Family Vacations to Charlotte, North Carolina

Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, North Carolina
Bank of America Stadium (courtesy, Visit Charlotte)

Charlotte Family Travel Tips

  • Animate your own film at Studio-i in the ImaginOn.
  • Walk through an anatomically correct giant eye and see an IMAX film at Discovery Place.
  • Hear the Grandpa Tree explain the sounds of the night at the Charlotte Nature Museum.
  • See how people lived in the post-Civil War South at Charlotte's excellent museums.
  • Splash in the lagoon, ride the roller coasters, and have Nickelodeon-inspired adventures at Paramount's Carowinds.

Nestled in the Piedmont area in south-central North Carolina, Charlotte, the second largest financial center in the U.S., is more than just a soulless city of suits. Check out its interesting museums, stroll the McGill Rose Garden, and enjoy family-friendly fun without the chaos of other major family hubs.

At the newly opened ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, teens can animate their own movie at Studio-i, equipped with four cameras, a large blue screen, and state-of-the-art software; toddlers and older kids put together computer-generated picture books using touch-screen computers and oversized keyboards at the Story Jar; families enjoy watching productions together at the facility's Children's Theater.

See your shadow stay on the wall after you walk away at Discovery Place, a science center with interactive exhibits and demonstrations designed primarily for kids six to 12. Little tykes can build a dam at a water table or explore a treehouse in KidsPlace. Feel the force of a simulated tornado in the Our Living Planet exhibit, or play at being an on-screen meteorologist in the WSOC-TV Severe Weather Center.

The talking "Grandpa Tree" at the Charlotte Nature Museum's Nature Dome explains which critters make those spooky sounds at night. Puppets educate and entertain at the museum's Dragonfly Theater and hundreds of butterflies flitter about at the Butterfly Pavilion.

Play checkers on the front porch of a mill house or step inside a one-room tenant farmer's house at the Museum of the New South's "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers: Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont in the New South" exhibit. With more than 1,000 artifacts, images, video clips, music, and oral histories, this museum offers a comprehensive interpretation of post-Civil War Southern history. The 18th century comes alive as costumed guides take visitors through the Hezekiah Alexander House on the grounds of the Charlotte Museum of History. Built in 1774, the home is the oldest surviving structure in Charlotte. Peak into yet another era at the "Shotgun House," built in the late 1880s and fitted with furnishings from the 1940s, at the Afro-American Cultural Center, home to exhibits, films, and live performances.

Charlotte has been host to festival in the park for more than four decades, a gathering of hundreds of artists, craft exhibitors, and entertainers. The fall event (September 21-24, 2006) features pony rides and face painting for kids. For more kid thrills, drive ten miles south of town to Paramount's Carowinds Theme Park. New attractions for 2006 include Boomerang Bay Water Park featuring Platypus Plunge—a two-person tube twisting through 100 feet of curvy, banked turns—and Kookaburra Bay, a mammoth heated beach lagoon in a tropical setting. Big kids can hop on the hair-raising stand-up Vortex roller coaster, while the little ones have Nickelodeon Central, themed with the Rugrats Runaway Reptar, Wild Thornberrys River Adventure, and other rides based on the popular television characters.

NASCAR motorheads should make for Lowe's Motor Speedway, 12 miles northeast of town, for a guided tour, and also visit the nearby Hendrick Motorsports Museum, showcasing classic cars, racecars, and racing memorabilia.

Tip: Tired of walking? Take the Gold Rush-era rubber-wheeled trolley service around the Center City. Hop on Streetcar #85—an electric streetcar built in 1927—for a guided tour of the Historic South End and Center City.

Side trips: Asheville, Raleigh, Great Smoky Mountains's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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