Sarah Crosland

Correspondent

  • Charlotte, NC, USA

Sarah Crosland is a correspondent who lives in Charlotte and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. She is also a freelance writer and the executive editor of The Charlotte Observer’s magazine division, which includes numerous lifestyle publications for the region. While the North Carolina native has been a travel writer for almost a decade, her first love has always been food. She is the author of the book Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte and has covered the city’s growing culinary scene for various publications, including The Hollywood Reporter and DC magazine.

  • On February 28, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What is the best time to visit Charlotte?

    There's really not a bad time to visit Charlotte. Winter brings holiday celebrations, spring is filled with garden tours and cultural performances, and summer is packed with warm-weather fun in the city's parks and nearby lakes. However, fall—and specifically the months of September and October—may be the best time to visit the city. 

    In addition to the months being full of sunny, early autumn days, they're also filled with fun festivals. If you're planning your trip now, consider these five the top ones to hit:

    Yiasou Greek Festival: One of the city's favorites, this festival is held at the Greek Orthodox Church in Dilworth and offers the opportunity to soak in Greek culture—and eat excessive amounts of sweet and honey-drenched homemade baklava. 

    Blues, Brews & BBQ: You'd be hard pressed to find a city that enjoys beer and barbecue more than Charlotte. At this festival regional 'cue joints compete for the best pulled pork and breweries offer samples of their beers, all set to the tune of the blues. 

    Charlotte Sunset Jazz Festival: SouthPark's Sympony Park offers this free festival in its lakeside amphitheater. Pack a picnic and settle in for an evening of smooth jazz. 

    Festival in the Park: This long running fesitval is held in Freedom Park and hosts booths featuring local arts, crafts, musicians, artists, and fare. Spend an afternoon meandering alongside the lake and checking out the offerings. 

    Charlotte Oktoberfest: With the boom in North Carolina breweries, this festival has taken off in recent years. Tickets often sell out so you'll want to buy them early and plan to spend the day sipping on some of the region's best beers. 
  • On February 28, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best kid-friendly restaurants in Charlotte?

    Charlotte is a city full of kid-friendly options. From parks and recreational activities, to shops and restaurants. The best thing about eating out with kids in Charlotte is that you don't have to sacrifice taste and atmosphere to find a great kid's menu in a welcoming spot. 

    If you're looking for a restaurant that offers fun and entertainment for the smallest in your group, head to Pike's Old Fashioned Soda Shop in SouthEnd. Here your kid—and you—can pull up a stool at the vintage soda fountain and dig into dishes like a gooey grilled cheese. Plus, the selection of malts, milkshakes, floats are sure to score big points for you with junior. 

    Forget your diet and treat you and your youngest at the decadent Big View Diner in South Charlotte. On Saturday mornings at this retro diner children often seem to outnumber the adults—and with good reason. From Chocolate Chip Pancakes to Belgian Waffles topped with strawberries and whipped cream, those with a sweet tooth will be ready to dig in. Burgers and pastas are favorites among the kid dishes and if you're really looking to treat, kids desserts like dirt and worms (chocolate pudding, oreo crumbles, and gummie worms) are parent award-worthy.

    If you're looking for a kid-friendly spot where both you and your little one can enjoy gourmet fare, head to Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen. Sure, its sophisticated atmosphere and upscale al la carte menu may make it seem like an odd spot for a night with your brood, but Chef Jim Noble has created a kid-friendly menu that ranks among the best. In addition to staples like pizza, burgers, and shakes, you'll also find a few unexpected items for a young adventurous eater like calamari and duck confit. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the restaurant's locally-sourced gourmet fare and impressive wine list. Everybody wins. 

  • On February 28, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best antique shops in Charlotte?

