Charlotte, North Carolina
When taking a daytrip most people think to get out the city of Charlotte and head to the great outdoors of Asheville. Because I do things a little differently, I’ve been taking day trips to Charlotte over the past few months–to get out of town, to see shows, to meet up with the bestie. Charlotte certainly isn’t anywhere I want to live–ever. But it certainly has its fair share of food, drink, and entertainment. It is a quick two hours down the mountain, and like a pig on the truffle hunt, I can root out the places worth spending your money and time.

The first lesson you learn when trying to hike in one of the flattest areas of the state is that CrowdERs is crowdED. And of course it is! It’s the closest state park to the largest metropolitan area in North Carolina. It’s a touch uphill climb to the summit of Crowders Mountain State Park. Once you summit, you can start making your way down and through the miles of other trails in the park. Here’s a useful hiking analogy: state park hiking is to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom as national park hiking is to an actual African safari. All danger and surprise and hard work has been removed from state park hiking, but it’s still there and it still exists to appreciate the real thing and offer something to those who don’t have the ability or desire to do the real thing. Regardless of its complexity (or lack thereof), I enjoyed the views of the Charlotte sky line. And all the green. I’m so happy all the green is back. Welcome to summer!

Crowder’s Mountain State Park is an excellent place to be outside. The trails and trailheads are marked well. You can craft your own path to go as short or as long as you would like.

During my colder-months venture when hiking wasn’t an appealing option, Ikea was my method of steps accumulation. I hate shopping. Except at Ikea. We used to trip it five hours to the Woodbridge Ikea before it finally came to Charlotte seven years ago. So a two hour drive to hang out at Ikea for a minimum of three hours ain’t bad.

Beyond hiking around a mountain and a massive Swedish retailer, there’s plenty to eat and drink in the Queen City. My favorite places I found to drink were Birdsong Brewing Company and Bulldog Beer and Wine. The beer, the outdoor space, and the barrels of peanuts at Birdsong won me over. It really doesn’t take much more than those three elements for me to call a brewery a success. Bulldog was a little divey with cornhole (ugh), darts (yay!), popcorn (hell yes), and Foothills Jade. They also had a Ballast Pointe (I heart San Diego beers) Mango IPA.

I did not enjoy The Olde Mecklenberg Brewery. It’s not my scene, and I didn’t like the beer. They had no pale ales or IPAs. The closest they came was a pilsener. It wasn’t even a good pilsener. The place had a good outdoor space, but it was full. If Crowders Mountain is the Disney World of parks, then Olde Meck is the Ghost Town in the Sky of breweries.

A quick rundown of the food and a note about paying it forward. The salted caramel brownie at Amelie’s is decadent and delicious. It’s open 24 hours, which is the best part. Late dessert is the best dessert. The Common Market was a great place to chill with a beer and a sandwich–regardless of the Bernie stickers peppered everywhere. Perhaps they’ll change them out to Hillary soon. Little Spoon was just alright. They served their coffee in bowls and their bacon tasted more like pork chops than bacon. It was too expensive, and the cinnamon toast I make at home was leaps and bounds better.

After my hike at Crowders, I headed to Price’s Chicken Coop. Fried chicken. Potato rounds. Cole slaw. Hush puppies. Merita roll. Sweet tea. There was a lot, and it was hot. In a white to-go box, I sat on the street corner with my tiny packet of ketchup for the mound of potatoes and grease dripping down my hands from the juicy wings and breast. Price’s is a take-out establishment. It is also a cash-only establishment. I had none, but a very nice man named Victor offered to buy my lunch for me. He asked me to pay it forward. When I get the opportunity, I most certainly will.

Charlotte gets all the shows. And sometimes we must go to the music when the music does not come to us. This year that included Santigold and X Ambassadors at the Fillmore. The venue is bigger than I’m used to with the Orange Peel (and basically any other venues I elect to see concerts at), but you simply can’t discount it because they book everyone. It’s not a bad venue.