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Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com

It may be a center for banking (America's second largest after New York City!), but there's plenty to offer visitors who are in search of decidedly non-banking stuff in Charlotte, North Carolina. For those of us (like myself!) who can't get enough of museums, art, dance, and theatre, the Queen City is the perfect spot for a long weekend. From museums that your kids will love to theatres that celebrate the grace and poise of ballet, Charlotte is the place to be if you're looking for a little more culture in your life.

Unique Museums in Uptown
In a great location on South Tryon Street, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has four stories packed with local and national artwork. My favorite time periods in literature and art are the modern and post-modern periods, so I enjoyed the wide array of artists and art styles represented here. On the top floor was a collection of Henri Matisse's art books: I loved learning more about the intertwining of myth, writing, and sketching in Matisse's works through this incredible exhibit, which runs through mid-September.

During your visit, don't forget to take a picture with the 17-foot-tall iconic Firebird statue out front!

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com


The Levine Museum of the New South is the only museum of its kind in the world: it focuses exclusively on the history of the South post-Civil War. I love learning about the antebellum South, but it was refreshing to find a place that tried to unpackage the complicated economics, race relations, and rebuilding process that took place after the war.

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com

Named after the man who was the first to integrate Clemson University (my alma mater!), the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture celebrates the literature, poetry, paintings, dance, and film created by African-Americans. As another nod to the center's focus, the museum is located in the Levine Museum of the Arts, which resides in one of the nation's oldest African-American communities. 

The McColl Center for Arts is located in a gorgeous old church at 721 North Tryon Street. Head inside to wander the more than 5,000 square feet of exhibition space and nine art studios.

Little Arts for Little Kids
Imaginon is geared towards the younger set, but pulls off the intersection between kiddie entertainment and thoughtful teaching beautifully. With a library, a hands-on learning section, and a large theatre for children's productions, Imaginon is an excellent way to introduce literature, arts, and plays to your favorite little traveler. The Children's Theatre of Charlotte operates a fantastic line-up of kid-centric plays throughout the year in Imaginon's theatre.
Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com
In the theatre at Imaginon awaiting the start of an adaptation of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar


A staple in Uptown Charlotte since the 1980s (and a childhood favorite of mine!), Discovery Place makes science fun. This two story museum is completely hands-on, so you and your kids can lay on a bed of nails to test gravity, use wooden slats to build famous landmarks and learn about architecture, and get up close and personal with fish in the aquarium downstairs.

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com
Britton checking out Discovery Place--and loving every minute
With gorgeous collections of ceramics, glass, fiber, and wood, the Mint Museum Uptown boasts a nationally-recognized Craft and Design collection. It's located right across the street from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art so you can have a cultural day!

Culture All Year 'Round
If you're looking for a night out at the theatre, there are several places in Uptown where you can catch a concert, stand-up comedy, symphony, or play. The schedules for each place vary according to the season, so check out each calendar to find the perfect performance for you!
  • Carolina Theatre
  • The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center houses several smaller areas, including the Booth Playhouse and the Belk Theatre. 
  • Charlotte Ballet
  • Charlotte Symphony
  • McGlohon Theatre
Arts Elsewhere in the Queen City
Leaving Uptown doesn't mean that you're leaving the museums and learning experiences behind. Visit Discovery Kids, a museum geared for younger children, on Gilead Road after you've explored the main museum. The Carolina Aviation Museum, located near the airport, showcases the state's rich history in flight, which began with the Wright brothers lifted off on Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks. Peek inside the library of one of the most influential religious leaders of the last century at the Billy Graham Library

Do you enjoy visiting museums? Which of these would you like to visit in Charlotte? What's the best museum that you've experienced?
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Eating like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina Dining Picks

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The Asbury
One of the highlights of our entire trip, The Asbury surprised our taste buds and challenged us to try new things. Although the atmosphere was more formal than the other three places on this list, the staff was highly accommodating to my toddler. My dad couldn't get over his delicious crab and Benton's ham plate, while I was glad that I tried both the rabbit confit and the pea and basil orecchiette. Don't forget to leave room for dessert!

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Check out my complete review here. And then put it on your Charlotte must-visit list!

7th Street Public Market
We ate here for lunch on our first day after hearing great things from several people who live in the area. If you're looking for a one stop shop for a variety of tastes, the Public Market will be your go-to place, as there are several restaurants under one roof.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Choose from sandwiches, sushi, crepes, cheeses, and pizza, or grab a beer at the brewery area. The Market also boasts a small handicrafts shop up front, and a butcher and fresh fruits and veggies in the back. Everything is locally sourced--something I loved!--so you'll feel like you're contributing to the community even if it's your first time here.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


My dad, Britton, and I ordered from Orrman's Cheese Shop in the back after we'd done a few loops. We'd also eyed the sandwiches from the shop up front (the line was too long and very slow) and the pizza from the booth in the middle (it was closed on Sunday despite there being people everywhere). My dad and I both got the smoked mozzarella, proscuitto, and tomato grilled cheese, while Britton opted for the homemade peanut butter and blackberry jelly sandwich. Both the grilled cheese and the PB&J were crazy delicious, though, at a price tag of $25 for three simple sandwiches (including 1 bottle of water and a small bag of chips), I expected something amazing.

