I recently returned from a jaunt around America with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The goal in working together was simple, not only to highlight some of their amazing properties around the country but to also share what makes the communities they call home so much fun to visit. I had a great time exploring a huge swathe of the country over the course of the week, but it all started with my stay at the elegant Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte.
Location and the city
For years I was a loyal US Airways passenger, using them whenever possible and even in many cases when they weren’t at all convenient. It was part of my (successful) quest to achieve and then retain that most desired frequent flyer status, and I’m sure I’m not alone. That also means that many of you, like me, may have traveled through Charlotte’s airport many times, but have never actually ever left it. Thinking back it still seems weird that I spent so much time eating a BBQ lunch in one of the airport’s many rocking chairs, but never saw the city that inspired them. That’s one reason why I was so excited to visit Charlotte and to see what makes this great Southern city so much fun to experience when airport lounges and Auntie Anne’s pretzels aren’t involved.
One of the first things I noticed when I pulled up to the front of The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte was its prime location. Calling downtown Charlotte home, it’s within easy walking distance to everything any visitor needs, whether it’s for business, pleasure or a mix of both. All of the big companies and banks are on the hotel’s doorstep, and most of the top tourist sites are easy to reach as well. As it turns out, there are quite a few things for the casual tourist to see and do in the city. Getting up early, I strolled around the downtown, enjoying the solitude of a Saturday morning and being able to appreciate the city before it truly woke up. Fun and interesting museums, street art, quirky cafes and restaurants and more are all found downtown. I visited the Levine Museum of the New South, one of the best museums in town and one devoted to sharing the complex history of the south principally from Reconstruction to the modern era. I also enjoyed some amazing food, particularly a classic BBQ lunch plate at Mert’s Heart & Soul. Be sure though to also take an Uber and visit the close-to-downtown brewery section of Charlotte, where micro-breweries and cideries have opened restaurants and biergartens, combining their unique beers with delicious food and creating a fun experience in the process. No matter what your tastes, there’s a lot to see and do in Charlotte and The Ritz-Carlton enjoys the best location to experience it all.
Rooftop garden and bees
It’s become somewhat normal for luxury hotels to keep their own beehives on-site. Not only is it great for the environment (honey bees are facing a pandemic) but the resulting honey is a nice perk for their guests. The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte though isn’t about token displays of sustainable tourism , it’s been a practice this LEED Gold-certified hotel has embraced for a long time. It’s perhaps best seen on the hotel’s vegetated roof with gardens and of course beehives. The beehives produce an incredible 70 pounds of chemical-free honey each year, and the plants are used in everything from those delicious meals served in The Ritz-Carlton’s restaurants to garnishes for drinks in the hotel’s famous Punch Room. In addition to the edible plants, there are flowering sedum plants that provide insulation, reduce runoff and mitigate urban heat island effect. It’s great to see a luxury hotel embrace this sort of responsible travel not as a mere token (ex. beehive in the corner) but in a very real way that in turn makes the guest experience much richer, even if they don’t always realize it.
Food and bartender for the ages
Food lovers are spoiled for choice at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte and one of my personal favorite spots is the Bar Cocoa. And yes, it’s just what it sounds like, an all-day dessert dining experience with artisan chocolates, cakes, macarons and more. I just may have been a repeat customer.
For savory options, BLT Steak is the flagship restaurant let by Chef Laurent Tourondel. While expertly prepared steaks are definitely the stars here, the restaurant has taken a lot of care in creating a rich and locally inspired menu that reflects the culture and traditions of the South. As a proud Southerner, I was overjoyed to find a fresh popover delivered to the table as just the beginning of a delicious dining experience.
Another culinary highlight of The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte experience is the Punch Room, a mixology lab experiment gone mainstream. With only 37 seats, this exclusive space isn’t cold or elitist, instead it effuses southern hospitality thanks to its direction under mixologist extraordinaire, Bob Peters. One of the leading cocktail experts in the country, the Punch Room is very much his domain and in this unique bar experience you’ll try one-of-a-kid cocktails created based on your specific likes and dislikes. This is one of those culinary experiences everyone has to try at least once in their lives.
Amazing comfort and elegance
At the heart of any great luxury experience though, are the comforts that we all enjoy. The lobby was my first clue that The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte agrees with my version of elegance, which is understated but of high quality. I’m not one for over-the-top bling, and luckily this property agrees with that design ethos. It’s a philosophy that carries through to the rest of the hotel, especially in the guest rooms. Enjoying a spacious suite, I quickly made myself at home and was tempted to never leave, instead enjoying being pampered in what was an incredibly comfortable but luxurious space. As with any Ritz-Carlton experience though, I was deeply impressed by the high levels of service at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte. So much more than just answering questions, staff go out of their way to make sure you’re having a good time. I asked the front desk staff about a good place to get a panoramic view of the city. Not only did they print out directions for me, but they also called ahead to make sure I’d be well taken care of. They didn’t have to do that, they wanted to do that and ultimately that’s what The Ritz-Carlton experience is all about.