Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Mountain Creek Park

This past weekend, the Charlotte area's coolest new park opened to well-deserved fanfare. Mountain Creek Park, located at the northern tip of Lake Norman in Sherrills Ford, about 45 minutes from uptown, is 606 acres of recreation bliss. It checks all the boxes for family-friendly outdoor adventure fun. 

Parents with young children will appreciate the large, shiny, new playground and paved walking paths for strollers, scooters, skates and beginner bike riders. 

Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the pickleball courts, canoe and kayak launch and hiking trails. 

Pet lovers will be thrilled with the spacious dog park and shady walking paths. 

Fisher-people will like the fishing pier and waterfront observation platform. 

And mountain bikers rejoice: Mountain Creek Park features an extensive 19.52-mile network of trails, dedicated bike-only trails with countless route options, a pump track, a skills course and tool stations. (Here's a trail map.) 

There are also restrooms, plenty of parking, picnic shelters, an outdoor classroom, and a paved ADA-accessible trail that meanders through a quiet cove. 

Best of all, this Catawba County park is free and open to the public from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. 

Miss the grand-opening celebration? No worries. The party's just getting started. Mountain Creek Park will remain a worthy destination for years to come. Next time you're looking for a new place to play and explore, keep this recreation retreat in mind. 

How to get there
Mountain Creek Park is located at 6554 Little Mountain Rd., Sherrills Ford, NC 28673. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

Historic Brattonsville

There's lots to do and see at Historic Brattonsville, located in Rock Hill, SC, about 45 minutes from uptown. But this Juneteenth weekend, let me direct your attention to a new exhibit: "Liberty & Resistance: Reconstruction and the African-American Community at Brattonsville, 1865-1877."

This exhibition tells a powerful story of four "freedom seekers," who fled Bratton Plantation in search of freedom. If follows their journeys from escape, to military service in the Civil War, to civil rights advocacy to, in some cases, lynching. It's at once heartbreaking and inspiring, tragic and extraordinary, hard to reconcile and vitally important to acknowledge and understand. 

Brattonsville has long sought to tell the stories of the enslaved people who lived, worked and died there. But this exhibit, now part of the federal Network to Freedom program administered by the National Park Service, embraces a different perspective on the lives of some of those who courageously sought freedom and valiantly fought for civil rights. It is located in the newly restored Brick House. 

Historic Brattonsville features more than 30 historic structures and provides visitors the chance to see the evolution of Southern culture from the American Revolutionary War through the American Civil War. It offers an interesting glimpse of local history. Throughout the year, they host a number of events

And, if you like to mix education with outdoor recreation like we do, the site boasts a 6-mile network of hiking trails, full of historical significance and ecological diversity. We enjoyed this 3.9-mile loop. Note: The trails are only meant to be accessed with paid admission. 

Historic Brattonsville is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It's closed on Monday. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for youth ages 4-17, and free for kids 3 and under. 

Whether you head out there this weekend (there's a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or add it to your list of upcoming outings, go ahead and make time to visit Historic Brattonsville. It's a suitable outing for the whole family and an important chance to understand a significant piece of our shared history. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Skip the Car Trip Challenge and More

Looking for ways to do your part to combat climate change and make Charlotte the best possible place for all of us to live? Where to start? It can feel overwhelming, if not impossible. BUT, every little bit helps! Which is why I'm thrilled with the Mecklenburg County and Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) Skip the Car Trip challenge taking place this week. 

The event encourages and rewards people to minimize time on the road in a single-occupancy vehicle. Since the two biggest air quality pollutants in North Carolina are ground-level ozone and particle pollution, both of which are caused mainly by emissions from cars and trucks, choosing public transit or people-powered modes of transport can make a significant difference for our local environment. 

Skip the Car Trip emphasizes options like getting a transit pass, carpooling, walking and biking, and organizing "trip chains," which means bundling necessary errands into one outing instead of many. Other ideas include shopping local, working from home, and packing or preparing meals instead of commuting to pick up lunch or dinner. 

As if saving the planet isn't reward enough, this challenge comes with prizes. Between June 6 and June 12, whenever you engaged in a trip reduction activity, log it in this form. Then, you're eligible for daily prizes, like an electric lawn mower and passes to the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Win, win, win! 

While you're at it . . . 
You might also consider a couple other ways to participate in the decision-making process for a healthy, equitable, sustainable Charlotte for all. 

Vote in Participatory Budgeting, or PB Meck, a process that allows community members to determine how to best address the needs of their communities by turning ideas into actual project proposals. Check out the proposed projects for your district and vote here

Also, every five years, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation evaluates projects for funding in the Capital Improvement Plan Cycle. This is the process through which decisions are made about the addition, renovation or replacement of County-owned facilities, infrastructure, equipment, and land acquisition. Now's your chance to weigh in on what projects you'd like to see take priority! Weigh in on the public input form here

We'll definitely be participating in this opportunity. I hope you will, too. Lots of little steps can amount to big things!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Get to Know Catawba Riverkeeper and The Boathouse

How much do you know about the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation? 

A local, community-based group founded in 1997 that protects, preserves and restores the 226 miles of the Catawba River basin, which permeates 26 counties in our region, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation offers education, advocacy, monitoring, reporting and engagement to protect this valuable natural resource from threats such as development and poor water management. The organization's vision: To sustain plentiful clean water for generations to come. 

As if that important work isn't cool enough, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation also offers a ton of recreational opportunities, which you should definitely check out, if you haven't already. 

Their activity hub is The Boathouse, located in McAdenville, NC, along the banks of the South Fork River (the largest tributary of the Catawba), about 20 minutes west of uptown. Here, you can rent a kayak (single or tandem), canoe or standup paddleboard for a flatwater outing. You can sign up for several guided tour options. And, if you're not super confident on the water, you can register for private or group lessons.

When you're finished exploring, get a drink, snack and gear and apparel at The Boathouse. 

Boathouse hours are Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. All rentals are walk-up only Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Rental fees include the boat, paddle, safety vest, and instruction.

The Riverkeeper also hosts a number of activities and events throughout the season. Most offerings are good for most ages and abilities, but check the website for details.

If you really want to make a day of it, consider taking a paddle, then hiking along the South Fork River Trail (in the woods, out-and-back, 2 miles one-way) or the McAdenville Greenway (flat, paved, out-and-back, 0.8 miles one way). Both make for a pleasant stroll. 

There's no better way to beat the summertime heat than finding things to do on and around the water. The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation makes it easy to do so -- both by protecting our local waterways and making them accessible with lots of fun things to do!

How to get there:
The Boathouse is located at 115 Willow Dr, McAdenville, NC 28101. This is also the trial head for the South Fork River Trail. During weekend business hours, you can also launch from the 501 Lakeview Dr., McAdenville, just a couple minutes' drive from The Boathouse. This is also where you'll find the paved McAdenville Greenway. 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Play in May: 4 Excellent Things To Do This Month

Lately, it feels like May is the sprint finish on the homestretch of a rat race to summer. Which is why it feels important to intentionally carve out time for active, meaningful things to do between all the obligations. Here are a few I've added to our family calendar for the coming weeks. Join us! 

Early voting is open now through May 14 for the Primary Elections on May 17. Whether you vote ahead of time or day-of, make this civic responsibility a priority. As you do your research on candidates, consider where they stand on key sustainability issues, like transportation, land use and air quality. Click here for details on voting, like sample ballots and polling locations, dates and times. 

Pet Palooza Fundraising Walk & Community Festival
On Saturday, May 14 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the Humane Society of Charlotte is celebrating their annual Pet Palooza Walk and Festival in person for the first time in two years. Bonus: It will be held at their new Animal Resource Center (1348 Parker Drive, Charlotte, NC 28208), which opens soon. This event features live music, food trucks, pet-loving vendors, and fun for the whole family, Consider participating in the Pet Palooza Fundraising Walk, kicking off at 11 a.m., to raise money to help people and pets in our community.  

