Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Uptown Now: A Poetry Walk and More

Bummed that arts experience festival Charlotte SHOUT! was cancelled this year? Me, too. But, there are still some fresh, creative exhibits on display uptown through October that are worth a visit. 

Start with Of Earth and Sky, a sort of poetry scavenger hunt. Created by artist Luke Jerram, this exhibit features words of inspiration installed all across town. The piecemeal poem is a compellation of dozens of poets who submitted their work in response to social and climate changes and the impact of COVID-19.

You can find the poetry installations now through October 31 by visiting this map. We've not visited all the stops, but I can tell you that some are easier to locate than others. (There were a few we just couldn't find at all.) But, there's a photo gallery if you miss one or don't have the time to visit them all. 

And, you can learn more about the poets as you go. 

This makes for a really pleasant and engaging stroll around Center City. 

While you're uptown, tack on a visit to the Gaia exhibit (also by Luke Jerram) in Founders Hall (1000 N. Tryon St.). But hurry! This one's only on display 'til October 1. 

And check out INTRUDE, the giant inflatable bunnies by artist Amanda Parar. Hop over to First Ward Park (301 E. 7th St.) to see these guys through October 12. They're on display from 10:00 a.m. to midnight daily. 

Of course there are tons of other fun, inspiring and artistic reasons to head uptown. But, if it's been a while or you're looking for something new and refreshing, the poetry walk and a sneak peak at Gaia and INTRUDE make for a fulfilling urban excursion. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Rocky Branch Park Revisited

In the short time since I first wrote about Rocky Branch Park, located about 25 minutes west of Uptown in Belmont, NC., this recreational destination -- already remarkable for a number of reasons -- has been renovated and transformed, making it even cooler and all the more worth a visit, especially if you enjoy trail riding. 

Last spring, the City of Belmont, the Town of Cramerton, Carolina Thread Trail, the Tarheel Traiblazers and Gaston County Schools created a remarkable partnership to develop the first inter-municipal park in our region. The result: An evolution of the 55-acre Rocky Branch Park, which now connects the Town of Cramerton and the City of Belmont and offers a beautiful, dynamic urban trail system (good for hikers, bikers, runners and walkers) in between. (Here's a park map.) 

The centerpiece of the newly designed park is a 1.25-mile natural surface greenway (part of the Carolina Thread Trail system), which runs from one end to the other. This hiker-prioritized gravel trail is easy and accessible to folks of all skill levels. 

Off to either side of the greenway trail are a number of biker-prioritized, single-track mountain biking trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Our favorite is the Canopy Trail (green blazes), a 1.15-mile loop featuring jumps, boardwalks, berms and other relatively simple technical options. This loop is good for beginners, but fun for all ages. 

The entire park is shaded and, (bonus!) trailheads at either end are located near other fun destinations. In Belmont, you're a mile from historic downtown, full of fun shops and restaurants (including the Cotton Candy factory!). In Cramerton, it's a short hop to visit Goat Island, the River Link Greenway, Riverside Greenway and South Fork Catawba River Blueway. You could easily make a day of exploring your way from Cramerton to Belmont and back with plenty to do (and no driving!) in between. 

If it's been a while since you visited Rocky Branch Park, you'll be impressed by its transformation. And if you're visiting for the first time, I think you'll enjoy discovering a fun new place to play. 

Note: Before you go, please check the trail status on the Tarheel Trailblazers website and observe the open/closed entrance signs. Some of the trails within Rocky Branch Park are all-weather, but not all of them. Please be a good steward and don't damage the trails by riding on them when they are wet. 

How to get there:
The Belmont trailhead is located at 103 Sacco St, Belmont, NC 28012. The Cramerton trailhead is located at the Gaston County EMS Station (700 Eagle Rd, Belmont, NC 28012). Note: There are no restrooms at the trailhead; plan accordingly. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Andrew Jackson State Park

On our way to check out the Lindsay Pettus Greenway in Lancaster, SC, over the summer, we decided to tack on a visit to Andrew Jackson State Park. I'm glad we did. As far as State Parks go, this one feels bite-sized, yet satisfying. 

