Family-Friendly Adventures in Charlotte
Charlotte is known as a family friendly place to live, and there is no shortage of ways to enjoy the Queen City with kids. Make it a family day with these local outings of interest that have something for all ages.
by Michele Huggins Sep 10, 2020
Per a COVID-19-related Mecklenburg County health directive issued Jan. 12, 2021, please note that some businesses may have modified their hours of operation and changed procedures in order to comply with CDC and Mecklenburg County Health Department guidelines. Please wear a mask, limit any non-essential activities and refrain from gathering with anyone outside of your household.
Release Your Wild Side
Get your family together, buy a bucket of feed and get up-close to emus, giraffes, zebras and Watusi cattle – just a few of the animals you can see on a self-guided, drive-through tour at Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville. Over in Troutman, Zootastic Park is a walk-around zoo, with a drive-through option as well. Here, you’ll find big cats, kangaroos and primates hanging around.
Learn Something New
Step back into prehistoric times in The Schiele Museum of Natural History's Dino Safari exhibit. Learn about what life might have been like for the dinosaurs, or explore five permanent exhibitions taking visitors on a journey through North American wildlife and habitats, the history of the American Indians and a Creepy Nature exhibit on the wonders and oddities of the natural world. The Schiele Museum of Natural History is operating at a reduced capacity as part of their COVID precautionary procedures. Advanced reservations are required and face coverings are required for visitors age 5 and older.
At Discovery Place Science, kids can create music with light beams, build PVC pipe structure or take in a show in the Charlotte Observer IMAX® Dome Theatre and Discovery 3D Theatre. Discovery Place Nature taps the curiosity of little animal lovers with its Butterfly Pavilion, Naturalist Lab and Fort Wild. And in Huntersville, Discovery Place Kids conjures curiosity and activates the imagination through rich play experience with activities geared toward younger children.
Discovery Place museums are operating at a reduced capacity as part of their COVID precautionary procedures. Tickets must be purchased in advance online, and face masks are required for visitors age 2 or older.
Explore Public Art
Wander through Uptown with an eye on art with The Art and Science Council’s Public Art Walking Tour. The self-guided tour reveals Charlotte’s rich history and diverse communities through public art. Download the Walking Tour brochure or tune into the Walking Tour podcast. Detour to First Ward Park or Romare Bearden Park, two of the Uptown “pocket parks,” when the kids need to run free.
Get a feel for various neighborhood vibes on one of the self-guided Art Walks CLT tours. Art Walks CLT hones in on murals—from NoDa to Elizabeth, South End to the Gold District—and the artists behind the creations. Add an element of extra fun with the family scavenger hunt through NoDa.
Make a Pit Stop
Celebrating the rich history and heritage of NASCAR, family members of all ages will be able to relive some of racing’s greatest moments at this high-octane facility in the heart of Uptown. Explore more than 50 interactive exhibits, test your speed in a pit crew challenge and relive the race moments that turned NASCAR pioneers into legends.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open to guests at reduced capacity and enhanced health and safety measures in place. A few safety precautions include required face masks or coverings for all guests; a complimentary stylus to accommodate no-touch interactions with touch-screen exhibits; and electrostatic/disinfectant sprayers will be used in high-touch areas.
Walk the Rail Trail
A highlight of this 3.5-mile stretch of walkway from South End to Uptown Charlotte is the brightly colored magic carpet murals painted along the way. Sit and swing on “Edna’s Porch” or leave a message of hope on the “Before I Die … Chalkboard.” Rent an electric scooter to add a little zip to your Rail Trail exploration while enjoying city skyline views. To ride, download one of several apps, including Lime or Bird, to unlock the scooters, scan a QR code and hop on. Anyone under age 16 must wear a helmet. The kids will love stopping for a bite to eat at any of several restaurants in South End, including Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Two Scoops Creamery, Blaze Pizza or Sabor Latin Street Grill, to name just a few.
Play the Day Away
The Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department has more than 200 parks and facilities on 21,000 acres throughout the county. Take in Carolina blue skies relaxing at Freedom Park located in Dilworth, just a few miles from Uptown on East Boulevard. Enjoy a picnic, then go for a walk or bike ride around the 7-acre lake. Kids can burn off energy on the playground or the NFL Play 60 KidZone. Jump on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, adjacent to the park, for a creekside walk to Metropolitan in Midtown for lunch or shopping.
Conquer Land, Sky and Sea
Home to the largest man-made whitewater river in the world and the world’s first deepwater solo climbing tour, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has activities for the whole family including rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking and ziplining. Kids can’t help but burn off energy here. Before you go, check the USNWC’s calendar of events for special events and offers.
Spread Your Wings
If fast-flying falcons are more your speed, soar over to the Carolina Raptor Center where 97 resident birds call home. Walk the 0.75-mile Raptor Trail to see owls, vultures, hawks, eagles, falcons, corvids, as well as a pair of bald eagles at the Eagle Aviary. Check the website for special tours and events. Add a lakeside nature walk along Mountain Island Lake with a stop at Latta Nature Preserve. The preserve has 16 miles of hiking trails and is adjacent to the Carolina Raptor Center.
Smell the Roses
Your family will love to unwind at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, which features 380 acres of themed gardens, a dozen sparkling fountains, a spectacular Visitor Pavilion and a striking Orchid Conservatory. In keeping with COVID precautions, the garden is open to Members only.