Staying cool in the summer in Charlotte is not easy. With temps reaching 90-plus and humidity nearing 100 percent, sometimes the only option is to stay inside. Luckily, though, the Queen City has dozens of ways to beat the heat and stay cool indoors and out. From the best ways to get wet via the city’s top splash pads for kids and pools for the grown-ups to after-dark cocktail hours where live music makes you forget the steamy temps, here are the best ways to get wet (and keep it cool) this summer.
Aloft Charlotte Uptown
What this indoor pool lacks in style it gains in views. Centrally located in the heart of Uptown, aloft is part of the bustling EpiCentre, which means this modern hotel boasts fantastic views of some serious foot traffic including partygoers and diners heading to nearby restaurants and bars. Consider it the ultimate in people watching by the water.
HYATT House Charlotte
The rooftop terrace and pool at this new(ish) hotel in Uptown has proven to be one of the best spots to unwind what with its comfy, modern seating and lounge pool. Though the latter isn’t big enough to do laps, it’s exceptional for dipping into and sipping a cold martini to end the day.
Sure, it’s not an outdoor pool boasting panoramic views of a serene golf course nor is it, well, outside, but it is where scenes from Homeland have been filmed. Plus, the Ritz’s pool is one of the chicest in the city, which means when celebrities, professional athletes, and politicians come to town they just might be found here unwinding poolside. One caveat: only hotel guests or spa guests have access to the pool so book a room (or massage!) to indulge.
Formerly the Blake Hotel, this recently renovated—and rebranded—Sheraton hotel is not directly in Uptown but still boasts fantastic views of Midtown and the 277 corridor. The hotel’s posh outdoor rooftop pool with poolside bar and cabanas is adjacent to Float, the hotel’s signature bar and restaurant, which means you can drink and eat while soaking the sun. Hotel guests only have access.
Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
Designed by Charlotte design firm LS3P, this heated outdoor pool surrounded by lushly landscaped greens and boasting comfy daybeds and chaise lounges is the best place in south Charlotte (possibly all of Charlotte, to be fair) to cool off. Misting umbrellas, a new cocktail menu featuring twists on frozen favorites, not to mention popsicles and cool towels for optimum refreshment help you beat the heat. Best of all, the pool—with a $50 per month fee—is available not just to hotel and spa guests but to local residents, too.
Stay stylish during the summer months
This SouthPark storefront has been a swimwear and lingerie staple for years. And for good reason. The variety of one-piece and two-piece swimsuits not to mention tankinis, tunics, dresses, and an array of cover ups from top designers like Trina Turk, Eberjey, Carmen Marc Valvo, Nanette Lepore, and more is impressive. Plus, e martini has the exclusive on popular lines like Diva and Lenny. 704-442-5535
Love the swimsuits models like Matthews-bred Brooklyn Decker don in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue? Then you’ll love Tara Grinna. This line of high-end swimwear boasts one- and two-piece suits and tankinis in colorful, modern prints like leopard, watercolor, trellis, and more. A wide selection of sarongs, tunics, and pants complement the jewelry and accessory options like visors and colorful scarves.
Everything But Water
Yes, it’s a chain but it has just about every option you need to get through this summer in style. From colorful tunics and bikinis from Trina Turk to Mara Hoffman rompers and casual Havianas sandals, this SouthPark spot can successfully fill your closet with the season’s must-have bathing suits and accessories.
Though it’s been open for more than nearly eight years, the U.S. National Whitewater Center remains one of the biggest draws in Charlotte. Now that the weather is warm, there’s even more reason to head out to the facility, which boasts 500 acres on the Catawba River and countless land and water activities. With events like the second annual Tuck Fest, a three-day festival featuring outdoor competitions, exhibits, demos and live music, and Battle Royale Head-to-Head SUP Spring where paddleboarders will duke it out in various competitions on the Center’s whitewater rapids, the USNWC offers what feels like countless ways to get wet and keep cool.
If you’re looking to beat the heat sans paddleboard, visit the USNWC for one of its evening events like Brew Stash, featuring craft beer tastings and live music, or the weekly Microbrews Cruise where you can enjoy craft beer tastings while watching the sun set over the Catawba River while cruising on a paddle boat.
Cocktails and Bites
Sometimes the best way to enjoy summer is by sipping a cool cocktail (or draught beer)
Midtown’s upscale Italian restaurant isn’t just known for its authentic Italian cuisine (the veal saltimbocca, oh my!). This trattoria also boasts one of the best outdoor patios in Charlotte. Though it shares the stretch of long patio overlooking the greenway with other hot spots like Dressler’s and La Paz, Vivace’s positioning at the end of the space provides extra intimacy plus views of the Uptown skyline.
