We recently took the kids to Charlotte, North Carolina as a surprise birthday celebration for our oldest and it was so much fun we’re planning another visit! For us, finding kid-friendly things to do in Charlotte if you have a large family wasn’t nearly as hard as I imagined. I mean, five kids of varying ages can often spell trouble for any activity so I was pleasantly surprised with how well everything went. So if you’re looking for the perfect way to have some good family fun, or maybe you’re more about experiences over stuff (also like us) you’ve come to the right place! Below I’m sharing what we did and why we loved it:
Of all the things to do with your family in Charlotte, NC, this is one of my favorites. While the name may not sound kid appropriate, it definitely was. From the fun games, like Connect Four, to the yummy food, there was something for everyone. And of course, I can’t not mention the pool, especially with the view. I think that was my favorite part of the entire trip. Being rooftop enjoying good food and great games with my kids while looking over such a beautiful city was priceless.
Something to note, we visited for one of their annual Family Trivia nights which offered an extra layer of fun. Competing against the kids to try and answer the questions was loads of fun while simultaneously making me feel quite old, lol.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Charlotte, put this at the top of your list. Freedom Park has something for everyone and that is not an exaggeration. From obstacle courses, a beautiful lake, to a picturesque bridge, there’s tons to do at Freedom Park. Including feeding the Canada geese that like to gather around the lake year round.
My three year old is really into trains and Freedom Park also happens to have a steam engine that you can walk into. Talk about earning all the cool mom points!
Depending on the time of year you visit Charlotte, will dictate what this farm has to offer. In the fall you can enjoy their annual pumpkin patch. Outside of the obvious pumpkins to pick, there’s tons of barnyard animals to pet or get adorable pictures with. As well as hay rides or a hay mountain to climb if your kids need to burn off some extra energy.
Year around they offer some of the tasty farm treats, like eggs, pastured pork or poultry, and lots of delicious local honey. They also host lots of really fun events, like bubble runs and mud runs, that are full of fun and a mess for the whole family.
If you’re looking for things to do with toddlers in Charlotte, NC then this is the place. I guess I should say places as there are a few different locations, each with different themes. But whether it’s science, nature or a mix of the two you are looking for, Discovery Place should be on the list. Packed with tons of hands-on activities, learning has never been so fun. Seriously, I even enjoyed it. And if you are looking to make your visit a little more affordable they have an entire page on their site dedicated to the different discounts they offer.
When it comes to fun things to do in Charlotte, NC Carowinds has something for everyone. Being one of the top parks in the state, the rides and waterpark definitely do not disappoint. Including one of the world’s tallest and fastest roller coasters. And if you plan to visit Carowinds more than once this is one of the few theme parks I’d recommend getting passes to. They have a Pre-K pass for children ages 3-5 that gives them free admission to the park. And it’s free to register for! Mix this with any of their other passes to get the most out of your visit.
Trampoline parks are nowadays for any family activity, so of course I had to add Big Air to the list. Especially with Charlotte being the birthplace of the very first trampoline park. If you’re into jumping, crashing into foam and finding some new and exciting ways to exercise then this is the place for you. As far as family activities in Charlotte, NC go, Big Air is top tier. The kids enjoyed the variety of trampolines, which was surprising for me. I assumed it’d be one big place to jump and that’d be it. Boy was I wrong. They have a mechanical bull you can ride for crying out loud. Don’t miss out on a little friendly game of dodge ball with the family while you’re there.
Founded in 1992, The Carolinas Aviation Museum was founded in 1992 and is one of the best equipped museums about everything aircraft. And if you’re looking for educational things to do in Charlotte that are also super fun, then this is it. Filled with every type of aircraft you can imagine, from military, civil, commercial and helicopters, there’s nothing this museum doesn’t have. And with planes kids can look in and out of it making it a stop on your trip to Charlotte is a must. In addition to the variety of aircrafts, there’s no shortage of objects and items related to aircrafts such as motors and other interesting equipment.
Located near the banks of Lake Wylie, this 380 acre garden is spectacular year round. You’ll be engrossed with breathtaking gardens and fountains as far as the eye can see. Whether you want to experience nature in all its beauty with your family or sneak out for a little date night with bae, these botanical gardens are worth the trip.
Located inside the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, if you happen to be in Charlotte this weekend with your family, this is a must try! Over 30 species of raptors and birds of prey are featured on the ¾ mile trail. Looking to see a Bald Eagle up close? What about coming face to face with an Owl? Or even vultures? If birds are your thing ( or your kids’ thing) catch the behind the scenes for a closer look at the day to day of these amazing animals of flight. Servicing 900 raptor patients a year, the Raptor Hospital exhibit is sure to be an eye opening experience for anyone.
If you’re looking for things to do in Charlotte, NC with a teenager, try digging for gold at Reed Gold Mine. Even if you aren’t feeling lucky, taking the whole crew where the first documented gold was found in the US is sure to give anyone an adrenaline rush. Book a tour and learn about the rich history of gold mining that spread throughout this country. While tours of the mine and admission are free, if you are looking to strike it rich yourself, panning costs $3. Who knows, maybe that teenager of yours will find some gold to help offset the amount of food they consume in a week.
