Our Staycation in Charlotte, North Carolina
It’s strange being a tourist in your own town. As locals, we tend to take things for granted. Landmarks that bear so much significance to our city’s history become blurs on our daily commute. Monuments and statues lose their meaning and become directional beacons. Art museums are forgotten and reserved for school field trips. Downtown has become a place where we used to hang out in our younger days.
And yet, we complain about having nothing to do on weekends as we settle in for another booze filled lazy afternoon at the community pool, enriching our minds with neighborhood gossip and the latest Patterson mystery novel.
Sadly, my wife and I fell into the above routine after living in Charlotte for only nine years. During that time, we managed to visit very few of the sites which make the Queen City so royal. Our recent hometown babymoon served as a reminder as to why we chose Charlotte as our adopted hometown, and offered a glimpse into what we’ve been missing out on in our comfortable suburban home.
Taking a staycation in your hometown is something I recommend everyone do. You’ll be shocked to find that many of the amenities you travel hundreds of miles to enjoy are actually available within your own city limits.
Start by booking a hotel downtown
The trick to truly becoming a tourist in your hometown is to book a hotel room in your city’s downtown or other fun, trendy neighborhood. You want out of your house to avoid getting stuck into the routine of crossing one more item off your “to do” list. Having that financial skin in the games gives you the extra kick in the pants to leave home (not far) behind in the rearview for a few days.
For our weekend, the many last minute details of preparing the house for the arrival of Baby Gourmand were looming over our heads. Staying at home would only tempt us to spend our time assembling one more contraption that we had to have (and still aren’t using) instead of exploring our city. We booked our escape at the Omni Charlotte, right in the heart of Uptown.
Besides being the center of the arts and entertainment action in Charlotte, Uptown is also where we first lived as newlyweds. Part of the fun was recalling bars we used to frequent like Cedar Street Tavern and Connelly’s, both of which are still in business. Sadly, we didn’t stop in either, as we were feeling a bit too pregnant and old.
Staying in a hotel also provided a level of relaxation that we wouldn’t have felt at home. I happily tossed my towel on the bathroom floor knowing that I didn’t have to pick it up, and left the bed unmade because it wasn’t my responsibility. Even breakfast and snacks were handled with the snap of a finger. The Omni’s Art of Breakfast offered a healthier selection than anything I would have grabbed out of the fridge on the fly at home.
When we stopped into the hotel room for a refresher after museum hopping, we ordered the Carolina Sampler from room service for our afternoon snack. The assortment of pimiento cheese, candied bacon, crisp prosciutto, candied pecans, and chicken cracklings was a fun way to explore the tastes of the South.
Immerse yourself in the local arts scene
There’s this stigma that you have to travel to New York City or Paris to experience real culture. The Guggenheim and the Louvre is where the real art is. At least that’s what I thought. The collection of art museums in Charlotte proved me wrong.
From the Bechtler to the Mint, Charlotte is blessed with a fresh and rotating display of art that should keep locals coming back. On our visit, we absorbed art from Matisse, Warhol, and Picasso. Not bad for the South, eh? I’m sure your city boasts the same variation of rotating exhibits.
Besides visual art, most cities also offer plenty of options for performing arts. Some acts may be local, but many are national acts bringing Broadway caliber shows and talent to your local theatre. The centerpiece of our weekend as local tourists was Motown at the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Belk Theatre.
Relax at a spa
When was the last time you booked a massage outside of a vacation? I bet it’s been awhile. Most of us only allow ourselves to splurge when we’re on vacation. That overpriced beachside massage by a non-licensed masseuse in Cancun when we’re already relaxed for some reasons sounds perfect instead of absurd. Then we don’t get another massage until next year’s vacation, denying our body much needed relaxation when it needs it most – in throws of life’s stresses.
There are plenty of spas in your hometown offering higher quality massages at much more affordable rates. In fact, skipping the massage on vacation may allow you two or three massages at home.
We capped off our weekend with a couples massage at the Westin Charlotte. All that walking and exploring left us a little sore, especially my pregnant wife. A spa massage was the perfect remedy to help reinvigorate us for the arrival of our son.
Enjoy a fun weekend “away”
We arrived back home Sunday evening both happy and relaxed. One of the hidden benefits of being a tourist in your hometown is the absence of the stresses of travel. We continued our carefree weekend with board games on the balcony watching airplanes fly overhead. For a moment, we began to think about where to travel with our son first. The conversation quickly changed to what sites we want to take him to see in Charlotte.
What would you do on a staycation in your hometown?
Disclosure – Muchas gracias to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Association for hosting our babymoon. Sometimes tourist boards invite me on trips, and sometimes, I go on my own accord anonymously. Regardless, readers receive my honest feedback as my opinions are not for sale.