shopping

Not Sure You Love Charlotte? You Will After This Tour.

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As a lifelong Charlottean, a common complaint I hear from visitors and newcomers is that there’s nothing to do here.  Whether it’s a lack of entertainment and dining options, or educational and sightseeing adventures, transplants and vacationers can’t seem to find what they’re looking for in the Queen City.

Having spent a couple (er, many) years exploring this great city, I know of more than a few spots to enjoy great food, great entertainment and great views.  I could rattle off my favorites here.  But you don’t know me and who knows if we share the same tastes?

square-charlotteSo to circumvent our lack of friendship, I’d like to make a suggestion: take a tour of Charlotte.  Not just any tour, a guided driving tour in an air-conditioned van and hosted by a knowledgeable tour guide.  Just to test it out for you, I took one myself last weekend.

C-Charlotte Tours is a fairly new tour company in town, but their knowledge of the city’s history and attractions is extensive.  Gary, our tour guide, shared more nuggets of information about this city than I’ve read in any welcome brochure. And despite my native status, I learned a thing or two about my hometown. Like, did you know there are capped-off goldmines under Charlotte’s uptown streets?  And did you know that Price’s Chicken Coop is rated by Bon Appétit as one of the 3 best places in America to eat fried chicken?  Or that there are a TON of restaurants within a 5-mile radius of uptown?  (OK, I did know that one, but I definitely found a few more to add to the list.)

The tour started uptown where Gary pointed out every office tower and high-rise condo along the way, offering his inside scoop on the businesses and project timelines for each.  Since the tour is geared toward visiting and relocated professionals, he also gave a nod to the restaurants and bars lining the uptown streets.  And judging from the number of them, the city’s quiet, decade-long nightlife bloom appears to have exploded in the last 18 months.

But this wasn’t just a bar crawl.  It was an all-in-one sightseeing tour, history lesson and neighborhood exploration mission.  We drove north through Biddleville, one of Charlotte’s oldest African-American communities, and an area steeped in southern history.  The regal, brick buildings of Johnson C. Smith University, one of the state’s oldest historically black colleges, line the entrance to the community.  Behind the campus is Elmwood Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Charlotte’s business, cultural and political pioneers, as well as war veterans dating back to the Civil War.

Then it was on to the surrounding neighborhoods:  SouthEnd, Dilworth, Myers Park, Eastover and Elizabeth.  What did we find? Beautiful homes, walkable streets and, you guessed it: more restaurants.  We even made a run through SouthPark, a shoppers’ paradise offering great retail therapy, although not for the economically-challenged.

As we swung by Bank of America Stadium, Bobcats Arena and the much-anticipated, highly-debated future baseball stadium, we were treated to a little Local Sports 101.  I won’t tell you the questions or answers, lest I spoil the surprises.  But I did pick up some good trivia (as well as some juicy rumors).

We finished up back in uptown, and were dropped off within walking distance of a few cafes we had passed during our drive.  In fact, I saw some of my tour companions headed that way as I pulled out of the parking lot.

I’ve always been content with Charlotte.  After all, it’s becoming the jewel of the South (sorry, Atlanta, if it weren’t for the traffic …).  And regardless of the current economic hiccup, it will continue to attract industry and commerce, and thus, more people.  But it was an amazing experience to see all its wonders at once, tied up in a neat little 2-and-a-half-hour package.

So for those of you still questioning your decision to stay in Charlotte, call up C-Charlotte Tours and take the tour.  You won’t be disappointed.

My Very Bridal Charlotte Weekend

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For a girl that likes to shop, this weekend couldn’t have been more fun!  My family and future in laws were all in town for a fun little engagement party for my Fiance and me.  We crammed as much fun wedding stuff into this weekend to take advantage of all the families being together for a rare weekend.  One of the things we did this weekend was go and look at wedding gowns for the first time.  On Saturday morning I gathered my gilrs including my mom, sister, grandma, best friend, future mother-in-law and best friend/roomie to go to Hayden Olivia Bridal Boutique in uptown Charlotte.  What an amazing experience.  All the ladies in my group had so much fun looking at all the dresses in the store and picking out almost 15 different dresses for me to try on.  The first time you see yourself in a bridal gown is like an out of body experience.  I put the first gown on, a Kenneth Pool design, and stepped out of the dressing room to show my group.  Now this was not the right dress for me, but still when I looked in the mirror it felt like I was looking at someone else.  Another 5 foot 4 inch redhead bride, definitely not me.  As we made our way through the different gowns I was just still in shock at the sight of myself in the mirror in a gown.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find “the one” at Hayden Olivia.  I was slightly disappointed because I would have really enjoyed the experience at this boutique.

So after the Hayden Olivia visit we decided to switch gears and go to look for some bridesmaid dresses while the little sister was here in town.  We went down South Boulevard to this cute little store called Bella Bridesmaid.  This little store was just so tiny but packed a lot of personality with its dresses from designers like Melissa Sweet, Vera Wang, Coren Moore and more. I found two Coren Moore dresses that I really liked for my bridesmaids in the perfect color, Rasberry.  But to be honest they were a little bit expensive.  So I collected the information on the dresses and in the meantime I am hoping for a miracle sale on Coren Moore bridesmaid dresses, because they are FABULOUS!

After our visit with Bella Bridesmaid we went on to look at David’s Bridal.  I don’t mean to offend anyone that is a huge fan of this place.  I know that they offer all kinds of affordable options for brides and wedding parties but to be perfectly honest the experience is terrible.   They do have some cute options for bridesmaid dresses but their presentation of their product and then the dressing rooms make me never ever want to set foot in the store again.  That is all I have to say about that place…

So after DB we were done with our shopping on Saturday it was time to get ready for the party… Next post I will talk about the rest of the shopping weekend which included trips to Crate and Barrel, Nordstroms (for Mother of the Bride shopping), New York Bride and J. Majors…

Where did you go to find the best looks for your wedding?

BeadLush and the Sleepy Poet are Creative Outlets Here in Charlotte

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One of my favorite hobbies is to create beautiful jewelry using vintage brooches, semi-precious stones, and Swarovski Crystals.  I sell a lot of my creations on ETSY, which is a website for the craft inclined artists online, I can’ t say enough good things about how awesome Etsy.com is.  Anyways, a lot of times people ask me where I get my supplies and while I do get a lot of materials online from various retailers the most beautiful and unique items have to be handpicked.  Charlotte has a lot of great locations for finding artistic materials.  Two of my favorite locations include BeadLush and The Sleepy Poet Antique Mart.

Beadlush is a quaint little house off of Plaza in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood.  If you know where the Harris Teeter is then keep going and it will be on your right beside the Fire Station.  This past Tuesday I went into the store to find some materials to compliment the Sodalite stones I wanted to use in a necklace.  Lydia, the owner of BeadLush was so helpful and helped me pick out some beautiful Agate beads.  The finished product looks like this…

Semi-precious necklace made for my co-worker

Semi-precious necklace made for my co-worker

The vintage brooch using Swarovski crystals and white beads was found at the Sleepy Poet.  I absolutely love this place and literally could spend an entire afternoon getting lost inside.  They have everything you can ever imagine from Jewelry to furniture, collector items to clothing.  The people that work there are always helpful and friendly and the entire experience is enjoyable.  If you are in the market for something vintage/antique I highly recommend this store.

Where are some of the stores that you like to visit for artistic inspiration and materials?