Charlotte: A Guide from a Small Town Southerner

I've always loved the city. The BIG city. Put me in London or New York or LA and I'm a happy traveler. Honestly, the bigger the better. But now, I have a daughter and the thought of public transportation with a stroller and a squirmy baby makes me want to crawl into a fetal position. 

For her nine months, Brighten has been on a lot of trips. We've been to the West Coast twice, Florida a few times, she was born in Texas, and we've also been to Charlotte, North Carolina a handful of times. The law firm Jason works for has an office in Charlotte, and we've had the chance to travel with him several times to explore what I am calling the perfectly sized city with a baby.

Sometimes there are places that just feel familiar and good. Charlotte is one of these places to me. It's bigger than Birmingham, but not nearly the size of some of the cities we like to frequent. It's pretty easy to get around, there's plenty to do, but I'm never overwhelmed with options. 

One of my favorite memories of Charlotte was our weekend trip there last August. The office Jason works at was moving to a new building, so he had to go set up the new space the weekend before the move. In the midst of all of that, we'd be talking with Jenny about a baby girl who would be born in Houston, TX just a few weeks later. Jenny and I were trying so hard to coordinate a time for us to meet with her before we left for Charlotte for the weekend, but we couldn't seem to get anything to work out so we planned to meet on Monday night after we got back. As the story goes, that's when we found out that we were going to be parents to our Brighten. That trip to Charlotte, though, was so special because even though we didn't know what would happen, we had so many hours to talk about the possibilities, and I even allowed myself to go to Buy Buy Baby and try out a bunch of different things while Jason worked. 

 Brighten drinking her bottle in the same Pottery Barn Kids where we dreamed up her nursury.

Brighten drinking her bottle in the same Pottery Barn Kids where we dreamed up her nursury.

Now, going to Charlotte reminds us of that special time, and it's always so much fun to visit with our Brighten. 

Where To Stay:

Before this last trip, we always have stayed close to Jason's office in Uptown at the Hilton or Embassy Suites. This time, though, we actually stayed in the South Park area and LOVED it. We had to drive Jason into the city each day and pick him up, but I would not have traded the drive for how convenient everything else was during the day. Our hotel also had a really nice pool, was dog friendly (so of course Swanson loved it), and we had tons of space with a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms and bathrooms. 

What To Do:

My Gym: My favorite thing that we did this last trip was go to a class at My Gym. Apparently, baby gyms are a thing, but a thing that has not reached Birmingham yet. We signed up online for a class for 7-14 month olds and Brighten absolutely LOVED it. Our first class was free, but we will definitely be going back next time we are in Charlotte. 

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SouthPark Mall: Okay, a mall is just a mall, but these days it seems like malls are becoming a thing of the past. When you walk around The Galleria in Birmingham or Brookwood Mall in Homewood, it's apparent that these things won't last forever. But the South Park Mall in Charlotte is a thing of beauty. It's thriving! Anchored by Nordstrom (my love), Neiman Marcus, and more, this mall has a fantastic presence. To make it even better, it was right behind our hotel, so it made it a nice, cool place to go after nap time before we went to pick Jason up from work. 

Parks: I've always loved North Carolina for its easy-going weather. It's not too hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter. That, paired with the beautiful landscape of the city makes park-going an extra fun activity. Freedom Park has so much to do and our hotel was right next to Symphony Park. When we arrived, there was an actual symphony going on and it felt like arriving in Disney World with this incredible music playing. 

Discovery Place: One of the things we have not done, but it's on our list for next time, is Discovery Place science museum. We drive by it every time we take Jason to or from his office and I think the Brighten would enjoy looking at everything, even if she's still a little too young to participate. 

U.S. National Whitewater Center: Another thing on our list to do in Charlotte is the U.S. National Whitewater Center. From rock climbing over a pool of water, to ropes courses, trails, and zip lines, this place looks like a ton of fun. We totally should have done this last August before we had Brighten, but now it looks like we'll just need an excuse for a date night in Charlotte next time we're there. 

What to Eat:

There are tons of good restaurants in Charlotte -- and lots of farm to table places, which I love. There is also a lot of good, southern cooking, which is always a plus to me. My two favorite restaurants we've eaten at in Charlotte could not be more different, though. 

The King's Kitchen: This not-of-profit restaurant and bakery is literally everything I love about life. It's farm to table, southern food with a cause. My two favorite dishes have been the fried catfish and the pot roast, which are served as classic meat and three meals. Oh, and the biscuits are a must-have. 

Seoul Food Meat Co.: This non-traditional Korean BBQ restaurant is literally incredible. I've had dreams about the food after we ate here. I opted for the chicken as my meat, and then we ordered a bunch of sides for the table: ramen mac n cheese, Sriracha cracklins, and the potato swirl were absolutely delicious! 


There are probably so many more places to see and things to do in Charlotte, but our little family is going at a much slower pace these days. If I'm honest, I really thought that I would miss the fast-paced, exciting traveling that Jason and I used to do when it was just the two of us, but I am actually enjoying going slower, taking time to go back to the hotel for nap time, and really gaining rest from our time away from home. 

What are your favorite little, big city? Does it hold a special significance to you and your family?

Posted on July 5, 2017 and filed under Travel, The South.