    Whether you love hunting for a bargain or searching among historic pieces, Charlotte offers a variety of antique shopping experiences. Here are the three top spots around town to dig into vintage wares:

    Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
    This 55,000-square-foot space is the kind of thing that will hook you in for hours, wandering down its aisles and checking out each booth. There's no place in town that offers this wide of an array of selection. From booths filled with shabby chic painted furniture to those with well restored and elegant antiques, literally everyone will find some form of home decor here that fits their style. But there's much more than that. At Sleepy Poet you'll find vintage clothing, old records, antique cameras, and costume jewelry. This is the kind of place where you'll want to set aside hours to peruse the booths and pick your favorites. Plus, food trucks park outside most Saturdays and are perfect for taking a snack break from your shopping. 

    Metrolina Expo Marketplace
    The first weekend of every month, this expo sets up shop just north of Charlotte. Packed with antique dealers from across the country, you'll find everything from Persian rugs to vintage magazines. While there are some outside vendors (look for the ones selling the gorgeous antique ceiling tiles), most of the booths are inside, which means a visit is possible rain or shine. Want to visit when the most dealers are in town? Plan on going to the Spring Spectacular (April)  or Fall Extravaganza (November) shows when the marketplace is packed with sellers. 

    Plaza Midwood's Central Avenue
    In the fun and funky Plaza Midwood, you'll find a stretch of shops between Pecan Avenue and Thomas Street offering crafts, antique furniture, vintage clothing, and jewelry. Stop in to 1510 Antiques for furniture and paintings, in Century Vintage for retro clothing and home goods, Clark's Antiques for knick knacks and eclectic antiques, and Hong Kong Vintage for clothing, shoes, and accessories. 

  • On February 28, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    Should visitors rent a car in Charlotte?

    The answer to this question is definitely yes. Sure, there have been some recent—and very helpful—additions as far as public transportation in Charlotte, but in general, this is a city where driving is useful. While uptown offers access to hotels, restaurants, shops, culture, and businesses all within walking distance, to really explore the city, you need a car. 

    Totally set on not renting a car? There are a few ways to navigate town. 

    First, you'll want to stay as close to the city's center as possible. Charlotte offers the Sprinter Bus, which features a direct route from the airport to utown. Once you're in uptown, look to hotels like The Ritz-Carlton and Aloft, which are conveniently placed so that you can often walk to restaurants, nightlife and businesses without even stepping outside. Plus, it's not difficult to find taxi service from uptown to outlying neighborhoods (you'll just have to plan to call the taxi for return service). Those hotels also offer easy access to Charlotte's Lynx Light Rail, which has several stops uptown and then travels into south Charlotte with stops in neighborhoods along the way.

    Another easy—and, in this case, free—version of public transportation in uptown Charlotte is the Gold Rush Trolley. Look for the signs throughout uptown for spots to get on and off. Finally, Charlotte also recently added a bike share program. You'll see the stations around the city where you can check out a bicycle and then check it back in. It's one more easy way to navigate the area sans car. 
  • On February 27, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best parks in Charlotte?

    Now that the weather is finally (fingers crossed!) warming up, it's the perfect time to hit one of Charlotte's parks. Luckily, there are plenty worth visiting. For a comprehensive list, check out Mecklenburg County's Park and Rec's Parks section. But below are three top spots for soaking in some sun and checking out the scene. 

    Freedom Park
    One of the city's most popular parks, this 98-acre destination is tucked away in residential neighborhoods south of the city. In addition to plenty of recreation such as 12 tennis courts, a basketball court, two playgrounds, and four soccer fields, the park offers green hills perfect for picnics and lakeside paths ideal for a stroll.  

    The Green
    Charlotte's most urban park, this 1.5 acre uptown greenspace is bordered by museums, the convention center, and a historic Catholic church. Its location and picturesque makes it the perfect venue for events like movie screenings, festivals, and even public art. Lunchtime on warm, sunny days finds it filled with uptown workers eating tak-out on its benches and relaxing in the grass. 

    Park Road Park
    If you're looking for a spot around town to feel like you've left town, this is it. Located just off Park Road, south of Charlotte, this 122 acre park with an 11 acre lake feels worlds away from city life. Walk on the trails or bring a picnic to enjoy on the lake's pier. Plus, if tennis is your thing, with 12 of the best-kept courts in town Park Road Park offers one of the best spots in town to play. 
  • On February 27, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best day trips near Charlotte?

