With summer in full swing and temperatures peaking at the 100-degree mark, it's the time of year where parents attempt to keep boredom at bay with fun, creative ways to entertain the children. But too many trips to the mall and consecutive weeks of summer camps can put a strain on the wallet. Here are some of the best free, family-friendly activities in the Lake Norman area.
Movies around the lake
Regular matinee tickets for two adults and two children can run upwards of $28, and that's not even including concessions or the price increase for evening movies. Take advantage of the Regal Cinemas free summer movies at Birkdale Stadium 16 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 12. Shows start at 10 a.m. and offer both a G-rated and PG-rated selection. After the movie, head over to the fountains in the center of the shopping center, open daily starting at 9 a.m. Be sure to bring swimsuits, towels and sunscreen for the little ones.
If you like to stretch your legs with an outdoor movie experience complete with beach chairs and blankets, The Town of Cornelius PARC offers "Movies Under the Stars" through summer at locations such as Smithville Park, Jetton Village and Ramsey Creek Park.
The Town of Huntersville will screen a free showing of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (PG)"9 p.m. July 23 at North Mecklenburg Park with free refreshments and one-topping pizzas for sale from Cici's Pizza. "How to Train Your Dragon"(PG) is on the schedule for Aug. 27.
One of the best-kept secrets in Huntersville is the opportunity for outdoor and educational experiences at Duke Energy's EnergyExplorium, at McGuire Nuclear Station. Inside the station, you'll find hands-on exhibits that teach everything from saving energy to tracking weather, and outside is a mile-long nature trail next to Lake Norman. Take a picnic and eat beside the butterfly garden also on the grounds.
Also in Huntersville, plan a hike at one of the 16 miles of nature trails at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, which offers visitors scenic views of lakes, forests and streams. The preserve contains a peninsula that extends directly into Mountain Island Lake. Stop by the nature center on the grounds, which features live, native animals, bird-feeding stations, a demonstration compost area and browse through the gift shop.
Relax and read
Barnes & Noble at Birkdale Village holds free children's story times 10:30 a.m. each Monday and Saturday. The Author Squad in Huntersville has a Spanish story time at 10 a.m. Mondays and a n English story time 10 a.m. on Wednesdays. The local public libraries are also a great place to find story hours and other free craft activities. Find story times at a branch closest to you at www.plcmc.lib.nc.us.