Best Festival: None. I guess I'm too old for the whole festival thing. I think these events sometimes stifle the existing downtown businesses (except for the bars during the music-oriented festivals. Nobody goes to the downtown restaurants during Speed Street).
Best Place for a First Date : My last first date was 35 years ago, but if it were today, I would have a drink on the Aquavina terrace overlooking the wonderful park called the Green, then, after walking through the Green down to the Square, through the waterfall park with the chess players to Arpa, a sensational tapas restaurant, tiny space with a big city feel. Then, walking by the Carillon lobby to check out the three major league art works, down to the new Presto Grill for dessert beers (or half price bottles of wine on Saturday night) on the roof terrace.
Best Hardware Store: To find an obscure part: Little Hardware. To find hardware-oriented home furnishings: Blackhawk Hardware. Unfortunately, the best chance of solving a problem with one stop is the big box store: Home Depot or Lowe's.
Best New Store: Nordstrom (with reservations). The answer should be Nordstrom, the most ballyhooed store opening ever in Charlotte. But this store doesn't stack up to Nordstroms in other cities. It seems it's been toned down for Charlotte with stacks of khakis and button down shirts. Too bad.