    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. 

    Blowing Rock
    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). 

    Yadkin Valley
    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. 

    Lake Lure
    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. 
  • On February 27, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best bars in Charlotte?

    Like any city, Charlotte's bars are varied. Here, neighborhoods often dictate the clientele, drinks served, and general vibe. While uptown has become a hot spot for bars and nightlife in the last decade, some of the best watering holes in the city can actually be found in its outlying enclaves. If you're looking for late nights, loud music, crowds, and plenty of fun on tap, you can always venture into one of the chains in uptown's Epicentre development. But for a true taste of Charlotte, here are a few spots to pull up a stool the next time you're out on the town.

    5 Church
    Ok, this actually a restaurant—and one with some seriously good food at that. But its see-and-be-seen bar scene may be one of its most impressive features. Several of the guys behind the spot have experience in swanky clubs and designed the sleek, two-story space with the idea of late nights out. The decor alone is worth venturing in to 5 Church—from ethereal, white feather chandeliers to the ceiling hand painted with the entire text of The Art of War. Cocktails reign at the bar with sweet options like the Bourberry, a pink drink made with Jim Bean, raspberry liqueur, and muddled raspberries, or the spicy Viper made with Patron, orange liqueur, cucumber water and cayenne pepper. This is the kind of spot where you'll want to dress to impress and plan on lingering to see the crowds.

    Twenty-Two
    Located in a small corner space in the funky Plaza Midwood neighborhood, this spot is part lounge, part art gallery. Its motto is "Art, booze, music, schmooze" and most nights you'll find an eclectic crowd lingering over craft beers and wine as they peruse the one-room gallery walls. The art changes frequently, which means there's always something new to see, but it's the convivial crowds and cozy space that seem to draw trendy types here for pre-dinner drinks most nights. 

    Duckworth's Grill and Taphouse
    This popular restaurant and bar has three Charlotte locations, but its spot on Park Road just off the always-busy Montford Drive is a must-visit for beer lovers. With more than sixty craft beers on tap—including many from North Carolina breweries—you'll find brews here that you're unlikely to see anywhere else in town. On Thursdays, when drafts are $3, it can get crowded around the bar. But most nights this is a family-friendly kind of place where you can be certain you'll find a great beer and laid back company. 

    Whiskey Warehouse
    Yes, those with a penchant for whiskey may be lured here by the name. But the real draw of this Plaza Midwood bar and restaurant should be its second-story deck's skyline views. With bars on both the first level and the deck, Whiskey Warehouse fills up fast on weekend nights and during happy hours with a young professional crowd enjoying its full bar's daily drink specials. On weekend nights a DJ spins top 40 tunes downstairs and the crowds are often so thick that squeezing up to the bar offers a challenge. But the best time to visit this spot is on a sunny weekend afternoon when the deck fills with friends looking to soak up the sun, take in the view, and enjoy a cold drink. 

    Prohibition
    Choosing a bar among the many scattered throughout uptown Charlotte can be a challenge. But if you're looking for a 20-something crowd of those hoping to dance until the spot closes down, Prohibition is a good bet. Located on the second floor at the corner of 5th and Tryon Streets, the bar plays off its name with Moonshine offerings and reclaimed wood walls covered in Prohibition-era quotes. But that's not really the point. It also offers DJs, drink specials, and a large space, including a patio, always packed with trendy party-goers looking for a fun evening out. Plan on paying cover here—and at most bars uptown—but if this is the scene you're seeking, it's worth the money. 
  • On February 26, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best restaurants in Charlotte?

