Charlotte, North Carolina might be known for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Southern hospitality, but it also offers plentiful hidden gems nestled off the beaten path. Explore a scenic nature preserve, or sample tasty craft beers at a local brewery. With an abundance of Charlotte vacation rentals to choose from, you can stay close to these low-key points of interest. Make your way to these secret spots and turn your vacation into something unforgettable.

1. Davis General Store

The Davis General Store in north Charlotte is a local institution. It was established in 1890 to provide locals with farming supplies. It’s still run by the Davis family in the same building, a brick-and-wood structure reminiscent of an Old West building. Stop by for a walk into the past. While the selection of goods has changed a bit throughout the decades, it still carries a little bit of everything with a focus on local goods from boiled peanuts, homemade goods, and unique knick-knacks. Of course, you can still pick up some overalls, weed and feed, work boots, too.

2. Carrigan Farms

In the far northern reaches of the Charlotte metropolitan area just east of Lake Norman lies Carrigan Farms, an out-of-the-way hidden gem with stunning rolling hills, jutting quarry walls, and beautiful waterfalls. It’s a historic site at over 100 years old that also doubles as a functioning farm. You can go swimming at the quarry, complete with white sand beaches, hike up to the falls which flow in October, and explore the farm. The farm offers pick your own produce, hayrides, and a special haunted trail during the month of October. With vacation rentals nearby, you can divide your time between Carrigan Farms and Lake Norman for plenty of outdoor fun.

3. Birdsong Brewing Co.

Birdsong Brewing Co. is a favorite among locals with its unique craft beer flavors, such as Jalapeño Pale Ale and Eat A Peach ale. You can stop by for a pint which you can enjoy at your leisure in the taproom, or you can take a tour of the brewhouse and taste some of the different flavors along the way. Stop by for “THURSty THURSdays,” which have a beer release, a food truck on site to soak up all the alcohol, and some sort of event such as pint night or tap takeover. Because Birdsong Brewing Co. is located just east of the downtown nexus, check off some of your must-see items on your travel list while in the area; plus, public transportation means that you don’t have to be the designated driver.

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4. Big Rock Nature Preserve

The modest 22-acre Big Rock Nature Preserve is tucked away in south Charlotte in a residential neighborhood, making it a secret that only locals know about. While Romare Bearden Park and Latta Park are more popular and accessible, this preserve has privacy, solitude, and easy access if you get a vacation rental within the neighborhood. Other than the huge granite boulders that give the park its name, it boasts the McAlpine Creek Tributary, thick woods, ancient Native American habitation, and plenty of wildlife, offering both history and nature for the intrepid explorer.

5. Jetton Park

Jetton Park covers 104 acres along Lake Norman in northern Charlotte. It’s not the biggest or most popular park on the lake, but while most visitors head to Lake Norman State Park, make your way to the Jetton to escape the crowds and hang out with a few of the locals. Besides, more than 100 acres is enough space to include sand beaches, hiking trails, a picnic area, a formal garden, a playground, and tennis courts. Spend the entire day chilling at the park. You can even reserve a deck or gazebo for just your family. Better yet, get one of the vacation rentals nearby for ultimate water access.

6. Mac’s Speed Shop

Mac’s Speed Shop is a barbecue joint that’s a favorite among locals but beneath notice of most tourists. This local chain offers a few locations in south Charlotte for your convenience. Other than finger-licking barbecue with a slew of delicious sauces, you can also get a beer and Southern comfort food — think grits, collard greens, and mac ‘n’ cheese. Add in the bikers that call this place home, and you definitely have a unique experience.

7. Coffee Crawl

Charlotte has a pretty popular beer trail that locals and visitors alike take part in; however, the Charlotte Coffee Crawl is far less well-known but boasts amazing brews and interesting stops. With 10 cafes in the line-up, you might want to spread out the experience over two or three days. Get a passport and mark off the locations as you go, which include Boquete Mountain Coffee, Smelly Cat Coffeehouse, The Daily Press, Ozpresso, Kenilworth Espresso, Crown Station, Pure Intentions Coffee, Not Just Coffee Uptown, Eagle Speak Coffee, and Mugs Coffee. Grab some fresh pastries while you’re at it and explore the local neighborhoods, definitely a hidden gem.

8. The Common Market

The Common Market is part eatery and part backyard to all the locals. While you can certainly go and dine (and drink) the local brands, you can also just hang out on the patio, enjoy regular live music, and become part of the local community. Plus, The Common Market also hosts events; think neighborhood biking party. The Common Market is also a local chain with a few locations, one just to the east of Common market and the other to the southeast at Oakwold.

9. Anne Springs Close Greenway

Anne Springs Close Greenway, another hidden gem, is nestled among the forests and rolling fields of the rural south Charlotte metropolitan area. Needless to say, a vacation rental out here means solitude and peace with which to reconnect with your family or nature. The Greenway has it all from fishing and hiking to horseback riding and biking. There’s also a dog park attached so that you can bring your best four-legged friend on vacation with you. While there, explore the historic cabin or participate in sunset yoga, and there are often local events going on.

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