With two antsy boys at home, it’s lucky for my wife and me that Charlotte has lots to do for kids, from toddlers to middle schoolers and beyond.
And you won’t have to put a major dent in your wallet to enjoy some of these activities.
Here are some of our favorite things to do around town. Some will help you occupy time between naps. Others are for when the kids get a little older.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Parks & Recreation Department says it has more than 210 parks and facilities on 17,610 acres of land. Take advantage of all this green space.
We’re big fans of the greenways that run through neighborhoods and connect parks around the city.
The Little Sugar Creek Greenway winds through one of the city’s biggest gems: Freedom Park in the Myers Park neighborhood. You can bike here, throw a football and just stroll around the pond. The Carolina Panthers have donated a “Play 60” area that lets you time your 40-yard dash and navigate an obstacle course.
Uptown’s new Romare Bearden Park has been a great addition to the park scene. Kids can splash in an illuminated waterfall, hammer on giant chimes and scurry around the open space, while parents snap pictures of the skyline.
There are also plenty of parks in the greater Charlotte area if you’re more adventurous.
Crowders Mountain State Park in Gaston County provides vigorous climbs. Landsford Canal State Park in York County, S.C., offers picturesque views of the Catawba River – and its Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in the spring. Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury has a little bit of everything, from animal exhibits to a gem mine.
From art to history to science, parents in Charlotte have all kinds of museum choices, perfect destinations for a rainy day or when you need a little brain stimulation.
Discovery Place (uptown), the Charlotte Nature Museum (Freedom Park) and Discovery Place KIDS (Huntersville and Rockingham) are the obvious places to start. At these kid-friendly spots, children can enjoy hands-on play, watch IMAX movies or traipse through a butterfly garden, among a host of other activities.
To get more cultured, you can check out the array of new museums that have popped up on South Tryon street in recent years: the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Mint Museum Uptown and The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture .
For a history fix, the Levine Museum of the New South has a permanent exhibit that literally walks visitors through Charlotte’s growth from a farming community to a financial center. Local banking giants Bank of America and Wells Fargo have museums about their own history. And the Carolinas Aviation Museum, near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, is packed full of winged exhibits, including the awe-inspiring Flight 1549 “Miracle on the Hudson” plane.
I’ll also throw libraries in this category. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg library system has locations sprinkled throughout the city, including ImaginOn, a combo-library/children’s theater in uptown.
Charlotte doesn’t have its own zoo, unfortunately, but you don’t have to go too far to enjoy furry, feathered and scaly friends.
In Huntersville, the Carolina Raptor Center allows you to get up close and personal with eagles, hawks and other birds of prey. The Concord Mills mall is now home to an aquarium. And the quirky Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville lets you take a horse-drawn wagon or drive your own car through farmland dotted with a menagerie of deer, zebras, giraffes and other exotic animals.
Charlotte’s also not too far from the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro and the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, both about an hour and a half from uptown. The Riverbanks Zoo is particularly nice for younger children because you can get up close and personal with bears, gorillas and giraffes and still be home by nap time.