We’ve traveled around the country with our “See the USA” series, exploring from coast to coast as we make our way through the alphabet. This week we have arrived at the letter Q and Queen City (also known as Charlotte, North Carolina). Hopefully you caught the best of Philadelphia last week and Orlando (outside the theme parks) the week before. This week I have Ann from Kids Travel Books sharing the top 5 family friendly things to do in Charlotte!
Top 5 Family Friendly Things to Do in Charlotte (The Queen City)
1. Uptown Favorites
Uptown Charlotte has something for everyone in the family. Kids of all ages enjoy the children’s library and theater combination at Imaginon. It’s a place to not only read books, but see books come to life, and so much more. Older kids and budding scientists take advantage of the opportunities to experiment and learn at Discovery Place. Sports fanatics appreciate the easy access to catch one of Charlotte’s local professional teams, or even check out their favorite racers and racecars at the Nascar Hall of Fame. And of course, like all big cities, there are various parks, restaurants, and shops to round out the visit.
My favorite Uptown Charlotte spot for families on vacation, though? Definitely the Levine Museum of the New South. This interactive and informative museum takes visitors back to the start of Charlotte’s history. Find out how the south has been shaped since the Civil War. The exhibitions are fun for kids, with plenty of opportunities to get hands on and experience the past. It feels like a time machine as you travel through and discover Charlotte’s best and worst times. Yes, some exhibit topics can be heavy, however the museum makes it easy for parents to manage how much information they want to share with their kids. The Levine Museum is the perfect introduction to the city.
2. Charlotte Nature Museum and Freedom Park
Locals flock to Freedom Park because of the many outdoor activities and special events hosted there. It’s a great place to let kids get the wiggles out with the awesome playgrounds, multiple sports fields, and trails and paths highlighted by a large lake. My highlight of Freedom Park is the unique, Charlotte-specific NFL Play60 KidZone. This play area, sponsored by the Carolina Panthers, features several football-based activities for kids (and adults) to practice their running, climbing, and maneuvering skills.
No visit to Freedom Park is complete without heading to the Charlotte Nature Museum located within the park. It’s more than just a break from the outside elements; it is a way to get up close to some of the local area’s plants and small animals. The building will be expanded soon, but it currently houses a few exhibits, a butterfly sanctuary, and some indoor play spaces. The highlight of the museum, for me, is the nature playground located outside. Kids explore their surroundings while letting their imaginations take them wherever they want to go.
3. U.S. National Whitewater Center
Active families should head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in the western part of Charlotte. Along with the whitewater rafting opportunities, there are so many ways to enjoy the facilities. Throughout the 1,100 acres you’ll find hiking and mountain biking trails, rock climbing, zip-lining, ropes courses, and canopy tours. The man-made river is the perfect place to try kayaking, paddle boarding and more.
Even if you feel the kids are too young to participate in some of these activities, they are fun to watch. The relaxed environment makes it one of the coolest destinations to just sit on the grass and take in the atmosphere. There are multiple events hosted at the USNWC throughout the year, and even 9 unique festivals.
*Please note the entrance is free, but there is a small fee for parking. Absolutely no food can be brought into the center, but there are multiple (delicious) dining facilities available.
4. Carowinds Amusement Park
Just south of Charlotte city limits and across the border in South Carolina, you’ll find Carowinds Amusement Park. This is another awesome all-day attraction for the whole family. Kids will find familiar fates with the Snoopy characters walking around for meet and greets. They’ll also experience dinosaurs at the Dinosaurs Alive! Area. The combination of family-friendly rides and attractions appeal to everyone, but the thrill seekers can still find a way to get their adrenaline pumping with the roller coasters. Carowinds has 13 roller coasters (and counting), which can be seen from miles away
New in 2016 is the Carolina Harbor Waterpark. It is part of the Carowinds Amusement Park and your ticket gets you into both areas. The waterpark has a combination of fun slides, water play areas, a wave pool, and more.
5. Head to the Mountains
The next best thing to see in Charlotte is actually outside of Charlotte. Though the city and immediate surrounding area are only slightly hilly, the larger mountains aren’t too far away. The Appalachian Mountains and the popular Great Smoky Mountains or Blue Ridge Parkway are less than a 3-hour drive away. For those with less time, but still desire to get high into nature, you have some choices.
Less than an hour away and to the west of Charlotte are Kings Mountain National Military Park and Crowders Mountain State Park. About an hour east of the city is Morrow Mountain State Park. All three mountains have their special features and awesome views. My pick is Morrow Mountain in Albemarle. There are several trails, a museum dedicated to the history of the mountain, and a large lake for swimming, canoeing, and fishing.
Have you been to Charlotte? What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?
Ann Belle writes for KidsTravelBooks, a site dedicated to helping families teach children about other cultures through books.Kids You can find more about North Carolina in her North Carolina Books page and find her on Facebook at Kids Travel Books and Twitter at Kids Travel Books.