Thursday, April 12, 2018

Take the Train to UNCC Botanical Gardens

In March, the Lynx Blue Line extension opened after years of construction, connecting Uptown to the campus of UNC Charlotte via light rail. I'm sure this is a gift to workday commuters who can now ditch the car closer to home, but it also makes for a fun family outing. The other day we checked it out. Here's an adventure I'd recommend:

Take the Lynx Gold Line, which is a free ride on a vintage trolley, to get Uptown without having to pay for parking. Hop on the Gold Line anywhere along it's route up Elizabeth Ave/E. Trade St. The trolley line ends at the main Charlotte bus hub uptown, also a Blue Line light-rail stop.

Walk up the stairs adjacent to the Spectrum Center to access the light-rail stop. Purchase a ticket from the automated kiosks. (Check here for the cost of fares.) Hop on the train and enjoy the ride! It's fun to take in the sights of this fast-developing corridor along the way. Plus, the track engineering is a bit of a remarkable feat -- there are quite a few bridge overpasses and one tunnel that give it something of a roller-coaster vibe.

Disembark at the UNCC Charlotte Main Station (the last stop), which is on Cameron Blvd. Follow Cameron Blvd. towards campus less than a half mile and turn right onto Mary Alexander Rd. The Botanical Gardens will be about a half-mile ahead on the left. It's an easy walk as the campus is very pedestrian-friendly. Here's a handy map tool to help you navigate.

The gardens are beautiful and whimsical. It's an area of quiet reprieve in the heart of campus and a lovely place for a stroll. The kids will enjoy the various bridges and ponds and artwork scattered throughout.

After exploring a bit, we managed to scout out the campus Chick-fil-a for lunch. It's located in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center -- a short walk from the gardens -- which also offers other palatable dining options.

We didn't visit it during our trip, but there's also a greenhouse (with a dinosaur garden!) that is open to the public just across the street from the Botanical Gardens. Next time we go, we'll be sure to stop there and explore other areas of campus.

All-in-all, this is a fun sort of hybrid adventure, combining the thrill of public transit with some fresh air and exploration. I recommend it for a fun morning out.
Don't forget to take:
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: The UNCC campus is only partially shaded.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: You'll want to be able to explore.
  • Water and snacks: It's not a bad idea to have refreshments on hand for playtime or the wait for the train.

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