Andrew Jackson State Park, which is located a little under an hour south of Uptown, is relatively small, but is beautiful and full of history and educational and recreational options. 

Home to the birthplace of the seventh president of the United States, this park has a museum of Revolutionary War artifacts, an 18-acre lake for boating and fishing, two one-mile hiking trails (one of which is a Carolina Thread Trail), and 25 campsites.
The park often hosts living history programs and the museum offers interactive exhibits. (Check out the calendar of events.) One of our favorite stops was at the 18th century replica schoolhouse. We also enjoyed running around the large, open field at the main entrance. Nearby is an amphitheater and Meeting House for community events.
Andrew Jackson State Park is a lovely destination for a short, quick hike with some educational opportunities sprinkled in. Here's a park map.

You might consider pairing it with a visit to Lindsay Pettus, like we did. It's a short, 15 drive between the two. Ride the greenway, then enjoy a quiet picnic under the shade of the old-growth forest at the state park. 

Andrew Jackson State Park is open 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily from November 1 through March 31, and 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily from April 1 through October 31. The Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday-Friday by appointment. 

Admission is $3/adult, $1.50/senior, $1/children 6-15, and free for children 5 and younger. 

Andrew Jackson State Park makes for a simple, but enjoyable nearby outing, and something different worth checking out, especially if you haven't been before.  

How to get there:
Andrew Jackson State Park is located at 196 Andrew Jackson Park Rd, Lancaster, SC 29720. You'll pay for admission ($3/adult, $1.50/senior, $1/children 6-15, and free for children 5 and younger) at a kiosk on your way in. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Here Comes the Train: Get to Know the CityLYNX Gold Line

This week, the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar opened for service. This development has been many years in the making, but it's all worth the wait. Not only are streetcars fun to ride, but they provide environmental, social and economic benefits for our community. Here's why you should get to know the Gold Line. 

Something to do
My guess (hope!) is Gold Line ridership will really take off when more folks return to their uptown offices following the pandemic. But riding the streetcar is an excellent outing on it's own, even if you've got no reason to commute or no place in particular to be along the train route. 

The 2.5-mile track now runs through uptown, connecting the Historic West End to the Elizabeth neighborhood. All along the way, there are a number of things to do. Start with a tour of the Historic West End. Hop off in Center City for a bite to eat or a stroll around uptown. Take a short walk from the Elizabeth terminus to enjoy a beautiful view of uptown from the Elizabeth Ave. overpass bridge or to get ice cream from Two Scoops Creamery

The Gold Line runs from 5:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily. Since it is a streetcar (versus light rail), it stops at lights and follows the flow of traffic. End-to-end, depending on the time of day, it's about a 30-minute ride. There are 11 stops, all fully accessible. And, like all CATS services, you can rack-and-ride with your bike. Bonus: From now though the end of the year, it's free to ride! 

Good for the environment
According to SustainCLT, in 2011, Charlotte commuters released 296,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and consumed 14,599,000 gallons of excess fuel while sitting in traffic. Gasp! Cringe! The more folks who leave their gas-guzzling cars at home and opt for public transit, the less pollutant emissions and better air quality for Charlotte. Fewer cars also means less congestion and healthier commute times. Win win win, if you ask me. 

Good for the community
Streetcars provide equitable, and affordable transportation and help connect neighborhoods. They are also a draw for the next generation of young, talented workers who favor public transit as a solution to climate change. And (bonus!), studies have shown that folks who ride by rail are fitter than the average American. Community goodness abounds. 

Want more information? Check out this helpful video on how to ride the CityLYNX Gold Line. Enjoy the ride! 

How to get there: 
There are 11 stops along the Gold Line street car line, running from French St. at Beatties Ford Rd. in the west end to Sunnyside Ave. at Hawthorne Ave. in the east. Don't live near the rail line? Ride your bike! Rack-and-ride is available on all of the cars.