25+ Must-Do Experiences for Kids in Charlotte
Create memories and find new adventures in the Queen City with this list of must-do experiences for kids in Charlotte.
by Kristen Moore
Whether you’re a proud Charlotte native, a welcomed transplant or a visitor, you’re part of the Queen City’s unique family. And like any family, Charlotte holds a host of time-treasured traditions that are part of the initiation process. Here’s a look at 25+ “so-Charlotte” activities that every kid (or kid at heart) should experience in the city.
1. Careen down the tracks of the exhilarating roller coasters at Carowinds. Grab a seat on Fury 325, the tallest and fastest giga coaster in the world; Copperhead Strike, the park’s first double-launch roller coaster; and the Intimidator, an 80-mph coaster inspired by North Carolina native and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. For the younger kiddos 40” or taller, check out the Wilderness Run or Woodstock Express coasters at Camp Snoopy.
2. Snag a seat near the field at Bank of America Stadium in hopes of being handed a touchdown-scoring football by a Carolina Panthers player or to proudly wave your soccer scarf at a Charlotte FC soccer match.
3. Pass on the joy of nature to future generations at Fort Mill's 2,100-acre Anne Springs Close Greenway. Discover hidden waterfalls, massive lakes and beautiful hardwood forests while hiking or biking its numerous trails.
4. Dash through the water spouting from the fish fountains on The Green in Uptown's Second Ward on a warm day. For a mini beach experience, try Ramsey Creek Park or Lake Norman State Park. If you prefer indoor water fun, head to Ray’s Splash Planet or Great Wolf Lodge.
5. Meet (and snap a selfie with) Charlotte Hornets mascot, Hugo, during a game at Spectrum Center, where Charlotte transforms into Buzz City.
6. Host your birthday party at 10 Park Lanes or Frankie's Fun Park, where you can bowl strikes and battle your friends in old-school arcade games.
7. Watch the fireworks light up the sky above Truist Field as you cheer on the Charlotte Knights. Gather your crew and chow down on a mini helmet full of ice cream and don't miss your chance to run the bases after select Sunday games.
8. The Charlotte area was the location of the country’s first gold rush. Pan for gold at Reed Gold Mine just outside of Charlotte in Midland, North Carolina and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of this historic space.
9. Take a field trip to Discovery Place Science, which has been igniting kids’ minds with fascinating science, nature and technology exhibits since 1981.
10. Grab a loaf of bread and treat the ducks to lunch at Freedom Park's duck pond. Let the kids test their skills on the NFL Play 60 KidZone, which features an obstacle course, timed 40-yard dash, climbing structure and pep talk station with messages of encouragement from Carolina Panthers players. Or grab a photo with a 1920s steam locomotive, one of Charlotte's hidden treasures of the past.
11. Explore the 11th U.S. president’s 19th-century log cabin homestead and learn about frontier cooking in the old kitchen at the President James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville. To continue your journey through time, visit The Charlotte Museum of History.
12. Introduce your kids' taste buds to Charlotte’s culinary scene early. Spots like The Cowfish (burgers and sushi), JJ’s Red Hots (hot dogs), The Pizza Peel (pizza), Mama Ricotta’s (Italian), Tupelo Honey (Southern), Waldhorn Restaurant (German) and Big View Diner (a little bit of everything) offer a nice sampling of Charlotte’s flavor while still being approachable and kid-friendly. And Ninety’s Milkshake Bar is a must for dessert.
13. Explore Charlotte’s racing roots when you put the pedal to the metal in the realistic racing simulators or prep a race car in the pit crew challenge at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
14. Pick strawberries, garden veggies, apples or pumpkins, depending on the season, with your family at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, North Carolina, or Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Or find locally grown goods at Charlotte area farmers markets. Then use your bounty to bake every pie imaginable. Plan a return visit to Carrigan Farms in the summer to go for a swim in The Quarry at Carrigan Farms.
15. Let your imagination soar as you watch a Children’s Theatre of Charlotte troupe bring one of your favorite childhood stories to life in the McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn: the Joe & Joan Martin Center.
16. Spread your wings at Discovery Place Nature and walk among the majestic, free-flying butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion. Or explore the history and habitats of other animals at The Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, North Carolina.
17. Jump around at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Charlotte or Pineville, and soar to higher heights at iFLY indoor skydiving in Concord, North Carolina. Fun for children and adults, it may be hard to come down from these activities.
18. Lather up with sunscreen for summer camp (or just plain old fun) at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Take on the whitewater rapids, climbing walls, zip lines, ropes courses, trails and more.
19. Under the sea is always better, especially at SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium in Concord Mills. As you explore the creatures of the deep blue, you may forget that there is a bustling world of shoppers just outside the doors.
20. Feel the rush of childhood wonder come roaring back at 180+ miles per hour during a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Catch one of the two NASCAR Cup Series races — the annual Coca-Cola 600 in May or the Bank of America Roval 400 in October — or a number of other events throughout the year to satisfy your family's need for speed.
21. Walk the Raptor Trail and participate in the behind-the-scenes tour of the Raptor Hospital at the Carolina Raptor Center, a nonprofit committed to the exploration, rehabilitation and conservation of birds of prey. And nearby, explore Quest, an educational gateway to the 1,460-acre Latta Nature Preserve, the largest nature preserve in the county and home to a variety of animals and natural habitats.
22. High five the Charlotte Checkers hockey players (and polar bear mascot Chubbie) as they walk through the RedLine Club at Bojangles Coliseum before the game, and then proudly wave from atop the Zamboni during the game’s intermissions.
23. Watch the launch of the hot air balloons (or, if you're feeling brave, reserve a spot to ride in one) at the annual Carolina BalloonFest just north of Charlotte in Statesville, North Carolina.
24. Race in high-speed go-carts at The SpeedPark at Concord Mills, Victory Lane Karting, K1 Speed or GoPro Motorplex, some of the same facilities where NASCAR stars from the area got their start.
25. Hike to the summit of Crowders Mountain and see the skyline of Uptown Charlotte in the distance on a clear day.
For more activities and ideas, visit our family friendly page.