Mason Wallace Park Revitalization Celebration
Help celebrate Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation's ribbon cutting for the revitalized Mason Wallace Park (7301 Monroe Rd, Charlotte, NC 28212) on Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The newly renovated park now features hiking trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, a playground, a new picnic shelter and new fitness equipment. The grand re-opening celebration will include free food, fitness demonstrations, tours and a mobile library. 

Move Your Age
One of my favorite organizations to follow these days is Human Powered Movement. They are doing great things in the name of keeping people active, engaged and motivated, with an emphasis on environmental consciousness. 

One of their latest upcoming events is Move Your Age, a free virtual challenge. Set an age-related goal (ex. if you're 35, do 35 push-ups a day or run/bike/hike 35 miles over the course of the challenge) to complete between Friday, May 27 and Sunday, June 5. Sign up, be active, then submit your accomplishments (here are details on how) for chances to win prizes. 

Hope to see you out and about! 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Quest at Latta Nature Preserve

Looking for a local morning or afternoon outing with a little bit of education, a little bit of physical activity and a lot of time in nature? Check out Mecklenburg County's newest nature center, located at Latta Nature Preserve about 20 minutes northwest of Uptown. 

Quest, a 13,000-square-foot nature experience, serves as a gateway to exploration, learning and play. Inside the impressive facility, you'll find a 3000-square-foot exhibit hall featuring an expansive interactive display on the importance of water to our survival, live animals, a 6000-gallon aquarium, classrooms, conference rooms, rentable space and the Raptor Center's Gift shop. 

There's also an information desk with programs and maps and gear rental (borrow a fishing rod and head down to the lake!). Our favorite attraction is the powerful microscopes under which we could view all sorts of fauna and flora. 

Out back, there's a patio overlooking natural space, perfect for a picnic or quiet time in the great outdoors. Later in 2022, this will also be the home of the Raptor Center at Quest (currently operating just inside the park at their longstanding location.) 

Out front, you'll find more than 16 miles of trails traversing 1,460 acres of green space and forested land protecting several endangered plants and a natural heritage site. Trails are open to hikers and horseback riders (but no bikes, please!). Here's a park map

There's also some cool public art, like the gigantic divining rod that graces the front lawn of Quest, along with an information board on dowsing. 

Quest at Latta Nature Preserve is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. They also regularly offer a number of programs (click here to check out what's available and sign up).​​

This makes for a very pleasant family outing. I guarantee you'll learn something new and enjoy the outdoor experience that Latta Nature Preserve has to offer. 

How to get there: 
Quest at Latta Nature Preserve is located at 6345 Sample Rd., Huntersville, NC, 28078.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Spring Into April: 5 Local Outings For Your Calendar This Month

Friends! There are so many fun, family-friendly things to do in Charlotte this month. From art to recreation, adventure to celebration, tiny houses to giant bunnies, and some novel activities in between. Get out your calendar and make plans now to take part in some of these local excursions. Hope to see you there! 

South Fork Sampler
On Saturday, April 2, try a scavenger-hunt-style adventure race along the South Fork River, about 20 minutes from Uptown in Gaston County. Participants in the South Fork Sampler will paddle, bike and run to various checkpoints, getting to know this beautiful, historic natural area. The event benefits the South Fork River Health Project and the Catawba Riverkeeper's mission of ensuring clean and plentiful drinking water for nearly 4 million people throughout the river basin. Get more information and register here

Charlotte SHOUT!
After several pandemic-related postponements, Charlotte SHOUT! is back. This community festival, which runs from April 1-16, includes music, food and art, and features many talented local and international artists, dancers, musicians, poets, chefs and thought leaders. Charlotte SHOUT! is all about celebrating our city's creativity and innovation. Here's a list of events. And here are tips for planning your visits

Earth Day Celebrations
Kick off Earth Day weekend with the 10th Annual Charlotte Sustainability Awards, honoring organizations and leaders in our community working toward sustainability and smart growth, and by their actions, inspiring others to do the same. This event will be on Friday, April 22 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The Depot on N. Tryon St. You can register here

Then, on Saturday, April 23, head to First Ward Park (301 E. 7th St., Charlotte, NC, 28202) for Charlotte Earth Day: All Together NOW!, a community Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This event will celebrate the beauty and diversity of our ecosystems and raise environmental awareness. There will be parades, speakers, performances, music, information stations, and a family treasure hunt. This event is free and open to the public.  

