Search
Log-in

Charlotte's Art and Culinary Scene is the Perfect Spot for Solo Travel

solo travel Charlotte, NC

Photo Credit: The Dunhill Hotel

As a travel writer, I often take trips with other journalists, a girlfriend, a significant other or perhaps it’s just little ol’ me. Each has its own set of pros and cons, however, more and more I‘ve come to appreciate the freedom of traveling alone. It’s blissful to be the only decision maker. You can skip breakfast and sleep in 'till noon or get up before dawn to take in the sunrise. There’s no one to gripe about going to yet another museum, or how crazy it was to splurge on a five-course Michelin dinner. You can create the trip of your dreams without the distraction of others. However, I’m constantly amazed by how many women are still afraid to travel alone. After, “What’s your favorite destination?” it’s the topic that generates the most questions, to which I reply, “Just do it once and you’ll get hooked.” If you’re tempted but not sure where to go, I’ve discovered the perfect spot for you to test the waters: Charlotte, North Carolina.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

Justly nicknamed “The Queen City” (named after Queen Charlotte, the beloved wife of King George III), Charlotte is an immaculately clean, gorgeous, fun, safe, friendly, walkable city filled with a wide array of museums, local art galleries, outdoor parks, numerous brew-pubs, trendy neighborhoods filled with creative, indie-boutiques, and an array of dining options from funky food trucks to fine dining establishments. One of the best parts is that you can experience all the above without ever leaving downtown (although quirky Charlotteans refer to it as Uptown since it is the highest point of the city!) Here are a few suggestions for an easy, solo getaway geared to newbies traveling alone.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: The Dunhill Hotel

Where to Stay

If you want to be treated like royalty, stay at The Dunhill Hotel, one of the Historic Hotels of America, located in the heart of Uptown. It recently emerged from a multi-million dollar restoration, updated with modern amenities—think comfy robes, homemade chocolate-chip cookies and weekly wine tastings—while still preserving its Old World elegance, warmth and style. From the minute you check into this 60-room boutique property, you'll receive the friendliest service, with everyone from housekeeping to the most gracious General Manager asking, “Is there anything we can do for you to make your stay more pleasant?” After gobbling down the addictive sweet and spicy popcorn and the plate of chocolates that awaited me in my bright, spacious guestroom, the answer was, “Hell, yes! Please send up another batch of these!”

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

For your first night, all you have to do for an incredible dinner is head downstairs to the in-house restaurant, The Asbury, which offers some of the finest farm-to-ranch-to-table Southern cooking in town. Chef Matthew Krenze, whose family owns the cattle ranch that supplies the restaurant, searches out the finest local products, combining them in unique blends for a creative spin on Southern classics. The pretty-as-a-picture, standing cucumber salad adorned with a headdress of shaved buttermilk and lavender goat cheese, or his Bison Tongue Bratwurst sided by a smoked cabbage and fennel slaw will wow you. When the mundane sounding mac-n-cheese arrives at the table, bubbling away in a cast iron skillet, you’ll be thrilled you’re dining alone so that you don’t have to share any of the crispy goat cheese edges clinging to the pan.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

If you’ve flown in from the West Coast then it’s three hours earlier according to your body clock, so you’ll have plenty of time for a nightcap at The Punch Room, located two blocks away on the 15th floor of the Ritz Carlton. Once you enter this seductive, retro-glam setting, with its soft, romantic lighting and plush leather sofas, backed by magical views of the Queen City’s skyline, you might feel a slight twinge asking for a table for one. So don’t! Head right over to the petite bar (the best seats in the house) where mixologist extraordinaire, Bob Peters, will not only take fabulous care of you, but you’ll also have the best time watching this slightly mad genius in action. He creates cocktails from his favorite liquors mixed with fresh, seasonal ingredients (he grows many of them on the hotel’s rooftop garden), then reaches for a flaming torch or hand-held carbonator to put on the finishing touches.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

What to Do

Whether you’re a coffee girl or need something more substantial, Amelie’s French Bakery & Café is a must to kick-start the day. Now a successful, local mini-chain, This fun spot, decorated in zany, garage-sale-meets-Paris-chic decor, has great coffee, yummy, create-your-own breakfast sandwiches, and such a drool-worthy pastry case that I wasn’t surprised to learn that the sweets that tempted Peeta and Katniss on their train ride to the Capitol in The Hunger Games came from here! Just a tip: if you don’t buy some desserts to go, including their famous salted caramel brownie, French macaroons and flaky chocolate croissant, you’ll regret it later.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

