college team play at the Spectrum Center during basketball season or come for a music concert – Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez have played here, as well as artists that parents are more likely to appreciate like Madonna and Queen.
First Ward's culture hotspots include the city's Main Library, the Levine Museum of the New South and ImaginOn Children's Learning Center. The Levine recreates the living history of the South after the Civil War with exhibitions of a tenant farmer's house, a cotton mill and a civil-rights era lunch counter, while ImaginOn encourages kids' interest in the arts with two state-of-the-art theaters and a fun story lab.
Your first stop for shopping in First Ward should be 7th Street Public Market, a dynamic covered market mostly made up of specialty food shops. It's a great place for picking up all kinds of artisan snacks and treats – try the Sinful Brownies (made with caramel and cookie dough) at Cloud 9 Confections or the gourmet popcorn at It's Poppin!
Evening entertainment in First Ward revolves around the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, home to the Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina as well as a contemporary film and photography museum. Or if the classics don't do it for you, try the McGlohon Theater, an intimate theater housed in a former Baptist church that offers concerts, comedy and open mic nights.
Second Ward was once known as the 'Harlem of Charlotte' for its thriving African-American culture and musical innovation. Links to that history remain in the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art+Culture, which celebrates the literary and artistic achievements of African-Americans. Their Family First program for kids includes writing workshops, jewelry-making, and interpreting art through dance. Leave some space in your museum-going schedule for the Wells Fargo Museum, which explores the history of gold mining in North Carolina and offers visitors a ride in a simulation of a Concord stagecoach.
Drive something a little faster than a stagecoach at Second Ward's other unmissable attraction, the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This tribute to the art of stock-car racing allows kids to get behind the wheel for themselves in a racing simulator, build their own racecar at the Virtual Painting Booth and try their skills as a NASCAR reporter. After all that high-octane excitement, enjoy a change of pace at The Green, a small park with literary-themed sculptures that frequently hosts free plays and movie screenings.
When it comes to food and entertainment, the lively Epicenter Plaza is best known for its bars but has plenty of family-friendly spots too. Their comforting steakhouses and classic Southern restaurants are accompanied by kid-friendly options like a bowling alley and movie theater. Grab some snacks before you go at Rocket Fizz candy store, which sells retro soda pop and candy from all over America and will make adults of any age feel like a kid again.
Good morning, sports fans! If your kids think of nothing but cheering for the home team then they'll love waking up in Fourth Ward, where our local Stay Alfred apartment is minutes away from both the Bank of America Stadium and BB&T Ballpark. See the Caroline Panthers play or take a tour of the stadium that includes a walk through the field tunnel and a peek into the team locker room. BB&T puts on regular firework displays throughout the season, which can also be seen from nearby Romare Bearden Park. The park itself is also worth a visit, with lots of interesting sculptures and colorful lighting to admire, and kids will love playing in its interactive water features.
As well as being a haven for sports enthusiasts, Third Ward boasts several outstanding museums. Mint Museum Uptown's collection covers five floors and includes modern American art and collections of glass and ceramics, but of special interest to families will be their family art workshops and docent-led 'Stroller Tours'. Next door is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, with its selection of weird and wonderful sculptures, and Knight Theater, home to the North Carolina Dance Theater.
If you get caught in one of Charlotte's frequent rain showers, make a beeline for Latta Arcade, a century-old building that's been restored and repurposed as an indoor shopping arcade. Build your own pizza with all the trimmings at Zablong, or treat the kids (and yourself!) to a double-chocolate or key lime pie cupcake at Melt In Your Mouth.
Fourth Ward is Uptown's most charming and historic neighborhood, parts of which have been designated a Local Historic District thanks to the fine Victorian houses that line its streets. Explore the area’s storied history at Old Settlers' Cemetery, a burial ground dating back to 1776, which contains the graves of a number of Revolutionary War veterans and some of Charlotte's most prominent founders.
