If it’s a big adventure you’re after, look no further than the US National Whitewater Center. It’s the official Olympic Training Center for whitewater slalom racing and right in Charlotte’s own backyard. Don’t let their name mislead you. Rafting is a major draw, but it’s way more than just rafting. Rock climbing, mountain biking and aerial sports including zip lining and rope courses are other big hits at this place of pure awesomeness.
Hearing the rush of the water and seeing the fast paced rafters will captivate your attention right from the start. The rafting trips are offered on a first come, first serve basis, you sign up at the time of your ticket purchase. Typically, you will be put in the next available slot, or for a $5 charge per rafter, you can choose your time. Choosing your time is a good idea, so you can plan your day better.
No prior rafting experience is required, but rafting instructions are given prior to boarding. You start with a 30-minute orientation that begins at the time your raft trip is scheduled. Once on board, your professional rafting guide will test your group on your skills prior to going down your first rapid. Guides can tailor the experience to the group’s skill level and interest.
Heading into the woods, you will find many different aerial obstacle courses, circuit of sky bridges, and zip lines of various degree of skill level. You will be given a brief talk about safety instructions and must get your gear checked before heading out onto the courses. Bring a water bottle, since there are not any water fountains available out in the woods. Something else to keep in mind, people with a fear of heights might have some difficulties here.
Mega Zip is a 1,123-foot zip-line, which begins at the top of a 46-foot tower, goes over the whitewater river and ends at Hawk Island. You will receive full instruction and have your harness checked prior to climbing the stairs to the top. There is not an age restriction, but there is a weight one. You may be tempted to fudge your child’s weight, but be aware that if they don’t weigh enough, they will be left hanging mid-zip, and will not make it to Hawk Island.
The rock-climbing wall has over 40 roped climbs and reaches a height of 46 feet. Prior to gaining entry onto the wall, a guide will provide instruction and check your climbing gear. You will be given instructions on the difficulty of each climb, so you choose one best suited for your skill level.
The most popular way to experience all the great offerings is through purchasing an All Sport pass, which gives visitors access to over 20 activities. Interested in just Land activities and Flatwater experience such as kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on the Catawba River, purchase a Cool Sport pass. Pressed for time, choose the Quick Sport, which allows for a single activity, $20 per land activity and $25 per flatwater activity.
Still unsure of what is best for your family, then head over to the center. Pay $5.00 for parking. Bring your kids and walk around to get a feel for the place and check out all the activities. It’s quite entertaining, walking around, and watching all the action.
Our Family’s Take
We had an amazing time. My daughters keep asking when can we go back! They are 11 and 9-years old and do love a good adventure. It certainly helped that our daughters have gone rock climbing before, but rafting and aerial sports were new activities to try. We did the family raft twice right after lunch, and hit the aerial sports before and after rafting. We maxed out our day there and stayed for a solid 8 hours.
Make a day at US National Whitewater Center, your family will have a great time especially if they are active and enjoy a fun challenge.
For complete details, check out usnwc.org.