There are a ton of Food Truck rally options in Charlotte, but most of those events stopped being family friendly years ago. And that’s fine! Not everything should be family friendly. What a boring world that would be.
I love a Tin Kitchen crème fraiche braised quail taco with caviar remoulade as much as the next guy but it’s sometimes difficult to enjoy that culinary experience when you’re preoccupied that your possessed wolverine of a son will sprint into nearby traffic or scream after waiting in line for 25 minutes or bump into someone who is five Hop Drop and Rolls deep.
So what are Charlotte families to do in order to get their urban outdoor festival fix? There are one-off family-friendly food truck events from time to time, and those are great, but families relish routine, and the lack of routine outdoor events that get families out on the town can be frustrating.
Enter First Ward Fridays.
I attended the event on May 13 and it was the holy grail of family events. You really couldn’t ask for anything more. If you’ve got a kid or eight, you should totally go. Here’s why:
It’s the perfect event for Charlotte families
This event was clearly designed with the be-childed in mind. The time of day is perfect (starts at 6 p.m. to allow for some fun before bedtime), it’s at a park with plenty of space for your little hellions to run amok, and it’s in a convenient part of town (relatively speaking). You won’t be circling blocks looking for parking around First Ward Park.
It has it all (games, music, food, beer)
Are you a new parent itching to get out of the house for an outdoor beer but don’t want to deal with the crowds and kid-haters at a brewery? Great news, there’s an Olde Meck beer tent.
Are your kids older and in need of constant distraction? Great news, there’s Big Chess, corn hold, a ping-pong table, and pop-a-shot basketball.
Does your toddler love live music and need lots of space to run in circles like a Phish fan with a Camelbak of Monster Energy drink? Great news, there’s live music and a big grassy space.
The location is excellent
Parking is a nightmare for a lot of food truck events, unless you’re lucky and live close enough to walk. First Ward Fridays is conveniently accessed via light rail and the Gold Line streetcar, plus has ample parking in the area, is close to many places of work (for easy family meet-ups), and is on a side of town that doesn’t have serious traffic issues other than people exiting the garage at 7th Street Market.
Speaking of 7th Street Market, it’s right across the street so you can swing by and pick up a Pure Pizza or sandwiches from Local Loaf and walk over to the event. That’s everything you need in a one-block radius.
Feel like you did something fun on a Friday but get home by 8
This idea will probably seem foreign to those of you without kids, but a huge appeal of this event for me is that you can take in some live music, have a drink, have a picnic dinner, and let your kids run around in a safe area and still get home for bedtime.
Then post-bedtime you’ve got the evening to relax or get ahead of weekend chores and still feel like you got out of the house and did something fun without having to pay a babysitter.
You can support the Parks Department’s vision
This event fulfills the promise of years of deliberate planning. First Ward Park fits with the family friendly vibe created with the close proximity of ImaginOn/Chidren’s Theater, 7th Street Market, the Google Fiber Building, and UNC-Charlotte Center City.
And this event is the perfect fit for the park. Let’s show Levine Properties, UNC Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and the City of Charlotte that they were right to assume we’d want to enjoy live music in a family friendly atmosphere in Uptown.
The audience is truly diverse
This is something I noticed that made me want to write this article. Unlike popular activities like Food Truck Friday or a brewery or the Whitewater Center, First Ward Fridays takes place in a public space. It’s totally free and located in a space that’s easy to access from a diverse set of neighborhoods.
At the first event earlier in May, I looked around and realized this event was a rare occasion in Charlotte when the crowd around me was a variety of ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. It was just a bunch of Charlotteans coming together to enjoy some great weather and an easygoing event in a shared public space open to everyone. It was really nice and I hope to see you out there.
I’ll be the one chasing the possessed wolverine.
Who: You, but mostly families
What: First Ward Fridays
When: Friday, May 27, 6 p.m. to bedtime
Where: First Ward Park, First Ward, Charlotte, NC
Why: There’s literally nothing not to love. Unless you’re looking for a night out at Sycamore (which is great!) in which case, you should go to Sycamore instead.