WHAT TO DRINK:
The Mojito Italiano featuring housemade limecello.
Nan & Byron’s
The sister restaurant to 5Church in Uptown has made a name for itself since its opening earlier this year. The small but intimate patio gives you a raw view of bustling South End-meets-Myers Park. But it’s the menu here—comfort food at its best with traditional favorites like deviled eggs. Shepherd’s Pie, and Prime Rib—coupled with the creative cocktails and craft beers on tap that make this al fresco dining experience the place to be after work hours.
WHAT TO DRINK:
The Cadillac Jalapeno Margarita.
Halycon, Flavors from the Earth
It’s truly hard to beat a restaurant that features not only fresh, local farm-to-fork dishes and local artisans but also one that boasts an outdoor patio with views of Charlotte’s cultural campus in Uptown. Located in amidst the Queen City’s thriving arts scene, Halcyon’s patio provides an upscale feel what with dramatic skyline and street views in which theater and museum goers are often seen coming and going from shows and exhibits.
WHAT TO DRINK:
The Queen to Bee featuring local gin and honey.
The buzz alone surrounding Fahrenheit should be enough to get you in its doors. But if that doesn’t do it, the recently-opened rooftop pool should. Located on the twenty-first floor, the pool boasts the perfect view of Knights Stadium, which means when the stadium lights off its nightly fireworks post game, you get to enjoy it, too. Plus, expect sunset wine socials, tastings, fashion shows, and more here.
WHAT TO DRINK:
The Not Tonight Honey cocktail featuring gin, rosemary, and lemon.
NoDo’s Heist Brewery isn’t just a great place for date night or drinks. It’s also family friendly, which means you can bring the whole family (toddlers included) for dinner (the flatbreads and PB&J Rangoons are musts) and cold craft beer on their outdoor patio without worrying if your neighboring diners will snub you. Dressed up with fun string lights, the scene is decidedly laid back so you can come in jeans and a tee and feel right at home.
WHAT TO DRINK:
The DZL Double IPA or, if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, the Paloma de Pama with tequila, pomegranate liqueur, and grapefruit juice.
Though it’s located in Union County, this park’s splash pad, which opened in 2013, has become a summer staple for families throughout Charlotte. The large, outdoor splash pad accommodates massive groups of kids, who love to cool off in the giant jets of water. Bonus: the park itself is worth visiting with three playgrounds for ages 0 to tween, oh, and did we mention the park is free?
Great Wolf Lodge
Consider it a mini summer vacation when you book two nights at this Concord-based hotel chain. Luckily, only hotel guests have access to Great Wolf’s massive indoor water park, which means you don’t have to worry about overcrowding and lines. With water slides, a lazy river, activity pools for the wee ones, raft rides, not to mention cabanas for the adults to hide away and relax, this truly is the perfect family getaway this summer.
Ray’s Splash Planet
What do you do when it’s raining during the summer? Bring your kids to this indoor water park where kids can release some energy and parents can take a dip, too. If running up and sliding down the three-story giant water slide doesn’t wear the kiddies out, the current pool, which pushes them back and forth—and back and forth—will. From $6/day. charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/ParkandRec/Aquatics/RaysSplashPlanet/Pages/default.aspx
The Sound of Music
Summer concert series are happening throughout the Queen City. But here are the best by the water this season
U.S. National Whitewater Center
There’s truly no better place this summer than the USNWC to hear live music and nosh on good food and beer all while sitting by the water. As part of the center’s River Jam concert series, concert goers can jam to the likes of Overmountain Men, The Get Right Band, The Dirty Beggars, and dozens more on Thursdays and Saturdays each week during the summer.
Each summer, it seems, the city’s unofficial most popular park gets even cooler. Every third Saturday during the months of June, July, and August regional musicians will showcase their jazz music talents courtesy of the Freedom Summer Series. Though times haven’t been released, plan on picnicking with friends and kids in tow while soaking in Freedom Park’s great scenery.
This popular summer concert series is back for five Sundays starting June 8 through July 3. Though the location isn’t exactly waterside (does a small man-made lake count?), Symphony Park’s SouthPark location means you can grab a bite to eat at places like Cowfish before throwing down a blanket and sipping some wine under the stars. Bonus: the annual July 4th fireworks display is not to be missed.