North Carolina

24 Hours in Charlotte

“Wait, where are you?”


“Why are you in Charlotte?”

I was in Charlotte because my amazingly talented trombonist husband recently joined the orchestra of the touring company of “Come Fly Away.”  Long tours can be difficult on a relationship, especially now that our little-one is part of our family equation. The solution, Sojourner and Ohm tag along with daddy on the weekends as he finishes the American leg of the tour. The international leg begins this summer and we’ll be able to tag along for the entire adventure (woot woot!) But before I get ahead of myself, let me focus on Charlotte.

Perhaps because I spend so much time in New York, Southern hospitality truly warms my heart and disarms me. Charlotte is the quintessential Southern gentleman (with a woman’s name). Having little to offer by way of character, the city of Charlotte is tremendously hospitable, user-friendly, and appreciative of a good time. My first 24 hours in Charlotte went something like this:


9:00 am Breakfast at Café Sienna (230 N College Street

Charlotte, NC 28202)

New York has spoiled me. I love a good slow breakfast/brunch. Café Sienna, didn’t quite cut it. There was a shortage of breakfast options in our Center City location. Café Sienna drew us in because we were hungry and because they boasted a tremendous breakfast menu. Unfortunately, what looked lovely on paper was quite mediocre on the tongue. Eggo waffles on a restaurant plate anyone?


11:00 am Stroll to and through the Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market (Yorkmont Road)

The Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market was just my speed. Intimate and saturated with local flavor, the market bursts full of vibrant flowers, fragrant local produce, savory and sweet baked goods and subtly aromatic herbs,. It reminded me of a quaint central market. I love the idea of buying local when I travel. The Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market is definitely the place to mingle with locals and stimulate the area economy.


1:00 pm Lunch at Nikko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar (1300 South Blvd. Charlotte, NC 28203)

Nikko’s didn’t disappoint. The food was delicious. Nikko’s had a great selection of sushi and a surprisingly satisfying wine list (normally a red girl, I strayed off my usual course, lured by their Mazzeti Moscato, it was great!). We sat outside on charming cast iron café tables. The weather, by this point in the afternoon was a perfect 80 degrees with the right amount of breeze. The entire time we were there, Charlotte seemed alive with a light breathy breeze (not a blow your hat off breeze, or a puff your skirt up breeze , but a gentle, refreshing swirl of fresh air originating from a mysterious point far off in some unknown distance.


4:00 pm Carriage Ride  (Tryon St., between 6th & 7th St. (by Discovery Place).

The carriage ride, which lasted about an hour was entertaining, but relatively uneventful. Our horse trotted slowly down the streets of Uptown Charlotte. The older buildings of what they term “Old Charlotte” were beautiful architectural treasures. Unfortunately, most of what we saw was the “New Charlotte,” which was shiny, modern, and quite honestly a bit boring. Charlotte is home to a large variety of specialty boutique shops. If you’re a shopper, you can definitely find a lot of unique local goods and wares.


7:00 pm “Come Fly Away” Show at the Belk Theatre at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center


The Belk Theatre is absolutely stunning. From the ornate jade and coral interior to the state of the art theatre space, it is a wonderful venue to catch one of the many Broadway touring shows that make their way through the city.  I saw “Come Fly Away” which was very well done. I’m a big Twyla Tharp fan and her choreography didn’t disappoint. Next on the roster, I believe was “Warhorse”. The list is constantly changing as the theatre hosts a steady rotation of shows. Another bonus, is it’s prime location, in the center of the city,  making it easily  walkable  from many hotels and in the direct proximity of a variety of after-show restaurants.


9:00 Dinner at Mert’s Heart and Soul (214 N. College Street, Charlotte, NC 28202)

Whenever we asked locals where to go for dinner they mentioned Mert’s. Approaching Mert's doors, we could make out the sweet aroma of cornbread, savory sauces and the unmistakable, crispy scent of things being fried. Mert’s was packed. The service was a bit haphazard and slow, but the food was great. Little Ohm finished off a complete side dish of mashed potatoes. I was a big fan of the macaroni and cheese and the greens ( I actually didn’t really think my fried fish was all that remarkable). Mark was all about the sweet tea and the ribs. Whatever your preference, Mert’s should fill you up and leave you satisfied and in need of a wheelbarrow to transport you home.

If eleven is too early for you to turn in, Charlotte bursts to life at night. Preppy frat boys slowly begin to take over street corners, as gangs of drunken women, who by the way get quite dressed up for a night out (I saw several women in their twenties wear pearls to the bar) parade through the streets staggering and weaving into each other. Charlotte is a peculiar, yet friendly and spirited place to creep about at night.

Charlotte, plus Cinco de Mayo, who knew?

When one thinks about Cinco de Mayo celebrations around the world, Puebla, Mexico, or Mexico as a whole, most likely comes to mind. Depending upon where you live, certain pockets of the U.S. west and southwest may also register. After my weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, Charlotte is now on that list.

Charlotte is a party city. I wasn’t ready. I knew Charlotte was a college town, but I truly wasn’t ready for the large masses of revelers, young to middle aged, every shade of human being, suburban to urban who hit the streets of downtown Charlotte to party. Cinco de Mayo in Charlotte was a big deal.

I love any excuse to load up on Mexican food and margaritas. Mexican is hands down my favorite ethnic food variety and don’t even get me started about the many virtues of margaritas (on the rocks please w/ salt). I share this affinity it seems with the city of Charlotte.

My first stop was the Cinco de Mayo Salsa-thon in the S. Tryon street parking lot. With the feel of an enormous block party, there were mariachi bands, vendors, prizes and giveaways, DJs and of course the draw of the event, the salsa-thon set to the beat of live music.

No, I didn’t sign-up for the Salsa-thon, but I did watch as others stepped and swayed with fury and glory. I didn’t make it until the end, to see who won, because I was determined to head to Epi Cinco 2012 at the pavilion at the Epi Center, the city’s second major event of the day.

I arrived just in time to catch the famed Chihuahua race where local Chihuahuas decked out in their finest Mexican garb raced each other along a ten-foot stretch of AstroTurf. The Epi-center event was packed. Host also to an enormous beer crawl, which was already underway as well as a Cinco de Mayo dance party, the crowd by three p.m., was rowdy and staggering. Luckily for everyone, authentic Mexican taco stands dotted the square to curb drunken stomachs. People partied into the wee hours of the morning. As I said before, I wasn’t ready.

Charlotte, plus Cinco de Mayo, who knew?