Blake Miller

Correspondent

  • Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Blake Miller is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Charlotte. Before embarking on her freelance career, Miller was an editor at Philadelphia and Charlotte magazines, the latter of which she oversaw all travel coverage. During her time at Charlotte, she helped launch two award-winning ancillary publications, Charlotte Home + Garden and Charlotte Wedding. The self-described wannabe foodie and fitness freak has covered travel, interior design, and health and fitness for US Airways Magazine, Redbook, Self, ElleDecor.com, Four Seasons Magazine, Women’s Health, among other national and regional publications.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What is public transportation like in Charlotte?

    Though Charlotte is a major city, like its Southern counterparts, public transportation is lacking—or at least it’s a far cry from what you’d find in northern cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York, all of which boast a network of public transportation that stretches far beyond the city limits. That being said, Charlotte has made some strides with its public transportation offerings in recent years, the most significant being the addition of the LYNX light rail line. Though the line only runs south from Uptown into South End and down to south Charlotte by I-485, it’s heavily utilized by commuters in south Charlotte who work in Uptown. For those in Uptown, the free Gold Rush Trolley runs along Trade and Tryon streets, the hub of center city, and stops on almost every block. For those looking to exercise, the city’s new public bike sharing system—with several stations throughout Uptown—is the best way to navigate the city.
  • On July 28, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best wedding venues in Charlotte?

    Like most metropolitan cities, Charlotte’s wedding venue options are vast. From modern museums to urban gardens, here are the top spots to get hitched in the Queen City.

    Ritz-Carlton Charlotte
    Since the Forbes four star Ritz-Carlton opened in Charlotte in 2009, it’s been the go-to spot for brides in search of an urban yet upscale setting for their nuptials. While the central location of the Ritz is just one of its appealing qualities, it’s truly the variety of options couples have for their ceremony and receptions. The stunning interior urban garden is the most stunning ceremony location while the ballrooms—equipped to accommodate hundreds of guests—can easily be transformed into breathtaking settings for a couple’s first dance.

    Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
    Not all couples want a city wedding, which is why so often Charlotte brides and grooms look to this Forbes four star property located in the gorgeous suburb of Ballantyne. The hotel exudes Southern charm and with its ballroom options and outdoor patios, which offer views of the sprawling, green golf course, it proves to be the best luxury wedding venue outside of Uptown.

    Mint Museum Uptown
    When the Mint’s Uptown location opened in 2010, couples clamored for a spot on the Mint’s calendar for their upcoming weddings. And for good reason: this urban spot boasts not only stunning cityscape views perfect for photos, but also the museum’s artwork as a backdrop for an elegant city wedding.
  • On July 28, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best sports bars in Charlotte?

    Between Carolina Panther fans and diehard Tarheel alums (and those newcomers whose loyalty lies with their hometown teams like the Steelers, Patriots, and Cowboys), the need for quality sports bars in a Charlotte was high. These three spots are the best places to catch the game no matter what team you’re rooting for.

    Hickory Tavern
    Lucky for sports fanatics, Hickory Tavern boasts not one but nine local locations (others outside of town include Hickory, Asheville, Pinehurst, and more). Each location epitomizes what a sports should be—great bar food, lots of beers on tap, and plenty of oversize TVs airing a variety of games at once. It helps that Hickory Taverns aren’t just the perfect spot for adults—the food options for the kiddies like the turkey sliders are a hit.

    Paco’s Tacos & Tequila
    Yes, we know this is a Tex-Mex joint that specializes in the best modern tacos (the Paco’s Taco can’t be missed; a combo of brisket slow roasted for six hours served alongside caramelized onions and chipotle bbq sauce) and margaritas in town, but that’s exactly why this SouthPark spot makes for an ideal place to watch the game. The expansive bar features several large-screen TVs and comfy barstools on which you can nosh on chips and guacamole made tableside while sipping down one of Paco’s signature ‘ritas.

    BlackFinn Saloon
    The location of this Uptown bar is just one reason why it’s one of the best spots to watch the game. Located inside the EpiCenter and only a few blocks from Time Warner Arena (where the Charlotte Bobcats—soon to be Hornets—play), BlackFinn makes for the perfect spot to wind down post-Bobcats game and watch as other NBA teams duke it out. The two-story bar/restaurant features TVs both up and downstairs so there’s never a risk of missing any of the NCAA tournament games once March Madness gets going.
  • On July 28, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What is the weather like right now in Charlotte?

