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Because of its proximity to the beach and the mountains, there’s no shortage of fantastic day trips from Charlotte. Just under two hours from the Queen City is Blowing Rock, North Carolina. This mountain town—so popular that many Charlotteans have second homes there—features galleries, cafes, candy stores, and fantastic festivals including the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival held every spring. Blowing Rock is also home to the luxurious Westglow Resort & Spa, which boasts the best view of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the peak leaf peeping weeks of late September and early October.
Another smaller town just under two hours is Pinehurst, home to the Forbes Four Star Pinehurst Resort & Spa. Located in the Sandhills, the town of Pinehurst has a lovely downtown full of galleries, great storefronts, and restaurants and bars. The true attraction here, though, is the resort itself. Spend the day at the Forbes Four Star Spa at Pinehurst or tee off on one of Pinehurst’s famed courses (course No. 2 will host the men’s and women’s U.S. Open in 2014). Finish off the day trip with dinner at 1895 Grille, Pinehurst Resort’s upscale dining option featuring Lowcountry fare.
Ask any Charlottean what their favorite thing is about living here and you're likely to eventually get around to the city's proximity to so many great destinations. From Charlotte, it's an easy drive to the beach or the mountains. But if you're looking to just escape the city for the day, here are three top spots just a short drive down the road.
An hour and a half drive into the mountains, this charming town on the Blue Ridge Parkway is brimming with art galleries, antique shops, upscale boutiques and cozy restaurants. Manicured streets, mountain views, and friendly locals set the tone for what has become a luxury getaway for those seeking cooler temps in the summer and an escape from the nearby ski slopes in winter. Dig into serious southern food at lunch at Woodlands Barbecue Restaurant where you'll sit at picnic tables, drink from Mason jars, and wipe the savory barbecue sauce off your fingers with paper towels. If you have time in the afternoon, head just outside of town to indulge at the lavish spa at the Westglow Resort & Spa, a newly minted Relais & Chateaux property. End your day with dinner at Main Street's Storie Street Grille where dishes feature local fare with a creative twist (think moonshine cream sauce over housemade pasta).
An easy drive up I-77 you'll find the lush, rolling hills of the Yadkin Valley. In recent years, this region of North Carolina has filled with popular vineyards, perfect for spending a day tasting wines and drinking in the local culture. Start your day Shelton Vineyards, just south of Mt. Airy. Following your tour and tasting at this large vineyard, head to its on-site Harvest Grill, which features dishes ideal for wine pairings. Cheese boards, duck breast, and braised beef loin are among the menu's top offerings. After a long and leisurely lunch—with wine, of course—begin your return trip south with a stop at Raffaldini Vineyards. Producing northern Italian wines, this stone winery with mountain views looks like it was plucked from the Tuscan countryside. Make your final stop a little more North Carolina-style at Laurel Gray Vineyards, where the quaint tasting room is on the side of a barn and hand-crafted barbecue sauces are sold alongside the bottles of French blends.
If this rustic lakeside town looks like something out of a movie, that's because it is. You've likely seen it in Last of the Mohicans, My Fellow Americans, and, most famously, Dirty Dancing. If that's not enough to entice you to visit, consider that in addition to plenty of lake activities (fishing, skiing, sailing, and boating to name a few), you'll find hiking trails and waterfront restaurants, perfect for soaking in the scenery. Start your day on one of the trails at the nearby Chimney Rock State Park. The Outcroppings Trail is only a half-mile, but offers impressive views. After you've worked up an appetite, head to Medina's Village Bistro in Chimney Rock Village for a hearty meal ranging from sandwiches and soups to steaks and chops. Be sure to order their famed—and huge—sweet cinnamon rolls. Spend the afternoon on the lake with Lake Lure Tours, which offers covered boat tours of the lake including looks at attractions like where famous Dirty Dancing scenes were filmed. At the end of the day, make it to Larkin's on the Lake for sunset where dishes like pecan encrusted trout and baby back ribs are served alongside lakeside views.