Without a doubt Charlotte is a great place to raise a family. The Queen City and surrounding region boasts enriching destinations like the world-class Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the ever-engaging Discovery Place, easily accessible sports teams and venues, more than 200 county parks, and four seasons of great weather. There is a way for an adventure-seeking family to have fun any day of the week, but there are a few special days that Charlotte families should not miss.
Get out your calendar and be sure to mark these 10 annual events that kids and parents alike look forward to year after year.
1. Fairy House Festival:
What could be more intriguing than gnomes and fancy fairies? Held each February at Latta Plantation Nature Center, the day is filled with storytelling, crafts, ponies and fairy-house building. Costumes are encouraged, making it a magical experience for all. www.fairyhouses.com/events/fairy-house-festival-latta-plantation-nc.
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2. Speed Street:
NASCAR fans delight as the city prepares for the Coca-Cola 600 race each May. For three days the streets of Uptown Charlotte are filled with cars, drivers, simulators, and more. Live music, great food and autographs are just some of the family-friendly entertainment that big and little NASCAR fans will enjoy. 600festival.com/speed-street.
3. Taste of Charlotte:
The race cars have just barely pulled away as the food trucks come rolling into uptown Charlotte each June for this culinary delight. Festival goers can expand their kids’ horizons as they wander the streets sampling foods from top local chefs and enjoy interactive children’s activities. Fried pickles, anyone? www.tasteofcharlotte.com.
4. Summer Pops:
Warm June nights create the perfect setting for music appreciation at Symphony Park in SouthPark. The Charlotte Symphony hosts weekly evenings of music set to specific themes. Families are encouraged to bring a blanket, a picnic and even a bottle of wine or a juice box. www.charlottesymphony.org/concerts-tickets/summer-pops.
5. Yiasou Greek Festival:
For four days each September, a block of streets in Dilworth transforms to bring the flavor and culture of Greece with exhibits, art, entertainment and authentic Greek food. In addition to living history reenactments, folk dance performances, and a children's Play Land full of rides and activities, festival goers can enjoy a new tradition on a classic - Baklava Sundaes. yiasoufestival.org.
6. Festival in the Park:
Freedom Park Lake in September is the spot to be for the chance to see, hear and learn from artists and crafts people. The juried art show also features entertainers including clowns, aerialists, magicians youth ensembles and a Family Fun Zone with rides and children’s activities. www.festivalinthepark.org.
7. Matthews Alive
Labor Day weekend brings a special event to the southern Mecklenburg area that is dedicated to the support of local nonprofit organizations. Community groups volunteer their time by working the festival, which includes a kid’s stage, parade, music, food, as well as arts and crafts cultural activities. Following the festival, 100 percent of the proceeds go back to the local nonprofit organizations. www.matthewsalive.org.
8. Mini Maker Faire:
Inventors, designers and tinkerers collaborate to share their ideas each October in a festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. Participants celebrate the Maker movement with exhibitors, vendors, workshop teachers, speakers and performers from across the region. Held both throughout the Discovery Place museum and outside on Tryon Street, this one-day event brings hands-on science to life. www.discoveryplace.org/events/event/394/Charlotte-Mini-Maker-Faire.
9. Renaissance Festival:
Any child who’s ever dreamed of being a princess or a knight will relish in this month-long recreation of 16th-century European style held each October - November. Lords and Ladies can expect jousting, circus entertainment, rides, arts and crafts, and of course, turkey legs. www.carolina.renfestinfo.com.
10. Holiday on Ice:
No need to head to Rockefeller Center for outdoor holiday skating - we’ve got our own rink in the heart of uptown from late November to early January. Skaters on the plaza at the NASCAR Hall of Fame enjoy a winter wonderland, and even get to snap a photo with Santa Claus to get in the holiday spirit. wbt.com/shows/holiday-on-ice.
Mandy Ravin is a mom of three who manages the Observer’s MomsCharlotte.com website in between carpool drop-offs, baseball games, gymnastics meets, homework, laundry and trying to stay sane in the nutty world that is being a mom.