    Most summers in Charlotte are HOT--highs even topping out at 100 or 101 during July and August--but the temperature mainly stays in the 90s from June through part of September. But this summer has been exceptionally temperate with lots of rain, which makes for tremendous blooms on creypt myrtle trees seen throughout the South. (That extra rain plays a role in the quality of the leaf changing colors in the North Carolina mountains, which means you can expect amazing color this fall. For that reason alone, this fall would be a great time to visit towns such as Highlands, North Carolina, home to the Forbes four star Old Edwards Inn & Spa.) Though it stays hotter in Charlotte longer than cities in the Northeast, it also gets warmer sooner, which means even in March you can expect temps in the 60s while by April and May the weather hits the mid-70s with little to no humidity.  
  • On July 27, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best steakhouses in Charlotte?

    Steakhouses are a dime a dozen in a large city like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. But in the Queen City, there a handful of steakhouses and only a few that truly standout. Here are the best in town.

    Block & Grinder
    No, it’s certainly nothing like the steakhouses you’d find in Chicago or New York. But this small restaurant in an unassuming shopping area near SouthPark is serving up steaks and its counterparts that rival some of the best on the East coast let alone the South. The idea behind B&G is simple: get back to the basics. Every meat selection on the menu—from the rib eye to the filet mignon—is hand-cut by B&G staff while less traditional steakhouse options like the corned beef and pastrami are brined, steamed, smoked, trimmed, and cut in house, as well. Traditional favorites such as the NY Strip are modernized by the simple addition of duck eggs over easy served atop the savory cut served alongside sweet potato hash. Farm-to-table ingredients add a fresh burst of flavor to the sides (pan-friend corn is to die for). Block & Grinder may be atypical, but it’s one of the best restaurants (and steakhouses) in town.

    5Church
    Don’t be fooled by the modern décor. This uptown spot is not only one of the hottest restaurants in town it’s also one of the best places for steak. No, it’s not necessarily a steakhouse, but you won’t find a better steak in this area of town. The options range from a grilled hanger steak to the Prime 60-Second NY Strip. The latter is fresh-cut to order and cooked on one side resulting in a flavorful crust on one side and a rich, juicy flavor on the other. The sides aren’t to be missed either: sauteed green beans and horseradish mashed potatoes are delicious.

    BLT Steak
    The Charlotte outpost of this popular steakhouse located in the lobby of the Forbes four star Ritz-Carlton Charlotte has become the “it” spot for movers and shakers since its opening. Standouts include the American Waygu skirt steak—a rich and tender cut—which when served alongside the sauteed spinach or jalapeno mashed potatoes is quite possibly one of the best dishes in Charlotte.
  • On July 26, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best hotels for golfers in Charlotte?

    There’s truly only one answer to this: The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. The Forbes four star property is the only luxury boutique hotel in Charlotte that also has its own championship PGA golf course. In addition to the par 71 course, the property also boasts the renowned Dana Rader Golf School, which has an award-winning team of certified LPGA and PGA instructors ready to analyze and remedy any golfer’s game. A game of golf here would not be complete without a visit to the Forbes four star Gallery Restaurant & Bar, where golfers love to sit at the bar post-game and order a cocktail or, better yet, a sampling from Gallery’s extensive (the best in Charlotte) list of Scotches, bourbons, and whiskeys.
  • On July 26, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    Where is the best pizza in Charlotte?

    Like coffee, ice cream, and burgers, what defines the best pizza is truly a subjective thing. But for those looking for some guidance on where to go for the very best pizza in the Queen City, here’s a look at three spots you won’t want to miss.

    Lorenzo’s
    Sometimes the most unassuming spots for a great piece of pizza are also the ones serving up the city’s top slices. At this Ballantyne pizzeria located just a few miles from the South Carolina state line, you can expect oversize slices oozing with serious Italian spices and flavor. While the classic Grandma’s Pie—a thin crust pizza with mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic—is the go-to choice, specialty slices such as the Lasagna Pizza—a heavenly combination of ground pork and veal, fresh ricotta cheese, housemade sauce, and more atop a hearty crust—are a delightful departure from the norm.

