As Charlotte’s craft beer scene continues to boom, when you don’t indulge in something sudsy and hoppy, it can feel like you’re out of place. Regardless of the reason—whether it's health, Whole 30, you're preggers or you're just not feeling it—the Queen City actually has plenty to do even if you prefer to keep your BAC at zero. Skip the Netflix and takeout, here are some of the city’s best alcohol-free ways to spend your time. This list is brought to you by Lauren Levine, freelance writer and half of The Margarita Confessionals. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @lifewithlauren1 or @MargaritaTalk.
Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen makes learning to prepare something beyond Easy Mac possible. Show up and you’ll find all the ingredients waiting for you, then Alyssa and her team will lead you step-by-step through the process. You’ll depart with a recipe book in tow so you can recreate the meals at home, plus you’ll garner a much better understanding of essential kitchen skills. Classes are BYOB, so if some members of your crew want to drink and others don’t, everyone can be content. After you’re done, throw a dinner party for your friends to show off your newly minted culinary capabilities.
Escape rooms like Exit Strategy are a brain-teasing way to hang out with friends or bond with co-workers. You’re “locked” in a themed room for an hour and must decipher carefully worded clues to reveal the next step in the puzzle, eventually resulting in a key that unlocks the room and sets you free. Each room has a different theme, so you could be solving a murder mystery, trying to get out of a mineshaft or escaping from a cabin deep in the woods. You’ll use teamwork, logic and a little bit of luck to make your way out.
When you’re sick of showing up to an event in the same top that everyone else is wearing, Charlotte’s vintage shops boast unique garments that ooze personality. Plaza Midwood in particular is a haven if you’re a fan of clothes with a backstory. Spots like Stash Pad, Boris and Natasha, and Buffalo Exchange are packed with anything-but-boring clothing, jewelry and accessories. Spend hours searching for hidden gems, and help your pals pick out something they wouldn’t normally snag for themselves.
Nostalgia and just the right amount of nerdiness unite at Abari, an old-school video game lover’s dream. Did you use to waste hours in your best friend’s basement crushing levels on Super Nintendo? Did you beg your parents for quarters to play pinball when you hit an arcade at the boardwalk during family vacations? This game bar was created specifically for you. Walk in and you’ll find wall-to-wall displays of old school fun, including everything from Mortal Kombat II to Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man. Challenge your pals to a game. Loser buys doughnuts next door at Joe’s Doughs.
Charlotte has no shortage of museums when you’re craving culture and sophistication. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one such venue worth exploring. Scope it out solo or recruit a fine art-loving friend to join you. Known for its famous Firebird statue holding court out front, the Bechtler offers more than just its jaw-dropping collection from world-renowned artists. The museum also hosts a wide range of events, including the popular Jazz at the Bechtler series happening on the first Friday of every month.
If all of your friends want to hit a brewery, suggest meeting at Lenny Boy. You don’t have to sit awkwardly while everyone else sips on lagers or IPAs. Instead, order their kombucha, a delicious, non-alcoholic beverage. Added bonus: it’s great for your immune system. The drink comes in flavors like Strawberry, Good Ol’ Ginger and Elite Beet, among others.
*If you're pregnant, it's advised you check with your doc before sipping on kombucha.
Halloween may be over, but a ghost tour is always a perfectly eerie way to spend an evening. Carolina History and Haunts offers tours that will make you want to sleep with the lights on. Wind your way through Charlotte’s creepiest locales on a 90-minute walking tour. For an added freak-out factor, jump on one of their Full Moon expeditions. Take a few extra-tough members of your crew along for this one.
Add homemade beauty to your living space with classes at Crowned Sparrow Co. Regardless of natural-born skill level, Crowned Sparrow teaches you how to make personalized trinkets, such as a chic terrarium or wall hangings that demonstrate your North Carolina pride. Grab a few friends and spend the day unleashing your inner creative. Show up and you’ll find the materials to help you bring your vision to life, as well as the guidance necessary to avoid the frustration that can accompany trying to replicate a YouTube tutorial. How do they make it look so easy?
Whether you’ve always secretly wanted to be a comedian or just want to try something new, improv classes are a great way to break out of your shell and boost your confidence. Charlotte Comedy Theater offers classes at three levels; each session lasts for six weeks. The program meets at Wet Willies and the price is $230, including free admission to shows.
Basketball season is in full swing, so head to the Spectrum Center (formerly Time Warner Cable Arena) and cheer on your Hornets. Even if you don’t know much about the sport itself, games are always energetic and feature solid halftime entertainment. Afterward, you can grab a bite uptown.