13 Best Things to Do With Kids in Charlotte, North Carolina

Downtown Charlotte skyscrapers in the background with a park (Marshall Park), fountain and waterway in the foreground

Davel5957 / Getty Images

Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the most family-friendly cities in America. From parks and farms to rainy-day locales like museums and aquariums, both residents and visitors alike can find activities suited to their children's interests in Charlotte.

Plan your itinerary carefully when visiting Charlotte, as you'll have to pick and chose between all the fun goings-on. Hit the splash park on a hot summer day, pick in-season strawberries at a farm, or go for a sunset paddle on Lake Norman. Then, top off your stay with a milkshake at the town's classic soda stand.

01 of 13

Rev Up at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Kids at NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR

Address
400 E M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA
Phone +1 704-654-4400

If your little ones are into cars or racing, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte is an obligatory stop. Not only can they get up close and personal with actual race cars, but they can get behind the wheel in an interactive driving simulator and pretend they're on the track. One of the most high-pressure jobs of a NASCAR race is the pit crew, and visitors can put themselves in the pit crew shoes by racing the clock or another team. Jack up the car, pressurize the tires, and fill up the tank as fast as you can in this interactive competition.

Stop by the Gear Shop on your way out to pick up some souvenirs to take home. Whether a toy car to play with or a onesie for the youngest visitors, it's a small memento to remember the day.

02 of 13

Head Outside at Discovery Place Nature

Discovery Place Nature

Discovery Place Nature

Address
1658 Sterling Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209, USA
Phone +1 704-372-6261

Discovery Place is a Charlotte institution when it comes to family-friendly attractions in the city. The interactive museum has two different locations, but younger kids are the focus at Discover Place Nature. This outdoor adventure park is geared toward children aged 3–7, where they'll learn all about the outdoors and the natural environment. The Butterfly Pavilion is a favorite, where dozens of free-flying butterflies float around. They can also interact with other insects, turtles, snakes, and more.

The Nature Museum is located right next to Freedom Park, making it a great place to spend the day at the museum before stopping over for a picnic in the park.

03 of 13

Get Hands on at Discovery Place Science

Discovery Place Science

Discovery Place Science

Address
301 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, USA
Phone +1 704-372-6261

The second Discovery Place museum in Charlotte is all about science. Located in the middle of Uptown, Discovery Place is an interactive science and technology museum that's popular with children and adults alike. There are dozens of hands-on exhibits, a huge IMAX movie screen, and things to do for all ages. There's also a nice aquarium portion of the museum, plus an actual rainforest that you can walk through featuring plenty of exotic live birds, reptiles, and plants.

While Discovery Place is a kids' museum, it is probably best for children that are at least in the third or fourth grade. They'll get the most out of the educational exhibits, which include diving into the human body, taking off into outer space, or pretending to be a real-life scientist with interactive experiments.

04 of 13

Pick Strawberries at Carrigan Farms

Strawberries at Carrigan Farms

 Carrigan Farms

Address
1261 Oakridge Farm Hwy, Mooresville, NC 28115, USA
Phone +1 704-664-1450

Carrigan Farms is located a short drive away from Charlotte in Mooresville, North Carolina. Here, children of all ages can spend the spring picking asparagus and strawberries or the fall harvesting fresh pumpkins. Carrigan Farms also hosts a variety of fun events throughout the year including haunted hayrides near Halloween and private swim parties in the summer. Tours are also available throughout the year that introduces kids to every aspect of farm life—from planting crops to harvesting the fields.

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05 of 13

Cool off at a Splash Park

Sprayground in Mecklenburg County Government

Mecklenburg County Government

 

Address
2136 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205, USA
Phone +1 980-314-1002

There's nothing a kid likes better in the summer months than getting wet, and Charlotte's public park system has several spray-grounds—miniature water parks with jets that shoot water out of the ground. Kids can run, splash, and play, and the ground is usually somewhat padded to prevent injuries.

Here's where you'll find free spray-grounds in Charlotte:

  • Veterans Park at 2136 Central Avenue (east of Uptown in the Elizabeth neighborhood near US-74)
  • Latta Park at 601 East Park Avenue (just south of Uptown, near Dilworth Elementary School)
  • Cordelia Park at 2100 North Davidson Street (just northeast of Uptown, near Amelie's French Bakery)
  • West Charlotte Recreation Center at 2400 Kendall Drive (on Charlotte's west side, near West Charlotte High School, just off I-85)
  • Nevin Park at 6000 Statesville Rd. (Charlotte's north side, near I-77 and Ribbon Walk Nature Preserve)

The spray-ground at Veterans Park is probably the most popular one in Charlotte because it has a canopy that covers the entire playground, keeping the sun from burning little shoulders. There are also some other water play areas in Charlotte parks that aren't "official" spray-grounds, such as Romare Bearden Park, The Green Uptown, Little Sugar Creek Greenway, and even a nice one located at Birkdale Village.

06 of 13

Visit a Nature Center

Outside the Historic Latta Plantation

 Historic Latta Plantation

Address
2986 ROCKY RIVER RD, Charlotte, NC 28215, USA
Phone +1 980-314-1119

If you're looking to get your kids outdoors, check out Charlotte's three nature preserves. These are a part of Charlotte's public park system and they have traditional park elements like playgrounds and picnic areas but also more opportunities to get into nature on walking trails.

