I hope you guys enjoyed my Thunder Road 5K recap, so here’s another post about the rest of our trip (race vacation… race-cation) to Charlotte a few weeks ago. As I noted in the race recap, we won this trip (lodging, race entries, and spending money) from the Y102.5 radio station here in Charleston, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to stay overnight and explore the city- as well as share some neat places with you guys.
Between errands and housework, I didn’t eat much lunch before we left for Charlotte, and we didn’t stop anywhere on the road to eat (I’m convinced no decent restaurants exist right off the interstate), so we were super hungry when we arrived. Located just a few miles from the race expo at the Sheraton, our pre-race dinner was at Pinky’s Westside Grill in Downtown Charlotte.
My friend Lizzie (current Charlotte resident, former Florence resident) recommended Pinky’s, and it did not disappoint. The restaurant had a cool VW bug outside in the lot and also one on the roof, along with some cool interior décor.
But, the entire menu of vegetarian and vegan options even beat the atmosphere.
I got the Nature Boy, which is a veggie burger topped with cheese and roasted red peppers (interesting burger topping). It was served on a sesame seed bun and pretty delicious- very large burger and filling, but I didn’t leave overly stuffed. Clay got the White Trash Burger, which came with tasty sriracha ranch sauce, and some wings.
Obviously, we were very hungry and happy to get our food.
We were also pretty happy to get into our hotel. It was an Embassy Suites that was a quick 10 minute drive from the start- on an interstate and definitely not walking distance, but still an okay drive.
The room itself had a separate kitchen area and living room area; it was clearly designed for people travelling on business or staying in the hotel for several days. Or in our case, so we could watch one game in the room with the bed and one in the room with the couch and desk (college football addicts, are we not?) Our only complaint was the lack of free wifi ($10 per day- bleh!)
The huge king sized bed was pretty amazing since we have a queen at home, and we both got a great night’s sleep before the race.
The radio station hooked us up with two nights in the hotel, so after our Thunder Road 5K race Saturday morning, we had the entire afternoon and evening to enjoy Charlotte. Once we’d celebrated my age group win and cleaned up, we did what any Charleston resident would do in Charlotte: hit the mall.
For a great city, Charleston’s malls are sorely lacking, so we went to South Park Mall, about 20 minutes from our hotel. The mall had a crazy tall Christmas tree- pretty awesome to Christmas shop in Charlotte! I bought a few ornaments at the mall.
South Park has a ton of stores we don’t have in Charleston, including places I like, such as Macy’s and Abercrombie, and upscale stores that this house poor girly can’t afford (Lilly Pulitzer, Coach, 7 for all mankind, lululemon). An Xbox One was on demo in the mall for all the guys to play while the ladies shopped. Every mall needs this- clever idea, South Park!
We had a quick lunch in the mall’s food court (definitely not the best food, but it did the job of feeding us while we were at the mall and before we could get a nice dinner out) and shopped until we dropped- or until we hit every store we could afford- before heading back to our hotel. Embassy Suites Charlotte has a nice garden courtyard and a happy hour each night from 5-7 when you could get free drinks, so we sat downstairs and watched some football and ate some snacks (Clay had a drink, I only drink girly drinks so I didn’t partake).
For dinner, we met up with Clay’s aunt Janet and her son at Casablanca Café, a Moroccan/Greek restaurant in University City (north Charlotte). Casablanca Café was my first time having Moroccan food, so I had the vegetable paella, a rice and vegetable mixture that also came with a salad, while Clay had the lamb tangine. We also split a falafel appetizer.
It pays to have a family member in a city because they can recommend great restaurants. Clay hadn’t seen Janet in years and it was my first time meeting her and her son, so we had fun catching up and just talking about life.
After our wonderful dinner, we headed back to the hotel and watched the South Carolina vs. Florida football game (Carolina won- hooray!) before turning in for another great night of sleep in the huge bed.
As if the bed didn’t spoil us enough, we had a full breakfast cooked to order at the hotel on Sunday morning. The hotel had breakfast on Saturday morning, but neither of us wanted much of anything to eat before the race, so we made up for it on Sunday. Cooked to order eggs, meat, pancakes, grits, potatoes, and omelets definitely saved us from having to eat breakfast on the road and kept us full until we got back to Charleston.
Apparently all the Embassy Suites hotels have this, and it can save you time and money if you like a huge breakfast- who doesn’t love breakfast food?
All in all, we had a great time in Charlotte. It’s a pretty cool city, and I’d love to go back to visit more and run. Clay’s aunt lives there and I have some cousins there, plus it’s not a bad drive. In fact, I wouldn’t mind doing the Thunder Road half marathon- Charlotte has neat terrain for running since there are actual hills.
But, Charleston is home now, and we were pretty stoked to get home Sunday afternoon and rest up after the fun weekend. It was a great little weekend trip away and we had lots of fun.