    In recent years Charlotte's restaurant scene has seen major improvements. Once known as a city where banker-friendly steakhouses reigned, these days you'll find plenty of locally owned spots serving up innovative fare from area farms. Picking favorites is hard, but here are five spots where you're certain to find a great—and creative—meal:

    Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth
    Sure, the name sounds a little over the top, but the food more than lives up to it at this chic uptown restaurant. Located off the lobby of the city's Mint Museum of Art, Halcyon is the brainchild of longtime Charlotte restaurateurs. A modern-meets-rustic space in hues of blue and brown sets the tone for the locally and seasonally based menu. Start with a cocktail  by one of the city's top mixologists, Maggie Ruppert, who concocts elixers like the Smoky Pig made with Smoky Makers 46 steeped in bacon and mixed with orange bitters, maple syrup and kosher salt. The menu is modern, but crammed with Southern influence (think braised Virginia lamb served with butternut squash and huckleberries). Make reservations for dinner, but this is also the perfect spot to stop for a post-museum drink and light bite (order the hearth charred shishito peppers) or for an easy uptown lunch. 

    Good Food on Montford
    Located on an unexpectedly bustling side street in south Charlotte, this cozy restaurant features, well, some really good food. It also offers the kind of stylish and urbane setting you might expect in larger cities. Be prepared to wait here as it is a small spot, but when you pull up a stool to the bar and order the House Smoked Bourbon Mint Julep, time will pass quickly. Chef Kerry Moffett's steamed bun—a soft bun wrapped around tender spice rubbed pork belly—may be the restaurant's most famous item, but foodies will find plenty more to please them on this menu. A charcuterie plate offers housemade foie gras and smooth chicken liver mousse, while the falafel comes in flavor-packed orbs with a fresh cucumber tomato relish. There are larger plates, but Good Food is the kind of spot where you'll want to share just so you can taste it all. 

    Soul Gastrolounge
    This tapas lounge could only make sense in the eclectic Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Here DJs spin most nights while hip crowds pile into the small, second-story space with exposed brick walls and cozy booths. An outdoor patio offers views of uptown's skyline, while inside a small bar beckons with crafted cocktails and unexpected offerings like absinthe. The menu includes a dazzling array of small plates ranging from creamy dips like a white bean and goat cheese to inventive dishes like Asian pork belly tacos topped with fresh cubes of watermelon. The sushi here is some of the best in town—try the eponymous Soul Roll made with salmon, avocado, cucumber, white tuna, and a spicy twist of jalapeno. And definitely save room for dessert. Soul runs nightly specials and you'll want a bite of whatever creative cupcake the kitchen is serving up that evening.

    Customshop
    This renowned restaurant has been serving some of Charlotte's more imaginative dishes since opening on Elizabeth Avenue in 2007. Both the decor and the food mix traditional and contemporary. Candlelit tables and exposed brick walls offer a warm atmosphere, while one of the city's top wine lists sets the scene for an elegant evening. It's the food though that shows the real attention to detail here. Fresh seafood specials are offered daily, weekly menu changes reflect local seasonal produce, and pastas like squid ink linguini are all housemade. Two things not to miss: The beef carpaccio is sliced on the antique fly-wheel slicer at the bar and the meat's rich flavor and texture are almost buttery. And the decadent version of bread pudding is the kind of dish that will forever ruin other, less perfectly executed versions for you. 

    Harvest Moon Grille
    Everything served in this uptown restaurant comes from farms within 100 miles of Charlotte. Chef Cassie Parsons, who also owns the nearby Grateful Growers farm, is dedicated to locally sourced food. Of course, this means that the menu changes almost daily depending on what farmers bring in the door. But Parsons' talent shines through on dishes from fish tacos to meatloaf to pimento cheese. If you're a fan of pork, you're especially in luck. Grateful Growers focuses primarily on pork and so there's almost always an offering on the menu. Located in the bottom of the historic Dunhill Hotel, Harvest Moon Grille also features breakfast and if you're looking for a hearty-Southern-meets-locally-raised-fare option, the biscuits and gravy is as good as it gets.  
  • On February 7, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best activities to do in Charlotte?

    Show up in Charlotte on a sunny day and you'll find a city that loves to be out and about. Nearby mountain trails and vineyard tours may tempt you to the road, but for those who prefer to stay nearby there are plenty of active pursuits in and around town. 

