Jun 4, 2015 - Things to Do

Intern Survival Guide



Congratulations! You are one of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of soon to be and recent college graduates*** currently planning your move to Charlotte to intern or start a new career at one of our large companies. Charlotte is home to the headquarters of 7 Fortune 500 companies, which means every summer our little metropolis hosts a wave of go-getters who are going to perform mundane tasks for 10 weeks.

Like most everyone in Charlotte, you probably don’t have much of a connection to the city. Maybe you have a friend of a friend or distant relative in the area, but those people inevitably live in some suburban outpost like Mint Hill. So you’re taking a bit of a risk going it alone and choosing Charlotte for your internship and presumably as the location to start your career.

The job market for folks in your situation is pretty good, so chances are you were deciding between a handful opportunities in other locations. This puts a little pressure on Charlotte to live up to your decision, and you’re going to want an experience that makes you feel like you made the right one.

The work experience you’ll have is certainly part of this puzzle, but your social experience probably weighs even more heavily.

You likely have friends who are off at internships or working in bigger cities, and you want to make sure you have an Instagram feed that stacks up so people aren’t feeling sorry for you when you’re back on campus in late August or later fall.

The good news is that you can have this experience in Charlotte. The bad news is that while Charlotte has a lot to offer, it’s not as obvious as it might be in other cities.

For example, in Chicago, everyone in your office would be overflowing with advice on how to spend your summer. Get out on the lake, go to a Cubs game, do a river tour, don’t miss Second City. But Charlotte’s decades spent as a commuter town are hard to erase, and chances are the majority of your coworkers drive 30 to 45 minutes from their homes in the ‘burbs and aren’t familiar enough with the entertainment options close to the city.

That means that you’ll inevitably have this conversation:

YOU: “What should I do during the weekends this summer? Any suggestions?”
COWORKER: “Be sure to go to the Whitewater center. I hear that’s fun”
YOU: “Ok, that’s one Saturday down, thanks. Anything else? I heard their baseball stadium is new”
COWORKER: “Yeah, I haven’t been but people seem to like it. You could go up to the speedway to check that out but I guess the big race won’t happen until you’re back at school.”
YOU: “Oh ok. I’m not that into NASCAR anyway”
and SCENE.

If this conversation doesn’t happen to you, I’ll be shocked. It happens to everyone.

Luckily for you, I’m here to provide a list of what to do for the experiences you’ll try to pack in during your 10 weeks in the Queen City:

Recurring Fun

Hopefully you’ll settle into a nice weekday going out groove on your own, but here are some recurring weeknight events to check out that will get you into some different, less-obvious neighborhoods in the city:

  • Monday: All You Can Eat Crab Legs at Kennedy’s for $20. You read that right.
  • Tuesday: Trivia Night at Dilworth Neighborhood Grill
  • Wednesday: Music Trivia at Ed’s Tavern
  • Thursday: Alive After Five at Epicentre. Your middle aged coworkers who live in Ballantyne will recommend this as well, even though they’ve never been. It’s fine. You should go at least once.
  • Spare Weekends & Sundays: Breweries. Go to all of the Breweries. They’re all good. None of them are bad. Make a list. Go to all of them.

If/when your parents come to visit

This can be a tough one because outside of going out to eat and walking around Freedom Park, there’s not a whole lot of obvious stuff to do with your parents. But take my advice and go to 7th Street Market for coffee then walk to the Bechtler Museum down Tryon.

This is a great way to show off three aspects of Charlotte to out of town baby boomers unfamiliar with the city:

(1) 7th Street Market, which is like a little microcosm of Charlotte’s burgeoning local food scene. Plus Not Just Coffee is the best coffee in town.

(2) Tryon Street. Walking from 7th to MLK down Tryon is Charlotte at its most metropolitan. You walk past almost all the skyscrapers. There are banners on the streetlights advertising exciting events coming. (Pippin! Dirty Dancing! The Coca-Cola 600!!) There is construction of another tower, which your dad will make a mental note of and tell his coworkers how much Charlotte is growing. It will seem very busy for just a five block walk, which is just enough to seem long and give the impression of a bustling metropolis.

(3) Charlotte’s Museum Scene. They might not be old and famous, but Charlotte’s museums are super nice. You won’t have to battle crowds and you’ll get to see the Disco Chicken outside the Bechtler.

For dinner, pile into their car and go to the Cowfish. Go early to beat the crowd so the wait doesn’t spoil the experience. Your mom will still talk about that time you went there years later. Mine still does.

When friends visit

You gotta show them what they’re missing spending their summer in super lame New York City. Stop trying to make NYC happen, Gretchen. Jeez. So this is where you put your cards on the table to show what makes Charlotte unique. What you’re going for here isn’t the nicest or best places in Charlotte, but the unique places that will be the most memorable to an out-of-towner who is only here for 48 hours. My recommendations:

  • Friday night: Go to NoDa and eat at Cabo Fish Taco, then walk around afterwards.
  • Saturday: The Whitewater Center. Your coworker was right. The Whitewater Center is the Truth. Get a day pass and do everything. It’s a great time.
  • Saturday night: Gotta hit up Plaza Midwood. Anywhere will work, but I’d say start at Thomas Street Tavern, then the Whiskey Warehouse rooftop for the view of the skyline. Go to the Thirsty Beaver and create some late-night memories your friends will still be talking about come August.

To get a taste of “real Charlotte”

After you’ve been here a few weeks and have seen all the Epicentre and Uptown bars, you will naturally wonder where all the “real” Charlotteans are. Well, that’s complicated because it’s actually changing as we speak. But you’re not interested in nuance right now. What you’re after is the answer, which is: Montford. Take a cab to Montford. Go to Brazwell’s. Sing at Jeff’s Bucket Shop. Go to Good Food for a great small plates meal.

For a Weekend Getaway

A funny thing I’ve found about Charlotte is that during the summer, you will always know at least one person who is either:

  • Going to Charleston that weekend
  • Has just returned from Charleston the previous weekend
  • Is planning a trip to Charleston for an upcoming weekend

Charlotteans love going to Charleston. It’s only 3.5 hours away. It’s great, you should go. You can also get to Wrightsville Beach and Myrtle Beach in under four hours, but they don’t have an insane reality show like Charleston does.

Concert Venues

One of the great things about Charlotte is that its size, geography, and demographics attract all the major sporting events, concerts, and Broadway shows that a larger city does, but you can almost always get into these events for close to face value of a ticket because there isn’t the crazy demand there is in other major cities. That’s nice.

And that’s doubly true for concerts, where seeing ticket prices double once they go on sale is a common occurrence in larger cities but rarely happens here. We’ve got some truly great concert venues, and you should make it a point to attend at least one show. Here’s a checklist for you:

So there you have it. This is far from a comprehensive list of things to do, and I absolutely encourage you to explore on your own, but it can take some time to get to know Charlotte, and the city has changed so much recently that a lot of folks you’ll meet just aren’t aware how much great stuff is out there.

It’s my sincere hope that when you look back on your summer in Charlotte, you feel that you had a big city experience, and got to see all that our fair city has to offer, and that you didn’t spend 10 weeks at the Epicentre, eating Moe’s and Five Guys and wondering why so many people think Charlotte is great.

***While this article is directed at interns and recent college grads moving to Charlotte for the first time, it’s my hope that everyone could learn a little something about our awesome city by getting out of our routines and seeing what makes Charlotte great.


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