    Pure Pizza
    You’d never expect some of the best pizza in Charlotte to be tucked away among other food vendors, but, alas, Pure Pizza is. Located in 7th Street Market—a similar set up to Philly’s Reading Terminal Market but on a much, much smaller and more high-end scale—Pure Pizza is dishing out what could be the city’s best pizza. Pure Pizza sources almost all of its ingredients from local farms, which means you’re getting the freshest toppings, crust, and cheese—all of which are organic—in town. The crust, though, is the real star here. Options include a sprouted ancient grain, which features a variety of nutrient rich grains such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and whole wheat. The result is a crust that’s the perfect complement to toppings such as Cottonmill Farms Oyster mushrooms, Dan the Pig Man Wild Smoked salmon, and Prestige Farms Chicken, all local purveyors.

    Vivace
    This Midtown spot has long been known as the best modern Italian restaurant in Charlotte. But for those looking for some truly exceptional gourmet pizzas, Vivace is the place to go. These 10-inch pizzas prepared in a brick oven boast toppings such as duck confit, prosciutto, fig, and more. Served on a wood cutting board, these gourmet pizzas are so decadent and flavorful you won’t need a doggy bag.
  • On July 14, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best bars in Charlotte?

    Depending on what area of town you’re in, there are a few bars you’ll want to visit for a cocktail. Here are three top bars in Charlotte.

    The Lobby Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte
    Visit the Forbes Four Star property’s Lobby Lounge on any given night and you’ll find some of the city’s most successful and well-known power brokers sipping on classic cocktails or noshing on some of Executive Chef Jon Farace’s small plate creations that incorporate fresh, local products. The dimly-lit, modern lounge area is adjacent to the outstanding BLT Steak so diners come here for pre- and after-dinner drinks such as the specialty cocktail the Triple B—jalapeno-infused Don Eduardo tequila is the base of this spicy libation—and to people watch as local celebrities like Carolina Panther Steve Smith come here to relax.

    Gallery Bar at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
    Much of this Forbes Four Star hotel is traditional in décor, but take one step into Gallery Bar and you’ll be transported to a hip, modern New York-style hotel bar. The dark wood paneling, floors, and coffered ceiling give way to a backlit bar and sleek club chairs and leather barstools. The Scotch, whisky, bourbon, and cognac selections are the best in the city while the specialty cocktails (try the Ballantyne Martini—pearl pomegranate vodka, Malibu coconut rum, pomegranate juice, Chambord, and muddled raspberries) are hugely popular with regulars. But if you plan to dine in, a must is the Gallery burger—a rich coupling of Baucom’s Best Farms beef layered with Guinness-soaked gruyere, bacon, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, and served with either hush puppies or sweet potato fries, Want to make it more decadent? Add foie gras.

    5Church
    This hip, urban restaurant and bar in Uptown has quickly become one of the hottest bars in Charlotte. The décor—headed up by co-partner/designer Mills Howell—is modern and fresh. Exposed black ceilings hand painted with white text from The Art of War complement the bar area’s oversize, 18-seat community tables hand made from Himalayan oak, and the sleek concrete floors. Couple the hip, modern aesthetic with some really fantastic specialty cocktails such as the Viper—a spicy concoction of Patron, orange liqueur, cucumber water and cayenne pepper—and outstanding small plate appetizers such as the black bean hummus with house-made flatbread—and it’s clear why Charlotteans flock here. 
  • On July 9, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best restaurants in Charlotte?

    Depending on the type of food you’re looking for, there are two relatively new fantastic restaurants in Charlotte that some consider the best. Here’s a look:

    E2, Emeril’s Eatery
    Yes, we know, it’s a celebrity chef’s restaurant, which all too often means it doesn’t meet much, if any, of the lofty expectations set upon it by foodies. But make no mistake: e2 is one of the best restaurants in the Queen City. The crisp, clean interior gives way to a menu bursting with New Orleans-inspired flavors—Chef Lagasse does, after all, hail from Louisiana. Sourcing local and regional products—such as the fried Ashley Farms chicken—e2’s menu features southern favorites such as shrimp and grits, a delicious portion of melt-in-your-mouth Gulf shrimp, pancetta, and Anson Mills rice grits while twists on modern favorites like pork belly lettuce wraps are a hit. While the food is outstanding, the bar options cannot be overlooked. Classic cocktails such as a Dark & Stormy, Sidecar, or Old Fashioned complement the seasonal and signature concoctions like the Grasshopper, a refreshing year-round cocktail featuring muddled wheatgrass, Hendrick's gin, jalapeño-infused simple syrup, and fresh lime juice and cucumber water. The rotating chef’s tasting menu featuring three to four courses is yet another reason why this Uptown spot is a hit with Charlotteans.

