Thursday, January 10, 2019

Art Walk on the Rail Trail

A couple weeks ago, I read an article in the Charlotte Observer about a new art installation along the Charlotte Rail Trail in Historic South End.

Aptly named “The Color Forest,” the sculpture comprises 100 towering poles painted bright colors that line both sides of the track near Bland Street. The work is a collaboration between local artist Ivan Toth Depeña and Glen Nocik, who fabricated and installed the display.

One recent sunny day, we hit the Rail Trail to check it out. And I recommend you do the same.

“The Color Forest” is just one of dozens of bright, quirky and curious displays scattered along the trail. Many of them, including an 8-foot chicken, a giant yellow swing set, magic carpet sidewalk murals, an interactive chalkboard and an enormous seesaw, were organized by architect David Furman of Centro CityWorks, a visionary for the Rail Trail itself.

Within a mile stretch of the Rail Trail, you can spot these and a bunch of other noteworthy pieces, including several yellow steel Adirondack chairs, a bright red oversized exclamation point, a wire dinosaur, metal roosters, a parking-deck-sized comic strip, a permanent ping pong table, eclectic benches (with solar charging stations!) and a number of splashy wall murals. Even the rainbow-colored patio table umbrellas at Pike’s Soda Shop and the adornments on the deck at Hot Taco (including the painted cow statue) contribute to the artsy, funky urban South End vibe.

Here’s a good two-mile (out and back) option for a walk, stroll or bike ride to get fresh air, take in fun local art, and discover 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 the Pritchard side of the street, cross South Blvd. and take a left on the Rail Trail. It’s exactly one mile to Sycamore Brewing Company, a good stopping/turnaround point with lot to see in between.

Note: 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.

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

There are a variety of restaurants flanking the trail, including the American Pub, Blaze Pizza, Clean Juice, Hot Taco, Price's Chicken Coop and Luna’s Living Kitchen. We like Pike’s Soda Shop, a classic Queen City establishment.

In addition to all the things to see along the way, 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.

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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