January 12, 2017 • PEOPLE, PLACES, Southern Travel, STYLE

DJ on the Road: An Expert’s Guide to Charlotte, NC

On the precipice of 30, Charlotte, NC native Jakiya Brown left her corporate job in brand management to do what a lot of us dream of, but few actually pull off: travel the world and Insta along the way. As The Traveling Fro (find her Instagram here and blog here), she’s been to places as diverse as Haiti, Colombia, San Francisco, and Charleston, SC.

And while Jakiya pays rent in Manhattan (though admittedly, she’s rarely there these days), her heart nevertheless lies in Charlotte. She was just there on a holiday visit, in fact. And lucky for us, she took our Draper James Preston Top and Betty Bag along for the ride. What she sent back in return (in addition to these gorgeous pics!) was an insider’s guide to Charlotte that she put together just for us.

Traveling Fro explores Charlotte, NC

Jakiya Brown of The Traveling Fro paired our Draper James Embroidered Preston Top with a pleated leather skirt. “This top is totally me,” she says. “It has just enough flair on the collar that you can dress it up with heels or go casual with jeans and booties. It’s the ideal day-to-night transition top, too.” (Photo credit: Vince Jamael)

Traveling Fro in Charlotte, NC

“The Draper James Betty Bag is exactly what I need for short trips,” says Jakiya, pictured here at Lady M Confections (her favorite local bakery) with the bag at her feet. “It’s a sturdy canvas overnight bag big enough to fit a pair of tall boots and all of my make-up and toiletries in addition to a few outfits. The design is cute, but subtle, and the leather handles are extremely sturdy.” (Photo credit: Kim Pham.)

Broadly, what is going on in Charlotte to make it worth a visit right now?
Charlotte is the third fastest growing city in the US. I like to call Charlotte a Southern woman with a modern twist—much like myself! Booming with young professionals, home to major sports teams, and the perfect balance between outdoor escapes and slower city life, Charlotte has something to offer everyone.

New coffee shops, art districts, and eclectic bars in places like NoDa and Plaza Midwood are emerging every day. The Queen City also celebrates amazing Southern food like BBQ, fried chicken, and buttermilk biscuits.

Please share your favorite spots in Charlotte…

Classic Southern restaurant:
Price’s Chicken Coop near the South End of Charlotte is a must. It has been serving the best fried chicken dinners since 1962. Just be sure to bring cash!

Nontraditional restaurant:
Cowfish Sushi & Burger Bar is a small chain with locations in four Southern cities. As the name suggests, it’s a fusion between the best burgers and sushi dishes. Cowfish has such unique and creative combinations of food, you have to try it at least once.

Coffee spot:
Not Just Coffee is my go-to in Charlotte. It serves the most flavorful, carefully crafted, brewed coffee in an open space that is inviting, warm, and cozy.

Soul Gastrolounge is hands-down one of the best lounges/bars in Charlotte. It’s located in Plaza Midwood. Order a fresh cucumber mule with the dirty south nachos, BBQ pork skewers, or Asian wings.

Lady M Confections originated in New York and now has locations in major cities all over the world. (The Charlotte location opened last summer.) It’s famous for its Mille Crêpe, a cake featuring twenty paper-thin handmade crêpes layered with light pastry cream. The setting and décor feel very Southern, yet modern and urban. It also has an art gallery inside.

Traveling Fro enjoys coffee in Charlotte, NC

“In this photo, taken at Lady M, I have a QC (Queen City) magazine in my hand,” says Jakiya. “It’s a local magazine with great suggestions for things to do.” (Photo credit: Kim Pham.)

Place to enjoy the outdoors:
I have been going to Freedom Park since I was a kid. It has paved trails, tennis and volleyball courts, and acres of greenery. It also hosts film and musical festivals during the summer. Each September it is home to the 50-year-old Festival in the Park, which brings in people from all over the world to celebrate local music, culture, and art.

Neighborhood: The Fourth Ward neighborhood is a historic neighborhood in Charlotte that is at the intersection of old meets new. You will see large old traditional Southern houses with the shiny city skyline right behind them. It’s a great place to stroll around and admire the preserved homes. Just ask a local where to find them.

Traveling Fro in Charlotte, NC

“This shot of a historic home in the Fourth Ward neighborhood of Charlotte was inspired by my style of travel photos: large scenic shots and grand buildings and houses,” says Jakiya. (Photo credit: Vince Jamael.)

The Levine Museum of the New South is an interactive history museum that highlights people, places, and things that have shaped the South. Focusing on the South after the Civil War, it gives a unique, yet real perspective of what we know as the South today.

Spot only a local would know about:
Serving New Orleans cuisine as good as what you’ll find in New Orleans, Cajun Queen is a local favorite for its spicy food, live jazz, and outdoor terrace facing the growing Charlotte skyline. It’s set inside an old two story home right outside of Uptown on E. 7th Street and is easy to miss!

Place to shop:
One of the cutest shops in Charlotte is Magnolia Emporium right beside Lady M in Southend. With its eclectic décor and Queen Charlotte tribute mural on the building, it’s hard to miss from the outside. On the inside, the shop is super-unique, with everything from vintage jewelry, to candles, furniture and furs.

Magnolia Emporium in Charlotte, NC

Magnolia Home is one of Jakiya’s favorite stores in Charlotte. (Photo credit: Vince Jamael.)