By Kristen Moore and Torie Robinette
Charlotte’s sunny summer landscape beckons locals and visitors to get out and explore. From foodie expeditions to fun in the water and everything in between, we’ve put together the ultimate Queen City summer checklist for Charlotte-area adventurers. See how many you can check off the list and share with us on social media using #charlottesgotalot.
1. Rent a boat, Jet Ski, kayak or stand-up paddleboard and spend a day on Lake Norman or Lake Wylie. You’ll find all the gear you need at rental companies, like My Aloha Paddle and Surf, Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals and Boat Club, and Pier 88 Yacht Club. Or go all out and throw a party on the water with Sniki Tiki Pontoon or Yachta Yachta Yachta Charters.
3. Get a taste of the city at the three-day Taste of Charlotte food festival in Uptown. After sampling fare from Charlotte-area restaurants, enjoy live music and entertainment, street performances, family-friendly activities and shopping.
4. Experience a different kind of football in the Queen City at a professional or international soccer match. The USL Charlotte Independence have several home games at Ramblewood Soccer Complex this summer, and world-renowned soccer teams FC Bayern Munich and Intermilan face off at Bank of America Stadium July 30.
5. Escape from the heat and immerse yourself in a movie on the largest screen in the Carolinas at The Charlotte Observer IMAX® Dome Theatre at Discovery Place. Be sure to catch the film “National Parks Adventure” for tips on exploring parks right in your backyard during the U.S. National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in August.
7. Sign up the kids for a unique summer camp, like Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen Kids Culinary Camp, FC Barcelona Soccer Camp or Survival Camp at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. For the adults, sign up for an adult version of summer camp, like Charlotte Ballet Academy’s Adult Open Division classes or a sports league via SportsLink.
9. Celebrate the Fourth of July at one of the best fireworks shows in Charlotte. Head to the WBT Skyshow in Uptown, the Fourth of July Celebration at the U.S. National Whitewater Center or the Celebrate America Fireworks Show at Carowinds.
10. Hop on a tube and slide down the 500-foot Blacklight Slide in neon glow-in-the-dark water at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then enjoy a glow-in-the-dark after party with music pumping from one of the country’s top DJs.
11. Hit the links. Sign up for a lesson at Dana Rader Golf School, improve your game with a few rounds at the double-decker driving range at Leatherman Golf Learning Center, and then tee off at one of the 40 public and semi-private golf courses in the region, like the Olde Sycamore Golf Plantation.
12. Experience Charlotte by horse. Clip clop through Uptown on a tour with Charlotte Center City Carriage Tours or take a Saturday Sunset Tour by horseback at the Latta Plantation Equestrian Center in Huntersville. Giddy up!
14. Grab some water and friends (furry friends are welcome, too) and hike to the top of Crowders Mountain for a view of the Charlotte skyline on a clear day.
16. Embark on a Friday evening art gallery crawl in South End or NoDa. Admire work by local artists while enjoying live music and refreshments at many of the neighborhoods’ galleries and shops.
19. Spend a day exploring Charlotte-area wineries. Head north to the Vineyards of Swan Creek, which include six vineyards only 5 miles apart. Or for an experience like no other, rent a treehouse at Treehouse Vineyards in Monroe.
22. Learn the featured routines and dance on the Wells Fargo Plaza for National Dance Day on July 30.
24. Take a kayak, canoe or tubing trip down the Catawba River with Catawba River Expeditions. Who knew you could do this so close to Charlotte?
25. For the kids and the kids at heart, run through the water at one of the city’s “spraygrounds.” Visit Cordelia Park in NoDa, Latta Park on Park Avenue, Veterans Park on Central Avenue or the Fish Fountains on The Green in Uptown for an afternoon of refreshing fun.
28. Lounge on the new 1/2-acre sandy beach at Lake Norman. Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve is the site of Mecklenburg County’s first public swimming beach at a county-run park since the 1970s.
29. Board the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Microbrews Cruise to watch the sun set as you paddle along a guided group flatwater tour of the Catawba River, followed by fireside dinner and craft brews. Then groove under the stars to the tunes of a talented lineup of musical acts at the center’s River Jam concert series.
