Let’s not grab a drink sometime. 13 alcohol-optional happy hour social activities in Charlotte

Let’s not grab a drink sometime. 13 alcohol-optional happy hour social activities in Charlotte
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I probably could’ve fooled you with this Greenway Bike Bar Crawl or this Tequila Tour or these cider cocktails to try this fall, but I don’t really drink. Like, ever.

Aside from a few random bottles of wine we’ve collected from parties, we don’t have alcohol in our house. I avoid day drinking (like tailgating or bottomless brunch mimosas) at all cost. And when we go out to dinner, cocktails are a rare addition to the meal. If you want it quantified, I’d estimate I have maybe 3 drinks a month. Sometimes less but almost never more.

As you can probably imagine, this preference really limits my social options in a city (or perhaps a nation?) where drinking dominates so much of the culture. Yoga? Add wine! Run club? Have a beer! Social interaction of any kind. Let’s grab a drink sometime!

The allure of grabbing drinks with someone after work makes sense. It’s relatively cheap, it’s readily available and it requires a minimal time commitment so you can get home and watch your shows. I’m down with all of that. I just don’t usually want a drink in my hand in the process.

So if you’re looking for a different kind of affordable, accessible, low-commitment happy hour, these evening activities that cost less than a bar tab are a great place to start.

At almost all of these places, you could grab a drink if you wanted to, but if it’s not your thing you won’t be left sipping a water with nothing else to do.

Physical Activities

Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride

This remains one of my all-time favorite Charlotte activities. It’s a weekly 10- to 15-mile casual community bike ride that departs from Common Market Plaza Midwood 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday. You’ll need your own bike, helmet and lights (a limited supply of lights is also available to borrow), but other than that it’s free. The group stops at a different bar or restaurant each week, but if it’s not your scene you can join other early departure riders for a return to the starting point.

Price: Free
Time commitment: about 2 hours


STAX Boot Camp

Another one of my favorite evening social activities is this free community boot camp hosted Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Trainers Emily Breeze Ross Watson and Randy Moss do not play around so come prepared to put in work.

Price: Free
Time commitment: 1 hour


Hip Hop dance at the Dowd Y with Allison Duncan Lilly

This class is so fun, especially with friends (even if you look like an idiot like me). Allison teaches a new full routine every month, building onto the lesson at each weekly class. So it’s best to show up on the first of the month to avoid falling behind. Catch her Wednesdays at the Dowd Y at 6:30 p.m.

Price: Free for Y members, free as a Y member’s guest or $20 day pass
Time commitment: 1 hour

Yes!!! Dance baby, dance! #charlotte #dancelife #dance #hiphop

A video posted by Allison D Lilly- Charlotte NC (@alilly65) on

Greenway walk or bike ride

I feel like going for a walk is a sorely underutilized form of socializing. My mom used to meet up with a group of neighborhood ladies super early every weekday morning to walk and talk. For them, I think it was initiated as exercise time but it ended up being more of a social hour centered on community and connection.

Our old circular track-like suburban neighborhood was the perfect spot for this, but the down-and-back trips on Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Rail Trail are equally suited for aimless social strolls (or bike rides) disguised as exercise. Grab a B-cycle if you’d rather ride.

Price: Free (or $8 for a 24-hour B-cycle pass)
Time commitment: Depends on how far you want to go. On the Rail Trail, 7th Street Public Market to New Bern is about 3 miles. On Little Sugar Creek Greenway, CPCC to Freedom Park is about 2.5 miles.


Hands-On Classes

SkillPop classes

Some SkillPop classes sound like more studious solo ventures (like their “Excel at Excel” class), but there are lots of hands-on activities that could make for a fun social outing too. Try your hand at a new skill like guitar, hand embroidery, watercolors, handlettering and more.

Price: $25 – $35
Time commitment: 1.5 – 2 hours

Photo via Skillpop

Photo via Skillpop

Crowned Sparrow’s Crafty Hour

Crowned Sparrow hosts a monthly craft class at Petra’s where participants get to make things like scarves, charm necklaces and nail and string art. This month, they’re making terrariums. Granted, it’s hosted in a bar so drinks are available but I appreciate that there’s something other than drinking to do.

Price: $16
Time commitment: 3 hours

Nail and string art by Crowned Sparrow Co via Facebook

Nail and string art by Crowned Sparrow Co via Facebook

Beads Inc. classes

Beads Inc. offers free Open Basics 101 classes every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. They’ll walk you through the necessary techniques for basic jewelry making and, of course, sell you any supplies you need for your own creations. They also offer free instruction on more complex techniques (like silk knotting, flower making and wire wrapped bangles) that you can call ahead to reserve.

Price: Free
Time commitment: 1 hour


The Idea Box at Main Library

The Idea Box is a makerspace wonderland at Main Library filled with 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, laser engravers and more. It’s seriously so cool. My sister used the laser cutter to make wooden script signs for her wedding. For evening hours, it’s open Tuesday and Thursday 4 – 8 p.m. You can play around on your own or check the library’s calendar for occasional Idea Box classes. They’ll be making infinity scarves on 11/17.

Price: Free
Time commitment: 1 hour


Museums and Entertainment

Bechtler by Night

The museum is free from 5 – 9 p.m. on the third Friday of every month. The galleries are open and they also have gallery games, scavenger hunts and hands-on activities.

Price: Free
Time commitment: open 5 – 9 p.m.

Bechtler Museum

Mint Museum Free Wednesdays

Both Mint Museum locations (Uptown and Randolph) are free on Wednesdays from 5 – 9 p.m. It’s also worth noting they offer yoga classes with NC Yoga Bar at 5:30 on Wednesdays in Uptown. The class is free for museum members and $10 for non-members. This is one of the rare community yoga classes not taught in a brewery.

Price: Free
Time commitment: open 5 – 9 p.m.

Mint Museum

Open Mic Night at Comedy Zone

Catch the region’s best emerging comedy stars at this bi-monthly open mic. You never really know what you’re going to get but I’ve never had a bad time at Comedy Zone.

Price: $10
Time commitment: 1.5 hours

Debbie Comedy Zone

$5 Tuesdays at Studio Movie Grill

I know watching a movie isn’t the best way to catch up with a friend or get to know a date, but I believe there’s definitely some bonding involved in watching a movie and eating junk food. Catch that experience on the cheap on Tuesdays at SMG in the EpiCentre. All movies are just $5 and they have food deals too.

Price: $5 (free $-hour parking validation in the EpiCentre deck)
Time commitment: 2-3 hours


If none of my drink-free entertainment appeals to you and you just want that bar vibe without the alcohol, head to Lenny Boy Brewing where you can get get their kombucha by the pint or as a sampler flight.


Lenny Boy kombucha

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