Thursday, June 24, 2021

Urban Excursion: Books, Art Walk and Ice Cream

It's summertime! Looking for something to do with the family between camps, vacations and trips to the pool? Consider a visit to Uptown. Here's an outing we did the other day that had a little something for everyone and was fun for all. 

Park at Imaginon (300 E. 7th St.) and visit the library for books, story time, quite indoor play space, a summer scavenger hunt and other activities. During this phase of reopening, parking is free in the Imaginon deck. But even during normal operations, it's only a few dollars for several hours with validation. 

Hop on the Rail Trail and head north to find the first stop on the Uptown Charlotte Mural Tour. This 13-stop virtual walking tour is one of a number of fun tours created by the city of Charlotte and the UNCC Charlotte Urban Institute. We found it to be a fun and engaging way to traverse center city. The tour app makes it easy to navigate from one stop to the next and there's a scavenger hunt element to discovering the artwork -- especially some of the more hidden pieces. The kids, in particular, found this exciting. 

Stop for a picnic lunch at Romare Bearden Park (300 S. Church St.) or The Green (435 S. Tryon St.), then take another short stroll to the newly-opened Golden Cow Creamery (601 S. Tryon St.) for a sweet treat. 

Follow the Rail Trail back to Imaginon and pop across the street and spend some time at First Ward Park (301 E. 7th St.). If you pack a towel for the car ride home, a run through the fountains is a wonderful way to cool down and wrap up your outing. 

All together, we spent a few hours enjoying this urban excursion. Of course, you can do an abbreviated version of this itinerary, or extend it with plenty of other fun things to do in Charlotte's Center City. However you do it, a trip Uptown is an enjoyable summertime outing. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Little Sugar Creek Greenway: I-485 to President James K. Polk State Historic Site

Little Sugar Creek Greenway just got 1.8 miles cooler than it already was. And, along with a beautiful trail and gorgeous views, this new section comes with a fun, historical destination.

Little Sugar Creek Greenway runs north-to-south, offering more than a dozen miles of wide, paved, vehicular-traffic-free trails. The greenway is part of the Cross Charlotte Trail, a 30-mile trail system that will someday stretch from UNCC Charlotte to Pineville. 

This newly-completed segment is perfect for feet, bikes and other people-powered riding toys. The smooth, flat trail meanders through forest floodplains, marsh and wetlands. It also features bridges, boardwalks and an impressive marsh overlook at Marsh Park, which is also where you'll find benches and a fun sculpture by artist John Grade. 

At the southern end of this stretch of greenway is the President James K. Polk Historic Site, birthplace of the 11th President of the United States. Here, you'll find a museum, nature trail, historic buildings, a garden, picnic area, and restrooms (open during museum hours). It's also where I would recommend parking. Admission to the grounds and visitor's center (open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) is free, and tours are available for a small fee on Saturdays. 

The northern end of this segment connects to another stretch of Little Sugar Creek Greenway that runs 2.4 miles from I-485 to Huntingtown Farms Park, then another that runs 2.4 miles from Huntingtown Farms Park to Tyvola Rd

Now, I'm keeping my eye on the outstanding stretch of the greenway that will connect Tyvola Rd. to Brandywine Rd. at Park Road Shopping Center (currently under construction!) that will make the greenway contiguous from the Polk site through north of Uptown. How cool will that be?! 

Meanwhile, I think you'll enjoy the latest segment and highly recommend a visit. 

How to get there: 
Trailhead parking is available at the President James K. Polk Historic Site located at 12031 Lancaster Highway, Pineville, NC,  28134.

Don't forget to pack: 
  • Hats, sunscreen and sunglasses: The greenway is partly shaded, but not completely
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Sneakers will do
  • Water and snacks: Bring refills; restroom facilities are only open during certain hours
  • Helmets and riding toys: This is a great destination for bikes, skates, scooters and strollers

Thursday, June 3, 2021

McGill Rose Garden

Did you know there's a secret garden hiding directly between Uptown and NoDa? Here's a fun little urban excursion and some interesting local history.

In the 1950s, Henry McGill owned the Avant Fuel and Ice Company, located along North Davidson St., just past 12th St. This was the heart of an industrial area of Charlotte and Henry's wife Helen decided to punctuate the manufacturing backdrop with a splash of color and a dose of nature. She started by planting rose bushes along fences that bordered the street. Her garden grew, and so did the popularity of this urban oasis.

More than 500 rose bushes were planted and, on Mother's Day 1962, McGill Rose Garden was opened to the public (in my research, I learned that it remains a tradition for folks to travel to McGill Rose Garden to celebrate Mother's Day today).

In 1975, the Avant Fuel and Ice Company closed and the property, including the garden, was sold to the City of Charlotte to serve as a city park.

Now managed by a non-profit organization, the McGill Rose Garden remains free and open to the public and hosts a community area and venue for meetings and events.

Also on the grounds, you'll find Rosie's Coffee and Wine garden, a quaint little establishment, perfect for refreshments while enjoying the garden.

If you decide to visit, I suggest you make an outing of it with a few nearby stops. First, park at nearby Alexander Street Park, where you'll find ample free parking, a multi-purpose playing field, playground, tennis courts, a basketball court and restrooms. 

From there, jump on the stretch of Little Sugar Creek Greenway that runs from 12th St. to Cordelia Park for a bike ride or stroll. 

Then, stop at Pelican Ice a few blocks down North Davidson St. from McGill for a sweet treat you can enjoy at or on the short walk to the rose gardens. 

McGill Rose Garden is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Take a minute to check the website before you go, though, because sometimes the venue is closed for special events. You can see hours for Rosie’s Coffee & Wine Garden here

Charlotte is rich with history hiding in plain site. In this case, what a lovely opportunity to learn more about the city and quite literally stop and smell the roses. 

How to get there: 
McGill Rose garden is located at 940 N. Davidson St. Charlotte, NC, 28206. I recommend parking at nearby Alexander Street Park, located at 739 E. 12th Street., Charlotte, NC, 28206.