Best Bets for Where to Hike With Kids Within an Hour of Charlotte

Try one of these family hikes that make a great day trip from Charlotte.



Published:

Anne Springs Close Greenway outside Charlotte offers guided hikes, miles of trails, a Dairy Barn and more.

Anne Springs Close Greenway

Updated by Courtney McLaughlin (August 2019)

If you've got a half or full day for a family hiking adventure, there's a mountain of possibilities! From easy, flat trails through woods, prairie, farmland and Savannah habitats to scaling over rocks and taking on steep climbs, there is something for all ages and abilities. Plus, with under an hour drive time from uptown Charlotte (one way), you'll be home in time for dinner. Of course many parks and preserves offer overnight camping so you can make a weekend out of it and keep the fun going till the sun goes down. There's also a Junior Rangers program through many state parks for added fun and education. Be sure to call or check the park Web site before you leave the house to ensure the trail you are ready to tackle is open!


Lake Norman State Park

Drive time: 45 minutes north from uptown Charlotte.
Stroller friendly? The Dragonfly Trail is paved

This state park is a great place to hike with kids and with 30.5 miles of single track trails, you can plan your own adventure. Feel free to bring fishing gear and spend time relaxing by the lake as well. Two trails, the Alder Trail (.8-mile roundtrip) and the Dragonfly Trail (only .15-mile roundtrip), are easy and great for young ones. The Lake Shore Trail is best for children a little older. Though this trail is listed as moderate and 6.2 miles round-trip, there is a shortcut that condenses the trail to only 3 miles. 759 State Park Road, Troutman, NC 28166, 704-528-6350

Check the park’s events page to see when rangers lead special informational hikes in the park.


McDowell Nature Preserve

Drive time: 37 minutes south of uptown Charlotte.
Stroller friendly? No

When you take to the over 8 miles of trails at McDowell Nature Preserve, stay on the lookout for 119 species of birds, 21 species of mammals and reptiles, and 14 species of amphibians. Set out on the Piedmont Prairie Trail which is 1.1 miles round-trip and cuts through prairie habitat. When the family is ready for a bigger challenge, head out on the Chestnut Trail. At 1.11 miles the trail isn't very long but does include a few steep inclines and large rocks to navigate. Visit in early spring and get stunning pictures of wildflowers carpeting the forest floor. If after a day of hiking you aren't ready to head home, there are 56 available campsites. 15222 South York Road, Charlotte, NC 28278, 980-314-1128

photo courtesy of Tasha Owens

After your hike, make a stop at the Nature Center and visit with native animal species. 

Crowders Mountain State Park

Drive time: 35 minutes from uptown Charlotte.
Stroller Friendly? No

Crowders Mountain is known around town for its hike to the summit. This hike, the Backside Trail, is only .9 miles one-way but it is listed as strenuous since it is a steady climb with then 336 wooden steps until the summit. If you take your time this hike is good for older kids.

This state park also offers many trails that are good for your young ones as well. For example, the Lake Trail is a flat .8-mile round-trip trail that follows a gravel path around the lake. If you’d like to extend this hike, you can combine this trail with the Fern Trail (.8-mile round-trip) and the Turnpike Trail (1.2-miles round-trip, listed as moderate) for a 2.1-mile round-trip hike. 522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain, NC 28086, 704-853-5375


Kings Mountain State Park

Drive time: 45 minutes from uptown Charlotte.

South Carolina’s Kings Mountain State Park offers two family-friendly hikes. The first, the Kings Mountain Nature Trail, is great for young kids. This 1.2-mile loop trail offers signs along the way to teach your family about the local history, wildlife and vegetation. The Living History Farm Trail is an easy 3-mile round-trip hike that older kids may enjoy. It shows what everyday life would have been like on a Carolina farmstead during the revolutionary era. Highlights include a carpenter/blacksmith shop, a two-story farmhouse, and a cotton gin. Admission is $2 for adults, $1.25 for seniors who live in South Carolina and kids 15 and younger free. And if you can't live without it, the park has wi-fi! Click here for driving directions to the park to avoid fighting with your GPS. 803-222-3209

This park also hosts many events throughout the year!

photo courtesy of kings mountain state park

This state park has two great choices for family friendly trails and wi-fi.  


Anne Springs Close Greenway

Drive time: 40 minutes north of Charlotte.
Stroller Friendly? There is a short span of paved sidewalk around the Dairy Barn.

