By: Lindsay Synder
Not enough vacation days or funds in the bank...
Summer is winding down, and it is easy for our minds wander away from our computer screens and get lost in daydreams of lying on white sandy beaches with fruity concoctions in hand. If many of you are like me, there are just not enough vacation days or funds in the bank account to have the summer of travel that I long for.
Social media only seems to intensify my longings as perfectly filtered images flood my minifeed of friends and acquaintances exploring Europe, sipping wine in Napa, and snorkeling in the Caribbean. How am I going to survive at my 9-5 job with these long summer days calling my name?
The good news, is that living in this amazing city , provides options for vacation relaxation without actually having to pay for a hotel stay or take days off of work. Charlotte offers a variety of attractions within a couple hours that will give you an escape from the rigors of daily life. Sneak away for a staycation! This summer provides the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in our own area and check out a few places located only a short car ride away making them perfect day trips.
#1 Get Away to the Mountains
If mountains and nature are what refreshes your spirit, there are countless hikes within driving distance. Crowder’s mountain is just 25 miles from Uptown and offers a couple of trail options all leading to beautiful views of the North Carolina landscape. With extended daylight hours in the summer, this can be an after a work trip to decompress or it makes the perfect Saturday getaway for an extended time in nature’s solitude.
If you have more time, and more gas in the tank to venture a bit farther away, there are countless trail options near Asheville and Boone as well as breathtaking views along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There are countless websites available online to help you to find a hike that meets your skill and endurance level. If the heat is too much, there are areas with swimming, tubing, and whitewater excursions in the surrounding mountain rivers and lakes. After your hike, Asheville and Boone are great towns to stop in for food and shopping before returning back to Charlotte. The mountains are a perfect way to spend a Saturday and get a change of scenery all within a 2 or 3 hour drive.
There are plenty of options to jump in the car and take a day trip out of the city to enjoy nature and get some exercise in the outdoors.
#2 Head to the Water
If the beach is more up your alley for a vacation, the good news is that Charlotte has 2 bodies of water flanking it on either end of 77. Both offer beach areas as well as bars that give the vibe of a beach bar.
A new swimming beach has recently opened at Ramsay Creek Park in Cornelius which offers you the chance to lie on a beach and swim in the Lake Norman water for only $3 per vehicle for Mecklenburg County residents.
South of the city there is Ebenezer Park just north of Rock Hill which offers camping, picnic areas, swimming, fishing and a boat ramp. Nothing says vacation like taking a dip in a refreshing body of water.
Not only are there areas for swimming and water festivities but there are restaurants located on both Lake Wylie and Lake Norman that will make you forget you are in Charlotte. Venture by boat or car to T-Bones located South of Charlotte on Lake Wylie. They have a huge patio area overlooking the Lake Wylie waters and often have live music making it the perfect lake bar getaway.
Lake Norman offers a similar experience with the Rusty Rudder bar on the waters of Lake Norman, just north of the city. Port City Club and North Harbor Club are also located at Lake Norman though they offer more of a fine dining type of experience.
If you want a getaway, head to the lake and forget you are in Charlotte as you enjoy a meal on the water.
#3 Take a Tour through North Carolina Wineries
If your ideal getaway is a leisurely day with a glass of wine in hand, there are a cluster of wineries just an hour to an hour and a half north of Charlotte. Spend a Saturday in North Carolina wine country and enjoy wine tastings as you sit out among the vines taking in the beautiful country views. There are 6 wineries all located only 15-20 miles from each other, just a short drive up Interstate 77 from Uptown Charlotte. Each winery offers tastings and teaches you about the different wines that they offer at their location. Many of the stops have large patios available for you relax and get another glass of your favorite pick.
The wineries offer the opportunity to taste locally produced wine and experience beautiful North Carolina scenery.
#4 Explore a Nearby City
There is something liberating about jumping in the car and getting out of Charlotte’s city limits for a quick trip. Charlotte is located within driving distance of quite a few places that provide the chance to be a tourist and explore what other cities offer. If you want to get away, consider heading to one of our neighboring cities and check out some of their popular hotspots .
A couple hours down 85 South, the city of Greenville, South Carolina offers a perfect day trip destination. There is a walkable downtown area full of restaurants and shops as well as a huge park located in the West End of Main Street called Falls Park. Falls Park has the huge Liberty Bridge that runs over the Reedy River, as well as walking trails, picnic areas and a stage for events.
A couple hours down 77 South, another city to check out is Columbia, South Carolina. The city is only an hour and a half away and is home of the Riverbanks Zoo. The zoo has 9 different areas of animals and is the home of more than 2,000 animals. For a day away from the streets of Charlotte, head to Columbia and take a walk around their lovely animal sanctuary.
Forget the expensive plane tickets, pet sitters, and hotels!
Unfortunately for me, the days of having months of summer vacation ended a long time ago. Demands seem to keep me from being able to have the freedom to take off and travel like my heart desires. I often find myself needing to get away, yet I do not know how to manage it when I am bound by my budget and my vacation days.
The answer for these challenges is to take advantage to these many available day trips. Charlotte not only is a growing city, full of fun summer events but it is also located in a prime location for some very enjoyable getaways. The good news about staying local is that there is no need to find a pet sitter, pay for a place to stay or purchase expensive plane tickets.
When you get that summer job burnout, take advantage of the above options and enjoy a vacation without actually having to leave home.
Written by: Lindsay Snyder | @linstigator
Extreme extrovert with affection for kittens, puns and IPAs.