Your Guide to the Trolley Line
Before the LYNX light rail system opened in 2007, one of the cornerstones of the Uptown Charlotte transit system was the streetcar. Beginning operation in the late 1800s and running until 1938, the Charlotte Trolley reopened in 1996, running from right outside Atherton Mill in South End to Ninth Street in Uptown. The Charlotte Trolley was well-received and left an indelible mark on the communities it served – especially South End.
by Charlie Leonard
Today, the CityLYNX Gold Line is the modern reincarnation of the beloved Charlotte Trolley. With 17 stops and more in the works, the best of the Queen City is just a short ride away. Hop on board as we highlight what to do, where to eat and where you should stay.
1. Sunnyside Avenue
Eat: Serving as a gateway to the vibrant Plaza Midwood neighborhood, you’re spoiled with great food and drink options at this stop. Enjoy the best of both worlds at Moo and Brew on Central Avenue, one of Charlotte’s best burger joints with plenty of local beers on tap. For a change of pace, walk across the street to The Thirsty Beaver Saloon. Serving everyone from Plaza Midwood locals to world-famous rockstars, this iconic dive bar just hits the spot no matter who you are. If you’re looking for a quick jolt or a sweet treat, try an espresso drink from Undercurrent Coffee or a scoop of ice cream from Two Scoops Creamery.
Do: If you’re a music lover, it doesn’t get much better than Lunchbox Records. Originally started as a punk record label down the road, this bright blue record store tucked off Central Avenue has a huge selection of vinyl records, CDs, books and magazines and memorabilia to fit every music taste.
2. Eighth Street
Eat: Historic homes and delicious food make this stop unique, with the intersection of Seventh and Hawthorne Streets serving as the unofficial epicenter. Turn right, and you’ll find The Fig Tree, an acclaimed, upscale dining experience inside the historic Lucas House. Turn left, and you’ll find the Cajun Queen, a taste of New Orleans complete with fresh fish specials and live jazz inside a century-old home. Other great options include the popular Sabor Latin Street Grill, Hawthorne’s Pizza and Adams 7th Street Market.
Do: Continue your impromptu history tour with a visit to Independence Park. Opened in 1906, this 24-acre urban park was the first public park in Charlotte’s history. A $6 million renovation project is underway to preserve this park’s historic look while adding new walking trails, better views of the Charlotte skyline and a connection to the American Legion Memorial Stadium nearby. If you’re ready to shop, you’ll find custom leather goods at ColsenKeane on the corner featuring handmade leather handbags, belts, wallets, wearables and more.
3. Hawthorne & Fifth Street
Do: Once you get off the streetcar, look to the west and take in the amazing view of the Charlotte skyline. This stop also has easy access to Presbyterian Hospital and the Kings College Charlotte campus nearby.
4. Elizabeth & Hawthorne
Eat: This small strip in the heart of Elizabeth houses many local favorites. That includes the original Viva Chicken – one of many great Peruvian restaurants in Charlotte – the relocated Big Ben Pub, the Elizabeth Creamery ice cream shop, and The People’s Market, relocated from the Dilworth neighborhood and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Do: If you’re looking to catch a show, The Visulite Theatre is one of the best around. It’s an independent concert venue, meaning you’ll get to see smaller bands and nationally known acts in a variety of genres play here on a regular basis. And thanks to its small size, you’ve got a VIP-level view no matter where you’re standing. Visiting during the day? There are two great shops located just a short walk from this stop. Find the perfect bike at The Spoke Easy bike shop, or stop by The Bag Lady for a brand-new book, crystals and other metaphysical products.
5. Central Piedmont Community College
Do: Just like the name implies, this stop is located right in the heart of Central Piedmont Community College. One of the main attractions on campus is the Dale F. Halton Theater, a 1,020-seat theater featuring plays, concerts and dance performances. If you like outdoor events, head over to American Legion Memorial Stadium. First opened in 1936, the historic stadium hosts high school sports, local events and the home matches for the Charlotte Independence soccer team.
6. McDowell Street
Eat: If you’re craving Greek food, head over to the Little Village Grill on McDowell Street. You’ll find everything from gyros and pitas to burgers, subs and homemade desserts at this hidden gem.
Do: There are a couple of different recreation options within walking distance of this stop. If you’re looking for a quick stroll with amazing views, head over to Marshall Park for some top-notch skyline views. If you’d rather go for a swim, the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center has a world-class swimming pool, hot tubs and a fitness center.
7. Davidson Street
Eat: Combining Greek and Southern food under the same roof, Showmars is an excellent choice for pitas, burgers, fish and more. Once you get off the streetcar, head to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center to find this Showmars location.
Do: If you love fresh produce, tasty baked goods or beautiful flowers, head over to the Uptown Farmers Market. Operating as a non-profit organization, the market strives to serve the entire community regardless of means while educating the public on healthy eating and supporting local farmers.
Eat: While there are plenty of food options to choose from, there are several stand outs to choose from. If you’re looking for lunch without the expensive price, stop by Johnny Burrito for a burrito bowl piled high with fresh meats and toppings or head to Mert’s Heart and Soul for some of Charlotte’s best soul food. For those that like to venture out, The Market at 7th Street is just a bit farther away, but the local food vendors inside are well worth the walk.
For dinner, drinks and some of the best views of the Charlotte skyline, Fahrenheit Charlotte has you covered. The New American cuisine combined with craft cocktails and a covered rooftop makes this the place to be on any given night. Some other great spots for drinks include the vibrant Middle C Jazz club and The Public House, just a quick stroll from Fahrenheit.
