Friends with a Travel Pact

A weekend getaway in Charlotte, North Carolina

We sealed the deal with a clink of our pints. Our pact was simple: visit all 50 states over the course of the next 50 years together, one state each year. And even at the young age of 21, my two friends and I knew life would keep getting busier, so we decided on weekend getaways. This year, we wanted to travel to North Carolina. Our city to visit? Charlotte.

While many people travel to Charlotte’s busy hub, few stick around for more than a quick turn. But we knew the Queen City would show us some of the best of what the southeastern state has to offer.

Because, in Charlotte, Southern charm meets metropolitan spirit. The diverse city has everything we want in a weekend getaway, including historical architecture, award-winning cuisine, craft beer, and funky nightlife.

So far, the moments we collected from this city have been our favorite of our 50-state pact. Hopefully, our experience will inspire your own weekend getaway with friends to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Foodies, rejoice

Charlotte has no shortage of spectacular food and craft cocktails. Can’t decide on a cuisine? Then, don’t! Essex Bar & Bistro in uptown Charlotte boasts tastes from around the world. The vibe is relaxed yet chic, and the drink selection is extensive yet unimposing.

When the clock struck midnight, we felt a little full, a little buzzed, and a lotta tired.

With a sommelier on staff and delectable cocktails, you can taste the expertise and intention put into every swirl and twist. During our Charlotte trip, we noshed on a variety of tapas, including the Mediterranean dip trio, coconut curry mussels, and butter chicken.

Dance like nobody’s listening

Only a five-minute walk from Essex, we headed to the Epicentre next. Whether you’re in the mood for dessert, bowling, or live music, this open-air entertainment center has it all. As we rode the escalator to the top of the Epicentre, we spotted a group of people moving… to no music.

Rooftop 210, which overlooks the business district, was hosting one of the world’s hottest trends: Silent Disco. Instead of a traditional sound system, live music—played from three different DJs—is broadcasted only through wireless headphones. You choose which music you like the best. “Thriller”? “Hit the Quan”? “Oops, I Did it Again”? At Rooftop 210, you can pick your groove and bust a move!

It took no convincing—we were in. Aside from dancing, the experience gave us the opportunity to enjoy an incredible night of people watching and cocktail conversation. When the clock struck midnight, we felt a little full, a little buzzed, and a lotta tired.

Take a walk on the art side

North of Davidson, or NoDa, is Charlotte’s historic art and entertainment district. Described as a place where the people are just as diverse as the art, music, and beer, we were excited to start the next day with what I like to think of as the opposite of Southern charm.

To get the full experience of the unique street scene, we followed NoDa’s interactive Art Walk Map—checking out the mosaic tile benches and The History of NoDa, a mural by Rosalia Torres-Weiner with David Merck, which depicts the area’s transformation.

We popped in to a few funky shops, like Pura Vida Worldly Art and Ruby’s Gift, but the highlight of the day was stepping into what looked like a Parisian doll shop, Amélie’s French Bakery and Café.

A little whimsy for all the

Known for their salted caramel brownies and colorful macarons, Amélie’s is a French-inspired café with an ambiance that would elevate any Instagram feed. Eclectic repurposed furnishings are their hallmark—think: old photographs, gaudy chandeliers, and vintage couches—but visually stunning sweets and savories are their specialties. Here, we relaxed our tired feet, sipped on café au lait, and indulged in decadent pastries.

Untapped potential

Like any city we visit, we wanted to see what the locals are sipping, so our next stop was a spacious brewery with an eight-acre outdoor beer garden, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, or OMB. Whether you’re inside or outside, the atmosphere at OMB is lively and fun. Freshness and purity are their mantras—no shortcuts. Never one to turn down a snack, I ordered a pretzel and Pilsner, which was a delicious combination.

Intrigued by the name, we headed to Wooden Robot Brewery next, where science meets the art of brewing. With intriguing names like “What He’s Having,” “Mellow My Mango,” and “Sweater Weather,” it was tough not to settle in and drink the lot. But, we ordered a flight—my favorite was “Fruity by Nature,” a sour beer with notes of tart lime and clean floral—and we felt confident Charlotte’s brewery scene was worth the plane ticket alone.

A match made in Charlotte

After a day of bonding (and a few pints of liquid courage), my friends and I decided it was time to get matching tattoos. Fate agreed because next door to Wooden Robot was Tattoo Me Charlotte, a woman-owned and highly reviewed tattoo parlor.

In fact, owner Stacy Smith was a cast member of the reality TV competition Ink Master. While we couldn’t squeeze in an appointment with the master, we were excited to visit a shop oozing with girl power and creativity.

After a quick Pinterest search, we picked out a minimalist black anchor design to go on the inside of our right wrists. The symbol is a small reminder of our sorority and when our friendship—and lifetime sisterhood—first began.

Properly inked and drinked, we called it a night, so we would be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our next and final Charlotte stop.

But first, brunch

Before catching the afternoon flight that would conclude our visit to Charlotte, we scoped out the perfect place to brunch. At Tupelo Honey, scratch-made Southern comfort food gets a creative twist. All of the café’s ingredients are responsibly sourced, and the menu changes seasonally. No conversation—or even breathing—was had while we devoured their fried chicken with biscuits, and pecan pie French toast. The service was charming, and if you’re looking for a cure to the night before, the bloody Mary was just what the doctor—actually, I—ordered.

Collect your own moments

This city is a melting pot of distinctive cuisine and culture. Whether you follow in our footsteps or create a new itinerary on your visit to Charlotte, the possibilities for an unforgettable weekend trip are endless. Without a doubt, you’ll leave the Queen City feeling enriched and alive. And those friendship bonds? We hope they’ll outlast those matching tattoos.

Next, read about beer flights and fun in San Diego.