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. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

March Gladness: 3 Charlotte Adventures to Kick Off Spring

The daffodils are blooming, excited birdsong punctuates the predawn quiet, and longer afternoons are draped in a warm, golden blanket of sun. Indeed, spring is descending upon Charlotte and beckoning us to come out and play. 

This month, there are a number of opportunities to get out, get moving, and get involved in the community. If you've been stuck inside due to weather, COVID, work or school, now is the time to seek activities and events to connect with nature and each other. Below, find three such outings our family is planning to attend in the coming weeks. I hope you'll consider joining, too. 

I Heart Rail Trail: Lights
Beginning March 4 and running through March 20, lighted art installations will be featured along the Charlotte Rail Trail. This exhibit, made possible by a partnership between Charlotte Rail Trail, Charlotte Center City Partners, and U.S. Bank, offers a family-friendly, 100% outdoor experience with lots of opportunities for conversation, recreation and fun pictures. 

Read more about I Heart Rail Trail: Lights, including directions, nearby places to eat, and events taking place around the installations here. My favorite is the oversized nightlights at The RailYard/1414 S. Tryon St.

Growing Our Greenways
On Saturday, March 19, at 2:00 p.m., join Sustain Charlotte, Partners for Parks and Carolina Thread Trail for a walk or bike ride along one of Mecklenburg County's newest stretches of greenway. This event, which will start and finish at the Polk Historic Site in Pineville, is part of an initiative to highlight the many benefits of greenways and to amplify the voices of Mecklenburg County residents and organizations advocating for equitable and expedited construction of our county greenway network.

Learn more and register here. Whether you walk or ride, you'll be in good, fun company. 

Creek Week
During the week of March 19-26, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services will host its 4th annual Creek Week, featuring volunteer and educational opportunities across the city for all ages. From stream cleans to tree maintenance, planting to story time, storm drain marking to rain barrel making, there's something for everyone to get involved, love our planet, and give back to the community we all call home. 

Find Creek Week events and sign up to volunteer here. Equipment and materials are provided. 

Don't forget! 
Friendly reminder that Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 13. Don't forget to spring forward -- and be sure to take advantage of that extra hour of playtime. Hope to see you out and about in the coming weeks!