Hidden Gems in Charlotte, North Carolina: The Best Spots According to Locals

Charlotte, NC, has much to offer with its rich culture and vibrant neighborhoods. If you plan to visit, you’ll want to find the best places to spend your time. Popular tourist destinations can often feel too crowded, expensive, and overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this guide to discover the heart of the city through the eyes of the locals. Many must-visit places in Charlotte fly under the radar, so if you want to be in on the secret, keep reading. From midnight diners to haunting ghost tours, we’ve found the best places to visit based on recommendations from those who know the city best.

Explore Charlotte’s Coffee Shops and Cafés

There’s something for every coffee enthusiast in this thriving North Carolina city—a testament to the people’s love for high-quality cups of joe. Read on to find some of the top choices when it comes to hidden brews and breakfast.

  1. Amélie’s French Bakery and Café. You can find this locally beloved breakfast spot in the city’s NoDa district on 36th Street. Their macarons, pies, sandwiches, and quirky atmosphere are just some of the reasons Améile’s is high on the list. They’re said to have the best treats in town.
  1. Cafe Monte. Enjoy hot beignets at this casual gourmet restaurant in the South Park neighborhood of Charlotte. This French bakery has everything you’d want in a café experience. They have attentive service, a cozy charm, and delicious brunch and breakfast foods, such as their smoked salmon benedict and quiche Florentine.
  1. Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery. This is one of the most underrated places in Charlotte. Locals love this spot for its charming ambiance and for the fact that they roast their own ethically sourced coffee beans. Sit back with a good book and savor your favorite coffee, grab a blueberry muffin, or enjoy some fresh buttermilk biscuits.
  1. Giddy Goat Coffee Roasters. This shop sits on The Plaza with an upstairs outdoor deck, an upstairs lounge, and ample seating. Many people recommend their delicious empanadas. With excellent baristas and quick service, Giddy Goat’s secures their spot as one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets.

Check Out the Local Shops and Art Scene

For art admirers, visit the Charlotte Art League or Goodyear Arts. If you want to immerse yourself in the community, check out:

  • Charlotte Creative Mornings. A free monthly event with local speakers, art, and live music.
  • Boom Charlotte. A three-day annual arts festival in April that has live performances and a visual arts showcase.

For those seeking an exceptional shopping experience, try Moxie Mercantile, The Charlotte Collective, or Paper Skyscraper, a shop filled with card collections and eclectic items. These are all great spots to find special gifts, accessories, clothes, and home pieces.

Find the Best Places to Eat in Charlotte

Brimming with diverse flavors, Charlotte offers cuisines that cater to every palate. Whether you’re a resident on the hunt for a new favorite spot or a visitor eager to discover all the Queen City has to offer, find what you’re looking for with this list.

  1. Midwood Smokehouse. This roadhouse barbecue joint is perfect if you’re in the mood for some caramelized brisket burnt ends or chicken wings. Don’t forget to order their famous hush puppies as a side.
  1. Malaya Kitchen. Located in the Arboretum Shopping Center, Malaya Kitchen is a beacon of authentic Malaysian flavors in the heart of the Charlotte community. Locals rave about their Hainan chicken and beef rendang.
  1. Fenwick’s Restaurant. This neighborhood restaurant and bar is a quaint family-owned place known for its quality and reasonable prices. If you want some good old American cuisine, just order their highly rated chicken salad, their classic burger, or a juicy steak.
  1. Hawthorne’s New York Pizza and Bar. Grab a beer and delight in some New York-style pizza and Italian eats while the aroma of freshly baked pizza dough wafts through the air. This local jewel is located on Seventh Street right across from Independence Park.
  1. Banh Mi Brothers. Equipped with friendly and attentive staff, this gem is located near the University of North Carolina. What’s better than a sibling-owned Vietnamese eatery that serves spring rolls, banh mi sandwiches, pho, and milk tea?
  1. Mert’s Heart and Soul. Mert’s might not be so hidden, but its southern soul food and vibrant atmosphere are the talk of the town. Located in uptown Charlotte, it’s the perfect place to grab a bite and explore the city.
  1. Midnight Diner: In the mood for a late-night snack in a restaurant shaped like a railroad dining car? Midnight Diner has you covered. They’re open 24/7 and serve some of the best shrimp and grits in uptown Charlotte.

Discover Unique Things to Do in Charlotte

In Charlotte, pleasant surprises await at every turn. Get to know the city with these coveted outdoor activities, festivals, and events.

Uncover the Great Outdoors

Charlotte has the best of both worlds when it comes to the nature experience. In fact, the mountains and the beach are just a couple of hours away. But if you want to spend some time outdoors in the city, the locals know the best trails and parks to hit. These include:

  • McDowell Nature Preserve
  • Reedy Creek Park
  • Seven Oaks Preserve Trail
  • Briar Creek Greenway
  • Freedom Park
  • U.S. National Whitewater Center

You can see live raptors, flight shows, indoor exhibits, and explore outdoor trails at the Carolina Raptor Center, a bird sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates injured birds of prey and offers immersive and educational experiences.

Located near Lake Wylie, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a great option if you want to soak in breathtaking views of tropical plants, fragrant flowers, fountains, and butterflies.

Take Part in the Special Events of Charlotte

For the sports enthusiasts, grab a ticket to a Panthers, Charlotte Knights, or Hornets game. If you want more off-the-beaten-path activities in Charlotte, head to a Front Porch Sunday. They happen every first Sunday of the month and include 70 local vendors all along the Rail Trail. There’s live music and free parking, and dogs are welcome.

Want unique things to do year-round? Make a reservation for a Carolina History & Haunts ghost tour, where you’ll be guided around uptown Charlotte in the dim light of a lantern to learn about the local ghosts and spooky stories. You can also head to the Southend Farmers Market for fresh fruits and vegetables every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Planning a Move to Charlotte, NC

We all know Charlotte is irresistible. You’re not alone if you’ve taken the leap to move to the Queen City. But planning a move is a significant life event that can be hectic. Make the process a little easier by utilizing self storage. The Universal Storage Group has six locations across the Charlotte area including:

Browse our self storage units in Charlotte to find the perfect place to store what you need during your big move!