Freedom Park in Charlotte, NC
by Elena Belova
If you are travelling to North Carolina, you can’t miss the so-called “Queen City”, Charlotte, named after the German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Even though it is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States, the city offers a great choice of parks full of trails and scenic routes for any type of leisure activity.
Whether you are in Charlotte on vacation, for work or for visiting a family, make sure to check out the Freedom Park and Little Sugar Creek Greenway! It is definitely a must-see! While many may recommend you start exploring by going to Uptown or Noda, I would suggest visiting that park, because it will give you a real insider’s view at the local culture of Charlotteans.
The park is located between two beautiful historic neighborhoods: Dilworth and Myers Park. It has paved trails that are suitable for cycling, running, rollerblading or just strolling. In addition, there are a couple of tennis courts next to the Greenway, as well as baseball and soccer fields, and even volleyball courts! There are also several playgrounds for children, that have great equipment for young adventurous explorers. The playgrounds are shaded by trees, which means that children usually spend hours there, giving time their parents to socialize with friends somewhere nearby. It is worth to mention that adjacent to the park there is a Charlotte Nature Museum, which is a contemporary learning center for children. You will find there a selection of animals and plants of the Piedmont region.
Unfortunately, Charlotte is not a pedestrian-friendly city yet, and you will need a car to get to the park. There are a few recommended parking options:
1. Street parking.
Can be tricky, read the street signs carefully. There are many restrictions, and also they vary based on time of the day and day of the week. Besides, keep in mind that parking on the private property is not allowed.
2. Parking lot on Princeton Avenue.
It is located between one of the rentable shelters and a baseball field. May be full during the weekend game.
3. Parking lot near Liliac Road.
That’s where Google maps will take you if you search for “Freedom Park”. A very nice and “cozy” parking lot, but also very small and usually is full during weekends. I like it because it is located on a hill, from which you see a panoramic view of the park.
4. Parking lot adjacent to the soccer fields and volleyball courts.
This will be your best bet in the most cases, because of its convenient access from the East Boulevard. On the maps it is indicated as a service access road. The majority of the lot is under a tree canopy, so your car won’t turn into an oven when you come back. It is the closest parking lot to the playgrounds, so usually families prefer to park there.
To begin with, Freedom Park hosts many events throughout the year, such as Environmental Discussion Panels, Bubble Parade and Charity walks. However, if you are in Charlotte in late September, don’t miss the Art Festival! Every year since 1964, over 100 000 visitors come to this five-day event to see the best artisans and musicians from all corners of North Carolina, that share their skills and products with the public. Street food, various activities for children and adults, such as face painting, art workshops and intro classes will ensure that you get an unforgettable experience! Stroll along the lake and glimpse inside numerous white tents that feature the best local products. Maybe you’ll find a jar of delicious honey from Ashville, or a cute ceramic piece that you’ll want to bring home?
Running on the Greenway
Running is becoming more and more popular among Charlotteans and Freedom park is one of the best places for a weekend workout. If you are coming to QC for the first time, and ready for an exciting 5K run, make sure you take the scenic route along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway! It starts in the Freedom park, just slip through the woods and cross the bridge, and you’ll find yourself under a tall tree canopy. Breathe-in deeply, feel how the misty smell of greenery fuels your body and nurtures your soul!
After half-a-mile in the woods, you’ll pass under the first bridge and will enter another section of the route, which goes along the creek. It is quite likely that you may encounter some ducks, bathing in the water or chilling under the sun. The next section of the route will take you to Midtown, where you’ll find yourself in an urban area. Across the road you’ll see a few shops, where you may stop and take a coffee or fuel yourself with an energy bar. Further down the road, near Metropolitan Avenue, you’ll also find some restaurants and bars, such as Vivace or Hickory Tavern, that are perfect spots for a weekend brunch.
The Greenway ends at the Elisabeth Avenue, but in the future, it is going to become connected to other trails, according to proposed city planning.
Locals enjoy throwing parties at Freedom park. During weekend, you probably won’t find an available shelter, since all of them will be reserved for events. Birthday parties, baby showers, board game events… Anything you can imagine! Many shelters also have some extra amenities, such as grill, lights, electricity and water. Furthermore, there is a spacious outdoor stage, where from time to time local musicians give concerts. Take a seat across from it, on the grass and enjoy the music. Or if you brought a hammock, you may hang it nearby: there are plenty of suitable trees.
Since ecotourism is gaining popularity nowadays, I’d like to mention demonstration gardens that you will find in the park. They are maintained by volunteers to show distinctly different planting strategies. That way, the beginner garden enthusiasts can come to the park and learn more about the variety of plants and how to treat them in a proper way.