The Ultimate Guide to Fun With Kids in Charlotte, NC

Are you looking for a day trip, a weekend trip, or even a complete vacation? Charlotte, North Carolina is about 90 minutes from the upstate and offers visitors entertainment to suit whatever interests you and your family have.

Here are some of the entertainment that awaits you in the Queen City! Be sure to come back as we add more first hand accounts of adventures we have in the Charlotte area.

Charlotte, North Carolina

This article includes:
Where to sleep near Charlotte, North Carolina
Family activities near Charlotte, NC
Activities in Gastonia, North Carolina
Activities in Cabarus County, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina Seasonal Fun
Activities in York County, South Carolina
Where to eat near Charlotte, North Carolina

Find great places to stay near Charlotte, NC

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Activities in Charlotte, North Carolina

Van Gogh‘s immersive art exhibition
Buy your tickets online in advance until September 23, 2021
The exhibition features Van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces like Starry Night, Sunflower, The Potato Eaters, Almond Blossoms, The Bedroom, and many more. But don’t worry if you don’t know a Monet from a Van Gogh. This exhibit is fantastic, whatever your knowledge of the great masters of the art world.

Carowinds Amusement Park
Buy your tickets online in advance depending on the season.
Find out what makes this park a favorite with upstate families, including how your young children can get in for free!

United States National Whitewater Center
Pre-purchase activity passes online for over 30 recreational activities

If you are looking for a place full of outdoor adventure, this is it. The center offers whitewater activities and offers visitors the option of rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, ziplining and more.

Readers recently shared their love for the US National White Water Center on Facebook when we asked if they were.

Several times and loved it! Rafting is a short loop, but it gets intense depending on where the raft guide decides to go. The zipline is the best I have ever been to. There are also events for the little ones, like rock climbing. Well worth the trip.

Tina M.

Yes! Have season passes. Ideal for children ages 6 and up, as well as families. As an adult who doesn’t like to be outdoors, I love rafting and kayaking in flat water. What to do for a whole day of visit!

Virginia WW

Several times and we did it all! From mountain biking to zipline through rafting and even experienced their live musical series, River Jam…. enough to spend a full day there with the family (ages 10 and up)

Nikki W.

Discovery Place Science Center
Buy pre-booked tickets online all year round
This large, kid-friendly science museum in the heart of downtown Charlotte is a great way to spend a rainy day with your family. The museum has exhibits with live animals, STEM topics, an Imax theater, and more.

The rooftop swimming pool of the Omni hotel
Book your day pass online via the Coin Bar
Do you want to live like an upscale traveler, basking in the sun next to a rooftop pool, but sleeping in your own bed at night? The Omni Hotel offers Queen City visitors day passes to use this large pool deck that overlooks the city.
Adult pass from $ 25 / Children 12 and under from $ 15 / Free entry for infants

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve
This is an amazing and unspoiled natural center about 6 miles northwest of downtown Charlotte, located inside the larger Reedy Creek Park. The park includes a playground, science center, hiking trails and more.

Carolina Raptor Center
Buy your tickets in advance online all year round
This rehabilitation and education center is home to hawks, hawks, owls, eagles and vultures from all over the world. Guests will have the chance to discover and meet these magnificent birds up close.

Raptor Program at the Carolina Raptor Center

Activities in Gastonia, North Carolina

Plan a full day in Gastonia, NC with our guide to the region.

Schiele Natural History Museum
Buy your tickets online in advance all year round
This museum makes a great day trip. We had a lot of fun visiting the museum and enjoyed the exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, creatures, nature and much more! If you haven’t already, you should add it to your museum bucket list.

What to do in Cabarus County, North Carolina

Plan a full day in Concord, NC with our region guide

Great Wolf Lodge – Concorde
A short drive from the upstate, Great Wolf Lodge is a great destination for families, and your stay includes a pleasant indoor water park that is warm even in winter. The activities on offer at the Lodge mean that no additional planning has to be done to make this a fun trip.

iFLY at Concorde
iFLY is an indoor skydiving simulator where you enter a wind tunnel strong enough to allow you to float in the air.

iFly man flying

Seasonal fun in Charlotte, NC

Don’t miss these annual events and seasonal activities in the Charlotte, NC area.

