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Taking a Year Off Before College


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Local experts say delaying enrollment can help some students become more focused and ready for the rigors of academic life.

As the mid-year mark draws closer for Charlotte area high school seniors, thousands are making college visits and beginning to fill out applications. But many — to their parents’ chagrin — are dragging their heels.

Some are feeling burned out and can’t imagine four more years of the same. Others don’t see the point, because they have no idea what they want to study and, ultimately, what they want to do with their lives.

The good news is that going straight from high school to college isn’t necessarily the norm these days. More and more students are taking a year off to work, take classes at a local community college and explore career options, travel or do community service work.

Given the cost of college tuition and the statistics surrounding freshman-year failure, experts say a little time to mature and discover some interests isn’t such a bad idea.
Lee Bierer, an independent college counselor and owner of College Admissions Strategies in Charlotte, says the topic of delaying college is being talked about. "I’ve had these conversations with all levels of students ? those who might be interested in attending some of the most highly selective schools and students who are floundering and have not taken high school seriously," notes Bierer, who is the Charlotte Observer’s "Countdown To College" weekly columnist.

Rudy Jackson, owner of Charlotte-based College Prep Professionals and a former assistant professor of education at Davidson College, advises parents that their desire to have their child go to college won’t carry her or him through four years of undergraduate study. "At some point, the child has to have the higher interest (than the parent) in going to college," says Jackson.

But parents often are uneasy about easing up on the pressure and letting their child off the hook for a year. They fear their child will get lazy and remain working a minimum-wage job forever.

Brier admits students might fall off the college track and never get back on, but parents can take steps to help prevent it from happening. Remember, too, she says, that hanging out in front of the television gets old fast, and very few students who delay going to college remain degree-less. In fact, when spring and summer rolls around and their friends are making plans and aren’t at home anymore, college becomes more enticing.

"Maybe they’re saying this fall, ‘I don’t want to go to college,’ but six to nine months in teens’ lives is a long time," says Bierer, noting they may have changed their mind by April when their friends are deciding where to go. "I think students should apply regardless, because they don’t have to end up going anywhere ? they’re just giving themselves more options."

Making the Case for Community College

Yet for students who are not yet ready to handle the rigors of college, Jackson says taking a year or two to ease into college coursework might be the best bet. "You can get your child into college, but your child might not be ready to be successful," whether academically or socially, says Jackson. Parents should ask themselves how much money they are willing to risk.

With the average price at a four-year public university some $10,000 to $15,000 a year and the price at a private college running $25,000 o $50,000 a year, giving a teen time to relax, refocus and get ready to handle college academics makes sense. Here’s more food for thought from the College Board:
Three out of five students who enter a public, four-year college don’t get a degree within five years.
Nearly 30 percent of all students who enter college don’t return for their sophomore year.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that a local community college often is a good stepping-stone to a four-year college.

Both Bierer and Jackson tout community college as a great introduction, saying it is a way to dabble in what higher education is all about and begin to explore careers ? whether medicine, music or psychology ? without making a huge investment up front.

Although many students view community college as the lesser choice, "The community college route is wonderful, and it’s very affordable," says Bierer. "The state colleges and universities really think CP (Central Piedmont Community College) does a wonderful job, and it’s really highly regarded."

"From a financial standpoint, community college is a good way to go," says Jackson. "It’s the less risky investment. You’re not investing as much money for a student to take a year or two just to explore majors or career tracks. At a community college, students get a taste of the academic rigor that’s at the college level."

Gap Year Programs Gaining in Popularity

Taking time off between high school and college is common in Europe and Australia, where teens are encouraged to participate in meaningful experiences for personal exploration before they move to the next life stage of their life.

This gap year concept is catching on in the United States, and gappers are pursuing travel abroad, service work or educational programs. According to the Center for Interim Programs, a gap year consultancy in Princeton, NJ, costs vary widely and can run $10,000 to $20,000 for a year of fee-based programs and living costs.

More and more colleges are supporting the concept of a gap year, because it helps with rentention rates. Harvard has been encouraging students to delay enrollment for years. In fact, the Harvard admissions office Web site features an article, "Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation," written by the admissions staff. It reports that taking a year off makes kids more focused and ready for the rigors of academic life.

In addition, Princeton currently is exploring a bridge year program to allow newly admitted students to volunteer abroad before beginning their freshman year.