Did you know there are 2,100 acres of natural beauty and 40 miles of trail right down the road in Fort Mill, SC? It's true! The Anne Springs Close Greenway is a gem of a recreation spot close to home. It's easy for little ones to stay on the right path - just follow the yellow trail markers placed every 1/4 of a mile. The Lake Haigler Nature walk is a 1.75 mile loop with 12 guided "stops" along the way where you can explore bridges, views of the lake, interesting vegetation, nesting boxes and lots of animals. Hiking is free for members and $5 for nonmembers. Greenway maps are available at all welcome kiosks. You can also find horseback and biking trails here. 2573 Lake Haigler Drive, Fort Mill, SC 29715. 803-547-4575

photo courtesy of anne springs close greenway

Since 1995 this greenway located in nearby Fort Mill, SC has offered families a great place to explore and enjoy the outdoors.


Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail

Drive Time: 53 minutes north of uptown Charlotte.

Take the kids to Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail and surround yourself with a working farm, water features and unique terrain along Adams Creek. The 393-acre preserve treats visitors to streams, ponds, wetlands and a working farm that grows hay, corn, soybeans and wheat used to feed cattle. An easy 2.1 miles (one way) this trail is also part of the Butterfly Highway. Near 7911 Malibu Road, Mt Pleasant, NC 28124

photo courtesy of Buffalo creek preserve trail

Explore farmland, bridges, creeks and more at this trail less than an hour from Charlotte. 

 

Willing to travel a little further?

 

South Mountains State Park

Drive Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes from uptown Charlotte.

You don't have to travel far to experience a hike with a 3,000 foot elevation, 80-foot waterfall and lots of mountain streams. Start with the River Trail, an easy .5 miles one way along the Jacob Fork River. When you feel you are ready, hit the moderate Lake View Trail, a 1.3 mile loop where you can cross over streams and view a small waterfall. 3001 South Mountain Park Ave., Connelly Springs, NC 28612. 828-433-4772

Stone Mountain State Park

Drive time: 1.5 hours from uptown Charlotte.

This park offers many beautiful moderate and strenuous hikes. The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is the signature hike of the park, climbing to the top of Stone Mountain and bringing you down to view a 200-foot waterfall. It is 4.5 miles round-trip and listed as strenuous so it is best suited for families with teens.

If searching for more kid-friendly hikes there are a few moderate-level trails that your family can explore. The Middle Falls/Low Falls Trail is a one-mile round-trip trail that leads hikers along Big Sandy Creek to views of waterfalls. If you’d like a glimpse of Stone Mountain’s steep slope, take the two-mile round-trip Cedar Rock Trail up to the top of Cedar Rock. 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668, 336-957-8185

Pilot Mountain State Park

Drive time: 1.5 hours from uptown Charlotte.
Stroller Friendly? There are shorter, paved sidewalks by the park office and at the summit 

This state park has many jaunts suitable for young ones. The Kids Track Trail is a .6-mile round-trip hike that offers views of the Pilot Mountain pinnacle and surrounding mountains. It even offers activities for children along the way. The Little Pinnacle Overlook Trail is even shorter, only .2 miles round-trip, and on a clear day, you can see over 3,000 square miles from the bluff. Longer, steeper trails are also available for older children and teens. 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043, 336-325-2355

Morrow Mountain State Park

Drive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes east of uptown Charlotte.

There are some more strenuous hikes available at this state park, but if you’re searching for a kid-friendly trail there is always the Quarry Trail and the Rocks Trail. The Quarry Trail is only .6 miles round-trip and passes by the quarry where the Civilian Conservation Corps’ (CCC) got many of the rocks that built the park’s buildings, curbs and walls during the Great Depression. Brochures are available at the beginning of this hike that offer activities for children along the trail. The Rocks Trail is longer, 1.3 miles one-way, and less suited for young children. It ends at a 35-foot high rock outcrop overlooking the Pee Dee River so keep your children close.

There's also a swimming pool at the park that is open during summer months with a baby pool. Summer pool hours at 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Entry fee is $5 for adults, $4 for children ages 3-12, and free for under age 3. 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle, NC 28001, 704-982-4402

Happy trails!

 

Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer who enjoys hiking adventures with her 13 year old daughter.

