Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Uptown CLT: The Holiday Sanity Tour

You're stuffed. The kids aren't the only ones feeling squirrelly. And you're eager to show your out-of-town guests a fun time.

Here's a family-friendly, 1.5-mile, 8-stop activity tour of uptown Charlotte that is sure to satisfy everyone in your crowd.

Print this map of Center City Charlotte to help you navigate.

1) Take the trolley

CityLYNX Gold Line is a free ride to uptown on a replica vintage street car. Board the trolley at one of six stops along its route, which runs along Elizabeth Ave./Trade St. from Hawthorne Ln. to the Spectrum Center.

We like to find a parking spot in the Elizabeth neighborhood and jump on at the rail terminus in front of the main entrance of Novant Presbyterian Hospital on Hawthorne Ln. Uptown, the ride ends on Trade St. between the bus station and the Spectrum Center. Visit the LYNX Gold Line site for operating hours and stop locations.

(NOTE: You CAN take a stroller on the trolley. There is a handicap-accessible bench at each end of the trolley that folds up. The conductor can help.)

2) Walk the rail trail

At the final trolley stop uptown, take the Spectrum Center stairs up to the LYNX Blue Line light rail platform. (There’s also an elevator just on the other side of the overpass if you’re pushing a stroller.) A paved pedestrian sidewalk runs alongside the track.

Taking a right will lead you to Imaginon and First Ward Park. Take a left for a 0.3 mile stroll past the Epicenter and toward the Charlotte Convention Center. The trail ends at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

3) Play on The Green

When you get to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., take a right and walk one block (0.2 mi.) to College St. Cross at the light and take a left. A block ahead (0.05 mi.) on your right will be The Green, a whimsical green space tucked between College St. and Tryon St.

Solve hidden riddles, walk on the walls, watch the fish fountains or enjoy the many pieces of artwork throughout the park.

4) A stagecoach and a disco chicken

Strolling from one end of The Green to the other puts you on S. Tryon St., directly across the road from the famous-in-Charlotte “Firebird” statue, sometimes affectionately referred to as the "disco chicken." You’ll want to get a photo here.

Before you cross Tryon St., though, duck into the Wells Fargo History Museum (401 S. Tryon St.) on your right to see some interesting relics from the history of banking and gold mining in North Carolina. You can also climb aboard a replica of the signature Wells Fargo coach. The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

5) Get creative at The Mint 

Just across Levine Avenue of the Arts from the Firebird is the Mint Museum Uptown (500 South Tryon St.). This is a perfect place to take an indoor  break. Yes, even – and especially – for the youngest members of your party.

The Lewis Family Gallery on the main level of the museum, just behind the guest services desk is perfect for kids (and adults) of all ages. Toddlers can plan in a foam block pit in one corner. Preschoolers will love the play kitchen. Older kids will enjoy the building stations. And everyone will appreciate the excuse to get creative in the make-your-own art area.

The Mint Museum Uptown is open Wednesday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Bonus tip: Admission is free every Wednesday 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

6) Eat, play and shop at the Christmas Village

Leaving the Mint Museum Uptown, take Levine Avenue of the Arts toward S. Church St. Take a right on Church and go one block to arrive at Romare Bearden Park (0.15 mi.), where you’ll find the Charlotte Christmas Village, a European-style holiday market with vendors offering homemade goods, food and drinks as well as live performances and special events, including Santa appearances.

The Christmas Village opens November 23 after the Thanksgiving Day Parade and opens daily at 11 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday through Christmas Eve. It closes at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday.

Romare Bearden Park is a destination itself beyond the Christmas Village. It offers amazing skyline views and plenty of space to run, climb and play. If bratwurst and mulled wine aren’t your thing, grab a takeout pizza from Mellow Mushroom across the street and picnic at a table in the park.

7) Carol with the bears

Take 3rd St. back to Tryon and turn left toward center city (0.5 mi.) to end the excursion at Founders Hall, the impressive atrium beneath the flagship Bank of America tower.

From Monday, November 27-Thursday, December 28, the Leonard Bearstein Orchestra (animatronic singing bears) performs all your holiday favorites. This is sure to be a hit with younger children, but is also a festive time for the rest of the family.

The show generally runs on the hour every hour from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. for 45 minutes, but there are some exceptions. Check the performance schedule before you go.

8) Call it a day

From Founders Hall, take Trade St. east (down the hill) 0.2 miles to end back at the trolley stop.

As you ride home, I hope you find yourself feeling less stuffed, not-so-squirrelly, and all the more lucky to call Charlotte home.

Happy holidays!

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