Experts recommend students apply to college during their senior year, get accepted and then request a one-year deferral. And, a gap year shouldn’t be just "time off," but instead be crafted with clear goals in mind.

"Colleges aren’t real supportive of an unstructured gap year," says Bierer. "But on the other hand, a gap year plan doesn’t have to be an extremely expensive program in China or Africa. … It has to be a purposeful break. Taking classes or volunteering to find an interest or develop a passion is acceptable. It’s not acceptable to sit home and play video games."

Finally, Bierer suggests parents talk with their teens to find out why they are resistant to applying to college, because the answer most likely will lead to the solution. "Understanding what is holding them back from being motivated about the (college application) process will provide great direction for what the next step should be."

She adds, "There are lots of options," emphasizing parents should avoid trying to put a square peg in a round hole and force a child to go right into a four-year college program. "I applaud parents who say, ‘I’m not sure my child is ready, and we want to explore some other options."

Lee McCracken is an Associate Editor for Charlotte Parent magazine.

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September 2016

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Telephone: 704-353-9200
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Cost: $7-$9

Where:
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551 S. Tryon St.
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Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

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Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
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View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

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Cost: $7-$9

Where:
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Telephone: 704-547-3700
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More information

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Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

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Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

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Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

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Cost: Free with paid museum admission

Where:
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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

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Cost: Standard admission

Where:
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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
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More information

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Cost: $5-$8

Where:
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E. 7th St.
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View map »


Telephone: 704-333-1887
Website »

More information

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Cost: $4-$8

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


Telephone: 704-353-9200
Website »

More information

This collection of twenty works in wood by artists John Mascoll and Avelino Samuel features the use of the lathe tool to create a unique art form.  Closed Mondays; open...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Charlotte native and folk artist Nellie Ashford presents a collection of crafted-mixed media works that reflect real-life experiences of families, children, dancers, and musicians and the stories...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

This exhibition uses the work of one of the most renowned artistic quilt makers, Faith Ringgold, as an entry point to look backward at traditional African American quilts and forward to decorative...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

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Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Volcanoes tower 80,000 feet above the barren surface. Monstrous hurricanes rage for 400  years. And multicolored rings sit suspended in air. Travel through our solar system faster than...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Enjoy two great mini programs in the Science Theater. First, explore the constellations of summer in a seasonal stargazing tour of the night sky. Then, learn about modern unmanned lunar...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The early settlers in the Carolina Backcountry fashioned a life from the fields and forests of the area, bringing them traditional skills and styles from their native lands. Explore the incredible...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard a miniature pirate ship, The Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost. Children can dress-up, learn and play at their own...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard our miniature pirate ship, the Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost.  Children can dress-up, learn and play at their...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Discover 400 years of Catawba Indian history as you explore replicated structures that reflect the life and culture of the Carolina Woodlands. Weather permitting; closing dates are...

Cost: Free with paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Inspire your patriotic pride as you learn about the victory that marked the turning point of the American Revolution. Original artifacts will draw you into the triumphs and tragedies of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 E. Mountain St.
P.O. Box 552
Kings Mountain, NC  28086
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Fit Family Challenge partner Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden as they present "Wee Houses: Places We Play," an interactive exhibition by local creatives to celebrate the places we play....

Cost: $12.95 adults, $6.95 kids 2-12

Where:
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
6500 South New Hope Road
Belmont, NC  28012
View map »


Website »

More information

Come explore how the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has reached out to those in crisis around the world—from providing food, medical supplies and shelter in the aftermath of major...

Cost: Free

Where:
Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
Charlotte, NC  28217
View map »


Sponsor: Billy Graham Library
Telephone: 704-401-3256
Website »

More information

Hike over 2-3 miles as you learn how to use a GPS to uncover hidden treasures around the preserve.

Cost: Free

Where:
McDowell Nature Preserve
15222 York Road
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-583-1284
Website »

More information

Discover the McDowell Nature Preserve with others in search of hidden treasure. This geocache program, for newbies and pros alike, will teach participants how to use a GPS and discover caches...

Cost: Free

Where:
McDowell Nature Center
15222 York Road
Charlotte, NC  28278
View map »


Sponsor: McDowell Nature Center
Telephone: 704-588-5224
Website »

More information

This ice skating extravaganza presents characters from "Inside Out," "Frozen," "Finding Dory," and more. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $20+

Where:
Time Warner Cable Arena
333 E. Trade St
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 800-745-3000
Website »

More information

Journey across the Solar System to explore the Sun and its family of planets, moons, comets and asteroids that define our place in space.  This exhibit features dynamic interpretive kiosks,...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Currently the only Egyptian mummy in North Carolina. Families can explore the culture and history of the 22nd Dynasty, uncover the mystery of mummification in the hands-on CSI Lab, and meet...

