The Fourth Ward - Charlotte, NC
There are some cities that I go to and instantly fall in love with. There are others that grow on me over the time that I'm there. Unfortunately, Charlotte wasn't really either of these for me.
I visited the #1 city where millennials are moving to back in November for the National League of Cities' City Summit. In Charlotte's defense, the conference kept me pretty occupied during the day and the end of a bad cold had me more confined to my hotel in the evenings than I normally would be. While I ended up scrapping plans to visit a few museums because I wasn't feeling well, one place I did go explore on a free afternoon was the historic Fourth Ward.
You instantly step out of the buzz and into a storybook. The Fourth Ward is a part of Charlotte's bustling and busy Uptown, but you would never know it. Walking along stone and paver sidewalks covered in the fall foliage, past 100 year old houses, through parks with eclectically crafted birdhouses and little free libraries, all bathed in the soft, setting afternoon light. It's quiet and calm. The sounds of the city - traffic, sirens, a constant buzz - is so distant as to be nonexistent. The tops of skyscrapers just barely peak over the trees. A certain peace falls over you as you sit on a park bench watching the birds in a fountain and passerby walking their dogs. Can I possibly be in the same place and time that I was just 5 or 6 blocks away?
Charlotte's Fourth Ward originated as a voting district early in the City's history. While no longer a legislative boundary, the neighborhood kept its name with its unique atmosphere. It's the only ward of Charlotte's Uptown that is a designated historic district, which helps to keep it calm and quiet. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a ton going on though. According to Visit Charlotte:
Today, Fourth Ward is a thriving Uptown community with a mix of restored Victorian homes, luxury condos, urban apartments, parks and businesses. A mix of quaint and charming with urban and contemporary, the 30 city blocks that make up Fourth Ward are worth a day of exploring and many return visits.
Some local neighborhood favorites include: Alexander Michael’s for the fried pickles, Corner Pub for the funnel cake fries, and Crave Dessert Bar for the s’mores platter (Charlottefive.com). It is also home to Discovery Place and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.
Now, I would never move to Charlotte (although I am apparently the only millennial who feels this way), but if I had to, I would want to live here.
The conference did get me out to see some of the other neighborhoods in Charlotte as well and learn about some really cool things going on, including an organization that is starting an incubator restaurant on the west side of the city and an aquaponics program* at one of the local universities to help address food deserts. Some of my favorite photos from this exploring are below.
*Aquaponics: inside these giant blue tanks in the foreground are about 30 trout each. The water is cycled from the trout through tubes to water and fertilize the plants in the greenhouses (below). The vegetables and the trout are then sold at local farmer's markets.