Long, unhurried days spent at the U.S. National Whitewater Center are, by now, synonymous with warm weather’s arrival in Charlotte. The venue, an expansive 1300 acres running alongside the Catawba River, is practically buzzing with energy this time of year. This is one of those spots that truly makes our area unique: The USNWC offers land and water sports of all kinds, as well as regular concerts, festivals, races, movie nights, dining, and way more — it’s one of the best versions of a “one-stop shop” we’ve ever witnessed.
What to do
Try (or watch someone else try) the Deep Water Solo: This is the center’s newest offering: With walls spanning heights between twenty-five and forty-five feet, the feature is the only of its kind anywhere. Deep-water soloing, also known as psicobloc, allows climbers to ascend walls free of a rope and harness, with the exhilarating plunge into a sixteen-foot pool awaiting them at the end. Of course, this high-level sport is not for everyone, so there are two other climbing facilities at the US National Whitewater center, too: The Spire, which offers bouldering challenges, and the Climbing Wall, made to look and feel like granite, that accommodate all ranges of experience.
Try Your Hand at Zip Lining: The Zip Lining venue offers a unique bird’s eye perspective of this lush, green venue, and of the river itself. Hawk Tower is the longest zipline, spanning 1,625 feet, and there are three other zip line courses as well, all at varying levels of difficulty.
Use the 30-plus mile trail system: The USNWC is home to over 30 miles of singletrack, cutting through the beautiful preserved woods and along the Catawba River. The trails offer varying levels of difficulty for guests of all ages and abilities, and mountain bikers, hikers, and runners alike can share the trail system. The great thing about the accessibility of the trails is that you can easily incorporate this into the rest of your day at the Whitewater Center. Plan it right and you can walk or bike before returning to the lawn for a beer and some live entertainment.
Paddle board: Paddling along the scenic Catawba River is one of the more relaxing ways to enjoy the water at the USNWC. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding combines surfing and paddling into an activity all ages and skill levels can enjoy, and the Center provides all the gear there for you to rent.
Picnic: You can bring your favorite takeout or meal from home, or just visit The Market, The River’s Edge Bar & Grill or the Pump House Biergarten located right at the US National Whitewater Center. Spread out a blanket or grab a table, and simply enjoy a meal al fresco.
Fourth of July: USNWC‘s Fourth of July Celebration is a two-day festival featuring all kinds of outdoor fun and adventures, along with yoga, live music, and some spectacular firework displays over the world’s largest man-made whitewater river come nightfall. Musical performances on the River Jam Stage take place in the afternoon and evening each day. Bring out your blanket or chairs, pick out a great viewing spot, and enjoy the show.
Labor Day: The long holiday weekend gets its due at the Labor Day Celebration, and there are no shortage of ways to enjoy being outside all weekend long. The Dry Tri kicks off the festivities on Saturday morning, followed by the Aqua Rock Deep Water Solo Climbing Competition later in the evening. Sunday is the Labor Day 5k and 15k Trail Race, followed by yoga, live music, and a Labor Day firework show after the sun goes down.
Survival 101 Class: This particular class, on July 20, allows you to learn the basics of backcountry survival and the types of preventative measures you can take for your next adventure. This is just one of the USNWC Outdoor School’s courses, so if you miss this captivating lesson, sign up for another to improve your outdoor skills in another arena as you learn from some of our area’s most skilled professionals.
River Jam Series: Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from May through September you can catch live musical performances at the one-of-a-kind outdoor venue nestled right in the middle of the whitewater river. The genres vary, from roots rock to americana, bluegrass, folk, and funk. With ample lawn seating, this is an evening all ages can enjoy.
Tuckfest: Though we have to wait for next year, Tuckfest is well worth it: It’s likely the USNWC’s most beloved annual event, a three-day festival that celebrates both live music and outdoor competitions. This is typically when the Whitewater center presents their biggest musical headliners of the year—all for free—as thousands of Charlotteans and area residents pour out to take part in the fun.
To learn more about the U.S National Whitewater Center, visit their website usnwc.org