Day 267

If I were to describe my ideal Minneapolis weekend, chances are it would look something like the one I just experienced. It was all about what this area has to offer and as expected, the Twin Cities did not disappoint.

It all started Saturday, when I ventured over to Chipotle's Cultivate Festival. Held in beautiful Loring Park, the event featured music, food, and a variety of vendors and exhibits. In particular, I was ecstatic to watch a demonstration from Chef Andrew Zimmern, who is probably best known from his travel show, Bizarre Foods. I swear I could listen to that man talk about his adventures for hours on end. Along with Anthony Bourdain, they’re two people who really helped inspire this little project we’re on. Another highlight of the festival was the day’s headlining musical act, Portugal. The Man. I’ve been such a fan of their music for a long, long time and it was great to finally see them live. 

There was so much going on at all times, but even amongst the chaos you could tell everyone was having a good time. The entire event was based around a very poignant message of healthful foods, constructive conservations and ethical eats—all things I actively participated in and certainly support to the best of my ability. And unlike some other festivals I’ve attended, I’d say the overall atmosphere remained pretty relaxed for the most part. All in all, it was a great day and the weather was absolutely perfect for the entirety of the event (Of course, the free samples didn't hurt either). 

I didn’t think the day could get any better, but as soon as Portugal. The Man wrapped their set, I dashed a few blocks north to First Avenue—a venue I’ve been dying to step foot in for years and years. There, I got to see two of my favorite artists, Astronautalis and SIMS (check out my interview with him here), perform under the collective banner of AstroSims. I also got a chance to sit down and interview Astronautalis before the show, but I’ll save that for Thursday.

The entire show was pure energy from start to finish and the crowd was electric all night long. I’ve been to quite a few concerts in my life and I’d have to say that this was one of the most entertaining I’ve ever been to. When I exited the venue and realized I was drenched with sweat, I took it as a true sign of the good time I just had.

The next morning, I decided to take it easy, as I was still pretty spent from the night before. So, I walked down to the Uptown area and grab a few scrumptious morsels at Bogarts Donuts. After my visit to Glam Doll a few weekends ago, I was told to give them a try and I’m really glad I listened. They don’t have any crazy flavors or anything, but—whoa doggy—do they have some amazing donuts.

The weekend wasn't all puppy dogs and rainbows though. On Friday, I fell victim to fraud—twice. The first one happened on my credit card and they took care of it rather easily, so I thought that'd be the end of it. Well, when I arrived home that night, I noticed the same company tried to put the same charge on my debit card, which is through a completely different bank. They made it much more difficult on me, canceling my card and issuing a replacement that I may not see until next month in Austin. Needless to say, it's not the most ideal situation for someone on the road. But, I'm not going to let it slow me down. That's for sure. 

-Steve-

Day 127

Inside Epicentre

My weekend kicked off with a bang, as the BooneOakley team gathered for Taco Friday. Departing creative, Curtis Petraglia helmed the taco station, while I manned the salsa table. I’ll miss Curtis, but since he’s relocating to Los Angeles, I might see him at some point down the road. You just never know. The tummy-filling fiesta led into a wonderful weekend, punctuated by a screening of Captain America: Winter Soldier on Saturday and a relaxing evening with Wrestlemania 30 on Sunday. (That’s right, I watch wrestling. I’m not ashamed!)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. As I was walking through “Uptown” Charlotte over the weekend, I begin to realize that this city reminds me a lot of Cleveland. Both have a lot to offer, yet when the weekend rolls around, it can feel like walking through a ghost town. That’s because much of their population lives in the surrounding suburbs. However, just by taking a stroll through each of these cities, you can also see they’re making great strides in bringing people back.

From new apartment complexes to redesigned green spaces, Charlotte is not only looking to bring in new business, they want to bring back long-term residents as well. You can’t walk two blocks without seeing the grand opening of a restaurant or a construction crew hard at work on a new facade. Not only that, but Charlotte is also expanding outward to accommodate those who want the feel of the big city, without the noise and congestion. I actually came across several apartment complexes on the city’s borders, each of which offered a café, bar, restaurant or shop on the building’s first floor. When you connect these to the “uptown” area, you create a pathway for people to enjoy all the city has to offer, without having to stray too far from home. I think it’s an idea a lot of people can get behind.

Another view of Epicentre

One big accomplishment I have to mention is a retail complex called Epicentre. In my first day here, I was wandering around looking for somewhere to eat. Sure, I’d come across random pizza places and upscale bistros, but nothing was calling out to me. Then, I stumbled upon Epicentre. It was buzzing with life and immediately caught my attention. Almost feeling like an oasis in the desert, it’s a 4-story complex that offers everything from a Gold's Gym and movie theater to a sushi restaurant and bowling alley. I even discovered that it’s connected to the Omni Hotel and Time Warner Cable Arena, making it ideal for travelers and game day enthusiasts alike. I can’t imagine this will be the only one to pop up in Charlotte, as this is exactly what the city needs—options. Plus, if that's not enough, Epicentre even hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. Now don’t get me wrong, “Uptown” has a lot going on, but you can tell that a majority of its clubs and restaurants are either brand new or only a few years old. Epicentre, which brings a plethora of these options together, is merely another feather in the cap of a city that’s on the verge of revitalization. 

A similar vision is taking over in Cleveland as well. You can see it in the East 4th St. neighborhood, the redevelopment of The Flats or the soon-to-open “The 9” building. So, while you may not look to either of these cities for their robust nightlife, I feel that’s going to change very, very soon. Both are committed to growing and establishing their downtown areas as the place to live, work and play for years to come.

-Steve-

Day 120

I think it’s safe to say I finally found spring weather; turns out it was hiding in Charlotte the whole time. After months of snowstorms, heavy winds and bitter cold temperatures, the sunny days have finally arrived. In fact, if all goes as planned, I don’t think I’ll see another snowflake for the remainder of the project.

Be honest, could you feel me smile as I wrote that?

I’ve been to Charlotte a handful of times, because my brother used to live nearby when he was the Director of Marketing at Carowinds Amusement Park. However, this is my first time visiting the city itself. So, while I am familiar with Charlotte as a whole, the uptown area is going to be a new experience for me. I did spend a majority of my Sunday exploring the area and here are five things I learned:

A Map of Charlotte

  1. Downtown Charlotte is actually referred to as “Uptown” Charlotte
  2. Most places in the city are closed on Sunday
  3. This city is extremely hard to navigate without a car or bicycle
  4. A majority of the city’s shops and restaurants are located in the suburbs
  5. Charlotte, itself, is divided into both districts and wards

As you might have guessed by #3 on that list, this month also begins what I like to call the “Great Transportation Conundrum”. Unlike the cities I’ve already visited, Charlotte doesn’t have a subway system, nor is it regulated to a dense downtown area. So, I’m eager to find out how city-life differs in an place such as this. My ultimate goal is to regulate my commutes to walking and bike riding, but we’ll see how well that goes. I may end up rethinking my plan before too long. After all, it did take me two hours to reach the nearest Target by foot. One day at a time though; one day at a time. 

As for now, I just plan on enjoying the beautiful weather and exploring every nook and cranny of this wonderful city. 

-Steve-