Charlotte, North Carolina – lovingly known as The Queen City thanks to its benefactress – is a destination both modern and historical. In fact, there are plenty of monuments to the city’s storied past that we highly recommend you visit, but what we fell in love with in Charlotte was the retail therapy. From quirky, hipster-style music stores to glistening malls, there really is something for everyone here. And as a nod to the best of the best, we’ve highlighted our favorite shopping in Charlotte for your next getaway – make sure to put these stops on your must-visit list.
Best Mall: Atherton Mill and Market
Confession: Atherton Mill is not your traditional mall. It’s not even entirely indoors. But for us, that’s a good thing. House in a converted textile mill built in the late 1800s, the brick-lined shopping center is an incredible mix of history – showcased in the thick timber beams and hardwood floors – and modernity. When those shopping cravings kick in, make the most of the fashion, food, and home goods outlets onsite, including Sephora, Madewell, Bonobos, Anthropologie, and others. Sure, they may not have the number of shops a mall typically does, but the setting and history give Atherton the edge. Pro tip: When you get hungry, head east to 300 East Restaurant where reimagined Southern fare like the Shrimp BLT just hits the spot.
Best for Gifts: Paper Skyscraper
Have you ever wandered aimlessly in a souvenir shop with no direction but constant fascination at the tchotchkes on display? That was us at Paper Skyscraper, where everything from hot sauce to T-shirts and greeting cards are on offer. Seriously, this place has every quirky game, book, cup, and jarred sauce you – or your friends and family – would want. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun to browse. Make sure you check out the clocks on that back wall and the incredible board game and pet toy section. Did we mention they also have candles and socks?
Best for Gourmet Eats: Earl’s Grocery
Many a quaint neighborhood in Europe has them: the deli-meets-grocery store where you can find those one-off ingredients for dinner while you’re eating lunch. That’s the feel of Earl’s, where the cheese display brims with dozens of hard and soft varieties, crackers and charcuterie from across the globe tempt shoppers planning their dinner, and bottled sauces scratch the curiosity itch for every home cook. At the very least, come for a meal and do some window shopping. We suggest indulging in the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with shallot-black pepper gravy and the Chocolate Ganache Torte for dessert.
Best for Music: Lunchbox Records
Anchored on Central Avenue, Lunchbox Records is that retro-vibey record store that once was commonplace a few decades past. Fortunately for us, the ’70s love of vinyl is alive and well at Lunchbox, where more than a dozen genres of music are represented. Fun story: The roots of Lunchbox go back to 1990 and the launch of a punk label. A few tours and a record shop later (one that was bought out by a corporate brand), the owner decided to give Charlotte something with more personality – and definitely more authenticity. The current operation launched in 2005, now happily serving the vinyl-hungry public with 10-inch records, 7-inch records, LPs, tapes, and CDs. If you’re worried you won’t find vinyl in your style, keep in mind that the selection here stretches from African to Classical to K-Pop. Suffice it to say we walked away with several more records than we planned on buying.
Best for Antiques: Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
There are actually two locations of Sleepy Poet – one on South Boulevard and one outside of Charlotte in Gastonia. Both are good finds, but we spent our time at the South Boulevard location. Much like Paper Skyscraper, this spot is prime for ogling – especially if you fancy yourself a collector. You’ll find bigger items like Louis XVI-style, gold-gilded chairs; signs from the 1920s; gently used letter jackets; prints and portraits without clear provenance; lighted Budweiser signs; toy wooden ships – well, you get the idea. As the tagline here goes, “No rhyme or reason, just cool stuff.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Best for Consignment: Rat’s Nest
Looking for that last-decade look that’s become cool again? Chances are, Rat’s Nest has what you’re looking for. This vintage clothing stop on 36th Street is a delight to browse, though it will be hard not to buy – too many of the clothes on display are exceptional showcases of fashion styles from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and today. Curiously, they also have a wide selection of boots. We didn’t think we were boot people, but it turns out there were several pairs that suit us to a “B.” Rat’s Nest also has a healthy helping of sweaters, printed Ts with vintage culture prints (cowboy frill to Bowie glare), and various accessories to doll up your outfit. They also host live music performances periodically, so be sure to check the link above for details on what local tunes are grooving.
Best for Shopping and Fun: Shoppes at University Place
Shopping is lovely, of course, but wouldn’t it better if it were paired with some outdoor activities? That’s what we thought, and then we stumbled across the waterfront Shoppes at University Place. Two dozen or more shops (à la GameStop and Chico’s) line outdoor pedestrian walkways, beautified with flower beds and sculptures, while café patios spill out into the sun. The setting is really idyllic – but it’s one-upped by Dave’s Paddleboats, which lets you purr across the adjacent lake for a mere $10 (for a 30-minute ride). Silly diversion? Maybe, but we have to say a bit of exercise and fun on the water primed us for a meal and more shopping. Win-win.