Girl outdoors with a large hawk perched on her hand.

Family Health, Nutrition and Fitness, Your Health | one year ago

Squeeze in Some More Fun Before the Warm Weather Fades

The hot days of summer are limited, but ideas to keep your family active are not. What are you waiting for? Go try something new.

To help you and your family move more, we’ve compiled a list of free or cheap family-friendly activities meant to inspire you to explore the Charlotte region.

See how many you can check off before winter.

Walk among birds of prey

For more than 30 years, the Carolina Raptor Center has provided environmental educational opportunities for visitors of all ages. Located within the 1,500-acre Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, this bird sanctuary lets visitors see owls, hawks, eagles and other birds of prey up close while walking the center’s Raptor Trail.
  • When: Summer hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Where: 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville, NC.
  • Cost: $6-$10; children 4 and younger are free. Memberships available.
  • Connect: 704-875-6521 or carolinaraptorcenter.org.

Visit your backyard beach

Splash, swim and soak up panoramic views of Lake Norman at Mecklenburg County’s newly opened public beach – lifeguards included. It’s the first county-run public beach in the area in more than four decades.
  • When: 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily through Labor Day.
  • Where: Part of the 46-acre Ramsey Creek Park, 18441 Nantz Road, Cornelius, NC. There’s room for 500 swimmers, but limited parking.
  • Cost: $3 to $15. Catch a free shuttle at the Northcross Park and Ride on weekends and holidays.
  • Connect: 980-314-1001 or charmeck.org.

Plan a slippery, refreshing day trip

If you can’t knock out a visit to Sliding Rock, keep it on your radar for summers to come. Slide down a 60-foot natural mountain waterfall and end in the refreshing pool at the base.
  • When: People can slide during daylight hours, but lifeguards aren’t always on duty.
  • Where: Less than two hours from Charlotte, it’s located in the 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard and Asheville, NC.
  • Cost: $2 per person; $25 for a season pass.
  • Connect: 828-877-3350.

Root for the home team

There’s still some time to catch the Charlotte Knights in action. This minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox plays at BB&T Ballpark, which boasts a killer view of uptown Charlotte. Some night games end with a quick but impressive fireworks show. Grass Hill seats are the cheapest but only available for select games.
  • When: Regular season games are played weekly until September.
  • Where: 324 S Mint St., Charlotte, NC.
  • Cost: $7-$14
  • Connect: 704-274-8282 or charlotteknights.com.

Connect with nature

Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve protects 832 acres of natural, forested habitat. The neighboring Reedy Creek Park features a dog park, a community garden and an 18-hole disc golf course. There’s also 10 miles of hiking trails, playgrounds and places to play soccer, softball, horseshoes and volleyball. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day with friends and family.
  • When: The center’s hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk.
  • Where: 2900 Rocky River Road, Charlotte, NC.
  • Cost: Free.
  • Connect: 704-336-7600.

Climb a mountain

Crowders Mountain State Park offers hiking, camping, canoeing and fishing on a nine-acre lake. Make it to the top of The Pinnacle or Crowders Mountain and you’ll be rewarded with a great view of Charlotte. Rock climbing and bouldering available in designated areas, with a permit.
  • When: Summer hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. through September. Park hours vary seasonally.
  • Where: 522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain, NC.
  • Cost: Admission to the park is free.
  • Connect: 704-853-5357.

Test your limits

Play. Relax. Learn. That’s the slogan of the 1,110-acre US National Whitewater Park, which opened in 2006. Guests of all ages can try anything from whitewater rafting, kayaking and rock climbing to hiking, zip lines, rope courses and mountain biking on more than 25 miles of trails.
  • When: Open daily from dawn until dusk. Pass activities run 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Where: 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC.
  • Cost: Costs vary per activity.
  • Connect: 704-391-3900 or usnwc.org.

Get your fill of thrills

Just 15 minutes from uptown Charlotte, Carowinds and its world-class thrill rides are sure to put your inner-adrenaline junkie to test. Tempted? Head straight for Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, which reaches heights of 325 feet and hits speeds of 95 mph. There’s also a water park, live entertainment and seasonal events.

  • When: Hours vary. Generally, the park opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. or 10 p.m.
  • Where: 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, NC.
  • Cost: Ticket prices vary.
  • Connect: 704-588-2600 or carowinds.com.

Tour a museum

One of several museums in the area, Discovery Place brings science to life using interactive exhibits and experiments during daily programs. You also can check out a movie under the huge IMAX Dome.
  • When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: 301 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC.
  • Cost: $9-$22; season passes available.
  • Connect: 704-372-6261 or discoveryplace.org.

Gaze at the stars

The Schiele Museum of Natural History is a world-class museum with a T. Rex specimen, live animals and a planetarium. Its mission is to inspire wonder and appreciation for science and the natural world. Check out the planetarium show, then go out and take in the stars on your own.
  • When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Where: 1500 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia, NC.
  • Connect: 704-866-6900 or schielemuseum.org.

Discover your inner rock star

Dozens of musicians from practically every genre of music call our fine state home. And the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame displays its musical roots proudly. Explore interactive exhibits or learn about the annual induction ceremony.

Experience the First Ward Food Fest

Uptown Charlotte’s weekly, kid- and pet-friendly event is a people-watchers delight. A view of the city skyline, top-notch food trucks, live entertainment, corn hole tournaments, vendors and a movie screening at dusk lure in regulars and newcomers alike. Bring a blanket or chairs; coolers welcome.
  • When: 4:30-9:30 p.m. Friday.
  • Where: 710 E. 7th St., Charlotte, NC.
  • Connect: 1stwardfoodfest.com.

Unwind in style

What: VBGB Beer Hall and Garden delivers award-winning food in an engaging, family-friendly ambiance. Featuring 30 local and regional craft brews on tap and fun, oversized games, this beer garden has ranked among the nation’s best for years. Check out trivia night or the volleyball leagues – or leave the kiddos at home and enjoy a date night. It’s located within the AvidXchange Music Factory, which boasts a maze of entertainment, including a comedy club, bars, dance clubs and concert venues.
  • When: Open daily; 21 and older after 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Where: 1000 North Carolina Music Factory Blvd., Charlotte, NC.
  • Connect: vbgbuptown.com.

 Explore gardens galore

  • The Wing Haven Gardens & Bird Sanctuary has been a part of Charlotte since 1927. The enclosed, three-acre garden boasts great views, formal gardens and woodland areas. Visit 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Details: winghavengardens.org.
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Charlotte’s Duke Mansion occasionally hosts free tours of the historic landmark home and newly renovated gardens. RSVP required. Details: 704-714-4453.
  • Open every day from dawn to dusk, the UNCC Botanical Gardens hold a collection of plants for education, conservation and research purposes. Started in 1966, the gardens have evolved into a 10-acre outdoor garden, greenhouse space and teaching classroom with an extensive botanical and horticultural library. Details: gardens.uncc.edu.