Cost: $6

Where:
Iredell Museums
134 Court St.
Statesville, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-873-7347
Website »

More information

A massive amount of energy lurks like a speeding dragon beneath the surface of the planet Earth. Experience rare and extremely devastating volcanic phenonema, portrayed with dramatic imagery...

Cost: Standard admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Explore the mint museum's exhibitions.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph | 2730 Randolph Road
Mint Museum Uptown | 500 South Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-337-2018
Website »

More information

This showcase includes an array of selected jewelry alongside examples of more conventional artwork, celebrating the craftsmanship and creativity of artists who explore texture and color through...

Cost: $4-$8

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


Telephone: 704-353-9200
Website »

More information

This collection of twenty works in wood by artists John Mascoll and Avelino Samuel features the use of the lathe tool to create a unique art form.  Closed Mondays; open...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Charlotte native and folk artist Nellie Ashford presents a collection of crafted-mixed media works that reflect real-life experiences of families, children, dancers, and musicians and the stories...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

This exhibition uses the work of one of the most renowned artistic quilt makers, Faith Ringgold, as an entry point to look backward at traditional African American quilts and forward to decorative...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

A fury is building on the surface of the Sun--high velocity jets, a fiery tsunami wave that reaches 100,000 kilometers high, rising loops of electrified gas.  What's driving these strange...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Volcanoes tower 80,000 feet above the barren surface. Monstrous hurricanes rage for 400  years. And multicolored rings sit suspended in air. Travel through our solar system faster than...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Enjoy two great mini programs in the Science Theater. First, explore the constellations of summer in a seasonal stargazing tour of the night sky. Then, learn about modern unmanned lunar...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The early settlers in the Carolina Backcountry fashioned a life from the fields and forests of the area, bringing them traditional skills and styles from their native lands. Explore the incredible...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard a miniature pirate ship, The Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost. Children can dress-up, learn and play at their own...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard our miniature pirate ship, the Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost.  Children can dress-up, learn and play at their...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Discover 400 years of Catawba Indian history as you explore replicated structures that reflect the life and culture of the Carolina Woodlands. Weather permitting; closing dates are...

Cost: Free with paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Inspire your patriotic pride as you learn about the victory that marked the turning point of the American Revolution. Original artifacts will draw you into the triumphs and tragedies of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 E. Mountain St.
P.O. Box 552
Kings Mountain, NC  28086
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Fit Family Challenge partner Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden as they present "Wee Houses: Places We Play," an interactive exhibition by local creatives to celebrate the places we play....

Cost: $12.95 adults, $6.95 kids 2-12

Where:
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
6500 South New Hope Road
Belmont, NC  28012
View map »


Website »

More information

Come explore how the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has reached out to those in crisis around the world—from providing food, medical supplies and shelter in the aftermath of major...

Cost: Free

Where:
Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
Charlotte, NC  28217
View map »


Sponsor: Billy Graham Library
Telephone: 704-401-3256
Website »

More information

Teens can learn important life skills and enjoy the chance to make new foods. 

Cost: Free

Where:
University City Regional Library
301 East W.T. Harris Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-416-7200
Website »

More information

This ice skating extravaganza presents characters from "Inside Out," "Frozen," "Finding Dory," and more. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $20+

Where:
Time Warner Cable Arena
333 E. Trade St
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 800-745-3000
Website »

More information

Journey across the Solar System to explore the Sun and its family of planets, moons, comets and asteroids that define our place in space.  This exhibit features dynamic interpretive kiosks,...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Currently the only Egyptian mummy in North Carolina. Families can explore the culture and history of the 22nd Dynasty, uncover the mystery of mummification in the hands-on CSI Lab, and meet...

Cost: $6

Where:
Iredell Museums
134 Court St.
Statesville, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-873-7347
Website »

More information

A massive amount of energy lurks like a speeding dragon beneath the surface of the planet Earth. Experience rare and extremely devastating volcanic phenonema, portrayed with dramatic imagery...

Cost: Standard admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Join Charlotte Dads Group every other Thursday (during the school year) for Storytime on Thursday mornings at ImaginOn. 

