Since moving to Charlotte nearly five years ago, I've discovered plenty of summer activities worth checking out. But though my list of "must attend" events is long, the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops performances remain at the top. If you're new to the experience, here are a few of my tips for making the most of it.
Schedule out-of-town visits accordinglyWhen my best friend from high school came to check out Charlotte for the first time, a Summer Pops show was definitely on the itinerary for her trip. It was the perfect way to break up a weekend that included plenty of eating, brewery hopping, and pool time. If you've got friends and family members who are eyeing a trip to the Queen City, plan accordingly.
Bring the whole familyThe Summer Pops experience is perfect for everyone in your family, because it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about the symphony. You're hearing familiar music (selections this year will be from E.T., Star Wars, Wicked, and The Sound of Music, just to name a few) in a relaxed, comfortable setting. Kids will love running around outside at the park before the show starts, and the experience feels approachable for attendees of all experience levels.
Get there early to snag the ideal spotNeedless to say, the Summer Pops shows are popular. If you want a great sightline, get to Symphony Park early - gates open at 5 p.m., prelude acts are at 7 p.m. - so you have time to set up shop and pick the perfect spot. Bring your favorite blanket or a low-backed chair so you stay comfortable throughout the evening without blocking others' views.
Pack accordinglyUnlike other concert experiences where you're spending money on food and drinks in addition to the price of a ticket, at Summer Pops you can bring your own treats to munch on as you enjoy the show. Personally, I'd recommend something light, such as cheese and fruit. Don't forget that you can bring wine and beer too (no liquor)! Another favorite option of mine is to pop over and enjoy the patio at Reid's Fine Foods before heading to the performance. Reid's is also on site at the park, so you can purchase charcuterie, etc. without walking too far, if you didn't pack your own.
Choose the Premium Seating Club for shade and easeWhen you want the easiest Summer Pops experience from start to finish, the Premium Seating Club is your best bet. A little pricier, but that's because your ticket includes VIP parking, seating under a tent, and a boxed picnic from Reid's. It's probably the most relaxing way to experience the show, if you have it in your budget.
Beat the heatIn case you haven't noticed, Charlotte summers are hot, to say the least. But if you want to enjoy the music of the Charlotte Symphony without the added dose of humidity, the Summer Pops series has an indoor experience, too! On June 22, a DeLorean will be riding down Tryon Street for Back to the Future In Concert at Belk Theater. I repeat, a DeLorean. Soak up both the music and the sweet, sweet air conditioning.
Maximize your flexibilityIf you love the option of buying tickets at the gate but also are trying to be kind to your wallet, the GoPass is your best bet. Select the shows that appeal most to you, and save 25 percent versus if you bought tickets for individual shows.
Use your social media skills to your advantageIf you're social media savvy, you can use your love of hashtags and filters to your advantage! When you snap a great shot during a Summer Pops show, post it to your favorite social media channel and you may win a pair of tickets to an upcoming performance. Hashtag is #SummerPops2018
Also, before you go, be sure to consult these handy Summer Pops FAQs to find answers to all your park questions.
Which Summer Pops shows are you planning to check out this year? If you see me at a performance, make sure to say hi!
By Lauren Levine, guest blogger
Lauren Levine is a Charlotte-based freelance writer and co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @lifewithlauren1.