  • Reedy Creek Nature Preserve: This preserve boasts an awesome playground made up of natural elements like sand, stone, boulders, and logs.
  • McDowell Nature Preserve: Find plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities along numerous walking trails as well as special programming throughout the year including guided nature walks.
  • Latta Plantation Nature Preserve: It's the county's largest and sits on Mountain Island Lake. Latta has bird feeding stations to watch feathered friends, a discovery hall, a butterfly garden, and more. The preserve here is also home to the Raptor Center, the Latta Plantation, a fully restored working 19th-century farm, and the Latta Equestrian Center.
07 of 13

Grab a Book at ImaginOn

ImaginOn: The Joe and Joan Martin Center
Visit Charlotte
Address
300 E 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28202-2514, USA
Phone +1 704-416-4600

Ask any parent in Charlotte about one thing their kid loves to do, and you'll hear ImaginOn mentioned frequently. Located Uptown, ImaginOn is a library geared towards kids and teens that's been named one of the best kids' libraries in the nation. In fact, it even has two theaters on site: the Wells Fargo Playhouse and the McColl Family Theater.

Part of Charlotte's public library system, ImaginOn is completely free. The library is broken down into several different areas, each focusing on a certain age group. The main Spangler Library is a traditional children's library that's geared towards kids from infants to fifth grade. You will find plenty of books that can be checked out plus plenty of spaces to curl up and read. An area called "The Loft" on the third floor is only accessible to teenagers. This space has lots of quiet areas for studying but also features an award-winning sound and animation studio that's free to use.

08 of 13

Hold Birds of Prey at the Raptor Center

Aviary at the Carolina Raptor Center

TripSavvy / Artie Beaty

Address
6000 Sample Rd, Huntersville, NC 28078, USA
Phone +1 704-875-6521

The Carolina Raptor Center is first and foremost an aviary rehab facility, but it's also an excellent spot to see some incredible birds that you usually wouldn't be able to see anywhere else. Here, visitors can rub wings with one of America's largest collections of birds of prey, many of which are endangered in the wild, such as owls, eagles, hawks, and vultures.

There is a charge to visit, but children aged 4 and under are free and students are admitted with a reduced ticket price. One of the best things about visiting the Raptor Center is that there are several shows throughout the day, and they're all included in the price of admission. The facility has a mission of bird conservation through education, research, and rehabilitation, and over 20 species of birds are on display along the walking trail through the center.

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09 of 13

Feed Sea Creatures at the Aquarium

Tunnel at SEA LIFE Aquarium

 SEA LIFE Aquarium

Address
8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord, NC 28027, USA
Phone +1 855-450-0512

The SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium is a great place to take the kids for an afternoon of education and fun. Children will enjoy attending talks and feeding times for a variety of aquatic creatures as well as a series of special events like the LEGO Sea Explorers build-and-play event in June each year.

The aquarium also features behind-the-scenes experiences, an interactive touch pool filled with sea stars and crabs, and an ambassador animal program that brings aquatic animals to local schools. The SEA LIFE Aquarium is open daily throughout the year.

10 of 13

Go Paddleboarding

People paddleboarding with Aloha Paddle sports

 Aloha Paddle Sports

Address
400 N Harbor Pl Dr Unit B, Davidson, NC 28036, USA
Phone +1 704-412-2999

If you want to teach your kids how to take to the water standing atop a paddleboard, head out to Lake Norman in Cornelius, North Carolina, where you can enjoy a day on the water.

Aloha Paddle Sports has two locations on Lake Norman—one in Cornelius and one at North Harbor—both of which offer kayak and paddleboard rentals as well as special tours of the lake and lessons on stand-up paddleboarding. For a special treat, stick around for sunset paddle tours throughout the summer or head out to the lake on the night of a full moon for a special moonlight paddle tour.

11 of 13

Ride a Rollercoaster at Carowinds

Copperhead Strike at Carowinds

  Carowinds

Address
14523 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273, USA
Phone +1 704-588-2600

Featuring world-class rides, authentic Carolina cuisine, coaster thrills, and seasonal events and entertainment throughout the year, Carowinds is North Carolina's premier amusement park and a great destination for kids of all ages. Located on the border of North and South Carolina just southwest of Charlotte, Carowinds is easily accessible from the city.

Don't miss the Harbor Waterpark in the summer to make a splash against the heat, and be sure to ride the Coperhead Strike, the Carolinas' first double-launch coaster, which opened in 2019.

12 of 13

Feed the Ducks at Freedom Park

The lake at Freedom Park in the summer in Charlotte

 JillLang / Getty Images

Address
Freedom Park, Charlotte, NC 28209, USA

Located between the historic Dilworth and Myers Park neighborhoods, Freedom Park is a 98-acre park centered around a seven-acre lake that's full of activities that are perfect for kids—including feeding the resident ducks. An old-time steam engine from an out-of-use train is also on display in the park and kids are allowed to climb into the cab—perfect for make-believe games of being a train conductor. Freedom Park also hosts a variety of family-friendly events throughout the summer.

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13 of 13

Attend a Performance at Children's Theater

Performance at Children's Theatre of Charlotte

 Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Address
300 E 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28202-2514, USA
Phone +1 704-973-2828

Featuring dozens of family-friendly productions throughout the year, the Children's Theatre of Charlotte is a great destination for an afternoon of entertainment. Additionally, you can enroll your kids in educational programs throughout the year (especially in the summer) or get them involved in the Kindness Project, which engages kids with community-building projects and activities all year long.

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13 Best Things to Do With Kids in Charlotte, North Carolina