Christmas Town United States – McAdenville, North Carolina
This small town of just under 700 takes the Christmas season very seriously. It all started with nine trees decorated by the Men’s Club. The following year they did a little more, and it continued every year. In 2004, nearly 400 trees were decorated and the townspeople all decided to join in the fun. The joint effort has resulted in nearly half a million lights adorning the 1.3-mile stretch of road that visitors see as they pass through town.

Christmas lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Buy your tickets in advance online from November 19, 2021 to January 2, 2022
Speedway Christmas is unique in that you drive your own car on the race track which is normally driven by professional NASCAR drivers. Unfortunately, your minivan will go at a snail pace, but it’s still pretty cool in my opinion. On the 3.75 mile drive-through course, visitors can see exhibits made up of over four million lights!

Christmas lights in Charlotte, North Carolina

Carrigan Farms Quarry
Buy your tickets online in advance for Open Swim all summer until mid-September
Are you looking for a unique place to cool off this summer? The Carrigan Farms quarry in Mooresville, North Carolina might just be the place. Carrigan Farms Quarry offers guests a full day of water activities, including several stone jump points, swings, swimming areas, and a sand beach volleyball area. Slots book quickly and planning is recommended.

Caroline Renaissance Festival
Buy your tickets in advance online from October 1 to November 21, 2021
Fans of a long forgotten era can weave their way through huge ‘roast turkey legs’, unique craft vendors, mermaids, fairies, sword jugglers, falconry demonstrations and a jousting tournament. Your child can even be knighted by Queen Isabella while you’re at it!

York County, SC: Fun Just Across the Border from Charlotte, SC

Charlotte is so close to the state border that several popular attractions straddle the two states. For example, did you know that Carowinds is found in both North Carolina and South Carolina? Plus, visitors to the area often cross state borders, so we’ve decided to include some of our favorite things in the Charlotte area, across the South Carolina state border.

Plan a full day in York County, South Carolina with our region guide.

Kings Mountain State Park
Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park are right next to each other and visible from I85. You’ll drive through North Carolina and then back to South Carolina to get to the park, that’s how close this historic state park is to Charlotte.

Draper Sunflower Reserve
If you’re looking for a magical place to take family photos or just a place to visit to get some fresh air and a change of scenery, we’ve found a spot just south of Rock Hill that won’t cost you a dime. The sunflower fields in the Draper Wildlife Area are only in bloom for a few weeks in the summer, but if you plan correctly, you can see them in full bloom in July.

Children reading information about the Battle of Kings Mountain

Anne Springs close the green lane
The Green Lane is a 2,100 nature reserve that continues the Springs family tradition of providing recreational options for workers at Springmaid Brand Mill. The park represents just over a third of the land the Springs family purchased from the Catawba Indians. The reserve includes hiking trails, lakes, streams, wildflower gardens and much more for your family.

Where to eat in the Charlotte area

Finding a place to eat in the big city can be intimidating, but luckily there is some great food to be found with a little guidance.

Food halls

I like places where you can go and where everyone can decide what they want, and it can be varied. My kids can usually only agree to disagree, which makes mealtime easier.

Optimist Room
A food hall in a converted warehouse that offers a kaleidoscope of options for hungry families.

  • AVA – authentic Italian and wood-fired pizza
  • Bao & Broth – Bao buns and ramen bowls
  • Botiwalla – Indian street food
  • Boxcar Betty’s – Fried Chicken Sandwiches
  • The Dumpling Lady – Sichuan street food
  • El Thrifty – Mexican Inspired Menu
  • Felix Empanadas
  • Harriett’s Burgers
  • Suarez Bakery & Barra – Donuts and Cuban cuisine
  • Plus vendors serving tacos, raw food, Southeast Asian cuisine, grilled cheese and more!

Northend Camp

This versatile venue is a century-old Ford Model-T factory that is now home to art exhibits, food vendors, and more.

  • La Caseta – the pocket version of the Sabor Latin Street food we also have in Greenville
  • PopBar CLT – an artisan ice cream vendor
  • Saru by Bar Ramen – Ramen bowls
  • Leah & Louise – (reservations recommended) Elevated Deep South Menu
  • Plus vendors serving burgers, herbal dishes, cocktails, coffee and more!


I like to eat like the locals when I travel, and in Charlotte that means soul food, barbecue and fried chicken dishes.


Save room for dessert, because there are too many delicious places to skip if you don’t!

About Bernice D. Brewer

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