 

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August 2020

The restaurant will open early to cater to families of children with special needs. Families can expect smaller crowds, reduced lighting and noise, food and games, and specially-trained staff....

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Chuck E. Cheese
7701 Pineville-Matthews Road
, NC
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Classes for adaptive learning and sensory needs meet at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sun Valley High School
5211 Old Charlotte Hwy.
Monroe, NC
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Sponsor: Church of the Redeemer
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Experience age-level appropriate Sunday school classes at 9:30 and 11 a.m. that connect families with larger church programs and ministries while creating a welcoming environment for all families.

Cost: Free

Where:
Matthews United Methodist Church
801 S. Trade St.
Matthews, NC
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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
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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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
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Enjoy music outdoors with the family. Dates: April 28, May 3, May 17, June 7, June 14, July 4, Aug. 2, Aug. 23, Sept. 6 and Sept. 20.

Cost: Free

Where:
Davidson Village Green
Intersection of Main Street and Concord Road
, NC
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This production pays tribute to the 1971 Billboard Album of the Year while creating a modern, theatrical world that is uniquely fresh and inspiring. Audio Description and ASL provided for the...

Cost: TBA

Where:
Belk Theater
130 N. Tryon St.
, NC
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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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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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Try these summer fun activities at home to keep kids busy during summer. Fee includes one live small group lesson per week with a certfied teacher, daily activities, virtual field trips and more!

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

Where:
712 Circle Trace Road
Monroe, NC  28110
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Sponsor: Authentic Teaching
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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
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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

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 »

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Come out to meet local law enforcement, view their equipment and enjoy free hot dogs, water and snow cones!

Cost: Free

Where:
Chestnut Square Park
320 Chestnut Pkwy.
Indian Trail, NC
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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
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Families of children with special needs can enjoy a special jump session the first Tuesday of each month. Defy Gravity grip socks, $3, are required.

Cost: $7 per hour for each jumper with special needs and immediate family members

Where:
Defy Gravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
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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

Show More...
Show Less...

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

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
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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

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

Show More...
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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

Hear live music every Thursday, June 4 through August 13. Bring chairs, blankets, and money for food trucks, beer, wine and sodas. See website for lineup.

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

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

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

Show More...
Show Less...

Come to the ballpark for 80’s Night with an t-shirt giveaway to the first 2,000 fans. Stick around for fireworks.

Cost: $13+

Where:
BB&T Stadium
324 S. Mint St.
, NC
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Website »

More information

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

Caregivers and their littles learn new yoga poses with songs and games. Multiple class rates available.

Cost: $20

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


Website »

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rab dinner from a variety of local food trucks at this weekly rally. Visit the website for a list of participating trucks.

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Resident Culture Brewing Company
2101 Central Ave.
, NC
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Website »

More information

This family-friendly event features craft brews, wine, cider, live music and the best food trucks in Charlotte. Bring the whole family, including your dogs. Along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sycamore Brewing
2161 Hawkins St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Treat the kids and yourself to a fun night out! Drop kids off to run, play and dance. Pizza dinner is included.

Cost: $25

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

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The businesses at the Warehouses on White are pleased to host each first Friday for a night of fun and food!

Cost: Free

Where:
Warehouse on White
130 W. White St.
Rock Hill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

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
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

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

Show More...
Show Less...

See this collection of Chevys, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs in car show. 

Cost: $4-$12

Where:
North Carolina Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive
Spencer, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toss the training wheels, and learn to glide, balance, peddle, pump and ride.

Cost: Free

Where:
Marion Diehl Rec Center
2219 Tyvola Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This craft beer festival will feature local beer for purchase, a train ride with specialty brews, food trucks and family games.

Cost: $4-$12

Where:
North Carolina Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive
Spencer, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore amazing science news and stories happening in your local area. Participate in this special live performance with scientists.

Cost: $35+

Where:
Knight Theater
430 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-1000
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
Website »

More information

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
View map »


Website »

More information

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library presents monthly story times at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. every second Saturday of the month.

Cost: Free

Where:
Northlake Mall Live 360° Games Court
6801 Northlake Mall Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Northlake Mall
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

Bring chairs and blankets to watch movies in the park. Concessions will be available for purchase. The second Saturday of the month, May through September with a Halloween special on Oct. 17. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Stowe Park
24 S. Main St.
Belmont, NC
View map »


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

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

Show More...
Show Less...
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