If you can't get enough of the lovely architecture, Friends of Fourth Ward's Walking Tour will guide you around all the must-see buildings in the neighborhood. And Fourth Ward's historic charm extends to Fourth Ward Park, which features two fountains, unique plants from around the world, and attracts lots of local birds to its birdhouses. The playground should keep the kids entertained for a while, as will the free live music shows every Sunday afternoon.
From ancient history to the cutting edge of the future, visit Discovery Place Science, a family-friendly science museum dedicated to making learning an adventure. Kids will love the science experiments and hands-on demonstrations at The Stage, assembling their own T-Rex in the Thinker Space, or getting up close to snakes and tortoises at Nose-to-Nose. There's also an IMAX Dome Theater with features on everything from volcanoes to the world's most amazing dogs. If you’re driving, there’s a parking deck for visitors on the other side of Church Street, or stay with us at Stay Alfred at SkyHouse Uptown and you’re only a 10-minute walk away.
North Davidson – known as NoDa by its ultra-hip residents and everyone else in the know – is the cool, vibrant center of Charlotte's art scene. Eye-catching murals adorn the walls, and the galleries are filled with work by local and international artists. Catch the opening of a new exhibit or try a class at non-profit Charlotte Art League, marvel at the incredibly detailed sculptures made by artist Jonathan Pellitteri, or browse the arresting oil paintings at Holt McLean Gallery.
NoDa's shopping is the most eclectic of all Charlotte neighborhoods, with lots of crafty stores and independent boutiques. Pura Vida brings a cosmopolitan vibe to NoDa with art works from across the world and boho organic clothing, while Ruby's Gift features handmade art, jewelry and ceramics by local artists.
For dinner we have to recommend Benny Pennello's, whose oversized pizzas are bigger than a small child and will certainly feed the whole family. Finish your evening with a handcrafted gelato pop in flavors like chocolate pistachio or pina colada at Popbar Artisanal Gelato, or pop into Amélie's French Bakery & Café, which serves its incredible eclairs, coconut macaroons and fruit tarts 24 hours a day.
Don't leave without paying a visit to Historic Rosedale Plantation, a 200-year-old plantation house that includes a fully restored blacksmith's shop and lush gardens filled with native North Carolina flowers.
The tranquil, laid-back streets of Plaza Midwood are ideal for families looking for somewhere to relax and take it easy. Bounded by Veterans Memorial Park to the south and Charlotte Country Club to the east, there's no shortage of green space here, but our favorite is Midwood Park for its sweet little creek and community garden.
Neighboring NoDa's artsy vibe spills over into Plaza Midwood in the form of independent galleries, eccentric bookshops and tons of street art. Book Buyers is an eclectic used bookstore where you can find books on almost any topic, and Moxie Mercantile is also a favorite with locals who come for its handmade candles, jewelry and unique gifts. Afterwards, reward the kids with lunch at Zada Jane's Corner Cafe, a cute vegan-friendly cafe which serves organic food in a cozy interior.
Take a stroll down Central Avenue for an endless array of dinner options. We like the Three Amigos Mexican Grill for its relaxed vibe and outdoor terrace, and the customizable pizzas and cool industrial setting of Pure Pizza. Asian fusion restaurant Krazy Fish has been creating a buzz recently with its tiki bar and offbeat decor, and makes a great stop for fans of diverse seafood dishes.
Elegant historic buildings and leafy streets are the main attractions of Elizabeth – many of the district's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the trees here have had 100 years to mature. The streetcar running along Elizabeth Avenue makes it easy to get to Uptown, but why would you want to when Elizabeth's plethora of boutiques, bakeries and cafes are calling you to stay?
Shopping here will entertain kids as well as their parents with places like Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, a comic store packed with comic books, manga and graphic novels, and you can't miss the colorful macaroons and traditional Italian pastries at Villani's Bakery. Elizabeth's evening entertainment is a mostly sedate affair centering around cozy family restaurants. Try the artisanal burgers and hand-cut fries and Bang Bang Burgers or listen to live jazz while enjoying Cajun food at Cajun Queen.