Boosting public docks galore Lake Wylie is one of those family things to do in Charlotte that you may not want to pass up. A 12,455 acre man-made lake on the South Carolina/North Carolina border, Lake Wylie is known for its summer water sports. Looking for something a little less adventurous this time around? Start by taking a tubing trip down the Catawba River – just make sure you have a few hours to spare. Then end it with some relaxing fishing. Don’t forget to take a boat over to Copperhead Island. There you’ll find trails, kayaking, a picnic shelter, and other outdoor activities like beach volleyball and horseshoes. And of course grab a bite at one of the lakeside restaurants.
I can’t list the best Charlotte, NC attractions for families without mentioning the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And if you have a car lover like I do, this will definitely win you all the cool points! Racing fans galore will love to explore all of the interactive exhibits, including racing simulators, racing artifacts, and a one-of-a-kind theater with in-car feeds from some of the world’s top drivers.
A shire to the history and heritage of Nascar, explore the legacies of the sport with the ever changing exhibits. This amazing museum is sure to ignite a passion within your kids while they explore.
I must admit when I found out this Aquarium was inside of a mall, I was a little skeptical. But this was probably one of the stops my kids enjoyed the most. For those who love to explore the ocean, the Sea Life Aquarium is a must-visit. There’s an interactive touch pool where you can get up close and personal with hermit crabs, sea stars and urchins. Built for kids ages 3 – 12 my kiddos loved finding clues to the scavenger hunt while also learning about the many species of fish available there.
This is the perfect place for thrill-seeking families to experience all the fun in the outdoors. Not only can you get some whitewater rafting, but there’s ziplining, stand-up-paddleboarding, free-falling from a giant tree (for those who are into that kind of thing) and more. This is the epitome of family friendly things to do in Charlotte with 1,300 acres of outdoor space to play on. And when you feel like you’re completely exhausted from the day’s activities you can relax to live music at the River Jam concert series. And for those of us who aren’t into heights nor screaming our heads off as we fall from 60 feet in the air, it’s a great place to walk and enjoy nature from a different perspective. You know, on the ground where it’s safe, lol.
This family fun center in Charlotte, NC kept my kids busy for hours. ImaginOn offers two theaters, a dedicated library space for kids 11 and under, four multi-use classrooms, a production studio and a teen only library / study space. There was something for each of them to do, even with their wide age ranges. My youngest loved the interactive exhibits where he was immersed in pretend play, while my oldest was face deep in the books, far enough away from us to feel independent but still within sight. Located in the heart of Charlotte’s culture arts district there was plenty to do right out of the facility as well. We found ourselves at a fun park directly across the street upon leaving, which was icing on the cake for my kiddos.
Where to Stay in Charlotte, NC with Kids (That Can Accommodate Large Families)
If you’re like me, then you’re always looking for the best hotel locations for you and your family. Because as we all know, not all hotels are family friendly. So if you’re headed to Charlotte and need a hotel that everyone will enjoy look no further:
The Omni Hotel
As I mentioned above, The Omni Hotel has some great family fun activities, from the family trivia night to the rooftop pool there’s no shortage of fun for everyone. One of Charlotte’s luxury hotels, the rooms are spacious, kept extremely clean, and it’s located in the heart of uptown. Perfect for any family looking to be in the middle of the art scene and they have valet parking. So forget struggling with the bags while getting your room. They will handle all of that for you.
Embassy Suites Charlotte Uptown
Just minutes from all of the biggest attractions, Embassy Suites has FREE made to order breakfast. Talk about a huge win! In addition to the free wifi, pet friendly rooms, and an indoor pool. Which is why this hotel is on the list. The amenities they offer are perfect for families.
Doubletree Guest Suites Southpark
Just ten minutes from the airport this hotel is great for a family vacation. Their outdoor pool has a waterfall (talk about fun) and their rooms offer space and cleanliness. Have your pet with you, perfect because they’re also pet friendly and their grounds are some of the most beautiful.
Residence Inn Charlotte Uptown
Next to the Panthers Stadium, Residence Inn is the perfect location to be for families. Close to Discovery Place, Mint Museum, and the Spectra Arena. Another great stop if you’re looking to save a little money with a free breakfast, they also offer a complimentary shuttle service. Parking at the hotel does cost, and there is an onsite restaurant.
Homewood Suites Charlotte
Walking distance to all the best shopping and also a short distance to Carowinds, this is the perfect hotel for families looking for more of a home feel. Enjoy the free breakfast or cook your own in the in suite kitchenette. Designed more like a small apartment then hotel room, these suites offer large beds, pull out sofas, full kitchens and even a dining area. Perfect for larger families.
Whether its your next road trip or a quick weekend getaway, if you’re planning a trip to Charlotte, NC with a large family, I hope this list helps you create an unforgettable itinerary for the whole family! With so much to do and see, it is definitely worth the trip.