My side of the family is coming this weekend for our annual early Christmas fun. We have become accustomed to celebrating at off times, as we all have much going on with with our spouses, vacations days, and the pain of trying to fly during the holidays, it's often easier to just pick an alternate weekend and celebrate then. I've lived in Charlotte, NC a little over 3 years now. I've discovered it's not the easiest place in the world to entertain people. Before moving to Charlotte I lived in Northern Virginia right outside our nation's capital for 6 years. I can honestly say THAT is the easiest place in the world to entertain people. There is nothing that area doesn't have to offer. Giant shopping malls with every store imaginable, indoor, outdoor, outlet- take your pick. A plethora of cute little historic areas complete with cobble-stoned streets and artsy little shops, restaurants, and sites to see (Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, Leesburg). Every type of museum imaginable. Monuments. Sporting events. Hiking trails. Bike trails. Harbors. Amusements parks. The list goes on and on. Even if the same friends or family members visited like 15 times we could pick a different area every time and never get through it all. It was a playground for guests and for residents. It's something I definitely miss about living up there. Also, people WANTED to come visit us there. And it was EASY to travel to, because with three major airports in the area, there was bound to be a relatively cheap flight into at least one of them.
Charlotte has been a lot more of a challenge for us in this respect. I repeatedly beat my head against the computer each time I have someone coming to visit and I'm trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to do with them. Charlotte is a beautiful, clean, modern city. But it takes all of 20 minutes to walk the downtown area, and there is NO shopping in downtown Charlotte at all. It's a very business oriented city and much more busy during the week than on a weekend. The first time I brought my brother downtown it was a weekend and he was like "WTF??". I made sure to take him down on a weekday the next time so that I could prove the city was more than a ghost town of gray sky scrapers. Pretty much the only option is picking a place to eat and walking around for a bit, and that covers downtown.
We boast a fancy mall called South Park, but if you live in an area with decent shopping, this doesn't really impress anyone. The outdoor mall is Birkdale Village. Also a decent place to shop, but nothing to write home about if you have ever been anywhere with decent shopping.
Here's some ideas I've come up with for things to do with out of town guests. As you'll see, the major problem is that most of them are outdoor activities, and seeing as it's December and getting relatively chilly, a lot of this stuff can only be done at time of the year when the climate is better than it is now.
1. By far the best find has been an off-road Segway tour of Latta Plantation. It's $35 for 3-4 hours of outdoor exploration on a Segway scooter. Pure Awesome!
2. The US National Whitewater Center. I've actually yet to even DO any real activities there. But, there's a restaurant, and outdoor seating, and it's worth going just to sit outside and eat and watch all the people do the rafting, zip-lining, and climbing.
3. Childress Winery. It's about an hour from Charlotte, but we took our friends from Indy there when they visited in the spring, and we had a great time doing the wine tour, eating some food, and checking out the place. It's a beautiful facility and it's owned by a Nascar driver, so you feel like you're doing justice to that factor of NC as well.
4. NoDa Gallery Crawl. The biggest problem with this is that it's only on certain Friday nights. Unlikely that you'll get lucky and have all the stars align to let you partake in this with guests from out of town, especially if it's just a weekend trip. It's a lot of fun though to go and eat somewhere over there then wander around the galleries and duck into the music venues. I really enjoyed it.
5. Paper Skyscraper. It's a store on East Boulevard and it's one of those stores that has a gazillion fun things to look at. Books, magnets, political humor, kitchen stuff, bath stuff, sexual stuff, funny napkins, cards, decor. It's just a great store to take people to and wander around in for an hour.
6. The Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. Again, an outdoor activity for a warmer time of year. It's cool to see though and a great photography opportunity. I also especially like the new Orchid Conservatory.
7. Concerts/sporting events. If you are lucky, there might be one happening on the weekend you have visitors coming. If anything decent is in town, I recommend this option. I've done a Bobcats/Celtics game, Fleetwood Mac, etc... Unfortunately the ONLY thing in town this weekend is The Nutcracker, which would thrill my mom and I to go see, but I'm thinking the boys would be snoring about 10 minutes in, so that wasn't an option. All the sports teams are away. Bummer.
8. Restaurants. My family and friends pretty much plan our schedules around eating anyway. The one thing I'll give Charlotte is that it does have a lot of good restaurants. Probably because Johnson and Wales is here. Find some good ones and eat!
That's about it... My idea for this weekend is to take my fam to the Old Mecklenburg Brewery. I saw on their website that they have brewery tours on Saturdays, so I'm thinking we have lunch and then do that. I have no idea if it'll be cool or not, but I'll definitely report back. I think much of the weekend will be spent hanging around at my house, which is fine with me. I do kinda wish we had a few more exciting options though!