Do: If you’re a sports lover, this is the stop for you. Right next door is the Spectrum Center, home to the Charlotte Hornets and plenty of live events year-long. Also right down the road is the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a celebration of stock car racing that started right here in North Carolina. Other notable attractions include the Charlotte Convention Center, the ImaginOn children’s library and First Ward Park.
Stay: Your nearby hotels include the Hyatt House Charlotte/Center City, Springhill Suites Charlotte Uptown, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte Uptown and the Home2 Suites by Hilton Charlotte Uptown.
9. Tryon Street
Eat: Trade and Tryon Streets come together to form the heart of Uptown, meaning you’ve got all sorts of great dining options to choose from. Head to the Charlotte Marriott City Center to grab a coffee and a fresh pastry from Coco and the Director. Other great coffee spots include Waterbean Coffee at the corner of Tryon and Third Streets and Not Just Coffee on Church Street.
If it’s time for lunch, walk over to the Latta Arcade and take your pick. You’ll find pizza at Pie in the Sky, cheesesteaks at Clover Joe’s, pub grub and cold drinks at the French Quarter and Valhalla, Greek and American food at Nefelie’s and even your favorite cereals at Day & Night Cereal Bar. If you’re craving sushi that’s fast and fresh, choose KO Sushi. For fresh sandwiches and an expansive beer selection the nearby Rhino Market and Deli is the place to be.
When it’s time for dinner, there are many great options within a short walk. For an upscale Korean BBQ meal that’s made at your table, head to MOA Korean BBQ. If you’d rather eat like the French, walk farther down Tryon Street to La Belle Helene. Tasty seafood can be found at Fin & Fino, Sea Level NC, and Bernandin’s on The Green. Other great options for lunch or dinner include the Mimosa Grill, Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar, Luce and Rí Rá Irish Pub. Your drink options are plentiful at this stop, but some favorites include rooftop bars like Aura and Merchant and Trade.
Do: Museums and Music dominate the activities here. Explore science and nature exhibits at Discovery Place, catch a show at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. A short walk away is the Knight Theater with neighboring Mint Museum Uptown, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
Stay: Hotels are plentiful around the Tryon Street stop, including the Charlotte Marriott City Center, the historic Dunhill Hotel, the Westin Charlotte, the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte and the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel.
10. Mint Street
Eat: Boasting a nice selection of street tacos and blue agave tequila, Que Onda Tacos + Tequila is the perfect place for brunch, lunch and dinner. While the food is great, the drinks steal the show thanks to eight different margaritas to choose from, three specialty house cocktails and two unique tequila flights. If you’re headed to the game, stop in Graham Street Pub and Patio. This gastropub is a prime spot for wings, quesadillas, beer, tailgating and post-game celebrations.
Do: Gameday is even better when you save on parking. This stop has easy access to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC. You’re also a short walk from Truist Field, the home park of the Charlotte Knights, one of the best minor league ballparks in the country.
11. Charlotte Gateway Station
Eat: Order one of your pub favorites at the Pub at Gateway or Buffalo-style pizza and wings at Bisonte Pizza Company. If you’re craving dessert, Crave Dessert Bar has everything from crème brûlée to bread pudding with Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur.
12. Johnson & Wales University
Eat: Johnson & Wales is well-known for their culinary arts program, so there has to be great restaurants nearby. Stop in area favorite Cedar Street Tavern, known for their Buffalo chicken, burgers, fries and a great late-night menu.
Stay: If you’re here for the university, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte is right on campus.
13. Irwin Avenue
Do: Visit the green spaces nearby, including Frazier Park and the Irwin Creek Greenway. If you’re looking to beat the heat, walk down the Greenway to cool off at Ray’s Splash Planet, an indoor waterpark perfect for year-round splashing.
14. Wesley Heights
Do: Take a look to the southeast for an excellent view of the Charlotte skyline. This stop is part of the growing Wesley Heights neighborhood, providing the local residents and visitors with excellent access to Uptown and beyond.
15. Bruns Avenue
Eat: If you love fried chicken and all the down-home sides, the Chicken King is the way to go.
Do: Stop by the Rosa Parks Farmers Market for fresh produce and other goods. Just like the Uptown Farmers Market, this local market strives to educate and serve the local community regardless of means. More specifically, this market is a vital resource for the historic West End, the Beatties Ford Road corridor and the greater West Charlotte community as a whole.
16. Johnson C. Smith University
Eat: If you need a pick-me-up, head to Koko Mo’s Coffee House on the Johnson C. Smith campus. Once inside, pick up your fresh coffee or tea and pair it with one of their delicious cakes or the chicken salad sandwich combo.
Do: Explore the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte’s only HBCU and top ranked private HBCU in the state of North Carolina according to US News and World Report. This 100-acre campus boasts several gorgeous brick buildings and a fantastic view of the Charlotte skyline. If you’re back on campus for gameday, this stop offers easy access to the Jack S. Brayboy Gymnasium and the Irwin Belk Memorial Stadium Complex.
17. French Street
Eat: Head over to Mama Gee’s to experience a taste of Ghana. That includes West African classics like chicken with fried yams, waakye (rice and beans), chicken and plantains with joloff rice and more.
Do: Visit Five Points Park for a quick walk, an afternoon picnic or a relaxing day out in nature.