I'm a Michigan native but have lived in Charlotte the past five years. I adore being a small business owner in this city and living in a cute 1930s bungalow with my husband and our fluffy Samoyed. I'm a full-time wedding photographer (MORNINGWILD Photography) and also a freelance photojournalist. North Carolina was where I fell in love, bought our first home, started a family, and pursued a career that I love. Charlotte is home to many other "transplants," as it is a main hub for the banking industry. It's incredible how much the city has grown and developed in the past five years, especially in the past twenty years. We love living in Plaza Midwood, which is close to "uptown" (no one calls it downtown here). It's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlotte with beautiful tree-lined streets and charming bungalows. Even though Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, we have a tight-knit community that we're incredibly grateful for.
Zada Janes. (zadajanes.com)
It's not unusual to see ZJ packed on Sundays with kids playing shuffleboard outside. Try the biscuits and local jam. You won't regret it.
Fresh, vegetarian goodness. They have fabulous lunch/dinner options too, but their brunch is my favorite (only offered on weekends). We bike over on Sundays and share the Cinnamon Rolls and Patatas Bravas.
Amélie's French Bakery & Cafe (ameliesfrenchbakery.com)
Open 24/7. There's always a line (the longest lines are after 10 p.m.) but worth every minute. The bakery is covered with eclectic, French-inspired decor. Don't leave without a Salted Caramel Brownie.
Luna's Living Kitchen (lunaslivingkitchen.com)
Creative vegan cuisine that supports local, organic farmers. Their Veggie Burger and Cacao Cacao smoothie are favorites of mine.
Earl's Grocery (earlsgrocery.com)
Quaint deli with diverse food options.
Midwood Smokehouse (midwoodsmokehouse.com)
If you live in the south, you have to have a favorite BBQ restaurant. I love their pulled pork sandwiches with a side of mac-and-cheese.
Viva Chicken (vivachicken.com)
Peruvian-inspired eating. The Inca Wrap is where it's at.
300 East (300east.net)
Cute Dilworth restaurant housed inside a bungalow. Great place to grab a salad/sandwich.
7th Street Public Market (7thstreetpublicmarket.com)
Always busy, always good. Home to many small eateries and markets. Tip: parking is free for the first 90 minutes. Validate before you leave!
Dinner & Drinks
Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen (roosterskitchen.com)
Our favorite restaurant to celebrate anniversaries and birthdays. Farm-to-table cuisine and wine bar. The potatoes au gratin are the best I've ever had, and make sure to save room for dessert.
Soul Gastrolounge (soulgastrolounge.com)
Eclectic atmosphere, great food, drinks, and music. Their seasonal cocktails are always spot on. I recommend the Pork Belly Tacos, Sushi Fondu Roll, and their Daily Cupcake.
Unique farm-to-table Italian cuisine. Make sure to try the calamari.
Basil Thai (eatatbasil.com)
Modern Thai in Uptown. Can't go wrong with Chicken Pad Thai and Thai Iced Tea.
Good Food on Montford (goodfoodonmontford.com)
Unique tapas in a cozy restaurant. They don't take reservations, so arrive early to avoid the wait.
Cabo Fish Taco (cabofishtaco.com)
Long list of amazing margaritas and diverse options for fish tacos.
NoDA Brewing Company (nodabrewing.com)
NoDA is home to several breweries, but this one takes the cake. Bonus, Amelie's is across the street for late-night dessert.
Common Market (commonmarketisgood.com)
Technically not a brewery, but a fun place to stop and grab a beer or groceries. It's a local favorite.
Free Range Brewing (freerangebrewing.com)
New on the block this month! Definitely worth checking out.
Not Just Coffee (notjust.coffee)
These baristas take their cup of coffee seriously, in the best way possible. Their pour-over brew is worth the wait, and their homemade syrups are a sweet perk.
Sunflour Baking Company (sunflourbakingcompany.com)
I'm here (embarrassingly) almost every day. It's a cozy spot to sip on organic coffee and enjoy fresh pastries. Their cupcakes are delicious, but their Butter Bread is to-die-for.
The Daily Press (facebook.com/thedailypressclt)
Cute coffee shop during the day and bar at night.
Elizabeth Creamery (facebook.com/pages/Elizabeth-Creamery/149117908502175)
Homemade, really creamy ice-cream. The best in Charlotte, in my opinion.
King of Pops (charlotte.kingofpops.net)
Popsicle stand with a variety of unique flavors. Their food cart location is posted daily on their website.
WOW Factor Cakes (charlotteweddingcakes.com)
WFC creates the most unique, beautiful cakes. Stop in the shop for cake pops and more!
Frock Shop (frockshoprevival.com)
Modern and vintage pieces displayed in a charming bungalow.
Custom Jewelry (madebycustom.com)
Beautiful, hand-crafted jewelry.
Paper Skyscraper (paperskyscraper.com)
A great shop for cards and unique gifts.
The Depot at Gibson Mill (depotgibsonmill.com)
Technically based in Concord but a short drive from Charlotte. One of the best antique and refurbished furniture warehouses in town. We've furnished most of our house with pieces from these local collectors and artists.
Mid Century Salvage (midcenturysalvage.com)
The best place to buy refurbished and custom mid century furniture.
South Park Mall (simon.com/mall/southpark)
This mall has everything from Anthropologie to Urban Outfitters to Burberry.
Things To Do
Neighborhood Theatre (neighborhoodtheatre.com)
A cozy venue for watching indie music artists.
U.S National Whitewater Center (usnwc.org)
Tons of trails for mountain biking and hiking. Climbing walls, ziplines, and ropes courses to challenge you. In addition to whitewater rafting, they also host a plethora of flat water activities.
Romare Bearden Park (charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/ParkandRec/Parks/ParksByRegion/CentralRegion/Pages/Romare-Bearden-Park.aspx)
A great place to have a picnic in the center of Uptown Charlotte.
BB&T Ballpark (milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t494)
Watch the Charlotte Knights play right in the center of the city.
Bank of America Stadium (panthers.com/stadium/)
Charlotteans are hardcore Panthers fans. Grab dinner and drinks uptown before walking to the stadium for the game.
NC Music Factory (ncmusicfactory.com)
Dinner, drinks, comedy, music, dancing. This place has it all.
Vintage Charlotte Market (vintage-charlotte.com)
Quarterly market that hosts incredible local artists and vintage finds.
Food Truck Friday (foodtruckfridaycharlotte.com)
Head to uptown on Friday for the city's best gourmet food trucks.