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The Carolinas' largest metropolis and one of the country's fastest-growing areas, Charlotte is a top banking center that offers much to see and do, whether it's history (the birthplace of the 11th president, James K. Polk), sports (professional football, baseball, basketball and NASCAR) or the arts (try the free and fabulous public art walking tour). But don't be afraid to bring your kids. Here are our favorite things to do for family fun in Charlotte:
1. Bring your curious kids to Discovery Place, where they can visit the aquarium, science circus and rain forest and learn from hands-on displays about electricity, weather, rocks, minerals and other scientific wonders. Check out the collections gallery, OMNIMAX theater and major traveling exhibits.
2. Aspiring racecar drivers will want to hit the five racetracks at the NASCAR- themed amusement park, NASCAR Speedpark. It offers five racetracks, a state-of-the-art interactive arcade, an 18-hole miniature golf course, kiddie rides and laser tag.
3. Children who love stomach-turning rides will get their adrenalin pumping at Paramount's Carowdins, which offers roller coasters and a 12-acre water park. This 100-acre family theme park has more than 40 rides, shows and attractions, including a 12-acre water entertainment complex, WaterWorks, the Nickelodeon Central children's area, Drop Zone stunt tower and roller coasters, and the 13,000-seat Paladium amphitheater hosts special events and concerts throughout the year.
Sure, there are museums, parks, and kid-friendly destinations all over this family-friendly town. But when it comes to really entertaining the kids there are two places that are a little off the beaten path—and sure to make the smallest members of your family happy.
US National Whitewater Center
At this outdoor recreational center just to the west of town on the banks of the Catawba river you’ll find kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and, of course, white water rafting. The facility is designed for families looking to spend a day in the sun appreciating all it has to offer from the more than 14 miles of wooded trails to the 46 foot outdoor climbing center. Plus, there are guides for almost every activity and even educational adventures offering full day programs for children to learn about things like human impacts on the environment and the local wildlife population. And while the kids are learning the ropes (or checking out the ropes course), mom and dad can soak in the sun on the patio of the Rivers Edge Bar and Grill complete with craft beers and casual fare.
Lazy 5 Ranch
Looking for a one-of-a-kind experience sure to captivate the kids? Head to the Lazy 5 Ranch where you’ll find more than 750 animals from six different continents (think zebra, lemurs, and giraffes) meandering through a large park. Take a ride through the ranch on one of the wagons, which offer up-close-and-personal encounters with the friendly animals. Be sure to buy a bucket of feed, guaranteeing plenty of attention from the wildlife for you and your family.