Now when I think of clean, green cities I think of Charlotte, North Carolina. I was amazed by the amount of parks located right in the city, their size and the diversity of them too. Just outside the downtown core were more parks and green spaces, larger and even more dazzling. The following are my top 10 favourite parks of Charlotte.
10. Frasier Park
Located north of the downtown, Frasier Park covers 12 acres and has fields for playing sports, tennis courts, a playground and a dog park. I only visited a small portion of the park and it was empty but for the birds and I. The park does have nice trails along the creek and is full of a diversity of birds.
9. Hawthorne Park
Part of Independence Park but separated by a street, Hawthorne Park is where you’ll find Independence Park Stadium. Hawthorne Park is a great place for activities as it’s home to a volleyball net, playground, table tennis tables and a basketball court where a small group of teen boys were enjoying a game of b ball.
8. Romare Bearden Park
The Romare Bearden Park is almost 5 and a half acres and recently opened this past August (2013). The park was named for the Charlotte born artist Romare Bearden and showcases two gardens, fountains and a large green space where people were playing ball with their children and fetch with their dogs and has a great view of the city skyline.
7. Thompson Park
Once the site of the Thompson Orphanage, Thompson Park covers just over 3 acres. Here you’ll find a quaint and charming little church, St. Mary’s Chapel as well as a 270 foot arc that serves as a Veterans memorial. To me the most touching part was a small plaque dedicated to the memory of the 100′s of children that lived at the Thompson Orphanage from 1886 to 1970. Overall a truly touching park.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway
6. Little Sugar Creek Greenway
The Little Sugar Creek Greenway runs along the southern section of Charlotte’s downtown and when its completed will run 20 miles of trails and will even go all the way to the South Carolina state line.
What is a ‘greenway’? Greenways are narrow strips of land that are managed to provide both human recreation and wildlife habitat.
I have to say I literally stumbled upon the greenway after visiting Thompson Park, and when I strolled along more of it on my way to Freedom Park the next day I was blown away by its ideal location, along a main street and its ideal wetland habitat that a variety of ducks were enjoying. There were even fountains along the trails and a little further out it offered a beautiful view of the city skyline.
5. Independence Park
Covering 24 acres, Independence Park was created in 1924 making it the oldest park in Charlotte. Walking through its trails, surrounded by massive, tall trees you can feel the history. It’s a beautiful, quiet park to take a stroll or sit reading, but another highlight is its rose garden, and though I visited in the fall there were still plenty of pretty blooms of various colours.
4th Ward Park Bird House
4. Fourth Ward Park
This historic neighbourhood also has a hip, 3 acre park that also boasts as a nature preserve. I was totally charmed by the Fourth Ward Park, the solitude it emanated, the cute gray squirrels frolicking about and then there were the bird houses. How exciting can bird houses be, you might think. As an avid bird watcher I am always charmed by cute and eclectic bird houses. But the bird houses throughout the park were not only cute, they were fanciful and entertaining.
3. Marshall Park
Probably the second busiest park I visited in Charlotte, Marshall Park covers around 6 acres and is home to a Holocaust memorial and a memorial statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. The park was full of couples strolling hand in hand, business people on cell phones and others merely passing through. The park provides a stark contrast of tranquility compared to the hustle of the city buildings next door. You can relax by its small lake, watch the sparkle of water drops coming off the large fountain or as I did stroll over one of the parks bridges in awe of the vibrantly coloured trees in full fall colours.
2. Freedom Park
There it was at the end of an almost hour’s walk from downtown Charlotte, in all its glory and boy was it worth it! Freedom Park stretches over almost 100 acres with a spectacular 7 acre lake and large fountain and is also home to the Charlotte Nature Museum. There is something for everyone here; tennis courts, playground, sports fields, picnic areas, and the park is surrounded by the ritzy homes of the Myers Park neighbourhood. It was the busiest park I visited with plenty of joggers, bikers, dog walkers and mothers playing with their children. The trails were fantastic! There were open area trails and wooden trails with plenty of song birds, two herons even flew over head, and of course charismatic gray squirrels that I loved to watch as they performed their acrobatics in the trees. There was even a picturesque creek running through it, it was a nature lovers paradise. Walking through the trails in the fall with the sound of rustling and crunching leaves under foot always brings me joy in my favourite season, it was all I could do to refrain from scooping a bunch up and throwing them up in the air.
1. The Green
Located right downtown, close to eateries, on 1.5 acres The Green is small compared to many of Charlotte’s parks and green spaces but it packs a large personality and big green efforts.
Completed in 2002, The Green promotes being green in many respects, like by using plants that are drought tolerant, meaning they require less irrigation and minimal chemical and pesticide use. Also the lawn is Bermuda grass and is fertilized with organic fertilizers and is irrigated by rainwater/storm water run off.
From green to theme, and a big reason why I chose The Green as my number one! As a green advocate, park lover and creative person, this literary themed wonderland of world literature was perfect for me! When I first stumbled upon it and for every visit after I was awed by the large bronze book sculptures that flank the steps into The Green and hold guard to the treasures within. Literally scattered throughout the space are bronze literary pages that appear to have fallen out of famous books. The wonderland of The Green has a playful side too, with three large fish fountains and Alice-like mosaic furniture as well as a strange buzzing of bee/purring noise coming from speakers located just off the ground. It all lent itself to a feeling of fun whimsy and inspiration. Also located on the grounds is St. Peter’s Catholic Church’s meditation garden, tucked away in a peaceful corner with water features and welcoming greenery that appeared to draw you in and wrap you in its arms. It was a great place to re-charge and calm my excited mind to allow all the senses to open up and help me take in my amazing surroundings.
Which is your favourite?
To see more of my photos of Charlotte’s parks visit Lady of the Zoos on Facebook!