Last week we packed up the two little ones (Emery age 6 months, Grace 22 months) and flew to Charlotte, North Carolina for Grant's youngest brother's wedding. I hadn't bee to Charlotte in a few years, and was pleasantly surprised just how walkable the city was - and family friendly!
Accommodations: We stayed at the Westin Charlotte and it was a lovely hotel, extremely family friendly - happy to accommodate two cribs in our adjoining room and had nice, healthy kid options for room service. On the 3rd floor, there was a lap pool intended for adults but was great for the kids to hang out by. The interior wasn't so family friendly, but the staff was incredible always going the extra mile to lend a helping hand. We truly enjoyed our stay thanks to their hospitality.
**Pro Tip: Whenever I travel, I use my Instacart membership to have essentials like diapers, bottled water, formula and snacks delivered to the hotel within an hour of our arrival. Makes it easier to travel light. We hosted Grant's extended family in our room for brunch and found it so simple to have bagels and OJ delivered as well!
Eating: Downtown Charlotte is home to all of the usual family-friendly chain suspects - from Chick-fil-a to Brueggers Bagels, but we found two spots that were divine!
Amelie's Bakery: Ecstatic to welcome our new Au Pair, Amelie, in a few weeks, we had to check out a french bakery of her namesake. Everything from the coffee to the quiche was fabulous, but the best part was watching the bakers knead dough and decorate cakes! Grace was thrilled, her laughter perhaps somewhat a nuisance to the many businesses breakfasts going on, but whatever.
7th Street Market Public Market: Grant was determined to take us here one morning, and I am glad we persevered. After getting a bit lost, we stumbled upon the market that was filled with the smell of strong coffee and baked delights. With plenty of vendors to choose from, space wide enough to accommodate the stroller (and the other dozens of moms and their strollers) and high chairs tucked neatly in the corner, our family enjoyed a fun, care free meal cafeteria style. Great place to escape the heat and right off the train!
Attractions: While I searched and failed to find any playgrounds walking distance in downtown, we were delighted to enjoy our time exploring air conditioned museums (gosh I don't miss the east coast humidity).
Nascar Hall of Fame Museum: The Nascar was loads of fun, but if you are bringing your children, I would suggest they be a bit older. Fortunately, kids under 5 are free, but there just wasn't that much to engage them, and I had to miss out on the driving experience to watch the kids while Grant qualified and competed. That said, they do have a small kids experience section and there are tons of videos to keep any wee one entertained. The "Pit Stop Cafe" also offers great family packages with pretty decent NC BBQ.
Charlotte Discovery Place: I cannot say enough great things about this place. With admission under 2 being free, we went in with low expectations but were amazed by all this small museum had to offer -- from a rainforest exhibit where we got to meet a variety of reptiles to an aquarium, IMAX theater and science section - we played and explored until Grace was ready to drop. We especially appreciated the toddler section with a gigantic water table, obstacle course and other activities geared towards the littlest patrons. A must see!
Wells Fargo History Museum: With free admission, we snuck into this museum for just a hot minute while we tried to cool down from the scorching NC heat. While the museum offered quite a bit of history, the highlights for the kids were climbing in the real stage coach and checking out the gold mine.
All in all, the trip was quite a success! Grace made it down the aisle as flower girl and I gained an incredibly awesome new sister-in-law!