Southern summers are no joke, but there are plenty of ways to take your mind off the rising temps in and around Charlotte. We’ve rounded up a few ideas to help you keep cool when the season heats up.
by Caroline Boulware, Cathy Martin and Sharon Smith
1. Mellow out with a milkshake
Photograph by Remy Thurston
Like the Bedrock Blast from The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, made with vanilla ice cream blended with Fruity Pebbles and topped with whipped cream. It’s a recent menu addition at SouthPark’s go-to family-friendly spot for sushi, burgers and bento boxes.
2. Throw an ice cream party
Rent Maebel, an adorable vintage postal truck that’s now The Social Cow, serving ice cream classics like Push-Ups, Bomb Pops and ice-cream sandwiches. socialcowtruck.com
3. Chill with a cold brew
Plenty of seasonal options abound at coffee houses around town. We like the nostalgia-themed Summer Camp from Summit Coffee — an iced mocha latte topped with marshmallow cold foam and graham-cracker crumbs, minus the poison ivy and biting mosquitoes.
4. Slurp an adult slushie
Photograph courtesy DTR
Frosé — frozen rosé wine mixed with fruit, juice and, sometimes, liquor — seemed like a passing fad just a few years ago. But the frosty adult treat has become a summer mainstay on cocktail menus across town — and with the addition of the new Co-Op Frose and Eatery in South End (an outpost of the Sullivan’s Island OG), we can safely report the trend is here to stay. DTR SouthPark’s version, right, is made with Grey Goose Essences Watermelon & Basil vodka, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon and rosé.
5. Savor a summer soup
Photograph courtesy Bar Marcel
Like this oh-so-refreshing strawberry gazpacho from Bar Marcel Executive Chef Eduardo Rios.
Strawberry Gazpacho Recipe
6 cups chopped strawberries (about 2 pounds)
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup peeled and diced English cucumber
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar or sherry vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1. Mix together all ingredients except the oil.
2. Set aside for one hour to allow the flavors to marry together.
3. Transfer to a blender and blend.
4. As the mixture becomes smooth, slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil.
5. Blend until smooth.
6. Finish with toppings of your choice, and serve.
BOOK A DREAMY DAYCATION
Photograph courtesy JW Marriott Charlotte
6. Stay cool, be cool
Book a private cabana (complete with adult popsicles, fruit and energy drinks) at Aura Rooftop for next-level poolside vibes. Cabana reservations are going quickly at this trendy spot atop the JW Marriott in uptown. Prices start at $375 for four people, plus a food and beverage minimum of $125 weekdays/$200 weekends.
7. Stay ground level and melt your cares away
Try a summertime spa special. The Spa at The Ballantyne offers a tropical-inspired seasonal spa menu to help bring out your inner glow. Toska Spa and Facial Bar in SouthPark has an array of products (including an oxygenating mist treatment — a travel favorite, according to Toska) and treatments to keep your summer skin regime balanced and in check.
8. Be a pinball wizard
Remember spending hot summer days hiding out in the arcade at the mall? Relive those childhood days at Pins Mechanical Company in South End. It’s an indoor-outdoor playground for grownups (littles like it, too) where duckpin bowling is also a main attraction. If there’s a wait, grab a drink and hang out at one of the high-top tables or challenge a buddy to foosball. 307 W Tremont Ave., pinsbar.com
9. Make the most of tomato time
Photograph by Michael Hrizuk
Head to your nearest farmers market and reap the season’s bounty. Slice ’em on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, or make a tomato sandwich or fresh salsa. Browse our guide to local markets.
Dining out? From mid-July to mid-September, Harper’s Restaurant offers a seasonal Tomato Fest menu. Locally grown tomatoes shine in dishes like tomato bisque and a BLT Platter. The crab and avocado stack, with pesto, basil and fresh sliced tomatoes, is always a favorite.
10. Snap a cool selfie
Photograph courtesy Museum of Illusions
The optical tricks at the Museum of Illusions in uptown are a welcome distraction from a July heatwave. It takes about an hour to wander through this collection of mind-bending installations. Adult tickets are $24. Ally Center, 601 S. Tryon St.
11. Live out your superhero dreams
We won’t judge if you accessorize with a cape while strolling through Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes at Discovery Place Science. Get up close and personal with Hulk, wander through Wakanda and marvel at these iconic costumes, artifacts and more. Adult general admission tickets are $44. 220 W 6th St.
12. Reel fun
Screen time is cool(er). Get tickets to an indie movie at Independent Picture House, which has a summertime cult favorites series and a free Saturday morning cartoon hour for the kids. Another parent tip: Regal Stonecrest at Piper Glen has $2 select family movies for the first show of the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays all summer.
13. Shop till you drop
Break into summer fashion mode without breaking a sweat. Early-riser brisk walkers love the AC and window shopping at SouthPark Mall. With a new slate of openings in the last year (Alexander McQueen, Rowan, an expanded Altar’d State), your next fashion lap is bound to be fruitful. And there’s nothing wrong with refueling at Suffolk Punch Brewing while the kids burn energy on the playground at the newly reimagined West Plaza.
14. Get your Mahjong on
You’ve heard about the parties and mahjong-a-thons. What could be better than learning the classic tile game this summer with a nice, refreshing beverage as you gather around a table with friends? Yep, sign us up. Both @queencitymahjong and @mahjinthecity host lessons and parties in the QC.
15. Be actively social
Grab some friends and reserve a court at Rally in LoSo, Charlotte’s newest pickleball destination with a decidedly hangout vibe. With a pizza bar, cafe and cocktail lounges, pickleball won’t be the only attraction here when it opens this summer. 101 Southside Dr.
16. Upgrade your summer style
Shops like Sloan and Boem exude that effortless, casual vibe perfect for warm weather. Newcomer Leenie Rae in Waverly also brings a taste of California chic to Charlotte. Owner Arlene Cook founded the boutique in San Francisco in 2016 and moved it to Charlotte in 2021. Labels include Mother, Clare V., Velvet, Trovata and Xirena.
TAKE A DAY TRIP
17. Chase waterfalls
Photograph by Dave Cook, courtesy Hanging Rock State Park
The North Carolina mountains are full of them. Here are few to try:
- Dry Falls just a few miles west of downtown Highlands. The impressive 80-foot falls are a short walk from the parking area on U.S. 64. The paved footpath takes you behind the falls for a unique view of this natural phenomenon.
- Near Brevard, Skinny Dip Falls can be accessed from mile marker 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A short hike leads to the falls and a swimming hole along the Pigeon River.
- In Blowing Rock, the Glen Burney Falls Trail is a 3.2-mile out-and-back trail with a 600-foot elevation change and views of three falls that provides a strenuous workout. The trailhead is smack in the middle of downtown at Annie Cannon Gardens.
18. Walk with the animals
Photograph courtesy N.C. Zoo
Follow the baby boom at the North Carolina Zoo, which, in a 10-day span in May welcomed a baby giraffe, a chimpanzee and three sand kittens. The state-owned Asheboro zoo is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world and breeds only to preserve species that are threatened in the wild.
19. Fly through a forest
Photograph by Mike Belleme
Safely tethered to a sturdy steel cable, of course. The Whitewater Center has five zipline courses; other nearby options include The Gorge in Saluda, about 90 miles west of Charlotte. Its 1.25-mile guided canopy tour features 11 ziplines, 3 rappels and a skybridge on the edge of the Green River Gorge.