    5Church
    It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes 5Church so outstanding. Maybe it’s the interior—an industrial-chic design overseen by managing partner Mills Howell, co-owner of local design firm Reaching Quiet Design, that feels much like a hip eatery in Philly in SoHo. Maybe it’s the menu, designed by Chef Jamie Lynch, formerly of Barrington’s. A mix of steakhouse favorites—the Prime “60 Second” NY Strip cannot be missed—and seafood dishes such as the North Carolina Grouper draws palates of all kinds to this hip Uptown spot. But most likely, it’s the combination of the two as groups come here for drinks and snacks—specialty cocktails like the Rosemary Gin Fizz paired with blackbean hummus and house-made grilled flatbread are delightful—while others come for a romantic evening with a seat by the window, perfect for people watching. Whatever the reason, 5Church is one restaurant not to be missed while in Charlotte.
  • On July 9, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best restaurants in Charlotte?

    Depending on the type of food you’re looking for, there are two relatively new fantastic restaurants in Charlotte that some consider the best. Here’s a look:

    E2, Emeril’s Eatery
    Yes, we know, it’s a celebrity chef’s restaurant, which all too often means it doesn’t meet much, if any, of the lofty expectations set upon it by foodies. But make no mistake: e2 is one of the best restaurants in the Queen City. The crisp, clean interior gives way to a menu bursting with New Orleans-inspired flavors—Chef Legasse does, after all, hail from Louisiana. Sourcing local and regional products—such as the fried Ashley Farms chicken—e2’s menu features southern favorites such as shrimp and grits, a delicious portion of melt-in-your-mouth Gulf shrimp, pancetta, and Anson Mills rice grits while twists on modern favorites like pork belly lettuce wraps are a hit. While the food is outstanding, the bar options cannot be overlooked. Classic cocktails such as a Dark & Stormy, Sidecar, or Old Fashioned complement the seasonal and signature concoctions like the Grasshopper, a refreshing year-round cocktail featuring muddled wheatgrass, Hendrick's gin, jalapeño-infused simple syrup, and fresh lime juice and cucumber water. The rotating chef’s tasting menu featuring three to four courses is yet another reason why this Uptown spot is a hit with Charlotteans.

    5Church
    It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes 5Church so outstanding. Maybe it’s the interior—an industrial-chic design overseen by managing partner Mills Howell, co-owner of local design firm Reaching Quiet Design, that feels much like a hip eatery in Philly in SoHo. Maybe it’s the menu, designed by Chef Jamie Lynch, formerly of Barrington’s. A mix of steakhouse favorites—the Prime “60 Second” NY Strip cannot be missed—and seafood dishes such as the North Carolina Grouper draws palates of all kinds to this hip Uptown spot. But most likely, it’s the combination of the two as groups come here for drinks and snacks—specialty cocktails like the Rosemary Gin Fizz paired with blackbean hummus and house-made grilled flatbread are delightful—while others come for a romantic evening with a seat by the window, perfect for people watching. Whatever the reason, 5Church is one restaurant not to be missed while in Charlotte.
  • On July 3, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best parks in Charlotte?

    Lucky for Charlotteans, the Queen City is chockfull of green space and parks for all types. Here’s a peek at the best in the area:

    Freedom Park
    This in-town park located in Dilworth is the go-to spot for most Charlotteans as it’s central to areas like SouthPark, Myers Park, and Uptown. On its 98 acres of green space, park goers can fish from the 7-acre pond, play soccer or throw a baseball on one of the four baseball and four soccer fields, or watch the kids play on the playground complete with an old train engine, which the wee ones love to play hide ‘n’ seek in. The park is also great for a stroll with its winding wooded paths, some of which lead to Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

    Colonel Francis Beatty Park
    One of the largest (and most popular) parks in the Queen City, this south Charlotte park boasts 265 acres that include a large lake (perfect for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking), age-appropriate playgrounds, horseshoe pits, lighted soccer fields, tennis courts, and lighted basketball courts. The real draw here, though, are the walking trails and mountain biking paths, which wind throughout the park and range from rigorous to easy.

