Thursday, December 21, 2017

Charlotte Rail Trail

The Charlotte Rail Trail is a 4.5 mile paved pathway that runs along the Lynx Blue Line route from uptown toward South End.

The wide, smooth, well-maintained trail – perfect for bikes, skates, scooters or walking -- is a lot like the nearby Little Sugar Creek Greenway that borders the creek and meanders through Midtown, Freedom Park and the Myers Park neighborhood.

The difference between the two is the things you’ll discover along the way. Where Little Sugar Creek Greenway is all about nature, the Charlotte Rail Trail offers fun and funky urban surprises.

Here’s a good two-mile (out and back) option for getting some exercise and discovering some new things about the Queen City.

Start at the Carson St. station just outside of Uptown. Carson St. intersects South Blvd. at the Dowd YMCA. You can park on the nearby neighborhood streets for free or at Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church for $5 (the church lot serves as a city-sanctioned public lot during business hours. You’ll see an automated pay station when you park.)

From here, it’s exactly one mile to Sycamore Brewing Company, a good stopping/turnaround point with lot to see in between.

There are no public restrooms on the Rail Trail, so consider making a quick stop at the Dowd Y. You don’t have to be a member to visit the guest facilities in the lobby.

The first attraction you’ll come to at Carson St. is the giant yellow porch swings at Edna’s Porch, named for the designer’s grandmother and the time he spent on her porch swings growing up on the east side of uptown Charlotte. You’ll want to stop here for a spell.

Strolling on along the Rail Trail, you’ll find a bike pump station and plenty of dog-friendly amenities (read: pick-up stations and trashcans).

You can also rent a bike through Charlotte B-cycle at the Bland St. station or East/West station. Or grab a nearby LimeBike or Spin bicycle using their apps. (Don’t forget to bring your own helmet!)

The trail is mostly lined with apartments and condos, so it has a friendly, neighborhood feel. What gives it urban character is the curious and eye-catching public art, like the dinosaur statue or metal roosters along the way. Some of our favorites are the giant “Before I die” chalkboard, which invites passersby to scrawl their own bucket-list items, and the oversized comic strip plastered along the backside of a parking deck bordering the trail.

Just outside the Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse Museum, near the Bland St. station, you’ll find a permanent ping-pong table, picnic tables, eclectic benches and solar charging stations. Next door is the Charlotte Art League art gallery.

There are a variety of restaurants flanking the trail, from the American Pub to Blaze Pizza to Clean Juice to Hot Taco to Luna’s Living Kitchen. But if you want to do it right, stop first for fried chicken and tater tots at Price’s Chicken Coop, a Charlotte fixture since 1962. And then for a milkshake at Pike’s Soda Shop, another classic Queen City establishment.

What makes the Rail Trail exciting to me is its proximity to Uptown (those skyline views!), its accessibility (easy to get to and a relatively traffic-free and protected space to walk and ride), and the sense of adventure it provides. It’s a fun, family-friendly place to get out, move around and explore – a compelling linear urban playground.

How to get there:
The Carson St. station is located at 218 E. Carson Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203. Park on the street nearby or at Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church across South Blvd. from the station. Follow the Charlotte Rail Trail south, away from uptown.

Don’t forget to take:
  • Bikes, scooters and helmets or comfy walking shoes: The Rail Trail is super pedestrian-friendly.
  • Water: Stay hydrated.
  • Money: For refreshments along the way.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: There is very little shade along the trail.

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