When you’re new to Charlotte, thinking through all the areas and neighborhoods can be tough. Most residents don’t seem to venture too far from home and each neighborhood is somewhat self-contained. But no matter where you land, you’re sure to want to get out of your bubble every once in a while.
Here are 5 of Charlotte’s hottest spots to take kids that the grown-ups in their lives will enjoy, too.
Yes, I did say the adults will enjoy this, too. A part of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, Ray’s Splash Planet has tons to offer the whole family. For the bigger kids, there is a water slide and a whirlpool. For the little-er guys, you can play on the playground equipment inside a shallow pool. Upstairs is a gym overlooking the pool and a nice semi-quiet waiting area if you’ve had enough of the echo-y pool noise. Oh, and it’s indoors, so you can go any time of year.
215 N. Sycamore St.
Charlotte is really upping its museum game but Discovery Place is one of the longstanding best. Discovery Place Science Uptown is geared towards kids of all ages, up to adults, with rotating attractions like “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” and “Body Worlds,” as well as an IMAX theater. Inside the museum is a rainforest habitat, aquarium and lots of STEM activities to get those little science brains moving. There are even after-hours events for adults like Science on the Rocks, which combines cocktails with exhibit exploration. 301 N. Tryon St.
Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville is geared toward kids up to about age 10 with lots of fun performances. (Another location exists in Rockingham, NC.) 105 Gilead Road, Huntersville
Discovery Place Nature (formerly Charlotte Nature Museum) is located near Freedom Park and boasts an incredible nature-based outdoor play area, a planetarium and featured exhibitions like a butterfly pavilion and a nature lab. 1658 Sterling Road.
Admission prices vary.
I may never get enough of ImaginOn, Charlotte’s only kids-only library. This gigantic and beautiful facility is in the First Ward section of Uptown right across the street from First Ward Park and next to 7th Street Public Market. Pop in the market and grab some coffee at Not Just Coffee and spend the day with story times for the younger kids, a variety of activities for the older ones — including a teen-only space and a 10-and-older space — and leave with a bag full of books from an excellent selection. The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte is housed within this building, so catch a play while you’re there!
300 E. 7th St.
Speaking of the Discovery Place Nature, it lies just outside a portion of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which runs through Freedom Park. This park is one of Charlotte’s most popular spots and if you Googled Charlotte ever in your life, you’ll see that basically everyone has family photos taken here (so grab the camera!). Fields for baseball and soccer abound, along with a modern playground and an agility-training course for kids sponsored by our very own Carolina Panthers and the Play60 campaign. With a lake, amphitheater, trails and plenty of green space, there’s no wonder this is basically every parent’s (and nanny’s) go-to. You may even spot a roller-blader or two, still hanging out from the ’90s.
1900 East Blvd.
If you’re looking to leave the city without really leaving the city, land at Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve and get your share of nature and reprieve. Upon entering, you will see the Historic Latta Plantation home, built circa 1800. Step back in time and get a history lesson with a site tour or attend one of the many events that take place throughout the year.
Further into the preserve are trails (both foot and equestrian) that border Mountain Island Lake, complete with grills and picnic areas. Stop by the Nature Preserve, an indoor museum with nature activities for children, or the Carolina Raptor Center, a walk-through experience featuring giant birds of prey, complete with overhead “flight shows” and natural science exhibits.
Admission prices vary. Plan your visit here.
6211 Sample Road, Huntersville
Photos: Charlotte Observer files