Want to really understand Charlotte? Go for a City Walk


Did you know the statue of Captain James Jack on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is facing Philadelphia?

Have you had a chance to tour one of Charlotte’s newest neighborhoods, you know, the one that’s LEED certified and is serving as a model of mixed-income development?

OK, OK, what about this: When’s the last time you wandered among the tree-canopied campus at Johnson C. Smith University, looking at the old and new together?

Calling all Charlotte newbies, Charlotte natives, or somewhere in between: The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s Plan Charlotte is hosting City Walks, which are free, public walking tours throughout the city’s various neighborhoods every weekend during the month of May.

Visitors explore Enderly Park in 2016.

Whether you know a little or a lot about your city, there is no shortage of things one could see on these tours. So we pulled together four of the must-see stops (go here to see all of the walks and to register):

(1) Johnson C. Smith University campus.

Kay Peninger, President and CEO of The Charlotte Museum of History, said these buildings are some of the most spectacular sites in Charlotte and a definite must-see.

“The quad at Johnson C. Smith University is significant because these buildings were built at a time of Jim Crow segregation and are a testament to the determination of African Americans to receive an education,” she said.

Walking Tour of Johnson C. Smith University and Nearby Neighborhoods: Saturday, May 13, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Meet at First Baptist Church West, 1801 Oaklawn Avenue.

(2) Munching tours.

By the time you see this, it may already be too late — these tours tend to fill up quickly.

“That was the very first walk we began with in 2012,” said Mary Newsom of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. “Every year since then, they have been full.”

The first two tours are full but a third tour has been added, and it still had some room at the time of publication. Participants show up with empty stomachs and a desire to taste cuisine from Greece, China, the Caribbean and more.

Grove Park Munching Tour: Saturday, May 6, 4-6 p.m. Meet at the Ascension sculpture, corner of Sharon Amity Road and East W.T. Harris Boulevard.

(3) Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

Historian Scott Syfert will lead this walk along the greenway, discussing the statues along the way. A few tidbits to look for: “Note that Captain Jack is turning north, towards Philadelphia,” Syfert said.

Also, he said, “Banstre Tarleton wrote, ‘The counties of Mecklenburg and Rowan were more hostile than any others in America.’

Trail of History along Little Sugar Creek Greenway: Sunday, May 7, 3 p.m.. Meet in front of the Philip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College, at Seventh Street and Kings Drive.

(4) Hebrew Cemetery and Brightwalk.

Combine the old and new with stories about those who rest in one of Charlotte’s oldest cemeteries, followed by a tour of one of the Queen City’s newest neighborhoods. Tours will be led by Historian Tom Hanchett and Brian Yesowitch, president of Hebrew Cemetery Association.

Walking Tour of Hebrew Cemetery and Brightwalk: Sunday, May 14, 1-3 p.m. Meet at Hebrew Cemetery, 1801 Statesville Avenue.

Revolution Park resident John Howard shows a City Walk group the neighborhood community garden along a greenway beside Irwin Creek.

Does one need to be a history buff to appreciate these tours? Of course not, Newsom said.

“Keep in mind history doesn’t necessarily mean the Revolutionary War — it could mean what happened in 1990,” she said.

And if you’re a couch potato, not to worry: This isn’t going to count for your day’s cardio.

“Your Fit Bit will not log a lot of distance on these,” Newsom assured.

City Walks has a relationship with the international organization janeswalk.org. Sign up here for one of the walks.

Photos: Claire Apaliski, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute


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