Even when the dollars are scarce there’s plenty of fun to be had in the Queen City. Here are some budget-friendly ideas to go on the calendar whether you’re looking for family time, an outdoor adventure or a night out with your friends.
South End Gallery Crawl: The first Friday of the month head to Historic South End. The galleries stay open late and often hold opening receptions for new exhibitions at this time. Admission is usually free. Details: historicsouthend.com/events
Coco and the Director: This Uptown coffee shop, part of Charlotte Marriott City Center, draws customers with its focus on North Carolina products, but also its fun events like “Wine and Color” adult coloring night, open mics and film screenings. Free to attend. 100 Trade St. Details: cocoandthedirector.com
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Bechtler By Night: The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s monthly free night is hopping. There are hands-on art activities, games, scavenger hunts and entertainment, as well as light bites and a cash bar. Free to attend. 420 S. Tryon St. Details: bechtler.org/Programs
Discovery Place Nature: This popular kid destination keeps getting better. In addition to the Butterfly Pavilion, the planetarium shows, the animal feedings, the many indoor exhibits and live shows, kids can play outside at Fort Wild and go on the regularly scheduled guided nature walk or bird walk. If that’s not enough to burn off energy, the museum is adjacent to Freedom Park. Cost for entry is $8 for children and adults alike. 1658 Sterling Road. Details: nature.discoveryplace.org
ImaginOn: This joint project of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte focuses on storytelling in all its forms, including story time at the Spangler Library for Children, a stage and costumes for kids’ impromptu performances and Studio I, where families and teens create their own videos. Entrance to Imaginon is free. Most tickets to Children’s Theatre performances start at $12. 300 E. 7th St. Details: imaginon.org
Crowders Mountain State Park: In nearby Gaston County, Crowders Mountain State Park is a go-to spot for hiking and bouldering. The payoff: stunning views. Free. 522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain, N.C. Details: ncparks.gov/crowders-mountain-state-park
Yoga and open water swim at U.S. National Whitewater Center: During the warm months, the Whitewater Center offers an open-water swim in the Catawba River. The open swim, along with yoga and mountain biking, are some of the free activities you can enjoy at the otherwise somewhat pricy attraction. Also free are the festivals and concerts. Parking is $5. 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway. Details: usnwc.org
Wing Haven Gardens & Bird Sanctuary: This gorgeous stretch of gardens tucked inside Myers Park is the perfect place to relax on a blanket with a book, indulge in a picnic, walk around and explore. Admission gets you access to the Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary, plus the Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden. Cost is $10 for adults and kids ages 11 and older. Free to members and kids ages 10 and under. 260 Ridgewood Ave. Details: winghavengardens.org
Idea Box: This glass-walled room in the Main Library offers you the tools to make your crazy ideas come to life, including 3D printers, CAD stations, vinyl and laser cutters, sewing machines and knitting machines. Cost is free to use tools, with a small fee for materials such as the 3D print filament and vinyl. 310 N. Tryon St. Details: cmlibrary.org/idea-box
Creative Mornings CLT: Once a month, some of Charlotte’s most interesting people gather at 8:30 a.m. for a breakfast lecture series designed to inspire. A speaker will give a talk on a theme – past ones have included equality, survival and serendipity – and there will be a little live music, a Charlotte-themed quiz show, free coffee and breakfast. The only catch: The free tickets become open for grabs only four days before the event, and they’re often spoken for in a matter of minutes. Sign up for the newsletter and mark your calendar. Free to attend. Warehouse 242, 2307 Wilkinson Blvd. Details: creativemornings.com/cities/clt