When deciding on an American city to visit, Charlotte, NC, might not be the first one that comes to mind. But the Queen City has a lot to offer in the forms of history, art, and its vibrant culinary scene. Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, though many locals maintain that Charlotte is a small city with big city dreams. So leave the overcrowded streets to New York and Miami and come to the city that’s wrapped in a blanket of southern charm.

Experiencing the JW Marriott Charlotte, the city’s hottest new hotel

exterior of the jw marriott hotel in charlotte, north carolina

Photo: JW Marriott Charlotte/Facebook

Lodging in Charlotte has taken a decidedly vibrant uptick in recent years. Case in point — the JW Marriott Charlotte. Opened in August of this year, this upscale property offers all the amenities the Marriott brand is known for with the added perk of being just 15 minutes away from Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Continuing the hotels’ penchant for convenience, the JW Marriott is amongst the Charlotte Convention Center, Bank of America Stadium, various museums, and The NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The hotel has everything that you need for an exciting and relaxing weekend. The first thing you should do upon arriving is book a massage, a facial — or preferably, both — at the Spa by JW to relax and decompress. Afterward, head to the Aura rooftop bar for a signature cocktail.

During the day you can soak up the sun at their rooftop pool, relax in one of their lounge chairs or reserve a private cabana for a little more privacy fully equipped with a big screen-tv to catch up on your favorite sports team, news or movies.

Another favorite at the JW Marriott Charlotte is Caroline’s Oyster Bar. End your evening dining outdoors while enjoying a fresh seafood platter, a glass of wine, and the coziness of the firepit. You can honestly spend an entire weekend without leaving the hotel, but if you also want to explore what the city has to offer, keep on reading.

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Exploring Charlotte from the JW Marriott

a park in downtown charlotte, north carolina overlooking the skyline

Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

The JW Marriott Charlotte could not be more centrally located in the city center. Within walking distance you’ll find many of the city’s best cultural attractions, including the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. This museum is dedicated to presenting, preserving, and celebrating excellence in the art, history, and culture of African-Americans and people of African descent. Also located nearby is the Mint Museum Uptown, an impressive five-story building that houses outstanding American, contemporary, and European art collections.

Art lovers must walk through the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Charlotte’s modern art museum impacts you before you even go inside with its 17-foot whimsical sculpture “The Firebird” right in front of the museum greeting you. Make sure you have your camera in hand for the impressive Instagram photo.

Local’s hint: Purchase the new Levine Center for the Arts Museum Access Ticket to visit all three museums for just $20. The ticket is valid for 48hrs after purchase. Get your tickets at CarolinaTix.org

It wouldn’t be the south without auto racing. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located just a few blocks east of the hotel. Think you have what it takes to be a NASCAR driver? Test your skills in the Race Stimulator. Sit inside a race car replica, compete against the rest of your group, and see who lands first place. The NASCAR Hall of Fame has a variety of immersive experiences like the one above while also getting to see in person Championship race cars and learning the history of the sport.

And should you be in town for business and need to arrange a meeting, there’s a WeWork literally across the street from the JW Marriott Charlotte.

Where to eat and sip in Charlotte

Photo: Mert’s Heart & Soul/Facebook

Of course, a visit to Charlotte isn’t complete without gorging on Carolinian cuisine. Again, you’re in luck — because a car is not necessary to experience the city’s famed southern hospitality. Two legs and the Uber app are all it takes. Start with breakfast at The Asbury. Sourcing ingredients locally from small farms, the Asbury offers dishes that are uniquely Carolinian. Try the Sticky Biscuits, the Banana Pudding Pancakes, and wash it all down with a pitcher of mimosa.

During a recent visit, I came to love Queen City Grounds for a mid-morning pick-me-up. If you’re a coffee-lover, check out this locally-owned coffee shop. Queen City Grounds is a fantastic 2-story coffee house serving cozy drinks and breakfast. Mert’s Heart & Soul proved a good stop for a hearty mid-day meal. You can’t visit Charlotte without visiting this local favorite for some authentic country soul food. Open since 1998, you must try the collard greens, mac & cheese, and of course the cornbread.

Evening is when the city’s dining scene really comes out to play, however. Dean’s Italian Steakhouse, located inside the JW Marriott Charlotte, serves up Italian-style fine dining including prime steaks and house-made pasta. Everything on the menu is mouthwatering, but make sure you leave room for dessert because the Bread Pudding á la mode is rich and sweet. Another great option is Caroline’s Oyster Bar, which serves oysters fresh from the Carolina coast.

After dinner, stop into Golden Cow Creamery — especially if you’re with your partner. This locally owned ice cream shop will satisfy your sweet tooth with its hand-made ice cream flavors. The shop offers six classic flavors, over 150 rotating flavors year-round, and at least one non-dairy, vegan option daily.

The best of Charlotte’s nightlife

You can actually kick off your experience of Charlotte’s vibrant nightlife scene right at the hotel. The Aura Rooftop Bar is Charlotte’s newest rooftop bar. On the 5th floor of the JW Marriott, serving botanical-inspired cocktails and small plates filled with big flavor. After warming up at Aura, make your way to Sophia’s Lounge for an upscale cocktail in a refined, vintage atmosphere. Close out your night at Merchant and Trade. Here, you’ll take in panoramic views of Uptown Charlotte from this rooftop bar and lounge. Serving craft cocktails, local beers, and elevated bar bites, the spot gets bumping around 10.

Cool Charlotte experiences to check out

  • The Market on 7th Street – If you want a one-stop-shop to Charlotte, check out The Market on 7th Street to shop and savor locally sourced foods, drinks, and goods.
  • Trolley Pub — A Unique way to experience Charlotte. The Trolley Pub is a pedal-powered, BYOB pub-crawling trolley. Book a private tour or join one of their mixers. You can do Sunday Brunches, Ladies Night, or a night out on the town. Whatever you decide, it’s guaranteed to be a good time.