Art enthusiasts will love strolling Uptown, where the streets are lined with public art, consisting of shimmering metallic sculptures, historic statues and vibrant murals. Walk down Tryon Street until you get to Trade Street. Here, at Independence Square, connoisseurs will note three of the four towering statues represent Charlotte’s past history. The fourth statue, a mother holding up her baby, represents the future.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

Further down South Tryon Street is the Levine Center for the Arts, a convenient cluster of three world-class art museums. Celebrate some amazing cultural achievements by African-American artists at the Harvey B. Gantt Center, or marvel over the internationally renowned Craft + Design collection at the Mint Museum. The gorgeous Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, designed by famed architect Mario Botta, houses pieces by the world’s most influential artists including Giacometti, Calder and Warhol. Outside, snap an iconic selfie while standing under the 17-foot-high Firebird sculpture, A.K.A. The Disco Chicken. Insiders tip: buy the Levine Center for the Arts Pass, which allows access to all three museums for 48 hours for only $20.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

While art may feed the soul, your stomach could probably use a little sustenance by now. A ten-minute walk will bring you to the 7th Street Public Market, a bustling, culinary incubator, where 20 foodie entrepreneurs are selling farm-fresh, artisanal products. I can personally vouch for the grilled Gouda cheese sammie with plum chutney and green tomatoes from Orrman's Cheese Shop. Bring the wonderfully oozing mess across the hall to the Assorted Table Wine Shop and ask any of the well-trained staff to recommend one of their $5 glasses of wine to pair with it.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

Again, touting the joys of solo travel, the rest of the afternoon is up for grabs. Pick up a walking map to guide you through the historic Fourth Ward, filled with restored Victorian homes, luxury condos and flowering parks. If you've seen enough history for the day, explore the hippy NoDa neighborhood or the hipster Plaza Midway area, where I’ve never seen so many sleeve tattoos! Touted as one of the best craft beer towns in the U.S., hop-heads can debate the merits of these one-of-a-kind suds at over 40 local breweries.

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Kindred

Hopefully, you made reservations in advance for dinner at the wildly popular, James Beard-nominated, chef-driven phenomenon, Kindred. This bustling, unpretentious restaurant, housed in a multi-level historic building in downtown Davidson, is owned by locals Joe and Katy Kindred. I was warmly greeted by my enthusiastic, knowledgeable server, Erynne, who deftly plunked down a bottle of sparkling water and a hot pot sprouting an oversized top-knot of fluffy, pull-apart "milk bread" and house-cultured butter to hold me over while I perused the menu. The creative, Southern-inspired small plates on the weekly changing menu were all calling my name. I asked Erynne about her favorites and rather than giving me the tired, “It’s all good” line, she replied, "Well, if I was gonna die tonight I would order….” and proceeded to list her favorites. I went with them all and to quote Simon Cowell, she was "spot on."

 solo travel Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Janice R. Nieder

I loved every bite of Grandfather’s vinegar pickles, the duck-fat potatoes anointed with aioli, and the greaseless, perfectly-crisped oysters with dill yogurt. I could barely bring myself to try the hamachi crudo due to the sheer beauty of its Picasso-esque presentation. Sadly, I had barely any room left to take advantage of the milk bread’s repeat performance at dessert, dressed up as a cream cheese-frosted cinnamon roll, although I did manage a few bites of the rich, buttery figgy tart with a scoop of homemade plum thyme sorbetto. Take note: Kindred is located in the tiny college town of Davidson, about 20 miles from the hotel. I strongly suggest that you take Uber there (Charlotte gets my vote for having the friendliest Uber drivers around!) in case you run into traffic.

Janice Nieder

Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. She was a specialty food consultant for 12 years in New York, with a client list that included Tavern on the Green, Dean & Deluca and Sign of the Dove. After being bitten by the travel bug, her culinary adventures took her to over 90 countries, where she shared a smoked monkey dinner with a generous Shuar Indian family deep...(Read More)

Around the web