Throughout the year, we are highlighting notable women in our community. We want to spotlight those who are shaping where we live and giving back to our neighborhood. This month, we are thrilled to introduce you to Charlotte native (they do exist!), Chantilly resident, and creator of blazeCLT.com, Lauren Sawyers. Through blazeCLT, Lauren focuses on active, family-friendly adventures you can have right here in Charlotte. Whether you are new to the area or a long-time resident looking to try something new, Lauren can help you blaze a new trail.
As Lauren is a blogging pro, we turned the Genevieve Williams blog over to her today so you too can experience Charlotte through her eyes:
When I was in high school and someone invited me to do something around The Arboretum, the commercial and residential area in South Charlotte, I might’ve considered packing an overnight bag. Admittedly, it wasn’t but a 20 minute, straight-shot commute down Providence Road from where I grew up near Uptown, but back then, it felt like being asked to take a trip to the country.
My perception wasn’t entirely misguided; the massive, popular Ballantyne development, which borders The Arboretum to the Southwest, was still, in fact, farms and undeveloped hunting land at that time. Now, of course, the city is larger still, having continued to grow out (see Ardsley, past Ballantyne), grow up (look at our shiny skyline and all the new center city condos), and grow more sophisticated (did you know Uptown used to shut down when all the bankers clocked out at 5:00?)
Indeed, the city has experienced a remarkable transformation over the past few decades, yet I still think of Charlotte as the same familiar, charming hometown of my childhood. In many ways, it is. There are historic neighborhoods, familiar landmarks, and plenty of folks with deep roots here.
At the same time, I recognize with pride and appreciation its exponential growth and development — all the things that make Charlotte the place so many folks also want to call home.
On the whole, Charlotte is a wonderful place to live in and explore. Even as a lifelong native, I’m constantly finding new things to do, which is exciting. It’s the perfect place for our active family (all born and raised here) to play, learn and grow.
Here are just a few of our favorite features of the city, all of which offer a wonderful mix the old and the new:
The network of greenways crisscrossing Charlotte is probably one of our city’s greatest amenities. I remember riding bikes along one of the first developed stretches of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway near Freedom Park as a kid and finding it to be such a novel experience. Now, the park system maintains more than 50 miles of greenways city-wide. These protected areas are a treasure, perfect for hiking, running, riding or enjoying a stroll.
Over the years, Charlotte has become home to an abundance of world-class museums, theaters and cultural events. One of our favorites is the Mint Museum Uptown. It offers not only exquisite exhibitions, but also one of the coolest family spots in town. We often visit just to spend time in the Lewis Family Gallery, which is full of hands-on activities and a space devoted entirely to artistic creativity.
One of our new favorite discoveries is a series of historic neighborhood self-guided walking tours designed by local historian Tom Hanchett. These short, informative outings expose us to different areas of town and teach us new things about even the places we’ve lived in for years.
A part of me will always think of my hometown as the relatively small, but vibrant and burgeoning metropolis of my childhood. I no longer consider The Arboretum a day trip, though I do remain an Uptown girl at heart. At the same time, I’m excited by the city’s growth. On both hands, there’s plenty to do and discover.
If you’re interested in discovering more active, family-friendly adventures in and around Charlotte, join me at www.blazeCLT.com. Whether you’ve just moved to town or have lived here a lifetime, you’ll be amazed at everything this city has to offer.