Sensory-Friendly Tiny House 
Visit Marion Diehl Park (2219 Tyvola Rd., Charlotte, NC, 28210, from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 30 and Saturday, May 21 to play in Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation's Therapeutics Program Sensory Friendly Tiny House. Built with a grant through the Walt Disney Company and National Recreation and Parks Association's "Meet Me at the Park" initiative, this fun temporary exhibit is full of musical instruments, sensory bins, a rock wall and activities designed for kids ages 10 and under. 

Bike Charlotte 
Bike Charlotte returns for its 20th year April 26 - May 8. This citywide celebration of all things cycling overlaps National Bike Month and encourages the everyday use of bikes for transportation, recreation and discovery. There are a number of programs and events planned over the two week period to educate the community about cycling and safety, celebrate the diversity of Charlotte cyclists, and recognize those who've made significant contributions to local cycling. 

Worth noting: Your bike can ride for FREE from whenever you rack and ride on any CATS service, including the LYNX Blue Line.

See you out and about! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Five Points Plaza in the Historic West End

This past weekend, our family took a fun outing to the grand opening of Five Points Plaza, a beautiful new community space located across from Johnson C. Smith University. Situated at the spaghetti-junction intersection of Rozzelles Ferry Rd., Trade St. and Beatties Ford Rd., Five Points Plaza offers formality to what's long been considered the gateway to the Historic West End.  

In this thoughtfully designed area, which spans two corners on opposite sides of Rozzelles Ferry Rd., you'll find swings, an amphitheater, a splash pad, public Wi-Fi, tables and chairs, solar lighting, brick pavers, and a decorative wall. 

Another remarkable feature is the artwork, which includes two public pieces, called the Excelsior Collection (after the landmark Excelsior Club), commissioned by the City of Charlotte and created by J Stacy Utley + EVOKE Studio Architecture. One of the installations is called "Ever Upward" and the other is titled "Even Higher." Both names are a nod to Latin definitions of the word "excelsior." 

A trip to visit Five Points Plaza can be an adventure in and of itself (let me recommend a ride on the CityLYNX Gold Line -- currently free! -- to get there; there are two train stops -- Bruns Ave. and Johnson C. Smith -- straddling the Plaza). But community-led teams are already planning events and festivals to take place regularly in the newly designed space. Check out upcoming events here

Next time we go back, we'll include a stop at neighboring Rita's Italian Ice and, in the heat of summer, will opt for a dip in the splash pad. 

Another great option while you're in the area is to take a Neighborhood Walking Tour, created by renowned Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett. 

While Five Points, in such close proximity to uptown, has long been a local hub for activity, it's seen a remarkable renaissance in recent years. If it's been a while -- or never -- since you've visited the beautiful, sprawling campus of Johnson C. Smith University, or enjoyed a walk along the neighborhood streets of the Historic West End, consider the opening of Five Points Plaza an excuse and an invitation to check out this beautiful, burgeoning part of Charlotte. 

Note: Five Points plaza is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Public Wi-Fi can be accessed by searching for network name Five Points Plaza.

How to get there: 
Five Points Plaza is located at 1803 W Trade St, Charlotte, N.C., 28216. To get there, I highly recommend you take the train! CityLYNX Gold Line is currently free and offers two stops (Bruns Ave. and Johnson C. Smith) a short walk from on either side of Five Points Plaza. 

Alternately, there are some on-street parking spaces and a few parking decks (Mosaic Village Parking Deck/1601 W. Trade St., Charlotte NC 28216; SP+ Parking/116 S. Cedar St., Charlotte, NC 28202; 
Gateway Village Parking/700 W. Trade St., Charlotte, NC 28202). 

Of course, walking or riding your bike are other fantastic options.