This story is proudly presented by Morningstar Marinas, with 3 LKN locations and a brand new fleet of rental pontoons just in time for summer. Want an upgrade? Check out their members-only Peninsula Yacht Club with exclusive dining, boating and sailing perks. You can even join with a Social Membership to take advantage of club facilities and special events throughout the season.
Temps are starting to rise, which only means one thing: You’ve gotta find fun ways to keep cool.
Here are 18 water-based activities to keep you from sweating profusely this spring and summer in Charlotte.
(1) Climb an outdoor rock wall with nothing but a pool to catch you at U.S. National Whitewater Center
Details: The USNWC’s deep water solo is a series of climbing walls (ranging 25-40 feet tall) that hang over a 20-foot deep pool. Climbers tackle the wall without a harness and nothing but water below.
Price: $59 adult day pass gets you access to all available land and water activities.
(2) Splash around for the day at Carowinds’ Carolina Harbor Waterpark
- The Barracuda Blasters: Grab a tube and race a friend down two twisting long tunnel slides.
- Blackbeard’s Revenge: This attraction is a whopping six stories tall and features three slides, including Captain’s Plank which has a nearly vertical free fall.
- Coastal Currents: This is a basically a super chill lazy river. Perfect for just floating and cooling off.
Tickets: Day passes start at $45 per person. You’ll get access to both Carowinds and Carolina Harbor Waterpark. If you want to go all season long snag a season pass. Buy tickets.
(3) Grab some beers and float down the Catawba River in a tube
The experience: Reserve a tube at Rockin’ River Adventures and float 3 miles from the Lake Wylie Dam to River Walk on a two- to three-hour excursion that includes shuttle service, a tube with a headrest, two cup holders and a life jacket.
Price: $20/tube, $5 for a floating cooler
Address: New Gray Rock Road, Fort Mill, SC
(4) Enjoy a Lake Norman dinner cruise on a luxury yacht or Mississippi river boat
- Lady of the Lake is Queens Landing’s 93-foot yacht. It has two fully enclosed floors with bars on each level and a balcony that offers lake views. It’s a fancier dining experience, and you can even add VIP packages with champagne.
- Catawba Queen is an old school Mississippi river boat. They offer a more casual buffet-style dinner, and there’s a bar.
Details: Dinner cruises sail Friday-Sunday. Check the schedule for exact dates and times.
Price: $64.99-$74.99 adults; $58.99-$68.99 seniors; $31.99-$33.99 youth 5-12; $16.99-$17.99 children 2-12.
Address: 1459 River Hwy, Mooresville
(5) Have a family staycation at Great Wolf Lodge’s indoor water park
The experience: Stay for a night or two at the lodge, and get full access to their 80,0000-square-foot indoor water park. Attractions include a four-story tube ride, a water fort tree house with slides and a toboggan-style mat slide where you can race your friends. It’s a rain-proof vacation. Plus, they have super cool themed hotel rooms.
Luxury upgrades: Rent a cabana in the water park if you’re looking to lounge. Great Wolf Lodge has a spa, so you can get pampered while the kids splash around.
Address: 10175 Weddington Road, Concord
Price: They offer three different room options: standard, themed and premium. A themed room runs around $350 a night, but prices vary. Remember, water park access is included as part of your stay. Book here.
(6) Go on a cycleboat party cruise on Lake Norman
What to expect: Charlotte Cycleboats offers two-hour cruises on open-air pedal-powered party boats. Each boat can hold up to 15 people. You can BYO beer, wine and snacks. Private rentals are also available.
Price: $37/person; $525 full boat rental. Book here.
Address: 17505 W. Catawba Ave., Cornelius
(7) Hang out on the beach on Lake Norman
Where to go
- Lake Norman State Park features a 125-yard sand beach equipped with a concession stand, bathhouse, restrooms and lockers. $4-$5/per person. Main park is free to access.
- Ramsey Creek Beach is a 43-acre lakeside park with a half-acre sandy beach. It’s open late May through Labor Day with lifeguard service 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. $5-$10/per car.
Pro tip: If you’re heading to Ramsey Creek Beach, there’s a free beach shuttle available weekends and holidays at 17126 Northcross Drive with service every 15 minutes.
