Things to do and places to eat off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops

Our first day on the LYNX!

The light rail had me curious, but I never had a reason to ride because I have a car.  The Lynx Blue Line opened for business in 2007 and here we are in 2019 riding it for the first time. We moved to Charlotte in 2006.

Sleek design ,smooth ride on the LYNX Blue Line

This is a perfect example of how blogging and vlogging gets us doing things we might not normally do.  If we weren’t busy being content creator’s we probably would never have given it a try.  I’m really glad we did though because it turned out to be a really cool ride, a mini Charlotte exploration adventure.

Now we get to share places to go and things to do off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops!

You can purchase your ticket from the vending machine at the station or use the CATS pass App

I actually rode the LYNX twice.  The first ride was with Apache for our vlog day date.  My second ride was during rush hour just to see what it was like.  I wanted to take in the experience of riding with the commuters.

There are currently 11 LYNX Blue Line Park & Ride locations. Which Park & Ride locations are free?  Two out of the eleven will charge a $10 fee if an all-day pass (which means you can ride the train back and forth as many times as you like for $6.60) or a pass of higher value is not purchased.

The two stations that currently charge are the JW Clay Station and University City Blvd. All of the other Park & Ride lots are free.  The stops that have a Park & Ride deck have a on the Lynx Blue Line map so they are easy to find.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops, I want to share about my commuter experience.

I was definitely feeling the free parking available at the I-485/South Blvd station, it made me feel so welcome!

The Commuter Experience

After parking in the outdoor lot, I followed a group of people moving with a steady intentional pace toward the train.

There were two long stairways leading up to the train. I wasn’t sure if it made any difference which I took so I asked this young girl in route (who looked like a high school student to me, but since she was catching the train I guessed, maybe college). She smiled and informed me that she was headed to work (so now I’m thinking it’s just because of my age that she looks like a baby to me). She told me it didn’t make a difference which flight of stairs I took, “they both lead to the same place.” I followed her to the indoor parking deck across the street to take the elevator up instead.

Apache looks like a LYNX commuter here.

During rush hour everyone seemed calm. The station was very clean and quiet. Surprisingly, there was enough seating for everyone that got on the train.  If I had the choice, I would choose this easy-going train ride over driving in Charlotte’s new nerve-racking traffic any day.

There were only two stops left before I had to get off, my bladder was beginning to make some serious demands on me. I’m sure if I was in my 20s this wouldn’t have been an issue- sigh.

During rush hour periods the LYNX arrives about every 10min

A entire one-way trip took 50 minutes. I simply got off, walked to the other side and rode back to my car. Easy-Peasy!

The temperature on the Blue Line was mild. It was a smooth ride with each stop announced before-hand. This ride would make a perfect time to catch up on some reading or writing.  If you are gonna be hanging out all night visiting different spots near the LYNX, take the light rail back and forth and skip the driving. Who wants to have to look for parking or pay for parking if they don’t have to? ugh.

Now on to the juicy part. Here are a few places we have visited or plan to visit off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops. All locations listed are within walking distance from the light rail. Try them out for yourself. Let us know what you think about any of the locations mentioned.

Things To Do & Places To Eat

Woodlawn

The Woodlawn and Scaleybark stations are in Mountclaire South/Lower South End.

To Do:

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall– We both appreciate antiques and love vintage clothing and this mall has both! This is a multi-level mall with over 80 dealers. I know we will be enchanted for hours wandering around this mall. We are currently planning a day date to go check it out.

Pexels

Scaleybark

To Do:

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen– This cooking class sounds like it would make a fun date, girl’s night out or even a solo night out. Learn some new culinary skills. This is definitely on our To Do list!

East/West Blvd Station

This stop is in the South End neighborhood.

Eat/Drink:

Pikes has some delicious American diner style food

Pikes Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Dining out at Pikes Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Superica Tex-Mex Cuisine at it’s best. Superica has become our favorite Mexican food spot. Just thinking about those in-house made chips, perfectly salted…their variety of chip dips that have me singing “oh my God” after each bite, the Margaritas (crying now), the Appetizers are crazy. We had appetizers for dinner and left completely satisfied and wishing we had more money and space in our bellies so we could continue. We enjoyed watching Lady and The Tramp on their xtra-large screen as we happily stuffed our faces. I have checked with others to see if they had the same experience and the feelings were mutual.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Hawkers comes highly recommended by friends for street vendor recipes from Asia .

