North Carolina: Charlotte, Family Vacation Ideas – Roller Coasters, Science Fun, and Great Theatre for Kids.
Located in the Piedmont region of the state along its southern border, the “Queen City” makes family vacationing easy. Once a hornet’s nest of rebellion Charlotte’s has sustained an independent Southern ambiance all its own. Attend theatre or create art; ride the Scream Weaver or meet SpongeBob SquarePants; count dinosaurs or put on your green shoes.
It’s a walkable city with a thriving arts community, friendly people, history, and ice cream to be enjoyed. We have a short list of suggestions to make planning a family vacation easy. It’s all about having fun on vacation. Let your imagination run free.
Jointly conceived by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, ImaginON reaches more than 294,000 children and families through its imaginative programming and wide range of classes for the community and local school. ImaginOn is also home to a Tech Central with 30 PCs and 4 MACs for youth and teens and a children’s library with scheduled story times. The public library is the host of the Novello Festival of Reading, as well as other community programs. Past and present productions of the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte include: Peter Pan, A Thousand Paper Cranes, Velveteen Rabbit, A Year with Toad and Frog, and The Comedia Aladdin – great productions just for families. Bonus points:
ImaginON has an area just for teens, the Loft, which is stocked with stuff that teens enjoy. The Loft also hosts free interactive teen activities, including scavenger hunts and theatre classes. (Children’s Theatre of Charlotte 300 E. Seventh Street. 1(704) 973-2780 or www.imaginon.org
) Discover something cool.
One of the top hands-on science and technology museums in North Carolina, Discovery Place is home to fascinating exhibits such as a tropical rain forest and an aquarium, as well as host to a series of great travelling exhibits. Through the end of the summer, Discovery Place is home to “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries”, which invites visitors to shatter their preconception about dinosaurs and discover the amazing world of modern paleontology. Following “Dinosaurs” will be an explosive exhibit called “A Day in Pompeii”, which will explore the last day of Pompeii, just before the devastating explosions which buried the ancient city for 1,700 years. Permanent exhibits include a static-electricity demonstration, guaranteed to make your hair stand on end, as well as an OMNIMAX theatre. (Discovery Place 301 N. Tryon Street. Toll-free 1-800-935-0553 or www.discoveryplace.org
) Put on your green shoes.
Operating in conjunction with Discovery Center, the Charlotte Nature Museum is a science center which is dedicated to exploration of the natural world, and is home to many interesting members of the plant and animal kingdom. Highlights include the Butterfly Garden, the Nature Nook, Insect Alley and Dragonfly theatre. Bonus points:
Throughout the year, the Charlotte Nature Museum hosts a series of special events such as Farm Day, Birds of Prey Day, Pet Pals, Rat Tales, Spooky Spiders and Creepy Crawlers, Turkey Talk and Wonders of Winter. (Nature Museum 1658 Sterling Road. 1(704) 372-6261 or www.discoveryplace.org/home/nature_museum-general_info.php
Choose the thrill of your choice. Offering more than 100 state-of-the-art rides and attractions for visitors of all ages, Paramount’s Carowinds Theme Park is a great way to spend the day with the entire family. Not to be missed thrills include the inverted roller coaster Afterburn, the Flying Dutchman coaster Nighthawk, Rugrats Runaway Reptar, and the coaster Vortex. Other great attractions include Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion, SPongebob Sqaurepants 3D, and the new ride for 2008 – a yo-yo swing ride, appropriately titled Yo-Yo. To cool off, families should check out the water riders, such as the Wild Thornberry’s Adventure, or head to the Boomerang Bay Water Park which is host to a bevy of exciting waterslides and swimming pools. Discovery: Carowinds is the official home of a family of white squirrels that was brought in and released when the park opened for good luck – so keep an eye out! Bonus points: The “Plan a Visit” section on Carowinds website breaks down the park for families by kids’ age – kids younger than six, kids six to-12, teens 12-18, and adults, allowing families to get the most out of their park experience. (Carowinds Theme Park Avenue of the Carolinas, toll-free 1-800-888-4386 or www.carowinds.com)
Ride the rapids. Located just outside of Charlotte is the US National Whitewater Center, the largest and only man-made re-circulating whitewater venue of its kinds in the world with over 12 million gallons of water. Visitors to the center can check out guided rides for all ages – from two hours of flat river paddling and rock climbing, to white-water rafting (for those over the age of 12) and mountain biking. Discovery: Both the US Canoe and Kayak teams train at the US National Whitewater Center. Bonus point: The center hosts a series of youth programs designed to introduce kids to the great outdoors. Camps themes currently include: whitewater kayaking and climbing. (US National Whitewater Center 820 Hawfield Road. 1(704) 391-3900 or www.usnwc.org)
Go a little minty.
The Mint Museum of Art is a great place for kids and families, with many fun and educational activities and exhibits. Family days, classes and workshops are hosted throughout the year, and family guides and scavenger hunts are available for many of the museum’s special exhibitions and permanent collections which run the gambit from pre-Columbian art and contemporary American prints, to African objects and a vast collection of costumes and antique maps. Art by kids for kids can be found in the STAR Galleries, which features works of art by area students. Discovery:
The Mint Museum’s Galley Activity Totes provide kids with hands-on arts activities related to on-going collections. Bonus point:
The price of admission to the Mint Museum of Art also gains you admittance to the Mint Museum of Craft & Design which is located at 220 N. Tryon Street. Need to know:
Everyone gets in free on Tuesdays from 5-10 p.m., and the museum is closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission to the Mint Museum of Craft & Design is free on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the third Thursday of the month from 5-9 p.m. (The Mint Museum of Art 2730 Randolph Road. 1(704) 337-2000 or www.mintmuseum.org