    If you want to take a close-up look at uptown sans car, you're in luck. Last year the city rolled out the state's first bike-share system and now you'll find B-Cycle bike stations spread throughout uptown. Check the website for specific locations, then grab a bike and hit the road to charming nearby neighborhoods like South End and Dilworth. Not in the mood for pedaling? Check out Charlotte NC Tours' Segway tour options. There are a variety of versions including ghost and history tours, but the two-hour Taste & Glide featuring brief tastings at local restaurants is a must for food fans. 

    Another new addition to the city's active scene is Ten Park Lanes, a recently restored retro bowling alley. Located on the bustling Montford Drive just south of town, this '60s-era spot offers friendly competition, as well as Southern fare and even a bar with moonshine on tap. Three patios flanking the space are perfect for relaxing post-game. 

    More in the mood for something under the sun? Go north to Lake Norman or south to Lake Wylie. Both lakes offer a variety of activities—especially during the warmer months. There are boat rentals and charters on both, as well as a few popular public swimming and fishing spots. But for something different, check out one of the Local Paddler stand-up paddleboarding classes that run May through October. 

    For a playful twist (and turn) head to Victory Lane Karting where adult karts go up to 40 mph on a track for eight-minute races. Located just north of town in Mooresville (read: NASCAR country), this is a great destination for an indoor adrenaline rush. 

    If you'd prefer a slightly more relaxed ride, check out the Latta Plantation Equestrian Center, also located north of town. Settle in for one of their trail rides on more than 16 miles of wooded terrain. The rides, which typically last 45 minutes to an hour, are slow and steady, offering a close up of North Carolina's wildlife on the gorgeous nature preserve. For a seriously picturesque version, opt for the Sunset Ride, which includes a ride as the sun sinks followed by a "Cowboy Dinner" around a barnside bonfire. 
  • On February 5, 2013
    Sarah Crosland answered the question: Sarah Crosland

    What are the best activities to do in Charlotte?

    Show up in Charlotte on a sunny day and you'll find a city that loves to be out and about. Nearby mountain trails and vineyard tours may tempt you to the road, but for those who prefer to stay nearby there are plenty of active pursuits in and around town. 

    If you want to take a close-up look at uptown sans car, you're in luck. Last year the city rolled out the state's first bike-share system and now you'll find B-Cycle bike stations spread throughout uptown. Check the website for specific locations, then grab a bike and hit the road to charming nearby neighborhoods like South End and Dilworth. Not in the mood for pedaling? Check out Charlotte NC Tours' Segway tour options. There are a variety of versions including ghost and history tours, but the two-hour Taste & Glide featuring brief tastings at local restaurants is a must for food fans. 

    Another new addition to the city's active scene is Ten Park Lanes, a recently restored retro bowling alley. Located on the bustling Montford Drive just south of town, this '60s-era spot offers friendly competition, as well as Southern fare and even a bar with moonshine on tap. Three patios flanking the space are perfect for relaxing post-game. 

    More in the mood for something under the sun? Head north to Lake Norman or south to Lake Wylie. Both lakes offer a variety of activities—especially during the warmer months. There are boat rentals and charters on both, as well as a few popular public swimming and fishing spots. But for something different, check out one of the Local Paddler stand-up paddleboarding classes that run May through October. 

    For a playful twist (and turn) head to Victory Lane Karting where adult karts go up to 40 mph on a track for eight-minute races. Located just north of town in Mooresville (read: NASCAR country), this is a great destinations for an indoor adrenaline rush. 

    If you'd prefer a slightly more relaxed ride, check out the Latta Plantation Equestrian Center, also located north of town. Settle in for one of their trail rides on more than 16 miles of wooded terrain. The rides, which typically last 45 minutes to an hour, are slow and steady, offering a close up of North Carolina's wildlife on the gorgeous nature preserve. For a seriously picturesque version, opt for the Sunset Ride, which includes a ride as the sun sinks followed by a "Cowboy Dinner" around a barnside bonfire. 
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