It’s Spring Break (for CMS, at least) and while kids are thrilled, most parents are wondering how to keep the peace and keep everyone entertained and engaged while not spending a small fortune. It’s not just me, right?

Here are 5 ideas $5 and under for a spring break that doesn’t break the bank.

U.S. National Whitewater Center

I have to say this is one of my favorite family spots in Charlotte, especially on a weekday.  While every activity is not cheap or free, you can pay your $5 to park and then roam the woods or have some quality family team-building by working through the obstacle course.  You and your kiddos will walk away with a sense of accomplishment and connection while enjoying the great outdoors right outside of the city.

VisArt Video

When the Elizabeth neighborhood started blowing up with condos, VisArt bowed out and moved a few miles across town to 3104 Eastway Drive. With a still-impressive inventory, you can rent kids’ movies for $1.25 and have a movie day right at home. Grab a bag of popcorn at Trader Joe’s, close the blinds and watch a movie from home without worrying if your kids need to roam or a take bathroom break mid-film. You can maybe even snag a nap.


If I have learned anything in my 9 ½ years of parenting, it is that there is truly nothing better than a public library. ImaginOn is my library-of-choice when I’ve got the kids with me because of the incredible selection of books, games and activities. From family storytime to teen activities, you’re bound to find something completely free to do with the kids.

If you’re feeling like taking it a bit further, grab tickets for “Go, Dog. Go!,” the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s last showing of the 69th season. If you’re feeling like keeping it completely free, try out the “Go, Dog. Go!” book walk around the library.

McDowell Nature Center

Located by Lake Wylie, the McDowell Nature Center offers tons of activities, absolutely free. The nature center has lots of fun activities inside for kids, picnic tables, and trails for hiking. Print off a scavenger hunt at home and see what you can find in the woods.

Art at the park

This self-directed activity is cheap, simple and it’s likely you have everything you need at home. Grab some paper, a box of crayons or colored pencils, a blanket and head to the park.  I suggest Freedom Park, right by the water. Let your kids draw what they see or make impressions of leaves.

The great thing about this simple activity is that it can be done in the backyard if you’re not up for the challenge of hauling all the kids across town.

Have fun this week!  Let us know which activity you chose and how it went.

Photo Credit: Children’s Theatre of Charlotte

This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.

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