30. Watch the fireworks light up above BB&T Ballpark after you cheer on the Charlotte Knights at a Friday home game. Enjoy a breathtaking city skyline view, and chow down on roasted peanuts, a giant hot dog or a mini helmet full of ice cream.
31. Careen down the tracks of Carowinds’ newest and oldest roller coasters. Then use your park ticket to make a splash at the action-packed Carolina Harbor waterpark—an expansion and transformation of the former Boomerang Bay.
32. Beat the heat at Ray’s Splash Planet, an indoor waterpark loaded with fun features, like a double figure-eight waterslide, water squirters, a lazy river and tumble buckets.
34. Treat your taste buds like royalty during Queens Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week. Held annually in July (and January), the event features countless upscale establishments offering their best appetizers, entrees and desserts for easy-on-the pocketbook prices.
35. Cool down and savor the creamy goodness of freshly churned ice cream packed in a cone and coated in sweet toppings. Local favorites, like Elizabeth Creamery, Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream and La Michoacana, should become weekly—if not daily—stops.
36. Answer the call of the wild with a daytrip to surrounding North Carolina towns, where exotic animals roam. Visit Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, Tiger World in Rockwell, Zootastic Park of Lake Norman in Troutman, Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville or Bird Brain Ostrich Ranch in Sherrills Ford.
37. Prepare to have your senses swept away by Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s natural beauty. The famed mecca of flora and fauna features 380 acres of themed gardens, a dozen sparkling fountains, a spectacular Visitor Pavilion and a striking Orchid Conservatory.
38. Grab a cozy blanket, prepare a yummy lunch and pack up the family for a sunny picnic at Freedom Park or Park Road Park. Grab a loaf of bread and treat the mesmerizing resident ducks to a bite, too.
39. Soak up the sun and relish stunning skyline views at Charlotte’s best rooftop restaurants. For killer bites, crafty beverages and unbeatable sightlines, grab a table at Fahrenheit in Uptown or The Peculiar Rabbit in Plaza Midwood. Honorable mentions: The Gin Mill in South End and Rooftop 210 in Uptown.
40. Schedule a private swim party or add Open Swim days at The Quarry at Carrigan Farms to your calendar. Take a cool dip in the boulder-bordered water or paddle board, canoe, or kayak along the currents. Then pick up fresh garden veggies from the farm.
41. Pack your pole and a bucket of bait for an afternoon spent at one of Charlotte’s many public fishing holes. Catch bluegill or largemouth bass at McAlpine Creek Park or catfish at Hornets Nest Park. For a professional fishing charter, book through Fish On! in nearby Denver.
43. Feel the wind in your hair as you glide through scenic Center City and neighboring historic districts on one of Charlotte NC Tours’ seven different Segway Tours. Unique options include restaurant-tasting tours and haunted ghost tours.
44. Sip your way through LoSo (Lower South End), where breweries and distilleries sit just feet apart. Start out with a Belgian brew at Sugar Creek Brewing Co. and then head over to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Savor a German beer in OMB’s Biergarten and then hop across the street for creative spirits at The Broken Spoke and Great Wagon Road Distilling Company, which are adjoined.
45. For knee-slapping fun with a Queen City spin, get a front row seat to see Charlotte Squawks in full comedic force. Picture “Saturday Night Live” meets Broadway. Add in local and national pop-culture, and you’ve got a performance for the books.
46. Count the evening stars and Hollywood stars at one of Charlotte’s outdoor summer movie offerings. Round up the kids and catch your favorite family flick at the Movies Under the Stars series at Symphony Park.
47. Show your pride as you join the city in celebrating its LGBTQ community. Celebrate diversity and unity at Charlotte Black Gay Pride’s annual summer event and at the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade, each of which draws a diverse lineup of drag, dance, comedy and musical acts in Uptown.
48. Experience life in the wilderness while camping at McDowell Nature Center and Preserve’s 56-site camp ground set along hundreds of scenic acres. Take shelter at Copperhead Island for more primitive digs.
This article ran in the June 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings.