Since 2002, the New York Times has been running its popular “36 Hours” column, and since 2002, it’s left its readers saying things to themselves like, “Cleveland actually sounds awesome!” The Queen City has been featured twice – in 2003 and 2014 – and it’s amazing to see what changed over that decade.
As great as these write-ups are, however, they aren’t geared toward families of five. At all. Page and I tested this a couple of weeks ago in Charleston. I’ll give you a second to click on that link and read it.
Are you serious? Doesn’t that sound amazing?! Spoiler alert, though, for families like ours: that Charleston doesn’t exist. While yes, you can maybe pull off 17 minutes of City Market shopping and quickly slam a gimlet on the Market Pavilion rooftop, from there the rest of that glorious itinerary goes south quickly.
While we weren’t dumb enough to try everything in the article, we did attempt several. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say it ended with all three children crying and screaming at us while we sadly re-crossed the Ravenel Bridge for the 19th time trying to figure out how to get to – and ultimately giving up on – the old battleship/aircraft carrier they have docked in the Cooper River.
All of it got me thinking…there needs to be some sort of “36 Hours” spin-off for those of us in minivans. So, without further ado…
36 Hours in South Charlotte
First, I must give credit where it’s due — the NYT has the time length down perfectly. If any couple with young kids tells you that a weekend trip lasts any longer than 36 hours, they’re lying. Behold:
4:30 p.m. – Leave work early to beat traffic home.
4:31 p.m. – Hit traffic.
6 p.m. – Sweat through clothing. Mercifully leave town with Odyssey/children packed.
9 p.m. – Arrive in [insert cool city that sounds great on paper here].
Ride the struggle bus through the worst day of your life.
9 a.m. – Cut losses, jam screaming kids into car, tell them what fun they’ll have back at home, bounce.
Boom. 36 Hours.
Now, for South Charlotte. If you’ve read the handful of articles I’ve written here, you’re probably familiar with my shtick: Make fun of kids. Make fun of Ballantyne. Wash, rinse, repeat. That said, I’ll be the first – OK, maybe the seventh – to defend the area. It’s convenient, family-friendly and yaaawwwwn.
Sorry. Let’s get into it…
(1) Wait, We’re Starting Now?? 4 p.m.
Welcome to South Charlotte! Your 36 Hours are underway, and…ummm…you know what, the school buses are about the drop the kids off. Hang tight until 6 p.m. when things REALLY get poppin’!
(2) Welcome to Italy 6 p.m.
I would venture to assume that 97% of South Charlotte is eating pizza on any given Friday night. There are many great options in the area, and Charlotte Agenda touched on a few in a write-up last year, but our favorite – not counting Hungry Howies – is Lorenzo’s Pizzeria. Come for the pizza. Stay for the ice cream. Leave 30 minutes in when your kids start burning the place down.
A photo posted by Page Crawford Fehling (@pagecrawford) on
(3) Hops on Pop 6:30 p.m.
Although the “LoFo” area (yes, I just made that up – LOwer FOur Eighty-Five – you’re welcome) is surprisingly brewery-barren overall, two good options have popped up in Waxhaw (DreamChasers) and Ft. Mill (Full Spectrum) in recent months. Both are kid-friendly and have decent beer. The former also has the Waxhaw Creamery, but they are all also 20+ minutes from you, though, which might as well be in Tulsa at this point in the night. Pass.
(4) Late Night Fun 7 p.m.
Few establishments are open past 7 p.m. in South Charlotte, but of those that keep the lights on, you can’t go wrong with Bradshaw’s Social House. Wait…you still have the kids with you. Crap. Actually, you know what, skip this too. MOVIE NIGHT!
(5) Netflix And Pills 7:30 p.m.
OK, OK, I know that Netflix isn’t unique to South Charlotte – although I’d be surprised if their idea for the streaming Kids channel didn’t originate here – but at this point, this is the best I’ve got. Throw a movie on, crack that Rombauer, doze off, and pray the kids don’t stab each other.
(6) Grindin’ 7 a.m.
I promise, today is going to be sooooo legit! First things first, let’s get some coffee!!! Rush Espresso and Cast Iron Waffles both grind some serious beans and offer amazing breakfast options. If Rush’s menu doesn’t do it for you and the kiddos, take your coffee to go and walk the 100 yards to Terrace Cafe for its red velvet erythang. If Cast Iron’s menu doesn’t do it for you and the kiddos, take your coffee to go and walk the 100 yards to Lorenzo’s Pi…wait, I’ve already taken you to this strip mall…sorry, I promise I’m not already running out of things to do. Moving on!
(7) Rise Up 9 a.m.
Now, let’s burn off those calories at Rising Crossfit Ballantyne! My sister-in-law Michelle Crawford and her Rising teammates have represented Charlotte at the CrossFit Games three of the last four years, and every Saturday morning they offer daycare and three classes of partner workouts. She
makes me loves it when I work out there! Please help me It’s fantastic! You’re gonna puke have a blast!
(8) Bulls-Eye 11 a.m.
Who doesn’t love Target?! What’s a Saturday morning without a Target run? Ballantyne and Blakeney are home to not only one, but TWO Targets…1.9 miles from each other. Target – Charlotte South and Target – Charlotte Far South. And now, having written this down, I can see how absurd this must sound. My God. OK, nevermind, let’s turn our attention to grocery stores. Did I mention we have a Harris Teeter with a beer/wine bar in it?! Awwww yeah! This Harris Teeter is located across from Ballantyne Village, and it’s not to be confused with the other four Harris Teeters within a two mile radius…wait…what the hell?
(9) Lunch 12 p.m.
Sorry, I’m so over trying to think of clever names for these things. Let’s see, lunch options…we’ve got Which Wich…there’s a Wendy’s…ooooh, what about Publix subs?…one sec…
(10) WTF 12:30 p.m.
Well, I have just been informed that my seven-year-old has a soccer game at 12:30 p.m. It would have been nice if SOMEONE had added that to our shared calendar, but anyway…off we go. Ooh, did we just pass a Trader Joe’s?
(11) Lunch 1:30 p.m.
We lost. If I’m being honest, I think our coach needs some help. I played in high school, so I should probably offer to coach the team…or maybe I should yell louder…anyway, sorry…Our soccer league offers free postgame lunches at Noodles and Company, so you know what? We’re going to Noodles and Company. It’s fine.
(12) First Drink 3 p.m.
Too early? It’s never too early. winestore. is a great place to buy beer and wine if you’re feeling like a classy South Charlottean. Southern Spirits is great place to buy grain alcohol if you’re feeling like a South Carolinian who wants to buy cheap gas and fireworks.
(13) Babysittterrrrrrs…MOUNT UP! 4 p.m.
It’s around this time that 18-25-year-olds throughout the lower-bowl of I-485 mobilize and bail out the parents of LoFo. Where are we going tonight? Does it matter?
(14) Botanical Gardens Devoted to Trees 5 p.m.
While that may literally be the definition of an arboretum, I’ve found that it’s also a sneaky place to piece together a date night. Grab wine, beer and small plates at Vinter Wine Market, or if you’re really hungry, Portofino’s is next door. There’s also a Versona right there…and cigars at Tinder Box. Is this heaven?! Vegas?! Manhattan?! No, it’s South Charlotte!!!
(15) Movin’ On Up 8 p.m.
Oh, you didn’t think the dirty south had a rooftop bar? Puhleaze. Welcome to Brazwell’s Premium Pub, where they somehow manage to fit 50,000 people into one space. It’s the perfect place to end your night (yes, at 8 p.m.). If you look closely enough you can see the Charlotte skyline, and if you can’t, you’re encouraged to flip the bird in the general direction of all those who definitely have that view uptown at Fahrenheit.
(16) Starbucks and Krispy Kreme 7 a.m.
A video posted by Jake Fehling (@jakefehling) on
There’s a million of them here. We’ve even got Starbucks in our Targets and Harris Teeters. Did I mention we have several Targets and Harris Teeters? Yes? Sigh. Look, what do you want from me?
(17) Church 9 a.m.
Elevation, Transformation, Consternation, Multiplication, take your pick. It’s the south – if there’s one thing we have, it’s churches. Lots of good options here, and by good options I mean they offer free child care, aka Sunday School. Don’t judge me.
(18) Wait, How Have I Not Visited Pineville Before? 12 p.m.
No, seriously, how? I figured we’d duck in here on the way back to the airport, but this little downtown here is sneaky. Pintville Craft Beer? Food trucks? Railroad tracks and trains? Dang, son. Sorry, this article is as much for me as it is you. I had actually never been to Bradshaw’s or Brazwell’s either…
There you have it. 36 Hours in South Charlotte…with kids. Based on the frequency with which the Times revisits cities, we’ll see you in 11 years. We promise we’ll be cooler then…we think…we hope…help?