(8) Take a moonlight tour on a glowing stand-up paddle board
Details: Aloha Paddle Sports offers Lake Norman nighttime excursions on LED-lit boards. Even the paddles glow. The 1.5-hour tour starts at dusk, and you’ll need some previous experience stand-up paddle boarding.
Price: $35 with your own board; $50 with equipment rental
Location: 17505 W. Catawba Ave., Cornelius
(10) Kayak Lake Haigler at Anne Springs Close Greenway
Details: Rentals are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m on weekends from May 25 through September. No reservations are required. Kayaks are rented on a first come, first serve basis. You can also rent stand-up paddle boards.
Price: $10/person for non-members, $5 for members
Address: 2573 Lake Haigler Drive, Fort Mill
(11) Go whitewater rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center
The experience: Raft down the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, featuring class II-IV rapids. You can opt for the Family Rafting for a little more of a tame experience or the Adventure Rafting for more of a thrilling ride. Upgrade to the Rodeo Rafting if you really want to kick things up a notch (for ages 16 and up only).
Price: $59 adult day pass gets you access to all available land and water activities. Upgrade to the $199 annual pass for access all land and water activities for 365 days.
Pro tip: After your wild ride, grab a beer at the Pump House Biergarten to watch the other rafters head down the channel.
(12) Rent a private cabana and hang by the pool at Craft City Social Club
The experience: You hang out in a private cabana by a pool on a rooftop in Uptown Charlotte. You get fancy drinks brought to you. You are a baller.
Price: Cabana rentals will run you around $75-$300. Book here.
(13) Cool off in an urban sprayground
Details: If your idea of outdoorsy is a manicured city park, look no further than our guide to eight free family-friendly public spraygrounds in and around Charlotte.
Agenda guide: A guide to free public spraygrounds in Charlotte
(14) Take the kiddos to Ray’s Splash Planet
Details: It’s an indoor water park boasting tons of slides and attractions fueled by a whopping 117,000 gallons of water. It’s open seven days a week.
- The Blue Comet: Three-story giant slide shaped in the form of a double figure-eight.
The Lazy River: Orbit around the Blue Comet on a tube and relax.
- Saturation Station: Features four slides, interactive water play and a tumble bucket for guests under 48 inches tall.
Price: Daily admission is around $6-$11.
(15) Swim in a rock quarry at Carrigan Farms
About the quarry: It’s a natural spring-fed body of water that was discovered in the 1960s when mining for granite stone. Now you can swim in it.
Address: 1213 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy, Mooresville
Swimming details: It’s $15/per person to swim at The Quarry (cash only). The next Open Swim will be on May 25. You must pass a swim test to participate without a life jacket.
(16) Take a dip in one of Charlotte’s swimming pools
YMCA pools: They’ve got more than 15 pools and waterparks across our city.
Neighborhood pools: Get details on eight neighborhood swim clubs you can join, including pricing, amenities and waitlist times.
Apartment pools: Get ready to party because Charlotte’s apartment pool scene is huge. Here are the 10 best apartment pools.
(17) Kayak the Catawba River during Rocky Shoals spider lily season
About the lilies: Less than an hour south of Charlotte, Landsford Canal State Park is home to the world’s largest population of Rocky Shoals spider lilies. They bloom May through mid-June.
How to experience them: The spider lilies can be viewed by kayak on the water or along a 1.5-mile hike on land. Thrifty Adventures offers spider lily kayaking trips. $48/per person. Their site says the tours typically sell out in advance, so plan ahead.
(18) Ride a jet ski on Lake Norman
Places to rent jet skis
- Morningstar Marinas – Starting from $125 for four hours
- What’s Up Watersports – Starting from $139 for two hours
- Lake Effects – Starting from $179 for two hours
- Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals — Membership includes boat and jet ski rentals
Pro tip: Chill out on Lake Norman’s Ramsey Creek Beach after your jet ski ride. It opens late May.
This story was made possible by Morningstar Marinas – our partner in getting out on the lake this summer. The editorial selection and content is not endorsed or influenced by this sponsor.
Cover image: Peninsula Yacht Club, by Christina Hussey.