When it comes to tracking Charlotte’s path to becoming one of the nation’s busiest metropolises, we’re reminded that transportation and a city’s ability to connect its people to other communities has always been a driving force. Charlotte’s history has certainly underscored that.
Although the Queen City was the site of nation’s first gold rush which brought an influx of transplants in search of striking luck, the rise of Charlotte’s first rail line in 1852 actually had a greater impact on the local economy. It connected the city to Columbia, South Carolina for the primary purpose of transporting goods. Because its success was instant, the North Carolina state legislature immediately authorized construction of a second line to link Charlotte with Raleigh, North Carolina. The result? The tiny Queen City became a huge hot spot during the Civil War.
A population boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries inspired the development of Charlotte’s first streetcar network, which was initially horse-drawn and then mule-drawn. Then came the revolutionary electric streetcar, which powered city transportation for decades before being replaced by the bus system in the late 1930s and, eventually, the automobile. In the mid-1990s, in an effort to reignite interest in Uptown, the once-critical trolley system made a return.
A revamped version of the streetcar ran from Center City to South End until the ultimate game-changer broke ground. The LYNX Blue Line light rail began operation in 2007 and became a major linchpin in South End’s rise as one of Charlotte’s hottest modern neighborhoods. At present, 15 stations run along a 9.6-mile route that links Uptown to South Charlotte.
In March 2018, the Charlotte Area Transit System plans to begin operation of a 9.3-mile extension of the light rail. Through 11 new stops—each filled with exciting offerings—the rail will connect Center City to the Universality of North Carolina at Charlotte in an exclusive right-of-way free of congestion. The result? A Charlotte that allows its residents to navigate the city rapidly and efficiently. CATS projects the extension will yield 24,500 average weekday trips by 2035.
Here, we follow the Blue Line through the city, station by station spotlighting what you can do at each stop. You’ll be amazed by how much culture you can unlock on a $2.20 ride.
Current Light Rail Stops
1. I-485 Station
Must-see Stops: Carolina Pavilion (Target, Old Navy, Nordstrom Rack, AMC Carolina Pavilion 22); Steak ‘n Shake
2. Sharon Road West Station
Must-see Stops: Snyder’s-Lance Factory
Did You Know? The Snyder’s-Lance business began in Charlotte after a local businessman converted a raw peanut deal that had gone awry into a prolific snack brand.
3. Arrowood Station
Must-see Stops: Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits; Tamaleria Laurita; La Catracha Restaurant
Did You Know? The Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits franchise was founded in Charlotte in 1977.
4. Archdale Station
Must-see Stops: The Burrito Factory; 500 Degrees Pizzeria; Payal Indian Groceries & Spices
5. Tyvola Station
Must-see Stops: Bill Spoon’s Barbecue; Vietnam Grille; Fordham Park
Did You Know? Bill Spoon’s Barbecue opened in 1963, making it one of Charlotte’s oldest restaurants.
6. Woodlawn Station
Must-see Stops: Three Spirits Brewery; Rountree Plantation; Arepas Grill; Beef ‘N Bottle Steakhouse
7. Scaleybark Station
Must-see Stops: Queen Park Social; Great Wagon Road Distilling Company; The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
8. New Bern Station
Must-see Stops: Triple C Brewing Co.; Lenny Boy Brewing Co.; Mac’s Speed Shop
Did You Know? At 31,000 square feet, Lenny Boy Brewing Co.’s new South Tryon Street location is 530 percent larger than its original 4,900-square-foot space on Hawkins Street.
9. East/West Station
Must-see Stops: Tupelo Honey Café; Price’s Chicken Coop; Clair De Lune boutique
Did You Know? Comedian Jay Leno has been spotted eating fried chicken from Price’s Chicken Coop while sitting on the curb of Camden Street.
10. Bland Street Station
Must-see Stops: Elder Gallery; Futo Buta; Wooden Robot Brewery; The Brass Tap