Don’t resign yourself to boredom or being stuck inside: Enjoy one (or all) of these Charlotte outdoor activities and make Summer 2020 a memorable adventure.
Visit one of the many Charlotte parks including our favorite, Romare Bearden Park
Views of uptown never looked so good! This small park named after the talented and prolific Charlotte artist Romare Bearden is a great place to enjoy nature right in the center of the city. Beautiful and expansive green lawns, lots of park benches and seating, a waterfall installation, and views of the surrounding Queen City skyline make this Charlotte park so amazing. We also suggest checking out Freedom Park in Dilworth, Fourth Ward Park, Reedy Creek Park, McAlpine Creek Park in Southeast Charlotte, and Jetton Park in Cornelius.
Where: All over Charlotte. Visit here for a complete list of Charlotte NC parks.
Average cost: Totally free. Just show up and enjoy nature!
Family friendly? Of course. And many of these parks have fields for the kids to play sports, grills and picnic tables for cook outs, and more!
Learn to play disc golf
If your golf clubs are getting worn out from these past few months of social distancing, disc golf is a great alternative. It’s a fun way to get some exercise in, and enjoy the outdoors with family during this time, while still upholding social distancing guidelines.
Where: There are 18 different courses around the greater Charlotte area – find them all at charlottedgc.com
Average cost: It’s around $20-40 for discs, and $20-50 for a bag. You can play at any course for free.
Family friendly? Yes – the courses around Charlotte accommodate beginner to intermediate levels.
Visit the Lazy 5 Ranch
Lazy 5 is an exotic petting zoo located a few miles north of Charlotte in Mooresville that offers fun for the whole family. While their hay rides are closed to the public during this time, they are still allowing visitors to drive through the ranch in their own vehicles to feed the animals. It’s advised to arrive before 10 A.M. to ensure that you are able to enter before they hit capacity for the day, since they have a higher influx of guests at this time. For more information on hours, visit their website at: lazy5ranch.com
Where: 36.5 miles north of Charlotte and just a little east of Mooresville. Worth every minute of the drive!
Average cost: Tickets range from $10 – 16 per person.
Family friendly? Yes – this is ideal for children, but a fun outing for the adults, too.
Plant an Herb Garden
Spring is the perfect time to plant an herb garden. Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry! Herbs are generally pretty easy plants to take care of and require little maintenance. Grab some basil, parsley, oregano, and thyme from a local nursery, and you’ve got yourself the perfect seasonings for a delicious, homemade tomato sauce. Some of our favorite places to stock up on seeds locally are Blackhawk’s Garden Center, Pike Nursery, and Baucom. Mills Garden Herb Farm, a local Statesville farm, also offers classes so you can learn to tend and use your plants in the best way possible.
Average cost: A simple herb garden, with soil, food, and seeds, will run you around $30 – 50. Mills Garden classes are on average $35 per person.
Family friendly? Yes – get the kids to help!
Have a Movie Night Outdoors
Hounds Drive In Theater is one of the largest outdoor movie venues in the country and a totally unique Charlotte movie theater offering. Movies always start at dusk, and you can find what’s playing weekly on their website. The drive in makes for a fun way to spend an evening, and is a throw-back to simpler times.
Where? Kings Mountain, about a 40 minute drive from Charlotte.
Average Cost: $20 per car (no matter how many people are inside). Cash only.
Family friendly? Check what films are playing and when. Pets are welcome, too.
Go Berry Picking
Starting in April, you can pick your own strawberries at Hunter Farm, a local Charlotte family farm that has been operating for decades. Containers are provided and strawberries are sold by the pound. Availability can vary so check online before you go.
Where? Hunter Farm is in Weddington, NC
Average Cost: Prices vary seasonally.
Family friendly? Yes – this is perfect for little ones.
