I went on a little journey yesterday that ended up being a 9-mile urban hike around Charlotte. Whoops.
I always complain that Charlotte isn’t a walkable city, but all that really means is that I haven’t walked it, not that it’s not possible. That’s an important distinction.
To be honest, I don’t want to be in Charlotte too much longer, but to be fair, it is a really wonderful city that I kind of rediscovered yesterday. I think a healing step in accepting loss (and I’m talking about the loss of a relationship here, which I realize is very dramatic verbiage on my part) is reassessing what you’ve still got. For me yesterday that came in the form of a closer look at a city I give up on all the time and a spontaneous afternoon falafel run with some special girls who just never seem to give up on me. It was a good combination.
I walked from my hood in Plaza Midwood, through my old hood in Elizabeth, into Midtown and onto the greenway to Dilworth, down to Southend, into Uptown, and back around to Plaza. Kind of the human equivalent of peeing on a fire hydrant, but a whole entire city. This is all still mine. Start over again and again and again.
It was super enjoyable, but I enjoy walking anywhere so that opinion is very very skewed. Most other people don’t think this thing I do is fun at all. You can ask my college roommate who I led into a field in rural Chile in search of I don’t even know what, my college boyfriend who I led into a field along the German-Poland border for the sake of an extra passport stamp, my sister who I dragged miles across an island in search of a gift shop that doesn’t exist, and my friend Amber who I led down a highway to get to Subway. (Amber is actually the only one who thinks these journeys tolerable and when I find a man who finds them half as exciting as we do, I will be set.)
Anyway, if ever you were in Charlotte and you wanted to, I don’t know, walk nine miles through six neighborhoods, this is what you would do…
Start at Central and Pecan in Plaza Midwood because it is the best neighborhood. You can call me if you want to and maybe I’ll walk downstairs and join you on this adventure because I am just full of 3-hour blocks of time to spare.
Years ago someone wrote in Charlotte Magazine that “Plaza Midwood is where Charlotte goes to forget it’s Charlotte” and I have never forgotten that. It’s the first neighborhood I ever visited when my brother gave me a driving tour years ago when I was thinking about moving here for grad school and the only place I’d buy a house here because they are just so cute. Note that you might want a tattoo and a beard to hang in these parts, or you can just go to Dairy Queen. Whatever works.
I don’t know cardinal directions so head down Pecan away from Dairy Queen (but you can get an ice cream cone first because this will be a very long walk).
If you are done with your ice cream in about 8 minutes you should stop at Sunflour Bakery on 7th and get a cookie but if not just keep going towards Elizabeth Ave and regret your decision for the next two hours and fifty-two minutes. (Get that cookie.)
Elizabeth is a cute street because there’s this trolley car that runs down it for no apparent reason at all. Charlotte’s public transit is completely out of control (as in worthless). If you are ready for another snack you can get the quinoa-stuffed avocado at Viva Chicken and/or more ice cream at whatever that ice cream shop is called (you’ll know when you see it). You’ll also find a killer view of the city up the stairs behind 1900 Mexican Grill. Technically there’s a sign that says you can’t go up there but, trust me, you totally can.
After you do not get arrested for trespassing you’ll continue down Elizabeth crossing Charlottetowne through CPCC’s campus, which I think is lovely.
Once you hit Elizabeth and Kings, cross Kings to get on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Hang a left.
Get used to the greenway because you’re about to be on it for a while. If you can’t make it like two more miles before a snack you better stock up at the Metropolitan (which you’re about to pass on your left). Snacks are very important to me, you may have noticed.
I feel like Midtown isn’t a real Charlotte neighborhood because as far as I know it is just the Met, which is not at all like the Met you know in New York. It is Trader Joe’s, Marshall’s, Best Buy, Staples, and some condos. It does, however, have this awesome park named after it (Midtown Park, hello) so maybe it is a real neighborhood. I don’t know. Stop by the park for a look at the Charlotte equivalent of Chicago’s Bean. I love this park.
Now get back on the greenway and stop lollygagging. You have like a 7-mile hike ahead of you still.
The greenway is going to lead you into Freedom Park, which I recommend skipping unless you’re just dying to walk an extra mile to see a man-made pond with a fountain in it. Didn’t think so. Get on East Blvd and hang a left, explorer. We’re going to get a snack at a hot dog stand.
I can’t figure out why I love JJ’s Red Hots so much, but I love it. Actually I know exactly why: it’s the branding. Also this orangeade.
If you are resourceful and highly motivated by snacks like I am, you have packed an apple and a KIND bar and are going to enjoy them with this orangeade on the steps of the Methodist Church down the road. If not, you should get a veggie dog.
Continue down East Blvd through Dilworth, home of wealthy young couples with small children. Walk past Kebab Grill and note that falafel will be consumed when this is all over. Text friends and ask them to go eat falafel with you later. Think about nothing but falafel for remainder of the hike.
Stop and set up camp on the steps of the Methodist Church for snack time. No one will mind.
Seriously consider going to church just because sitting on the steps is so enjoyable and then abandon that idea altogether to continue your journey. Falafel is on the line here.
At this point if you’re thinking “I wish I had a bike,” you better quit your bitching because we have a very long way to go, my friend. But look, you made it to Southend!
Southend is fast becoming one of Charlotte’s “hottest” neighborhoods, which just means it’s too frat-tastic for my taste. HOWEVER, you should go to Phat Burrito if you need another snack. OR drop in Common Market (but really you should have done that before you left Plaza Midwood because there is one there, too.)
By now you can see Uptown and that’s because it’s your next stop.
Cross the Tryon bridge into Uptown, which is what we call “downtown” but there is no downtown because the whole thing is “Uptown.” It’s all very confusing. When I moved here I refused to say Uptown but when I said I was going Downtown people thought I was going to another city so I just gave up… town.
I am not going to lie to you, in these last 45 minutes I kind of wanted to call a cab. But there is a really cool Ghandi statue coming up at the courthouse so just hold tight. We can do this.
Hang a right on Trade. You could hang any right you want, really, but I want you to walk past the bus terminal because I think it builds character. This is a great place to get stabbed and/or stop by the dirtiest Burger King on earth.
Ahead on the right you’ll see big important buildings that look like they belong in DC and you’ll be like, “See, self? Charlotte is super cool. Just look how cool this is. You didn’t even know this was here.”
The courthouse is home to the Ghandi garden and statue and I think you should stop there.
We are very, very close to being home now. Trade is torn up due to construction so go left on something, right on 7th, and left on Central and it’s a straight shot back to Plaza Midwood.
YOU MADE IT. Celebrate with falafel.
And that’s how you walk 9 miles around Charlotte on a Sunday afternoon. Go forth and wander. What you have is exactly what you need. Where you are is exactly where you should be.
If you don’t believe me that this is 9 miles, I didn’t either, which is why I made you this handy custom map to prove it: https://goo.gl/maps/KcVsS