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Charlotte, North Carolina is a wondrous place for families to eat, play and explore together. Whether you are seeking a hands on learning experience for your kids or looking for some outdoor adventures, Charlotte is an ideal destination for families year round!
Uptown Charlotte is a wonderland of art, history and fun. As you drive (or walk) through uptown you can’t help but marvel at the inspiring sculptures on nearly every street corner and don’t miss the “Firebird” in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. If you really want to get a feel for the city take the 90 minute walking tour, you will walk away an expert in the “Queen City”.
Families will want to hit the Discovery Place Science Museum where you can delve into the world of physics, biology and engineering. Take documentaries to a whole new level in the IMAX dome equipped with the largest screen in the Carolinas!
“Gentlemen, start your engines” The NASCAR Hall of Fame isn’t just for mega fans, rookies will enjoy it just as much. Put your pit skills to the test in one of 2 pit simulators (one for kids and one for adults), feel the roar of a real engine beneath your feet and wrap it up with a simulated race around the track. Even if you have never heard of NASCAR, you’ll have a great time.
For budget conscious families there are multiple FREE attractions throughout the uptown area:
The Green is an imaginative, sensory oasis in the middle of uptown Charlotte. Enormous books, giant fish sculptures spouting water and a magical walkway complete with interactive sounds make this literary-themed park a unique attraction for all ages.
ImaginOn is a library with a twist that is open to the public and free! It features a children’s theater (there may be a fee for some shows) and programs for children and teens on a regular basis. Check their schedule to see the latest programs and times.
The Wells Fargo History Museum takes you back in time to the height of the gold rush and the beginning of the Wachovia bank. Climb aboard a real stagecoach, tinker with an interactive telegraph and examine rare gold nuggets and coins.
The Gold Rush Trolley takes you throughout uptown Charlotte on an open air trolley, an experience the kids aren’t likely to forget. The trolley runs Monday-Friday from 6:40 am – 6:30 pm. Look for the marked trolley stops or use the map here.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to explore Charlotte’s natural side. Located within 380 acres on the banks of Lake Wylie, DSBG is home to spectacular gardens, sparkling fountains and a conservatory dedicated to the display of tropical plants and orchids. Families won’t want to miss the tunnel fountains in the summer, definitely a crowd pleaser
The UNCC Botanical Gardens is a free alternative for the nature loving family. Greenhouses and two gorgeous outdoor gardens are available to visit year round. Highlights include a distinct orchid collection, carnivorous plants and a giant display of rhododendrons throughout the native garden.
McDowell Nature Center and Preserve is the perfect outdoor oasis for families. This 1100 acre preserve has an abundance of campsites, 7 miles of hiking trails, playground, picnic areas and plenty of opportunities to observe the natural wildlife.
Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary is a garden that was designed as a haven for birds and other small animals, everything from the plants to the statues were placed with small wildlife in mind. Several species of birds can be seen frequently flitting from plant to plant throughout the gardens. Admission for children is free and they have several activities designed for children while visiting.
Carowinds, the 398 acre amusement and water park that straddles the North Carolina and South Carolina border is a must do for any adventure seeking family visiting Charlotte. Whether you are taking on the Intimadator (the tallest, fastest, longest coaster in the Southeast), visiting Snoopy and his friends in Snoopyland or cooling off in the 20 acre water park, Carowinds is sure to be the highlight of your visit.
U.S. National Whitewater Center is the ultimate destination for adventure seekers in Charlotte! With over 500 acres located on the Catawba River, USNWC has activities sure to thrill even the most hardcore adventurer. Here you can go whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lining, tackle the ropes course & canopy tour or mountain bike on 25+ miles of trails.
In addition to the Wells Fargo Museum of History and the NASCAR museum mentioned above, you can also satisfy your historical cravings by visiting these sites as well:
Historic Latta Plantation is a circa 1800 cotton plantation and living history farm where you can immerse yourselves in civil war history, interact with confederate and union soldiers, visit the farm to see rare and endangered historic breeds of livestock and explore the plantations crops (including watching the cotton harvest May- November). Take advantage of the guided tour to soak up all the history you can.
President James K. Polk State Historic Site is located on the land once owned by the parents of James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States. This historic site commemorates the major events in the Polk administration from the Mexican-American War to the annexation of California. A log house, separate kitchen, and barn have all been reconstructed and authentically furnished to reflect the time period. The visitor center is full of information on Polk, his family and his turbulent presidency.
Charlotte is nothing without its amazing eateries!
The marble counters, the gleaming soda fountain, craftsman made stools and booths are what you will find at Pike’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop. This one of a kind restaurant in uptown Charlotte features mouthwatering home style cooking including sandwiches and burgers. Make sure to save room for dessert, there is nowhere better than Pike’s for an old fashioned milkshake, sundae or banana split.
Diamond Restaurant is one of Charlotte’s oldest establishments. Serving up big helpings of comfort food that “will wrap you up in it’s lovin’ arms.” Since 1945 Diamond is a Charlotte landmark and tradition. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you visit Charlotte it’s practically a requirement to visit Diamond’s!
Located in a rustic brick building, Nan & Byron’s is a hidden gem in Charlotte. American-gothic decor and an inventive menu make this a draw for most adults. What makes it spectacular for kids is the pre-dinner popcorn, kids menu staples and kid inspired desserts like the PB&J (peanut butter cookies, mixed berry cream filling and vanilla cream custard) To die for! Definitely a worthwhile stop for dinner or lunch!
Where to stay-
There is no shortage of places to stay in Charlotte! I recommend a hotel in uptown Charlotte so that you can walk, hop on a trolley or take advantage of the Blue Line Light Rail to get you to the best attractions in Charlotte.
Hyatt House is hands down the best hotel in the area. Close to everything, including a light rail stop, this hotel is modern and luxurious with plenty of room for a large family or a family that just wants a bit more room to spread out. Each room is equipped with a kitchen or kitchenette, comfortable beds and lavish bedding. A rooftop pool, comfortable lobbies on two floors, complimentary breakfast, reasonable rates and an attentive staff put this hotel at the top of the list for comfort and affordability.
Charlotte is a little artsy, a little quirky and a lot of fun! Make it a point to visit soon, you will be so happy you did.
Thank you to the City of Charlotte, Hyatt House, NASCAR Hall of Fame & Discovery Place for hosting us on this fantastic getaway. All opinions are my own. Please see my disclosure policy for details.