By TMoM Team Member Brooke Coley
Charlotte is a special place to me because I was born and raised there. I definitely have my favorite spots but, each time I return I find a new hidden gem. As the saying goes “Charlotte’s got a lot” so you want to have somewhat of a plan in mind before you make the trip!
My husband and I have two toddler boys who love snacks. So we always make sure to pack plenty of options before we hit the road. It is also a good idea to bring water bottles, picnic blanket, sunscreen, football, and of course the diaper bag. Once we are settled into our car it only takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to get there. We usually make one bathroom stop but it always seems like a quick drive. When you first arrive in Charlotte, head over to “Mugs” for a cup of coffee and a muffin for the kids to share. Their coffee is absolutely delicious. They offer a variety of seasonal favorites, iced coffee, tea, & much more. This coffee shop gives me all the “Central Perk” vibes if you know what I mean (Friends)! It’s a cozy atmosphere with comfy couches and filled with locals.
About two miles down the road is Freedom Park. This lovely park is tucked away between the charming neighborhoods of Dilworth & Myers Park. There are 98 acres of trails, playgrounds, an NFL Play 60 KidZone, baseball fields, and a beautiful lake. You will find an old train stationed next to the playground. This was a gift to the Charolatteans in 1959. Kids are allowed to crawl into the former conductor’s chamber to experience it first-hand! There is so much green space to find the perfect picnic spot or let the kids play football. There are bathrooms located next to the swing set. That is something important to make a note of. Parking is free but, the earlier you arrive the easier it will be to find a spot.
After you explore Freedom Park, pack up and drive down the road to “Kid Cashew” for lunch! This Mediterranean Style restaurant is located on the corner of East Boulevard & Garden Terrace. They are known for their kale and quinoa bowls, meatballs, & rotisserie chicken. This local spot is extremely kid and dog friendly. They have a beautiful patio out front. The dining room is uniquely decorated & very spacious. There are no freezers, fryers, or heat lamps at Kid Cashew. Their hope is to offer healthy options that also taste delightful. Trust me, you will love it!
Once you finish your lunch, hop over to Blackhawk Hardware and Garden Center. There is an old yellow truck parked out front that my boys love to visit before we start shopping. Near the front counter you will find free popcorn to enjoy while you shop. Our family loves this store because they have something for everyone. Specialty toys, yard tools, kitchen gadgets, you name it and they have it! There is a glass elevator located in the middle of the store. It takes you down to the lower level where most of the yard tools are located. In the eyes of a toddler, this is equivalent to a theme park ride! Make sure to check it out if you have small children or if you love yard tools.
When you walk out of Blackhawk Hardware and Garden Center, look straight ahead. There you will find Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The BEST ice cream in all of Charlotte! At Jeni’s, you can choose from flavors that simply don’t exist anywhere else. Gooey Butter Cake, Wildberry Lavender, & Pop-Tarts Frosted Brown Cinnamon are just a few of the options. We always like to sit outside while we enjoy our sweet treat before we head home. It’s a good time to wind down & reflect on our adventures of the day.
I hope you are able to get a few ideas on how to make the most of your day trip to Charlotte! The “Queen City” is brimming with amazing restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. And just remember, if you don’t get to everything…you can always go back for more.
Mugs: 5126 Park Rd #1d, Charlotte, NC 28209
Freedom Park: 1908 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Kid Cashew: 1608 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Blackhawk Hardware and Garden Center: 4225 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: 4203 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209