The Market is very convenient to Discovery Place, the Levine Museum of the New South, and several of the other places on my family-friendly guide to Charlotte. It's a little pricey and crowded during peak hours, but the food is quite delicious.

Nan and Byron's
On our last night, we headed over to Nan and Byron's for dinner--and I couldn't have chosen a better place to end our trip. Named after the couple in Grant Wood's American Gothic painting, Nan and Byron's is a trendy and casual restaurant with crowd-pleasing favorites. (Fun fact about the painting: Nan was actually Wood's sister, while Byron McKeeby was his dentist!)

Instead of bringing out bread (like most places do), our waiter started us off with a basket of the most amazing flavored popcorn.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


My dad and I both chose the tacos (I got half beef, half chicken, while my dad got all four of his with chicken), and I was very happy with my choice. We both decided that the chicken tacos were slightly better than the beef--it had to do with the seasoning and overall balance of flavors. The plates were gigantic and came with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream: my dad and I could've easily split one.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


They had a standard children's menu (chicken nuggets, burgers, etc.), and Britton wanted the grilled cheese with peas and carrots. I had a few bites of hers as well--no cheese product here! The grilled cheese was perfectly done on thick bread and had a creamy white cheddar inside.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


The vibe was casual and fun, and there were patrons of all ages there during dinner. I would've felt equally comfortable there on a date as I did with my toddler (who is not the quietest dining partner). Our waiter was friendly and accommodating throughout the meal and made sure that we always had fresh sweet tea and plenty of ice. The building itself was nicely renovated: before it opened as Nan and Byron's, it was another restaurant, and before that, it was a service station. The renovation has kept many of the original service station elements, which adds a fun element to your dining experience.

Queen City Q
If you're looking for a casual place for Southern favorites, Queen City Q is worth a visit. My dad and I are both huge fans of barbecue, and we'd been looking forward to trying out the different sauces that the restaurant offers. It's located on the other side of the same building as the 7th Street Public Market, so the area is rife with great eating choices.

The interior was decorated in a kind of faux-country style with the televisions built into wooden barn sides. Our waitress wasn't particularly effervescent, but she was efficient, keeping our drinks refilled and promptly bring out our food.

I got the hand-pulled pork platter with two sides (the fried okra and the mac 'n' cheese). As a born and raised Southerner, I am extremely familiar with barbecue--and this was some delicious stuff. I could've eaten the pulled pork sans sauce since the spices were done so well. However, you can't put bottles of BBQ sauce in front of me and expect me to pass them up.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Thus began our tasting series--I liked that the restaurant offered up multiple sauces, but I wished they'd had a traditional vinegar sauce. The others (mostly ketchup based, though there was one mustard) were quite good. Definitely sample all of them!

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Which of these restaurants would you be most interested in trying?
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The Asbury, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Restaurant Review

The Asbury, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Restaurant Review | CosmosMariners.com

While on my trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the things I was most looking forward to was a dinner at The Asbury, the restaurant that's attached to the Dunhill Hotel (read my review of the hotel here).

I'd originally heard about the Asbury back in November 2014 when I discovered a bag of spiced popcorn in my goody bag from a travel writers' luncheon: the popcorn was spicy, a little bit sweet, and completely different than anything I'd had. I ended up fighting for pieces of it when I introduced tastes of it to my family.

I figured that if the chef could make popcorn that exciting, then he must be capable of seriously amazing things when given control of an entire menu. All of the reviews that I read online about the restaurant emphasized Executive Chef Chris Coleman's unique and inventive approach to his dishes: the bar was set high for our dinner, and I was ready to dive in.

5 Places for Family Fun in Charlotte, North Carolina

5 Places for Family Fun in Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Whenever I travel, I try to find as many places that fit two requirements: they speak to my love of art, culture, or literature, and they appeal to my toddler. I know that many people don't think they can travel with kids because of a misconception that there just aren't that many attractions for the smaller members of the family. I want to dispel that as much as I can!

Charlotte, North Carolina, the second largest banking center in the U.S. (after New York City!), might seem less-than-kid friendly at first, but there's actually plenty to do with a family in the Queen City. Check out these five places for family fun in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

While we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, we made ourselves at home at the Dunhill Hotel. I hadn't been to Charlotte since I was a little kid--we used to live in upstate South Carolina when I was younger--and would visit the area occasionally back then. After a chance meeting with the hotel's (wonderful!) PR person at the Historic Hotels of America luncheon last year, I decided to head back up to the Queen City to see how it had changed in the nearly 20 years since my last visit.

It turned out that the Dunhill was a great spot from which to launch our visit, and, if you're looking for a great place to stay in Uptown Charlotte, I'd highly recommend it.

History: 
You thought you'd get by without a quick history lesson, didn't you?! I love staying in historic hotels because they come with such a rich storyline: it's an added layer of interest that you just don't get in a more recently built hotel. 

