Giant luminous crystals, glowing wasp nests, and oversized toadstools light up one of the most interesting walks in Charlotte right now. We were happy to see “Lights,” an illuminated walking trail, back for its second year at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
We loved the trail so much last year, we were excited to head back for a visit this year. “Lights” will run from mid-November into February. Oh, and with the exception of $6 to park, the half-mile illuminated trail is free.
Designed by local artist Meredith Connelly, the illuminated walking trail winds visitors through a dozen mesmerizing light installations. Inspired by “science, nature, and technology” it’s an immersive experience like no other.
The trail itself can be pretty dark in places, so tiny mushroom nightlights lead the way from one display to the next.
Our favorite was the mushroom field. So cleverly laid out among the trees, it easily feeds your imagination. However, it’s the weaving light vines that definitely get the most attention.
Finding The "Lights" Illuminated Walking Trail
If you’ve never been to the US National Whitewater Center, it can be very disorienting at night. From the parking lot, find the main stairs down into the grounds.
At the bottom of the stairs, follow the path left, past the climbing walls. Just after this you should see the giant ice skating rink, it’s kinda hard to miss.
To get to the walking trail you have to skirt the ice skating building on it’s left side. It’s right behind the building. Once you’re around the skating shop, you’ll see the entrance to the trail lit up. The first display is easy to spot from the start of the one-way trail.
What To Do At The US National Whitewater Center?
As it’s winter, the water activities at the US National Whitewater center are closed. However, there’s still so much going on. During the day, zip lines, rope courses, climbing, and mountain biking trails are available.
In addition to the illuminated walking trail, the center also has one of the largest ice skating rinks (17,000 sq feet) in the country. It’s open day and evenings into February. Included with an activity pass, or you can purchase just ice skating for $20 (skates included but bring socks).
There’s also a pretty tasty restaurant and an outdoor shop on site.