Sunflower Baking Company

Dilworth Tasting Room

Stonewall Station

Stonewall through 9th is considered Uptown

To Do:

The Mint Museum

 The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts +Culture

 The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art 

 Knight Theatre

3rd Street Station/Convention Center

Eat/Drink:

Chima steakhouse–  Brazilian cuisine here-it’s a whole experience!

Chima is expensive but I promise you won’t regret spending a penny. We have been here a couple of times for special occasions and never been disappointed.

The salad bar is super elaborate and the meat is unbelievably good. Expect great service with lots of class. It’s a good idea to starve yourself before going to Chima. You will likely eat a full days worth of calories. Enjoy and don’t forget to wear something loose around the waist!

Charlotte Transportation Center/Arena Station

To Do:

Discovery Place– This is a really colorful and interactive establishment for kids of all ages but also a lot of fun for the adults as well.  We actually went here to play with our family/friends that came to visit from NYC (no small kids at the time only us big ones).

Blumenthal Performing Arts

Spectrum Center

Eat/Drink:

 Sea Level NC -Curious about this place. Apache and I both love seafood and the pics on the website have me salivating and hangry!

7th Street

To Do:

First Ward Park – Apache and I started off at the First Ward Park around 8am. It was abnormally clean first thing in the morning.

Some homeless were still sleeping or just rising from the benches. An older conservative looking male began a rigorous routine using his exercise band and the park equipment. A casual bike rider rode through the spray ground and everything seemed serene on this sun kissed morning.

We did a light workout in First Ward Park -yaay, it’s better than nothing!  First Ward Park has practical stationary equipment available for all your fat burning needs.

First Ward Park is great for walking, biking, chillaxing (made this word up) or exercising!

I love to climb whenever the opportunity arises. Lucky for me it did in the form of dome shaped monkey bars in First Ward Park.

You can climb these monkey ropes as part of your workout or just for fun- we did!

Relaxing after a light First Ward Park workout!

ImaginOn– This library/children’s theatre has something to engage every  adolescent. They have all kinds of programs, classes and theatre productions to inspire imagination and encourage enrichment. We have enjoyed their theatre productions on more than one occasion. Read more about the theatre  here.

Two big kids at ImaginOn in the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
Levine Museum of the New South

 Levine Museum of the New South– Levine has educational and powerfully moving exhibits. Make sure to take your family.

McColl Center for Art + Innovation– Artist residency and contemporary art space housed in an antiquated church. We love art and it’s free admission!    

Apache and I were ready to see what’s at the next LYNX stop. We walked across the way to the 7th street station and caught the inbound train to 9th.

At the 9th Street Station.

9th Street

Checking out the 9th street station art work.

Eat/Drink:

Walking to waterbean

Waterbean– The first place we visited on 9th street, a USDA certified organic coffee shop and roastery! Humidity was high outside, the air conditioning in Waterbean was such a relief! Waterbean is bright, and airy. Watch our vlog, you’ll see I tried my very first Mochi Ice Cream here. All I have to say is omgah! And our lives will never be the same again.

Having ice coffee with a passion fruit Mochi ice cream on a hot day in Charlotte! Mochi Ice cream is a soft, cool, sweet surprise.

Imagine your favorite ice cream wrapped in a thin powdery marshmallow! How could this exist? In my head I jumped up and down with excitement for the Passion Fruit flavor option-yaaay!

I wanted to try something new and that’s exactly what I got. The Waterbean coffee was great but the Mochi blew my mind. There are other treats too, like brightly colored macaroons. It was a good spot to wind down in.

Subsecreto We still have to visit this spot because I know they serve espresso in a chocolate-dipped shortbread cup… really that’s all I’m interested in- haha!

9th Street Station

After catching our breath at Waterbean we headed back to our light rail stop where a little hell was breaking loose. Some dude was screaming obscenities while smashing the glass covered booth at the station.

