Thursday, December 26, 2019

Romare Bearden Park

If they gave awards for Charlotte’s local parks, Romare Bearden Park would easily earn “Most Compelling.” This 5.4-acre city pocket park gets its name from the Charlotte-born artist. And its planners were intentional in their artistic design of all of the park’s features.

When our oldest was a toddler, we’d come watch the trucks move dirt around this fenced-in city block and I’d wonder what could possibly take so long to construct a park. But one stroll around today will offer an appreciation for both its artistry and dynamism.

To start, Romare Bearden Park is situated at the foot of our burgeoning skyline. The view of the towering buildings here is exciting and impressive. I dare you to resist taking at least one picture.

But the true vibrancy of the park lies in the details. Its footprint is divided into six distinct sections that all flow elegantly from one to the other.

From the east end of the park (which borders Church St.) to the West (which borders Mint St.), there’s the Paris Memory garden and seating area, the Formal Oval, Madeline’s Garden, Maudell’s Garden, the Childhood Muse Plaza, and the Big Moon Green. At the heart of the park is a stunning, multi-level waterfall fountain.

The space we’re drawn to first – and where we usually linger longest – is the Childhood Muse Plaza on the north end of the park (which borders West MLK Jr. Blvd.). It is situated in front of the fountain and offers spray towers, rocks for climbing and jumping, several musical features, and one of the best city-scape views in the park.

We also enjoy the large, open green spaces, tiptoeing through the meticulous gardens, and walking along the walls that tie the park together.

Romare Bearden Park is a perfect gathering space for large, public events (see a line-up of formal activities offered through the year), a family picnic or a solitary lunch-break stroll. One of our favorite things to do there is get pizza from a nearby restaurant and eat on a wall by the fountain.

If you’ve not been to Romare Bearden Park, treat yourself to a visit. If you have been, take another trip with an appreciative eye for its compelling layout and design. If not an official award, Romare Bearden is most certainly deserving of locals’—and visitors’ – admiration and intrigue.

Note: Bathroom facilities are available at the park.

How to get there:
Romare Bearden Park is located at 300 S. Church Street, Charlotte, NC 28202. You can find parking on the street or in a nearby lot. Or, consider taking the light-rail train into town. The nearest stop is just a few blocks away.

Don’t forget to take:

  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: Shade is limited here.
  • Water and a snack or picnic lunch: Plan to spend some time exploring.
  • Swimsuit and towel (seasonal): Playing in the water fountains is allowed.
  • Camera: You will want at least a photo or two.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

George Poston Park

File this under the category of “How Have We Not Been Here Yet?!” That’s exactly how I feel about George Poston Park, which someone casually mentioned to me not long ago. We recently checked out this Gaston County park, about 22 miles west of Charlotte in Lowell, NC, and are already looking forward to going back.

The appeal for us lies very specifically in the state-of-the-art asphalt pump track, one of only 10 of its kind in the whole United States. A pump track is a closed bicycling loop that gets its name from the way users are meant to pump the bike, rather than turn the pedals. The idea is that one can ride around the entire track by using momentum to maneuver the bike up and down the slopes and around bends without pedaling.
And I’m sure that’s a very fun challenge for “real” bike riders, but we very happily pedaled our way around and around the track for well over an hour on our visit, and enjoyed every minute. Taking a spin is kind of like riding your own personal roller coaster. As long as you’re following the flow of traffic, riders can choose the level of difficulty, bypassing some of the more technical turns by opting for the flat ridges.
The George Poston Park pump track is 10,000 square feet which can accommodate 20-30 users at one time, though it’s probably most enjoyable if you can visit at a non-peak time. The pump track is free and open to the public from 7 a.m. to sunset. It can be used for any non-motorized wheeled sport, like rollerblades and skateboards.
And while the pump track is definitely the reason we’ll go back, George Poston Park offers several other draws, including 10 miles of mountain biking/hiking trails, a small playground, an easy kid’s bike trail, picnic areas and restroom facilities.
For a short, pleasant hiking option, I recommend the 0.6-mile paved River Trail. This loop swings by the South Fork of the Catawba River, with a bench at an overlook.
At just under 30 minutes from uptown, George Poston Park is a wonderful option for active, family-friendly outdoor fun. After just one visit, we’ll go ahead and file this under “We’ll Be Back.”
How to get there:
George Poston Park is located at 1101 Lowell Spencer Mountain Road, Gastonia, NC 28056. The paved lot offers plenty of parking.
Don’t forget to take:
  • Bikes and helmets: Or any riding toys if you want to enjoy the pump track
  • Comfortable shoes: Hike or bike any of the 10 miles of trails
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The park is only partially shaded
  • Water: Keep hydrated; refill at the restroom facilities
  • Snacks or a picnic lunch: Picnic shelters and benches are available

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Go West, and Be Jolly

Here we go. Time to do Festive Things. I know. There's decorating and shopping and planning and entertaining and events and performances. . . But may I gently suggest that the most productive use of your time during this hectic holiday season might be doing something that yields no tangible results, offers nothing to check off of your "to do" list, and may (gasp!) gratify only you and some of the people closest to you.

Go ahead, block off a few precious hours and spend them doing something Simply Delightful with family or friends. If it's outside and gets you moving, all the better, I say.

Need ideas? Here are some you might not have considered -- all just west of uptown in and around neighboring Gaston County.

McAdenville Lights. . . On Foot!
For the month of December, McAdenville, NC, a quintessential small town about 15 miles west of Charlotte, transforms into a twinkling holiday wonderland. Every house, building, light post and tree is draped and wrapped in sparkling lights and Christmas trimmings.

Starting December 1, you can drive through “Christmas Town, USA.” But for the full sensory experience, consider walking instead.

Here’s what you get when you opt for a stroll: Enjoy the fresh air. Linger at your favorite displays. Hear the church bells and holiday music. Stop for hot chocolate at the town fire station. Share a friendly greeting with fellow revelers. And take advantage of abundant photo opportunities.

Here’s how to discover the magic of McAdenville on foot.

Charming Belmont
Downtown Belmont, NC, is postcard picturesque, complete with shops, restaurants, and an old city hall. This time of year, it is bedecked with lights and decorations for the Festival of Trees, which fill Main Street and adjacent Stowe Park. Grab dinner and take a stroll.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden Lights
The exquisite grounds at Daniel Stowe become even more magical at night when draped in the Mile of a Million Lights. Holidays at the Garden, complete with music, a fire, children's activities and model train displays, will delight revelers of all ages. Simply enchanting.

King's Mountain Trains
The Kings Mountain Museum is nestled in an old post office. Their collection -- free and open to the public -- showcases this tiny town's storied history. During the holiday season, the museum is filled with model train displays that wind their way through miniature snow-covered villages. This cozy exhibit will evoke joy and wonder for young visitors and maybe a touch of nostalgia for the rest.

U.S. National Whitewater Center Winter Wonderland
New this year at the U.S. National Whitewater Center are ice skating and a lights display. This sprawling outdoor adventure center is fun on any given day of the year, offering everything from whitewater and flatwater paddling, to hiking and biking, to ropes courses and ziplines. But, with the new seasonal activities, it's a particularly spectacular venue for some winter fun.

Here's what to expect if you go.

Want more ideas? Here are some closer to home.

Whatever you have on your list of things to do, go ahead and squeeze in -- or, better yet, prioritize! -- meaningful time together with family and friends doing something delightful this holiday season. When we get to the other side of December and all of its demands, this might just be the memory that lingers brightest.