Cost: Free

Where:
ImaginOn
300 East 7th St.
Charlotte, NC  28269
View map »


Sponsor: Charlotte Dads Gorup
Telephone: 704-472-7990
Contact Name: Darrell Humphrey
Website »

More information

Enjoy food, beverages, and live music at this weekly summer concert series. 

Cost: $5 parking fee

Where:
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

This showcase includes an array of selected jewelry alongside examples of more conventional artwork, celebrating the craftsmanship and creativity of artists who explore texture and color through...

Cost: $4-$8

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


Telephone: 704-353-9200
Website »

More information

This collection of twenty works in wood by artists John Mascoll and Avelino Samuel features the use of the lathe tool to create a unique art form.  Closed Mondays; open...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Charlotte native and folk artist Nellie Ashford presents a collection of crafted-mixed media works that reflect real-life experiences of families, children, dancers, and musicians and the stories...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

This exhibition uses the work of one of the most renowned artistic quilt makers, Faith Ringgold, as an entry point to look backward at traditional African American quilts and forward to decorative...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

A fury is building on the surface of the Sun--high velocity jets, a fiery tsunami wave that reaches 100,000 kilometers high, rising loops of electrified gas.  What's driving these strange...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Volcanoes tower 80,000 feet above the barren surface. Monstrous hurricanes rage for 400  years. And multicolored rings sit suspended in air. Travel through our solar system faster than...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Enjoy two great mini programs in the Science Theater. First, explore the constellations of summer in a seasonal stargazing tour of the night sky. Then, learn about modern unmanned lunar...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The early settlers in the Carolina Backcountry fashioned a life from the fields and forests of the area, bringing them traditional skills and styles from their native lands. Explore the incredible...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard a miniature pirate ship, The Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost. Children can dress-up, learn and play at their own...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard our miniature pirate ship, the Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost.  Children can dress-up, learn and play at their...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Discover 400 years of Catawba Indian history as you explore replicated structures that reflect the life and culture of the Carolina Woodlands. Weather permitting; closing dates are...

Cost: Free with paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Inspire your patriotic pride as you learn about the victory that marked the turning point of the American Revolution. Original artifacts will draw you into the triumphs and tragedies of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 E. Mountain St.
P.O. Box 552
Kings Mountain, NC  28086
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Fit Family Challenge partner Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden as they present "Wee Houses: Places We Play," an interactive exhibition by local creatives to celebrate the places we play....

Cost: $12.95 adults, $6.95 kids 2-12

Where:
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
6500 South New Hope Road
Belmont, NC  28012
View map »


Website »

More information

Come explore how the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has reached out to those in crisis around the world—from providing food, medical supplies and shelter in the aftermath of major...

Cost: Free

Where:
Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
Charlotte, NC  28217
View map »


Sponsor: Billy Graham Library
Telephone: 704-401-3256
Website »

More information

Story time for children, teens and adults with autism and other learning differences and their families or caregivers. Participants will engage in music, stories, movement and literacy...

Cost: Free

Where:
North County Regional Library
16500 Holly Crest Lane
Huntersville, NC  28078
View map »


Sponsor: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Telephone: 704-416-6000
Contact Name: Viviette White
Website »

More information

This ice skating extravaganza presents characters from "Inside Out," "Frozen," "Finding Dory," and more. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $20+

Where:
Time Warner Cable Arena
333 E. Trade St
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 800-745-3000
Website »

More information

Journey across the Solar System to explore the Sun and its family of planets, moons, comets and asteroids that define our place in space.  This exhibit features dynamic interpretive kiosks,...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Currently the only Egyptian mummy in North Carolina. Families can explore the culture and history of the 22nd Dynasty, uncover the mystery of mummification in the hands-on CSI Lab, and meet...

Cost: $6

Where:
Iredell Museums
134 Court St.
Statesville, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-873-7347
Website »

More information

A massive amount of energy lurks like a speeding dragon beneath the surface of the planet Earth. Experience rare and extremely devastating volcanic phenonema, portrayed with dramatic imagery...

Cost: Standard admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Get out and grab 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:
Central Avenue (Behind The Light Factory)
, NC


Website »

More information

A community food truck rally hosted by the Town of Matthews Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resource Department. Each Friday will have local food trucks and artists with live music while you relax...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stumptown Park
120 S. Trade St.
Matthews, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-321-7275
Website »

More information

Set in 1926, this fast-paced musical dinner show takes you to East Tennessee where the fun never ends. Sing along with fabulous old Southern classics and watch the gospel truths unfold through the...