Have Fun Along the Rail Trail
Looking for what to do in Uptown Charlotte? Part of the fun of the Rail Trail is its location: Found right in the heart of Charlotte, there is plenty to see while you walk the 3.5 miles. Plus, there are all the stops you can take along it. Leash up your dog, brings the kids, or invite a friend and get outside. You can grab a beer at Sycamore, Triple C or Suffolk Punch or a coffee at Not Just Coffee. Food-wise, our favorites include Futo Buta, Hawker’s Asian Street Fare, Rosemont, and Jeni’s Ice Cream. Find out more about all the Rail Trail fun using this Charlotte guide.
Where: .The 3.5 mile trail connects Sedgefield, Southside Park, Brookhill, Dilworth, Wilmore, and South End to Uptown.
Average cost: Free – other than food/drink purchases, of course.
Family friendly? Jeni’s Ice Cream says yes!
Spend the day at the Lake Norman Shore
Lake Norman offers a variety of activities year round and it’s just under 30 minutes away from Charlotte. Ramsey Creek Beach, a 43-acre lakeside park, has the only public-access swimming beach along the lake. It’s open late May through Labor Day with lifeguard service 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. To see what else Lake Norman has to offer, from boat rentals to events, check out the website at visitlakenorman.org
Average cost: Ramsey Creek charges between $5 – 10 per car.
Family friendly? For sure. And jet skiing with Lake Norman Power Sports would make it even more fun for the whole family.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
The 380-acre botanical garden features seasonal exhibits, an orchid conservancy, and a special butterfly habitat home to an abundant population of native North Carolina butterflies. They also frequently offer different classes and programs so you can boost your nature knowledge.
Where: Bemont, about a 20 minute drive from the city.
Average cost: Children under 2 are free, and tickets range from $8 – 18 with discounted prices available if you pay before arrival.
Family friendly? Definitely. Kids particularly like the Orchid Conservatory.
Rent a Kayak on Lake Haigler
Looking for a great Charlotte outdoor adventure? Boating rentals are available at Anne Close Springs Greenway on weekends, May through September from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations are required. Kayaks are rented on a first come, first serve basis and stand-up paddle boards are available, too.
Where? Fort Mill, about a 25 minute drive from the city.
Average cost: $10/person for non-members, $5 for members
Family friendly? This activity is best suited for older children with some experience.
Hike Crowders Mountain
Hike Crowders Mountain, part of the 5126-acre state park less than an hour from Charlotte. It is the perfect opportunity to get some exercise and enjoy the warmer weather while spending time with your family. There are several hiking paths that you can choose from, based on varying difficulty levels and experience. The views at the top of Crowders are wide and gorgeous, and well worth the effort to climb the mountain.
Where? Between Kings Mountain and Gastonia, the park is a 45-minute drive from the city.
Average cost: Park entry is $9 per car.
Family friendly? There are differing dfficulty levels, and pets are allowed.
Hike/Bike Around the U.S. National Whitewater Center
All the USNWC outdoor activities, like rafting, zipline, and ropes course activities are not available yet, but the main grounds and hiking trails are still open, as well as the food market and food truck. There are some great trails to use, and it’s also a great way to get a workout in while being outside. Most of the trails are also shaded, so they’re great even if it’s a hot, sunny day.
Where? Around a 20-minute drive from the city.
Average cost: Prices range based on the activities you choose, but you can expect to spend aruond $20 – 50 per person minimum.
Family friendly? Yes – USNWC offers activities for all ages and difficulty levels.
Stroll Through Charlotte Greenways
Mecklenburg County’s features 37-plus miles of developed greenways for running, walking and cycling, with a full map to all Charlotte greenways here. You find them running from Huntersville all the way down to South Carolina. Some of our personal favorites are Little Sugar Creek Greenway, Six Mile Creek Greenway, and Four Mile Creek Greenway. Grab a water bottle, and take an urban hike.
Where: The greater Charlotte region.
Average cost: Free.
Family friendly? Everyone should be invited – this is a great day time activity for all ages.
Words by: Ellie Barker, Gina McCallie, Gia Lash, Jeannette Jones, & Kiran Wheeler