The Dunhill Hotel originally was called the Mayfair Manor and opened a month after the stock market crashed. The economic upheaval of the nation didn't seem to affect Mayfair Manor's success, which quickly found a following. During the Manor's early days, guests could stay in one of the 100 rooms: some were set aside as hotel rooms, while others were long-term rentals. 

The Manor's heyday lasted well into the 20th century; by the 1960s, it was sold and rebranded into a motor lodge. Eventually, the motor lodge shut its doors in the early 1980s, and the 10-story building was inhabited only by the homeless. After several years of neglect, the hotel was purchased and underwent a $6 million renovation in 1988. This company tried to restore the hotel to its former glory, but after only two years, the hotel was sold once again.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com
Exploring the hotel and its history!
In the early 1990s, Summit Hospitality Group, the current owners, purchased the property and began to mold it into the distinctive location that it is today. The group was also the driving force behind the application and acceptance of the Dunhill into the Historic Hotels of America property group, a distinction that it proudly displays. 

Location:
If you're in Uptown Charlotte for a play, concert, sporting event, banking seminar, or vacation, the Dunhill couldn't be more centrally located. I went on the trip with my dad and my toddler, and we only got in the car once--and that was when we headed out of Uptown to see an attraction in a completely different part of Charlotte.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

From the museums to the restaurants to green spaces, we were able to easily walk (even with a toddler!) to all of the attractions in Uptown Charlotte. The hotel is located at the corner of North Tryon and 6th Streets, which put us steps away from Discovery Place and the Carolina Theatre, and just a few blocks from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Imaginon, the Levine Museum of the New South, the Bank of America building, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Room: 
We had a corner room on the third floor, and I thought it was a great location. We were high enough that the street traffic didn't bother us, but we were still able to people watch through the three large windows throughout the room. Definitely ask for a corner room since it comes with more windows!

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

The room had two queen beds (called the "Vintage Queen Queen" room on their site) and a large bathroom with a shower/tub combo. The bed was incredibly comfortable, and I looked forward to sinking into the fluffy duvet and crisp sheets each night. Sightseeing is hard work!

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com


Even with the two beds, I still had plenty of room to set up Britton's pack and play in the corner; the room was large enough that the pack and play didn't interfere with our movement between the room and bathroom.

Our room also had a mini-refrigerator and Keurig. 

Service: 
When I went to check in, our room wasn't available, but the desk clerks were apologetic (they didn't even need to be, as I was trying to check in at 10:15 in the morning!). They took my cell phone number and promised to call me as soon as a room became available; I ended up getting a call less than an hour later. 

Housekeeping was fantastic, and made sure to keep us stocked with bottled water (which is complimentary with any stay); that sure came in handy as we explored all over town! Housekeeping came once in the morning to tidy up, and then again at night for turndown service. After a long day of sightseeing, it was a treat to see the chocolates on our pillows. 

While check out was easy--I paid with a credit card that was already on file--the desk clerk that morning wasn't very personable. Since I knew I was going to write a piece about the hotel and its history, I asked if there was another copy of the laminated history that had been in our room. I didn't want to steal the room copy, so I figured that the front desk could supply me with one--or, at least, make a photocopy of an existing one. When I inquired about the history sheet, the desk clerk just looked at me and uttered a quick, "No, I don't think we have those." She didn't offer to call housekeeping, make a copy, or print out another one. It wasn't that big of a deal since I'd made a few notes, but I would've expected a bit more effort on her part to ensure that there wasn't an extra sheet to give out to someone interested in it. 

Other than that one small (and really, in the whole scheme of things, insignificant) exchange, the staff was more than helpful throughout our stay. 

Amenities: 
The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

While the hotel doesn't have a pool or gym, it does have plenty of touches to make you feel welcome during your stay. Nibble on a few of the complimentary cookies every afternoon, or mix with the other guests during the wine social every Wednesday evening. I liked that there was a complimentary shuttle available to guests; we didn't use it since I wanted to get out and walk around Uptown, but this is a great option for guests who are in a hurry!

The Asbury, the onsite restaurant, is absolutely worth a visit during your time at the Dunhill--so much so that my experience there will get its own post later. If you'd rather eat in your room, the room service comes out of the same kitchen, so you don't have to eat another of those dry burgers that usually comes off the room service menu.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

We didn't get to use them, but the hotel also has several meeting rooms available for corporate functions. I think the hotel would be such a pretty place to have a reception or meeting!

Final Thoughts:
I'd definitely stay here again! Not only was the location perfect, the room was incredibly nice. I also liked all of the little extras that came with my stay including the complimentary water, the turndown service, and the fluffy white robes in the bathroom.

Book a stay at the Dunhill Hotel here.
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If you're interested in my experiences in another Historic Hotel of America, check out my stay at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia. 

Have you stayed in a historic hotel? What was your experience like? Have you been Charlotte lately?

Disclaimer: The Dunhill provided one complimentary night's stay; I paid for a second night in the same room. All opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you use them to book a stay, I'll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.