We watched the drama from afar with some cool people from Chicago that just arrived in Charlotte for the DuRag festival. They had been zipping around uptown on the motorized scooters everyone is using these days.

The police arrived quick, scooped up the poor disturbed soul and we proceeded with our vlog.

This happened during our LYNX day date.

Parkwood

Parkwood through Sugar Creek station enters the NODA/Optimist Park/Plaza-Shamrock neighborhoods.

Photo by Komadori Photography

Apache and I love old video games from the 80’s and 90’s so we were excited to play at Abari arcade. Bring on the Donkey Kong!

Don’t go here without your ID!  Photo by Komadori Photography

Entering Abari, a man sitting at a table, obviously unwelcoming us with no hello and no smile. He shared a bothered expression as he told us it was $1 to get in and that we also needed ID because it was a private business. I didn’t have ID so we never got in. I shall stop commentary there. Maybe you will have a better experience.

Photo by Komadori Photography
Beautiful graffiti around the corner from Abari. Possible IG photo spot?
More neighborhood artwork!

Drink:

Birdsong Brewing– Since it was a no go at Abari, we shrugged and ran to enjoy some cold specialty beers at Birdsong Brewing!

Photo by Komadori Photography

Photo by Komadori Photography

Some people brought their dogs in with them which I thought was very cool.  I will take every opportunity to rub down and high-pitch baby talk to any dog!

At Birdsong Brewing Company with Komadori Photography

To Do:

Cordelia Park – This park is 24 acres. We took our family swimming here a couple years ago and had a great time. There is also a full basketball court, walking trails and picnic shelter.

Tompkins Hall-Soon to come will be a ginormous food and retail development in this restored textile mill nearby NODA.  There is expected to be multi-level outdoor patios with a view of the uptown skyline. I’m sure it will be interesting.

36th Street Station

The sun was about to hit its peak and we rode the LYNX to 36th street in NODA.

There used to be amazing art Gallery crawls on the first Friday of every month in NODA which we miss dearly. We still love to meet vendors in the street and art can also be found all around NODA giving the neighborhood lots of personality. Breweries, bars and variety in places to eat are plentiful. There are fun things to do and great people to meet here off the 36th street LYNX stop.

If you follow the bright red banisters downstairs you will find thin pastel colored geometric shapes coming up from the ground. In addition, see a large concrete wall sculpted into 3D shaped blooming flowers! All great spots to take IG photos or just admire.

Eat/Drink:

Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub– This is a European Gastro Pub. The purpose of this day date was to try out some new places. My spicy Bloody Mary here was on point, no complaints there. One meal was enough to feed both of us. Our final consensus was “delish!” This meal is unique to us, a full gourmet meal wrapped in a thin pancake.

There was all kinds of goodness inside this crepe!


Haberdish
– Although very popular, we have not tried this restaurant yet. There was a line outside the door.

Cabo Fish Taco–  We love their tacos! Their lemon-grilled shrimp tacos are my favorite with a salted Margarita!

At Cabo Fish Taco

NODA Company Store

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse &Roastery– This place is a dope chill spot. It appeals to us for the laid-back ambiance and great coffee. Smelly Cat has seasonal comfort food, breakfast food and a fully stocked cocktail bar- say what?!

To Do:

After you finish your meal, roll yourself down the block to see a show!

The Evening Muse– Casual bar and live music in an intimate setting

The Neighborhood Theatre– Live music venue

Go boutique browsing….

Pura Vida– A cultural gifts store we were grateful to find when we first arrived to this city. This boutique is a breath of fresh air bringing in multi-ethnic merchandise and art from all around the world! I purchased my most favorite bracelet here!

ShopBartique– Enjoy a cocktail or beer while you shop Boho-chic designs for men and women! The owners Estelle and Steve have big hearts and fun personalities, tell them we sent you!

Shop Bartique
Shop Bartique top and cool Disco ring
Apache getting a creative angle in Shop Bartique.
Lovely boutique finds in Shop Bartique
Had to try this one on!

