NOTE: These parking tips were accurate as of the publishing date of 1/5/17. Read signs and be aware of continually changing parking policies.
Although it may not always be in the most central or convenient spot, free parking does exist in Uptown if you know where to look — particularly in residential areas of First and Fourth Wards.
I’m always on the hunt for these spots 1) because I hate parking decks and 2) because I hate spending money. I’ll add 20 minutes to my commute to find a street parking space before I’ll roll into the shadowy abyss of one of those horrifying underground parking decks. Shudder.
It would serve me well to keep my free parking hacks to myself (trust me, my husband has tried to convince me to) but that just feels greedy. For some of you these locations may not come as a surprise. After all, they’re out there in plain sight and certainly aren’t a secret. But for those of you in the dark who have been shelling out $20 for a few hours in a parking deck, allow me to open your eyes to some free parking possibilities.
A note on safety
If you are unfamiliar with these areas or are uncomfortable walking a bit further to your Uptown destination, listen to your gut and do what works for you. If you’re more comfortable paying for a parking deck, do that. As with parking anywhere, secure your belongings, lock your car, be aware of your surroundings when approaching and leaving your vehicle and always park and walk in well-lit areas.
A quick primer on Charlotte’s 4 wards
If you cut an X through the city with Trade Street and Tryon Street, two main east-west and north-south thoroughfares through Uptown, you’re left with four quadrants bound by I-277 and I-77 around the perimeter.
Starting in the bottom right corner is First Ward (red) moving clockwise to Second Ward (yellow), Third Ward (green) and Fourth Ward (blue).
My color boundaries aren’t exact below and are intended simply as a general reference point for the parking locations I provide later.
Free metered parking on weekends and 6 p.m. – 7 a.m. on weekdays.
Before we get into where to find free daytime street parking all the time, it’s worth pointing out to newcomers or those unfamiliar with Uptown that all metered parking spaces are free after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and on weekends.
That means those jackpot spots along Tryon, around Romare Bearden Park, at NASCAR Hall of Fame and all the other 1,100 metered spaces in center city’s high-demand areas are fair game for free parking.
See rates, locations and on-street parking FAQs here.
Note: Metered spaces on South Boulevard are monitored 24 hours/day and thus don’t fall into this free nighttime parking category. So don’t try to stretch these free Uptown parking rules a bit further down the road. You’ll get a ticket.
Free parking in First Ward
First Ward is a free parking wonderland. Even after the city added metered spots around First Ward Park, we were still left with ample free options in the area.
Most of the street parking east of 7th Street and south of Caldwell Street is all free in First Ward. You’ll find this free parking along Caldwell, Alexander, E. 8th, E. 9th and all through the Garden District.
Note: This free parking is rescinded during events at nearby Spectrum Arena. You’ll see “No parking during arena events except by permit” signs all throughout this neighborhood. A quick Google search of the arena’s schedule will give you parking peace of mind.
UPDATE 3/23/17: I received an update that new stricter signs have been posted in this neighborhood. Be very aware of where you’re parking. Check all signs.
Free parking in Third Ward
Pickings are pretty slim for free parking in Third Ward. Given that it’s home to Bank of America Stadium and BB&T Ballpark, it’s no wonder that you’ll have to pay for most parking in the area.
You’ll find a few streets with free parking in the residential areas closer to I-77 around Frazier park but tread lightly. Some streets have signs for “Residential parking by permit only” and all have “No parking during stadium events except by permit” signs.
Note: Sorry, you can’t park here on stadium game days without a permit. That’d be too good to be true.
Free parking in Fourth Ward
Fourth Ward is home to some of the most central free parking you’ll find in Uptown. (All the free parking along N. Poplar, for example, is just two blocks off Tryon Street.) The catch, of course, is that there’s a two-hour limit. It’s also usually very crowded.
Note: You can only park for free in Fourth Ward for up to 2 hours. The only way to stay beyond two hours is with a residential parking permit.
No free parking in Second Ward?
None. Sorry. I searched high and low. Let me know if I missed a street somewhere.
Free parking just outside Uptown
And in case you’re up for a bit of a hike, I’m including these two areas because they’re just outside the Uptown boundary and might be convenient for some.
Baxter Street at Pearl Park
Baxter Street, which you can access from S. McDowell Street, is a full street of free parking just barely outside the 277 loop.
E. 5th Street and N. Torrence Street in Elizabeth
I’m including these two because they are rare strips of free unmetered parking near the streetcar line. I honestly don’t know why these two streets aren’t metered because Travis Avenue and Elizabeth Avenue certainly are. This means you could park here and take the free trolley into Uptown.
Note: There is a 2-hour free parking max from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Torrence.