    McAlpine Creek Park
    Sure, this 114-acre park has a 3-acre lake, fishing pier, 2-mile bike trail, 1.5-mile nature trail, and outdoor fitness center. The highlight of McAlpine Creek Park is its large dog park called Ray’s Fetching Meadow. The 1-acre, fenced-in area allows dogs of all sizes to run freely and play with one another in a safe environment. Check out the other dog parks in Charlotte.
  • On July 3, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What’s happening this weekend in Charlotte?

    For those who haven’t left town for their beach or mountain homes, here are the top four things to do this holiday weekend in the Queen City:

    Novant Health July 4th Spectacular
    The Queen City’s official fireworks show attracts more than 300,000 people to Uptown, and for good reason. The city doles out a whopping $50,000 on the 20-minute show, which has long been considered the biggest (and best) fireworks display in the region. (The show, which begins around 9:30 p.m., is so impressive that it’s been ranked the 13th best in the U.S. by AOL Travel.)

    WBT Skyshow
    Another must for the Fourth is a trip to see the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte’s triple A baseball team (they're the affiliate for the Chicago  White Sox) based in Fort Mill, South Carolina (but headed soon to Uptown once the new stadium is complete). Kids especially love the food and drinks and interactive kids play area while parents love the live music. The WBT Skyshow following the Knights’ game is considered one of the best fireworks displays in the area and generally sells out so it’s best to purchase tickets now.

    U.S. National Whitewater Coca-Cola Fourth of July Festival
    It’s hard to pass up two days of free live music and fireworks, which is exactly what you’ll find at the U.S. National Whitewater Center's Coca-Cola Fourth of July Festival. Beginning on July 3, this popular event features not only live music but also an impressive fireworks display over the man-made whitewater rapids and river.

    Charlotte Symphony
    Sure, the Charlotte Symphony’s summer pops series runs throughout the summer, but it’s the orchestra’s July Fourth performances that have Symphony Park in SouthPark packed full the night of July 3. Expect the classics—read: “America the Beautiful” and the like—at this popular summer show. Tickets are $10 for adults (children under 18 are free).
  • On July 1, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best family-friendly hotels in Charlotte?

    With Charlotte being such a family-friendly city, it makes sense that some of the best hotels in town are also some of the most sought-after for families. The most family-friendly accommodation in the Charlotte area is Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Concord. Though it’s a national chain, it truly caters to families. A stay includes four passes to its indoor water park—which is only accessible to guests staying on property—a movie hour at night and a storytime for the kiddies, as well.

    For something more in town, the Forbes Four Star Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge is a perfect accommodation for families. Though the hotel is popular with businessman, families love it because it offers accommodation packages such as one that provides one- and two-day ticket packages for nearby Carowinds Amusement Park.
  • On June 28, 2013
    Quia Querisma is now following Blake Miller
  • On June 27, 2013
    Blake Miller answered the question: Blake Miller

    What are the best antique shops in Charlotte?

    While Charlotte is full of fantastic antiques stores, there are two that stand out the most. The first is Sleepy Poet Antiques Mall. Though this massive, 55,000-square-foot warehouse full of antiques and collectibles ranging from as early as the 18th Century to the 1980s can be a bit overwhelming at first, one pass through with a good eye will land you some great pieces. Collectibles such as vintage children’s books (which go for $250+ on shopping sites such as Gilt) can be found for just $9 for a set of six while slightly-weathered wingback chairs (perfect for recovering in a designer fabric), crystal chandeliers and Tiffany-like lamps, milk glass dishware, and collections of old records and vintage clothing can be found throughout. The best part is that no price is set in stone—each seller is open to negotiating the price so scoring a deal on an antique is likely.

    Nearby in South End is LaDonna Antiques and Interiors. One of the best-kept secrets among interior designers in Charlotte, this small, off-the-beaten path antiques shop is chockfull of classic 18th- and 19th-century antiques as well as Midcentury pieces, and an eclectic mix of Scandanvaian, French, Italian, and other European finds and prints. The unassuming store is so carefully edited—thanks to the eye of proprietor and designer LaDonna Harris—that famed designer Charlotte Moss shops there when in town.