6 Ways to Explore Charlotte Like a Local

From dive bars to whitewater rafting, here's where you'll find the locals

From the city’s best rooftop view to one of its most laid-back dive bars, not to mention a killer collection of aircraft and must-try fried pickles, these local favorites are some of the coolest spots in town. Once you find one, you’ll be sure to keep coming back to discover more. ­
 

Catch the View

For one of the city’s most popular views (it’s especially striking at night), hop over to The Peculiar Rabbit in Plaza Midwood. Known for its gourmet-gastropub menu (chicken and waffles, anyone?) and its local craft brews, this third-level rooftop patio is packed with locals nightly. 1212 Pecan Ave., 704.333.9197, https://therabbitspot.com/the-peculiar-rabbit/

Dive In

You won’t find bankers in suits at Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Well, you might, because everyone loves this place, but this dive is quite possibly the most laid-back bar in the city. Inside the weathered beach shack that’s been around since 1984, you’ll find a random waterfall built in the rafters, pool tables, and walls decorated with stickers and album covers. 510 Briar Creek Rd., 704.338.9380. www.smokeyjoescharlotte.com

Pop In for a Pint

Hidden in South End, but easily accessibly via the light rail blue line, you’ll find Triple C Brewing, where local purveyors of beer concoct the good stuff. Brewer Scott Kimball dreams up some of the city’s best craft beers—the Light Rail Pale Ale, Greenway IPA, etc.—at this popular brewery and taproom, one of many that have cropped up in the Queen City in recent years. 2900 Griffith St., 704.372.3212, www.triplecbrewing.com

Experience Latin Flavor

For the three-in-one art experience, you can’t top the Levine Avenue of the Arts uptown, which offers the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Mint Museum, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. But for the off-the-beaten-path alternate, hit up LaCa Projects, a small but impressive gallery with ever-changing exhibits exploring Latin-American art. 1429 Bryant St. 704.837.1688, www.lacaprojects.com

Get Your Wings

North Carolina enjoys a long history of flight, from the Wright Brothers’ first gliders, launched in the state’s Outer Banks, to one of the nation’s busiest international airports. At the Carolinas Aviation Museum, they celebrate it all—from replicas of the Wright gliders to various aircraft, helicopters, gadgets and printed material. You can’t miss the central exhibit, the US Airways Flight 1549 aircraft, the “Miracle on the Hudson.” 4672 First Flight Dr., 704.997.3770, www.carolinasaviationmuseum.org

 

Hit the Rapids

The U.S. National Whitewater Center, an outdoor facility about a 20-minute drive from uptown, offers Class III and IV rapids, kayak rentals, zip-lines, a climbing wall and more. But what most visitors don’t know is that the center offers seasonal events, from the Microbrews Cruise (typically May through October)—flat-water kayaking followed by a fireside dinner and local craft beer—to the River Jam series (typically May through September), featuring live bands and a pop-up beer garden. Don’t forget to swing by the The River’s Edge restaurant for a basket of fried pickles. 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy., 704.391.3900, www.usnwc.org

Virginia Brown
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