A definitive ranking of the 6 dog parks in the Charlotte area

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Before I adopted my (then) four-year-old Australian Shepherd/Sheltie mix, Bambi, from the Humane Society of Charlotte, I’d never really thought about what people who don’t have yards do with their dogs. Suddenly, I was staring into the terrified face of my new responsibility who needed wide open spaces to run, sniff, roll, explore, etc.

As a college kid stuck in condo living, I quickly learned the joys of off-leash dog parks. Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec offers six dog parks that are at least semi-convenient to most residents of the greater Charlotte area. Before deciding to definitively rank these parks for you, I’d only visited two. I’ve now been to all six, including four in the same day. I’m kind of an expert.

William-R.-Davie-park

William R. Davie District Park

  • Located in SouthPark, approx. 25 minutes from Uptown.
  • Five acres of fenced-in space with a separate area for smaller dogs.
  • Pros:
    • THIS PARK IS AMAZING.
    • William R. Davie is the largest dog park in Charlotte and has three distinct play spaces that feel like separate, smaller parks.
    • Kind of like the Secret Garden, the grass here is magical and hasn’t been killed off by dogs yet. The fences are lined with honeysuckle, so the smell here doesn’t make you want to gag like some other dog parks I could name.
    • It’s close to the Arboretum and Bella Fresco. You can easily reward yourself for trekking to the dog park with gelato on the patio.
  • Cons:
    • If you live uptown, it’s a bit of a pain to get here between highways and stoplights (but so worth it).
    • None. There are no other cons.

Ramsey Creek Park

  • Located in Cornelius, Google Maps says it’s approx. 25 minutes from Uptown, but we all know better. Argh I-77.
  • Four acres of fenced-in space with a separate area for smaller dogs.
  • Pros:
    • There’s public lake access .2 miles from the dog park with grassy areas for picnics and tossing toys into the water for pups that like that sort of thing (mine does not).
    • It must be something about lake life – this park is so laid back. Dogs are sniffing and grinning, but no one has a lot of interest in running too fast or stirring up trouble.
    •  Lots of shade along the perimeter for walking or sitting, but plenty of open play space.
    •  Free tick checks on certain weekends!
  • Cons:
    • There’s almost no grass at this park. It’s all dust and pine needles, which means mud when it rains, and it rains almost every day during the summer up near the lake.
    • Traffic. Even on a Saturday, cars were crawling once you approached the Birkdale exit. Have we never seen the lake before people?

Dog park fun at #reedycreekpark #dogpark A video posted by @k_bossipants on

Reedy Creek Park

  • Located in University, approx. 25 minutes from Uptown.
  • Four acres of fenced-in space with a separate area for smaller dogs.
  • Pros:
    • One of the larger dog parks in Charlotte, with a well-worn walking path around the perimeter of the fenced-in area and trails in the larger park that are pet-friendly with a leash.
    • Toys, plastic swimming pools and water stations are always available.
    • There are plenty of benches and picnic tables so leave your chairs at home.
    • Being so close to the university means lots of young pet parents ready to socialize.
  • Cons:
    • As a busy dog park, most of the grass has been worn away. This means that even when it’s not muddy, it’s incredibly dusty. Prepare yourself; bath time is coming.
    • It often seems like owners at Reedy Creek just aren’t keeping a close eye on their pets. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to leave because of aggressive dogs and their inattentive owners.

Frazier-Park-Charlotte

Frazier Park

  • Located Uptown in Third Ward.
  • 1.3 acres of fenced-in space with a separate area for smaller dogs.
  • Pros:
    • Location, location, location.
    • A shady water station with swimming pools and a long run perfect for tossing a tennis ball.
    • Frazier Park has a whole connection of paths perfect for getting out extra energy before or after your dog park visit.
    • It’s pretty. You get to cross a shady creek and walk through trees strung with hammocks full of nappers.
  • Cons:
    • Parking. I parked on Sycamore Street, but it’s limited and probably a nightmare on busier days. This was only after circling four times trying to figure out where the dog park was (hint: It’s on the Sycamore Street side).
    • #CityProblems. I wasn’t sure how else to phrase this, but this park has problems that just come with being in the city. There were empty beer bottles littering the sidewalk, a condom wrapper in the dog park gate and two kids smoking weed next to my car when I was leaving.

That little pup is scared of Ninja but he’s getting braver… #carefulnow she’s a #bully

A photo posted by Harriet May (@harrisuz) on

McAlpine Creek Community Park

  • Located in South Park, approx. 15 minutes from Uptown.
  • One acre of fenced-in space.
  • Special note: This is just kind of a “meh” park. It’s a good staple for those who live close, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit.
  • Pros:
    • There were a decent amount of benches.
  • Cons:
    • Grass is minimal. Mud and dust abound.
    • There aren’t many trees, so shade is hard to come by on a hot day.
    • It’s a smaller space, so dogs seem more aware of each other. Pack mentality catches on quickly
    • If you’re looking for more exercise, the greenway is under construction meaning some of the trails closest to the dog park are closed.

Shuffletown Park

  • Located in ???, approx. 15 minutes from Uptown.
  • Four (or so) acres of fenced-in space with a separate area for smaller dogs.
  • Pros:
    • It’s big.
    • There’s a chunk of shady pine trees with benches.
  • Cons:
    • Location. This park is in the middle of nowhere. I don’t even know how to classify the part of Charlotte it’s in. There are other parks more convenient to the Uptown, University and Lake Norman regions.
    • It’s a giant park, but the majority of it is straight gravel. On hot days, your dog doesn’t want to burn its paws on burning, sharp rocks. If they take a tumble, it’s going to hurt. Looking out over that expanse of gravel, I felt how I imagine Shia LeBeouf did in the movie Holes.
    • There’s an area with trees but it isn’t convenient and seems kind of like a wilderness.
    • When I went, it was empty except for a dog with an anal gland problem cooling its butt in the plastic pool at the water station. In general, it just wasn’t my favorite.

No matter which park you choose (and I think you should choose William R. Davie District Park), here’s what you need to know before you go:

  • You can’t take your kids into the off-leash section if they’re under 12. I know it’s a bummer, but I’ve seen things get nasty between dogs before and this really is for their safety.
  • If your dog is annoying, you have to leave. The rules sign doesn’t define annoying, but if your dog is biting, picking fights, refusing to accept “I don’t want to play with you signals,” or humping (can I say humping?) dogs or people that obviously don’t want to be humped, go home. Try again another day.
  • You have to pick up your dog’s poop. They provide bags and trash cans, so do it. Not only is it rude not to, but everyone else will probably clap when you get slapped with a fine for failing to do so.
  • Your dog needs to be vaccinated for Bordetella. No one likes the guy who keeps coming into the office when he has the flu and is still contagious. Don’t let you dog be that guy.
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