August is at its midway point and by the end of the month, mornings across Charlotte will include frenetic preparations to get thousands of kids to school on time.
In our house, summer’s the season to go and explore the city we call home, a time to find that perfect mix between busy and lazy. My kids are both double digit midgets now and unexpectedly, this summer, their explorer prowess vanished. They’re no longer interested in getting out the door by 9:30 to be the first ones at the museum, a goal that may or may not be fueled by a mom with a real life fear of busloads of camp kids who show up at museums all at once.
As the end of summer is approaching, I realize I’ve had a hard time adjusting to this new reality. I still crave getting out the door and discovering something new, but my preadolescent kids won’t crack. Most days, they want to stay home, in their rooms, listening to a book or music while doing something artsy or crafty. I realize there are worse things in life, and so I ride the wave rather than swim against the current of this summer.
Still, I’m mourning days of adventure, and I want summer to hurry up and end so I can go and discover Charlotte again. Simultaneously, I remind myself that the number of summers I have left with them, before college, are fewer than what I can count on my two hands. I want summer to slow down. Nothing marks the passage of time more prominently than watching your children grow up.
Many of our readers are parents of young children. As I lament over summers gone by, here is a list of 15 of my favorite Charlotte things to do and places to take the kids, not including festivals. A few of these we did get to over the summer, but not enough. In these last few weeks of summer, check these places out and create some memories that will stick around long after the countdown of summers till college is over.
(1) The Lewis Family Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown. The hands on family gallery is hands down one of our favorite activities in Charlotte. Admission: Adults $12, Children (5-17) $6, Children 4 and under FREE.*
— The Mint Museum (@TheMintMuseum) May 2, 2015
(2) Picnic at Freedom Park, then visit Charlotte Nature Museum. I have severe walkability envy for anyone who lives near these two Charlotte landmarks. Admission to Freedom Park, free; Charlotte Nature Museum Admission: $8.
— CLT Nature Museum (@CLTNatureMuseum) June 29, 2015
(3) Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The wide access, in affordability and exposure, to art in Charlotte never ceases to amaze me. Admission: $8 Adults, Children (11-18) $4, Children 10 and under FREE. *
(4) U.S. National Whitewater Center. Play. Relax. Learn. If you haven’t checked the USNWC yet, you’re missing out. Just as much fun for the adults as for the kids. Admission: Varies based on activity, visit website.
(5) Sports Connection. I’m kind of a germaphobe and I’ll go on record as saying that this is one of the cleanest arcade/family fun centers you’ll meet. You can burn off a lot of steam here without breaking the bank. Admission: Varies based on activity (Laser Tag, bowling, bounce houses, etc.) and how severe a bender you go on at the arcade, winning tickets to redeem for stuff you could have bought at Target for $1.
(6) Lazy 5 Ranch. I’m always conflicted about the welfare of these animals, but I have to think the price of admission benefits them. Admission: Cash only, Adults $11, Children (2-11) $8 (Cost is more for wagon rides).
A photo posted by Jake Fehling (@jakefehling) on
(7) Dish It Out! Paint your own ceramics. Truthfully, not everything turns out lovely, but the fun in making is worth the cost. Cost: Varies based on ambition + Studio fee is $6/hour.
(8) Discovery Place. Location most likely to manifest my fear of busloads of campers, but worth the risk. The mecca of wonder. Admission: Adults $15, Children $12.
(9) Old Salem. Just about an hour away in Winston-Salem, take the kids to experience early American history in a Moravian settlement. It’s Colonial Williamsburg-esque. Admission: Free if you just roam the town. All in one tickets to gardens and tours: Adults $23, Children $11.
Flag cred to Betsy Ross 💁🏼🇺🇸✨ A photo posted by @hmccracken16 on
(10) Geocache. Participate in the world’s largest treasure hunt. Count steps, look for benches that may or may not be there anymore, analyze trees that fit clue descriptions, drive yourselves crazy all over Charlotte. Cost: Free.
(11) Great Wolf Lodge. As far as water parks go, GWL wins because you can retreat to your room when you need a break from the masses. No need to spend more than 24-36 hours here but The Howling Tornado is worth the trip. Admission: Waterpark included with room reservation, check website for room rates.
(12) Carowinds. Don’t be a hero and take the brood on a 100 degree day. Everyone knows what they’re up against during an amusement park trip, bring your wallet and sunscreen. Admission: Varies and there are plenty of savings opportunities – visit website for more details.
(13) Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. You don’t have to pen your own Walden when it comes to experiencing nature. Here’s a way to enjoy it in a lovely, controlled environment, with clean bathrooms. Admission: Adults $12.95, Children (2-12) $6.95.
(14) Library Crawl. Charlotte Mecklenburg libraries are amazing. Each branch is different in architecture and selection. Take the time to visit branches that you don’t live near, and unlock some wonder each time. You can borrow from any library with your library card and while you’re at it, get your kids their own library card. Cost: Free.
— Char Meck Library (@cmlibrary) August 7, 2015
(15) 7th Street Public Market. Take the LYNX Blue Line at the South Blvd station all the way to the to the Market for lunch or dinner. It’s a win-win for all with food and drink selections for the whole family. Piggyback a visit next door to ImaginOn to seal the deal as a bonafide field trip. LYNX Fare: Adults $2.20, Children (2-12) $1.10.
*The Mint Museum and Bechtler Museum participate in Bank of America’s Museums on Us program. Each Bank of America cardholder receives one free admission on the first full weekend of every month. Visit website for more details.
There’s no shortage of activities for families in Charlotte. If these 15 choices aren’t enough, here’s a list of 100 ideas created by Charlottean supermom Elizabeth Corcoran. Happy summer, I hope it never ends.