May 27, 2023
Experience Charlotte Luxe: Treat Yourself to a Pampered Escape
Jim Gladstone READ TIME: 5 MIN.
If your reflexive response to any mention of Charlotte is a quick and campy "Hush, Hush!," it's time to take a fresh look at North Carolina's Queen City.
Nicknamed for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen consort to Britain's King George III, this flourishing corporate capital is indeed fit for LGBTQ+ travelers looking to give themselves the royal treatment on a getaway weekend packed with pampering.
Discover luxurious bespoke cuisine at Biblio, the acclaimed gay-owned wine bar and restaurant that specializes in "reverse pairings." The chef and sommelier invite guests to first choose the wines that most intrigue them from a collection of over 500, then select a locally sourced protein (meats, seafoods, poultry, and vegetarian choices vary with the seasons). The main dish and its accompaniments are then selected, seasoned and sauced by the kitchen specifically to complement the wine selection.
Straight-up southern comfort is on the menu at the queer co-owned eatery 300 East, which is housed in, well, a charming old house! Homey, delicious weekend brunches feature chicken and biscuits, sausage gravy, and locally milled grits.
Strolling in Style
The NoDa (North Davidson) district, Charlotte's street art-festooned gayborhood, is a great place to treat yourself to some fashionable menswear. It doesn't get dandier than The House of LeMond, a gay- and Black-owned vintage shop curated by impeccable proprietor and local native LeMond Hart. A snappy selection of bar ware and other home furnishings are also on offer.
Check out Johnny Fly Eyewear for limited-edition specs and shades including exclusive collab designs created in partnership with local and regional designers, influencers – even race car drivers.
And enrich your spirit at Curio: Craft & Conjure, Inc., a celebration of spiritual rituals worldwide. The shop is a fascinating mini-museum of wands, tarot cards, crystals, candles, singing bowls and other esoterica (alligator teeth to connect with your ancestors, anyone?). Proprietor Gina Spriggs is a true believer, eager to share the stories of her wares.
Once your spirit's been lifted, it's time to be good to your body.
Why not drop into one of Charlotte's best day spas? At KUR, one of the house specialties is a chilled out session in their Himalayan salt block room where the air is saturated with microscopic aerosolized salt, promoted for its relaxing and detoxifying properties.
Or consider one of the mindful massages at Mood House, where patrons are asked to let their therapists know if they are most in need of Calmness, Clarity, a sense of Abundance, or of Awakening. Music, aromas and affirmations accompanying your treatment will be selected to complement your request.
Luxurious Learning Experiences
A massage is hardly the only hands-on indulgence to enjoy Charlotte. Several local entrepreneurs provide unusual opportunities to dig in and explore your senses.
Charlotte is one of only four cities nationally with an outpost of Paddywax, a "candle bar" where you can concoct a romantic souvenir for your favorite flame (or flamer). Colors, aromas, waxes, and wicks are all provided in a DIY lesson that will no doubt burn itself into your travel memories.
Unisex scents are the modus operandi at Jules & Vetiver, Charlotte's niche perfumery. Expert staff can help you select a ready-to-wear, locally crafted scent, or you can select a Fragrance Bar kit for yourself (or a group of friends), which includes a library of miniature aroma samples, testing strips, and instructions on building a layered formula with top, middle, and base notes. After you've crafted your personal perfume and entered the formula online, you'll be shipped a starter spray and Jules & Vetiver will save your secret recipe so you can order more.
And learning is particularly delicious at The Secret Chocolatier, the award-winning, family-owned confectionery, which offers regularly scheduled, chef-led classes in the art of the chocolate truffle, where visitors get a rare chance to use professional equipment to create something that's even better than homemade. Don't forget to take home a box of their famous Cinnamon Roll Bonbons.
Spend your glamorous getaway weekend at one of the city's deluxe hotels. Perhaps The Ballantyne resort with a grotto-like indoor pool that features a sauna and whirlpool; there's also an outdoor pool with al fresco cocktail service and a full spa on site.
Uptown, the boutique Ivey's Hotel, with 47 chicly appointed rooms, invites guests to meet and mingle at a complimentary nightly wine social. It's located just across the street from the city's Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, where this summer's offerings include the Broadway musical "Six" (July 4-16), Melissa Etheridge in concert (July 14), and an evening with Jinkx Monsoon (July 19).
And you can never go wrong with a Ritz-Carlton, which, in Charlotte, happens to be right next door to Spectrum Center, home of the NBA's Hornets and host to big names in music this summer, including Alicia Keys (July 2) and Erykah Badu (July 16).
To learn more and start planning your own glamorous getaway to Charlotte, visit www.charlottesgotalot.com.
Once you experience North Carolina's finest hospitality, you'll be shouting "Yaaaaas, Queen City!"
Jim Gladstone is a San Francisco-based writer and creative strategist.