It’s hard to get lost in Charlotte.
Sure, street names change at random sometimes, and there are two dozen streets with the word “Queen” in them, but the city’s laid out like a big wheel, with the spokes converging on uptown.
Take one of those spokes in the other direction and you get to the city’s urban neighborhoods, which are within a mile or two of uptown, each with their own flavor.
Take the Davidson spoke for some culture. Charlotte’s arts district is small, but eclectic. It’s possible to go salsa dancing, eat Creole food and go hear a zydeco band in the same block.
The heart of NoDa is North Davidson Street at 36th Street. That street is how the neighborhood got its name, like New York City’s abbreviations of SoHo and TriBeCa.
A few blocks away is popular bakery Amelie’s, which is open 24/7 every day. Lines can number in the dozens during peak times, but they give you a free eclair on your birthday.
If you’re thirsty, NoDa’s the epicentre of the city’s nascent craft brewing scene, with half a dozen breweries operating in the neighborhood.
The Evening Muse has live music up to five times a week, with acts typically appropriate for all ages.
During summer nights, you don’t even need to step foot inside a restaurant, bar or gallery: Artists, artisans and street musicians compete for your attention right on the street.
Myers Park and Eastover
Head out to Queens Road West to see one of Charlotte’s oldest neighborhoods – and arguably the prettiest.
The Myers Park neighborhood was designed in the early 20th century around a loop and a series of soaring oaks. When I want to impress people, I take them for a ride here.
Or a run: The 3-mile circuit called the Booty Loop is popular with fitness enthusiasts. It includes Queens Road West (the one with those oak trees) and Queens University, a private university with 2,400 students. It’s also the site of 24 Hours of Booty, an endurance race that raises money for cancer.
Myers Park is also home to the swanky Duke Mansion, which is an inn, meeting place and event location.
The Selwyn Pub is a popular local choice for a drink.
In neighboring Eastover, check out the Mint Museum, off Randolph Road.
Head down South Boulevard and make a left at East Boulevard and you’ll be in the heart of Dilworth, another historic neighborhood.
East Boulevard has been revamped in the last decade to be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.
At the bottom of East is Freedom Park, which boasts a lake, running trails and the Gainesville-Midland 301, a retired coal-burning locomotive that anchors the playground.
Freedom Park is the site of Festival in the Park, a free annual event that features food, art and music.
The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on East Boulevard holds the city’s annual Greek festival in the beginning of September.
Along both sides of South Boulevard and just west of Dilworth is the South End neighborhood, which has expanded with the presence of the Light Rail.
The Atherton Mill area is a good place to get local food and produce. It’s also the site of Luna’s Living Kitchen, a vegan/raw food joint. Or you can walk across the street and get a burger from Mr. K’s, which has been making burgers, milkshakes and fries pretty much the same way since 1967.
Mac’s Speed Shop, a barbecue joint with a biker theme, has great food and, occasionally, a parking lot full of hot rods. And there’s also Price’s Chicken Coop and its famous fried chicken.
To get to the Elizabeth neighborhood, take Seventh Street or follow the streetcar tracks on 5th Street.
The neighborhood is mostly residential, although it includes three large institutions – Central Piedmont Community College’s uptown campus, Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.
It’s not all work, though. The Cajun Queen and Jackalope Jack’s are popular restaurants along Seventh Street. Go a little farther, and you’ll see Lupie’s Cafe, which has served chili to a multi-faceted crowd for 25 years.