We love how Charlotte invited local artists to get in on making the LYNX Blue Line train stops beautiful.

Blooming flowers at the 36th street station

The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it. ~ Richard Bach

Our Visit to Cast Iron Waffles in Charlotte, North Carolina

We normally don’t travel outside of 20min for breakfast but we made an exception this time. Neither of us had ever tried an “Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle” (as advertised) before. This family owned cafe called Cast Iron Waffles is in the Ballantyne area (about 30min from our home)-a little bit out of the way for us because we get impatient for that first meal of the day.

How we found the Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle in Charlotte

On my lunch break (months ago) I happen to notice a Charlotte Magazine laying with some others and decided to check it out. Skimming through, my eyes fixated on an image of a waffle sprinkled with bacon and this frosting stuff that appeared to be oozing out of it. After glancing over another few pages i somehow ended up back on the picture of this waffle. This is where my imagination started to run wild about what it must taste like.  Salty and sweet are never a bad combination.


Here is my photo of the waffle i saw in the magazine that had me dreaming of that special moment where this particular waffle would enter my mouth and send messages of ecstasy to my brain…

I grabbed my iphone and took a picture of this waffle masterpiece and where to find it to make sure i wouldn’t forget. Boy, pictures really do sell!

For a few months i continue to refer back to this photo and remind my husband that i am gonna treat him to a new spot I found for a surprise breakfast. My husband Apache absolutely loves waffles so i thought it would be a great excuse idea to take him to a place that specialized in making the “Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle!”

Our Cast Iron Waffles Experience

This European style cafe opens at 7am. It was finger numbing cold outside, so the first thing we ordered was two sweet, body warming lattes.

We enjoyed a very casual vibe in this cafe. If i lived nearby i could see myself stopping in this cafe for a quick pick-me-up before or after work.

Cast Iron Waffles Menu

Since we Americans typically like to do the most, Cast Iron Waffles has a menu that caters to our need for extra everything. Especially extra sugar!

The menu has a variety of different flavor coffees and lattes. Cast Iron Waffles serve espressos along with plenty of waffle toppings to choose from! Personally, this makes for a happy pairing in my book. 

Cast Iron Waffles Toppings

Apache ordered the Peanut Butter Cup Waffle. I nick-name Apache “Extra Sauce” for good reason, when it comes to indulgence he always wants EXTRA no matter what it is and he has a big personality. Apache’s waffle topped with a cream cheese peanut butter mixture. In addition, it had chocolate syrup and also their homemade whipped cream. I made a point to sample that whipped cream from Apaches plate and found myself nodding in approval. Afterthoughts…. “it’s light, no aftertaste, reminds me of a homemade whipped cream.”  I ordered the Lumberjack waffle topped with maple buttercream and bacon! I thought my waffle was very tasty- sweet,salty and crunchy. Apache loved his extra loaded waffle as well.

The Cast Iron Belgian Liege Waffles Difference

We are accustom to big, airy waffles with smooth edges found in American diners. The Belgian Liege waffle served at Cast Iron has uneven edges. They are also smaller with a more dense texture to them. This made the waffle feel more filling compared to the American style waffles we have had in the past.

Apache and I both thought the Belgian Liege Waffle had a sweet, richer taste. Cast Iron Waffles mix imported Belgian Pearl Sugar into their butter Brioche style dough (pastry dough) which makes it taste more like a dessert. Cast Iron Waffles also use a 100 lb. waffle press. This combination produces a caramelized crispy outer shell that has my tummy grumbling for more as i type this blog.

After eating this yummy desert for breakfast we were full until lunch time so that was a plus for us.

Cast Iron Waffles Prices

Our entire order of two dressed up waffles and two lattes totaled about $20. Not bad for two filling orders.

We feel good about supporting Cast Iron Waffles  because Cast Iron Waffles is a family owned business. Another reason is because Cast Iron Waffles make their dough from scratch. Lastly, because they purchase farm direct or  Fair Trade coffees.

The next time we’re in Ballantyne, i plan to have my Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle prepared more simply with powdered sugar and fresh fruit. When we finally get to go to visit Belgium we will be sure to try their waffles and compare!

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” – James Beard

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