Be my guide to Charlotte, NC
June 4, 2007 11:37 AM   Subscribe

What's a family of four to do in Charlotte, NC?

My wife and two kids (five and seven) will be in Charlotte from June 9-14. We're staying at the Westin on College and Stonewall and are logistically limited to places we can walk or take public transportation. So what is there to do in downtown Charlotte for kids and what is there to do for adults that accommodates children? Restaurants, museums, planetariums...all recommendations welcome. Is there anything going on that week specifically we should check out?

Also, I'm missing a large book festival in Chicago for this trip; are there any good used book stores in that area I can hit?
posted by Terminal Verbosity to Travel & Transportation around Charlotte, NC (9 answers total)
Best answer: The kids would probably love Discovery Place, and there's some interesting stuff there for grown-ups too. Edutainment at its best.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:59 AM on June 4, 2007

(please forgive the uncalled for and revolting use of the word "Edutainment")
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:01 PM on June 4, 2007

I don't think there are any used book stores worth a hoot in all of Charlotte, let alone one you could walk to.

Frankly there aren't many good used book stores left, outside of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Sometimes a college town has one that's fairly good but a lot of cities without universities lost their best when they all went to the Internet. I haven't been to a decent one in Charlotte in at least 5 years and probably more.
posted by BigSky at 2:18 PM on June 4, 2007

Carowinds Amusement Park is just down I-77 near Fort Mill.

You could also see what's left of Heritage USA, if your tastes lean that way. I really don't know what is left there, so you'll have to check into that. It's the same exit as Carowinds (or close to it.)

The birthplace of President Polk is in or near Charlotte.

Charlotte is a wonderful city, and I'm sure you will find plenty to do. I lived there for a few years, and not a month passes that I don't miss it.
posted by The Deej at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2007

Best answer: First off, don't bother with Heritage USA. Nothing to see there, folks, plus very far away from uptown.

(Also, forgive me for not finding links. I'm lazy.)

First, consider renting a car. Without a car, you're a bit limited; Charlotte is very kid-friendly but uptown isn't necessarily so. Public transportation (busses only; light rail under construction) operates on a spoke system, so it may take you quite a while to get where you need to go.

Starting with Uptown. Besides Discovery Place, there is Imaginon, the children's library and home of Children's Theatre. It's at the corner of 7th and Brevard.

There's a Brixx pizza in the 7th Street Station (it's a very fancy parking deck, also has a nice gourmet grocery) on the 6th Street side. It's good and inexpensive. There's also a Fuel Pizza in the Hearst Tower at the corner of 6th and College and another Fuel closer to you - actually right across College from the hotel. There are a few fast food restaurants in the Overstreet Mall, but I think they're only open during the day.

The county Parks & Rec operates Ray's Splash Planet, adjacent to Irwin Avenue Elementary School, off W. Trade near the interstate; it's an indoor play park. It's a bit too far to walk, and not through the best park of uptown; get a cab or check the uptown shuttle to see if it goes there.

There is a small park in First Ward, the historic residential district, near 7th and Poplar. No playground, but there is one at the Methodist Church (off Tryon between 8th and 9th) and at First Presbyterian (Trade & Church) that I believe are open when their preschool aren't in session.

Johnson & Wales Univ. has a big campus on West Trade, and a few of their classrooms have giant windows that look out on to the street; it might be fun to watch them cook.

You might check with the Westin to see if they could get you a guest pass to the YMCA branch that's located in One Wachovia Center, about a block away, or the Dowd Y on Morehead Street. If you're a member of the YMCA at home, you might have reciprocal privileges. If so, take a cab or the bus down to the Harris branch near SouthPark mall or the University City YMCA near UNC Charlotte; each has a gigantic outdoor pool and play area.

Movies will require a bus or car trip.

If you're interested in day trips, in addition to Carowinds, we have two good zoos close by: the North Carolina Zoo is about 90 minutes east in Asheboro; and Riverbanks Zoo is 90 miles south in Columbia, SC.

If, by any chance, you and/or your kids are race fans, there are lots of NASCAR race shops in Mooresville and Concord (20 miles north and east, respectively) and the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord too.

Not many used book stores, unfortunately. But East Boulevard in Dilworth has a nice collection of shops, and the NoDa area (North Davidson Street) has some interesting art galleries. is the paper's website and the main source for info/calendar.

Hope this helps - contact me offline if you need any additional info!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:28 PM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Charlotte, and visit there frequently with my daughter, so I know whereof I speak when I assert the truth of the twist on the old adage "It's a great place to live, but you wouldn't want to visit there." Sure, there are some fun things to do, but, really, coming from Chicago you won't be blown away by Charlotte's offerings. If you do get a car, though, I'd recommend Reed Gold Mine, about 25 miles east of the city.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:44 AM on June 5, 2007

The zoo in Asheboro is most definately worth a visit. Actually, calling it a zoo might be misleading. It's actually quite a bit more than some animals in some cages. From the website:
Located about 75 miles west of Raleigh in Asheboro, N.C. Zoo is nationally recognized as one of the nation’s finest zoos. It was the first American zoo designed from its inception around the "natural habitat" philosophy--presenting animals and plants in exhibits that closely resemble the habitats in which they would be found in the wild.
The N.C. Zoo is also the nation’s largest walk-through natural-habitat zoo. Its African and North American exhibit regions span more than 500 acres with more than five miles of walkways.
Well worth a 90 minute drive if you've never been.
posted by lyam at 1:57 PM on June 5, 2007

Back to add the Museum of the New South, at the corner of 7th and College (entrance on 7th, right near the grocery store in the fancy parking deck I mentioned above). It covers the region's history from Reconstruction to the present. Very interactive, kid-friendly and interesting.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:58 PM on June 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for the guidance, everyone. I will include some notes on my trip for posterity, though the idea of posterity for a city like Charlotte is ludicrous. All the ongoing development (not just buildings but infrastructure) will have vastly changed the city in the next few years.

Discovery Place was a hit with the kids. It's the perfect size (my five-year-old didn't become beastly until the final exhibit), but weirdly laid out. We also went to the IMAX there which I guess is like every other IMAX in the world. ImaginOn was also big with them. We went twice to what is essentially a giant children's library.

I waited for a bus but never rode one. Uptown is small enough that even the kids could walk from one end and back with little complaint.

One thing no one mentioned that I would recommend to others is the carriage ride we picked up on 7th and Tryon. Every city has a carriage ride and they are practically a "Hi, I'm a tourist!" announcement, but our tour guide, Donny, was very informative and affable.

My one complaint is that there are no family friendly restaurants open after 5:00 aside from Rock Bottom (of which we have several in Chicagoland) which made eating a pain. I had food from Fuel twice and was very unimpressed.

And for you entrepreneurs looking for an easy market, there really are no bookstores in Chalotte.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:30 AM on June 18, 2007

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