5 (Free) Ways to Make After School Meaningful


Published:

Riding bikes, learning to navigate the neighborhood and play with other kids builds confidence and executive functioning skills.

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After school hours are busy—rushing from sports to homework, dinner and bedtime. Your child may or may not have work to do, depending on where your school stands on homework, so you have an hour or two each day of family time. You don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you want what happens during that time to spill over into school.

Here are five enriching, fun, and cheap ways to spend those after school hours.

Active Reading

Active Reading is reading with your child instead of to them using the ABCs of Active Reading: Ask questions, Build vocabulary, and make Connections. School-aged children who can read on their own should be read to. Read aloud engages kids in books they can’t read on their own, builds their vocabulary and broadens their reading experiences.

To do Active Reading:

  • Ask open-ended questions: What’s happening? What did you learn? What do you think will happen next?
  • Build vocabulary: Talk about words that we see in books, but don’t usually use in conversation. Words like “giddy” or “ecstatic” for happy.
  • Make Connections: Link your child’s knowledge to the story with questions: What do you already know about this topic? What happened in the last chapter that could predict this event?

The School Payoff

Doing Active Reading with your child prepares them for better reading comprehension. They’ll use the vocabulary and thinking skills while reading with you in their reading at school.

Time Outside

This isn’t about structure, but running around playing tag, biking around the neighborhood or digging a hole in the garden. Rally the kids in the neighborhood for a game of kick-the-can, or set your kids free in the yard with some shovels and buckets of water.

The School Payoff

Executive function skills help us plan, prioritize, communicate, and complete tasks. Think: the skills kids use to play together, or create and implement a plan. When they have a project to complete at school, having executive functioning skills makes it that much easier.

Build Background Knowledge

Background knowledge is all the information your child knows from their experiences. Visit museums and art galleries, see plays together, and create hands-on experiences (this could be as easy as drawing the moon each night to track its phases, or recording weather each afternoon to notice patterns).

The School Payoff

Background knowledge helps your child understand what they read, particularly nonfiction. Think of it as the glue that helps your child connect new information with old, giving them a better understanding of new ideas they come across in school.

Puzzle Time

Puzzles — jigsaw, mazes, crosswords — are a great way to build problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and fine-motor development skills. To get puzzles on the cheap, see if you can do a puzzle exchange with friends, or scout out old puzzles at thrift stores.

The School Payoff

A main benefit of doing puzzles is developing your child’s ability to make choices and apply a strategy to solve a problem and stick with it when they get stuck, even if its creating an image of a jungle one piece at a time. This will come in handy when they have to stick with a problem at school.

Boredom

When your kids come at you with pleas to rescue you from boredom, resist! Being bored forces your child to use their imagination, create their own fun and discover new interests.

The School Payoff

It’s a fact: Sometimes school is boring. And, sometimes your child will have to create their own fun or discover a new interest when they’re assigned a project. The better they are at coming up with ways to engage their brain, the better they can make any situation feel relevant and engaging.

 

Samantha Cleaver, PhD, is a middle school teacher in Charlotte and the author of "Read with Me: Engaging Your Young Child in Active Reading." She has three kids who and can be found doing puzzles or taking her kids on bike rides after school.

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Daily Calendar

July 2020

Kids can run the bases at the ballpark on Sundays!

Cost: $13+

Where:
BB&T Stadium
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SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
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Sponsor: Sea Life Charlotte
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Cost: Cost for games

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Where:
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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

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2730 Randolph Road
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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

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420 S. Tryon St.
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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

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Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

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Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
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AerialCLT
801 N Tryon St
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View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
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More information

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Cost: $10 per week per child or $50 for all 6 weeks

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712 Circle Trace Road
Monroe, NC  28110
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Sponsor: Authentic Teaching
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Cost: $21-$31

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New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
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View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

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Kids, are you ready to run off with the circus... for a week? Whether your child is ready to join the circus for the first time, or wants to push their circus skills to the next level. Our Aerial &...

Cost: 250

Where:
AerialCLT
801 N Tryon St
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View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

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Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
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View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Teach or play with your child in the heated pool.

Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Get free entry to The Schiele Museum every second Tuesday of the month from 4-8 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
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Sponsor: Duke Energy
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Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
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Grier Heights Community Center
3100 Leroy St.
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Sponsor: La Leche League of Grier Heights
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More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
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Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

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Kids, are you ready to run off with the circus... for a week? Whether your child is ready to join the circus for the first time, or wants to push their circus skills to the next level. Our Aerial &...

Cost: 250

Where:
AerialCLT
801 N Tryon St
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View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore the Mint Museum's exhibitions without charge.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road
Mint Museum Uptown, 500 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-337-2000
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Drop off your little ones to explore, play and learn during Music Mondays, Theater Thursdays and Food Fridays. A small snack is provided. Register online.

Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5

Where:
Village Park
700 West C St.
Kannapolis, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids, are you ready to run off with the circus... for a week? Whether your child is ready to join the circus for the first time, or wants to push their circus skills to the next level. Our Aerial &...

Cost: 250

Where:
AerialCLT
801 N Tryon St
Charlotte, NC  28205
View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5 per person (free for members); $5 per car for parking

Where:
Anne Springs Close Greenway
291 Dairy Barn Ln.
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Veterans Park
201 Huntersville-Concord Road
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Drop off your little ones to explore, play and learn during Music Mondays, Theater Thursdays and Food Fridays. A small snack is provided. Register online.

Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
Tiny Blooms Yoga
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Teach or play with your child in the heated pool.

Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids, are you ready to run off with the circus... for a week? Whether your child is ready to join the circus for the first time, or wants to push their circus skills to the next level. Our Aerial &...

Cost: 250

Where:
AerialCLT
801 N Tryon St
Charlotte, NC  28205
View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free admission

Where:
Resident Culture Brewing Company
2101 Central Ave.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Sycamore Brewing
2161 Hawkins St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $25

Where:
Romp n' Roll NW Charlotte
3611 Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road
207
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Adults and kids ages 10 years and older can swim, bike and run. A Kids' Tri and a Preschool Tri are offered as well. All finishers will receive a medal after crossing the bubble-filled finish...

Cost: $25-$55

Where:
Morrison Family YMCA
9405 Bryant Farms Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Various living history displays and reenactors will be present to interact with the museum guests telling of the US military involvement in the European Theater of Operations.

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Car owners and enthusiasts gather to celebrate their passion for cars and showcase their prized classics, customs and hot rods. Occurs the third Saturday of the month, excluding May and October.

Cost: Free

Where:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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Bring the family to hear live music in Davidson this summer! Dates: April 18, May 16, June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Cost: Free

Where:
Circles at 30
Jetton Street
Davidson, NC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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