Before I became a mother, I didn’t really go to malls. Then, I had a child, and I learned that malls are temperature-controlled free places that are not my house.
And so I started to explore Charlotte malls.
This exploration took place mostly in the summer when it was ungodly hot and the outside world was not an option for my son and me.
Want to know when the outside world is also not an option for us? When it’s unbearably cold. (So, basically half the year. Ugh.) What’s up winter? Way to make it impossible to enjoy an outdoor playground!
So, it’s all about mall playgrounds. My 2-year-old and I have been to them all, and, boy, do we have opinions. Here are our favorite mall playgrounds ranked:
(4) SouthPark Mall
The worst mall playground in Charlotte is also the best mall playground in Charlotte. This playground is, in fact, so good that I included it in my Top Ten Places to take a Bored Toddler in Charlotte-ish list. I love it. I mean, it has a giant boat in the middle of it. There is a slide and lots of things to climb, and for whatever reason, every child in it is incredibly well supervised and boisterous yet polite. (Back when I was a full-time stay-at-home-mom, I went to this playground on the regular, and I never had a big-kid problem unlike all the other malls everywhere). Also, it is right next to a delicious food court. Sadly, it is also outside, so when the weather is rough, it is the worst mall playground in Charlotte. But seriously, visit it on temperate days. It’s next to a fountain! Children frolic and laugh and play peacefully! Zero big kid trample my son! It is a thing of dreams!
(3) Carolina Place Mall
Carolina Place Mall’s indoor playground is a perfectly fine and good mall playground. In fact, it’s a little bit special because just outside of it are a ton of those plastic cars that cost a quarter or two to make move. My kid loves those cars! (Do not ever tell him that they will move if we put money in them. He is totally cool with them staying still while he climbs all over them.) Sadly, 100 percent of the times I’ve been there (which to be fair is only three times), it has had big kids running all over the place. (Do their parents not see the “You must be taller than this height to enter” signs?) Big kids running all over the place is my least favorite thing about going to mall playgrounds. My kid is two. He is little. He is easily run-overable. Mall playground fail.
(2) Concord Mills
If you’re looking for a pro-vegetable playground, then go to Concord Mills Mall! It is vegetable-themed, and, boy, are those vegetables having fun! Where else can you go on a broccoli slide? It’s also near an aquarium so if you’re willing to spend some cash, it can make for a pretty great afternoon.
(1) Northlake Mall
I love this little playground so much. It is relatively new (at least newer than my son — it’s old Looney Toons play area bit the dust relatively recently), and it is so toddler friendly. Everything is little. There are things to turn and places to climb, and it’s always full of toddlers rather than big kids. I even find its color scheme soothing. I know some people have worries about going to Northlake Mall, but they shouldn’t. This is the most fun, peaceful, exploratory indoor mall playground in Charlotte!
Whole Foods has an indoor playground type situation that entertained my child for at least five minutes, but it is mostly unimpressive.
In the summer months, Birkdale Village has a nice outdoor spray-ground situation for shoppers who need their kids to let loose.
And if you want to really get crazy, Gastonia’s Eastridge Mall has a lovely indoor playground that is almost always mostly empty (possibly because it is in Gastonia), and my son loves it.