The streets aren't the only green thing about Elizabeth. Independence Park is the largest green space, 19 acres of verdant lawns that features a rose garden and a reflecting pool. There are basketball courts, a batting cage and table tennis facilities, and picnic shelters equipped with grills if you want to grab lunch alfresco. Thompson Park is only three acres but features the beautiful and historic St. Mary's Chapel, as well as a Vietnam veterans' memorial and statue of Revolutionary War hero Captain Jack.
The most glamorous of Charlotte neighborhoods, Myers Park is full of fashionable restaurants and chic boutiques. Start your vacation at Discovery Place Nature, an offshoot of the downtown Discovery Science Museum. Their stunning Butterfly Pavilion lets you walk among free-flying butterflies and kids will love exploring the Paw Paw Nature Trail, and the museum’s live shows where you can go stargazing or encounter alligators.
There are plenty more opportunities for communing with nature in the historic gardens and bird sanctuary at Wing Haven, which features a beautiful rose garden, duck pond and lots of opportunities to spot native birds. Or get out and explore the beautiful mansions on the Booty Loop, a three-mile loop of quiet streets around Myers Park that's a great area for a walk or bike ride.
The arts scene in Myers Park is anchored by the Mint Museum Randolph, a former branch of the US Mint that now displays a vast and eclectic art collection, including the art of the ancient Americas, 18th and 19th century European art, and an international contemporary art collection.
Little Spoon Eatery is the most popular breakfast spot in Myers Park for their breakfast of champions (fried chicken breast and cornbread is involved), but it's also worth a stop around lunchtime for the BLT made with lemon basil aioli. And the neighborhood is a haven for Italian-lovers, with restaurants like Stagioni and Zio's Casual Italian turning out moreish truffle tagliatelle and comforting three-cheese lasagnas.
The quiet neighborhood of Dilworth revolves around Freedom Park, 98 acres of walking trails, volleyball courts and sports fields with a 7-acre lake at its center. Take a look at the bright yellow 'Timeline' sculpture made of old train parts that pays tribute to the area's trolley tracks, or feed the Canada geese that congregate on the lake. At the other end of Dilworth, Latta Park follows an offshoot of Little Sugar Creek and contains 'Sprayground', a playground where kids can splash around in small fountains and jets of water.
East Boulevard is Dilworth's main drag and the place to go for everything from vegan donuts to board games. Start at The People's Market, part cafe and part grocery store, where they sell fresh baked goods, deli titbits and local craft beers. The freshly made pastries and extravagant cupcakes at Sunflour Baking Company make it worth a stop for lunch or a coffee break, and check out the books, gifts and gewgaws at Paper Skyscraper for a travel memento or just something to keep the kids entertained on the journey home.
Also adorning East Boulevard is Lark & Key, a quaint gallery that sells not only work by Charlotte artists but also ceramics, jewelry and greeting cards. For more great art by local artists, check out the exhibitions at Hidell Brooks, a gallery that showcases contemporary American artists.
Wesley Heights is still a bit of a hidden gem among Charlotte neighborhoods, so visit it now before the rest of the world hears the news. This emerging neighborhood is developing an innovative foodie scene, focused on artisan grocery stores and gourmet eateries. New restaurants and coffee shops are appearing every week, and it's also within handy walking distance of Uptown attractions like Bank of America Stadium and BB&T Ballpark.
Two urban green spaces link Wesley Heights to Uptown – the Irwin Creek and Stewart Creek Greenways – providing the neighborhood with plenty of peaceful walking and cycling routes. Nearby Frazier Park is popular for its community gardens and creek-side trails, while Seversville Park to the north attracts families to its playgrounds, picnic shelters and water fountains.
Start your exploration of Wesley Heights culinary scene with breakfast at Rhino Market & Deli, where you can grab a breakfast burrito to go or take your time over french toast with seasonal fruit compote. Then go exploring the globe, from the customized quesadillas and burrito bowls at Picante to Greek and Italian food like Mama used to make at The Open Kitchen. If you’ve brought the four-legged members of your family on vacation, end your evening with a drink at Lucky Dog Bark & Brew, a low-key sports bar merged with an outdoor dog park.
Ideal Charlotte accommodations
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