Cost: $7-$35

Where:
NarroWay Productions
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

Enjoy music and movies on the Green at Promenade on Providence, Fridays and Saturdays, 7-10 PM. Free fun for the whole family. Promenade on Providence is located at corner of Providence Road and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Promenade on Providence
Charlotte, NC


Sponsor: Promenade on Providence
Website »

More information

Carowinds is transformed from a “theme park” to a “scream park” at SCarowinds – the Carolinas' largest Halloween event. Experience the thrills on your favorite...

Cost: See website for prices

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd
Charlotte, NC  28273
View map »


Telephone: 704-588-2600
Website »

More information

The international festival of hip hop showcases performances from artists all over the globe.

Cost: $20+

Where:
Levine Center for the Arts
550 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-1000
Website »

More information

This showcase includes an array of selected jewelry alongside examples of more conventional artwork, celebrating the craftsmanship and creativity of artists who explore texture and color through...

Cost: $4-$8

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


Telephone: 704-353-9200
Website »

More information

This collection of twenty works in wood by artists John Mascoll and Avelino Samuel features the use of the lathe tool to create a unique art form.  Closed Mondays; open...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Charlotte native and folk artist Nellie Ashford presents a collection of crafted-mixed media works that reflect real-life experiences of families, children, dancers, and musicians and the stories...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

This exhibition uses the work of one of the most renowned artistic quilt makers, Faith Ringgold, as an entry point to look backward at traditional African American quilts and forward to decorative...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Join Friendly Frog and Cranky Toad as they  journey through the four seasons, celebrating the differences that make us friends with one another. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $12+

Where:
Children's Theatre of Charlotte
300 E. 7th St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-973-2828
Website »

More information

A fury is building on the surface of the Sun--high velocity jets, a fiery tsunami wave that reaches 100,000 kilometers high, rising loops of electrified gas.  What's driving these strange...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Volcanoes tower 80,000 feet above the barren surface. Monstrous hurricanes rage for 400  years. And multicolored rings sit suspended in air. Travel through our solar system faster than...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Enjoy two great mini programs in the Science Theater. First, explore the constellations of summer in a seasonal stargazing tour of the night sky. Then, learn about modern unmanned lunar...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The early settlers in the Carolina Backcountry fashioned a life from the fields and forests of the area, bringing them traditional skills and styles from their native lands. Explore the incredible...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard a miniature pirate ship, The Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost. Children can dress-up, learn and play at their own...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Share in the very special friendship between a spider, a pig, and many other farm animals in this beloved tale based on the novel by E.B. White.

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Lincoln Theatre Guild
403 E. Main St.
Lincolnton, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-452-7830
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard our miniature pirate ship, the Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost.  Children can dress-up, learn and play at their...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Discover 400 years of Catawba Indian history as you explore replicated structures that reflect the life and culture of the Carolina Woodlands. Weather permitting; closing dates are...

Cost: Free with paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The N.C. Transportation Museum is transformed into a wonderland Thomas the Tank Engine fans will love. Take ride on Thomas or Percy (or both!), meet Sir Topham Hatt, and more. Purchasing tickets in...

Cost: $20+

Where:
North Carolina Transportation Museum
411 S. Salisbury Ave.
Spencer, NC
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Telephone: 704-636-2889
Website »

More information

This haunted trail located in Mooresville is open Thursday-Sunday throughout the month of October and is appropriate for ages 12 and older. 

Cost: $15 - $25 varies

Where:
Carrigan Farms, LLC
1213 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy
Enter at West Entrance
Mooresville, NC  28115
View map »


Telephone: 704-664-1450
Website »

More information

Inspire your patriotic pride as you learn about the victory that marked the turning point of the American Revolution. Original artifacts will draw you into the triumphs and tragedies of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 E. Mountain St.
P.O. Box 552
Kings Mountain, NC  28086
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At this free, fun, family-focused event, First Alert, Lowe’s, and fire officials will host fire and CO safety activities. Firefighter hats for kids and activity worksheets will be provided,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lowe's of Mooresville
509 River Highway
Mooresville, NC
View map »


Sponsor: First Alert and Lowe's
Telephone: (704) 660-7177
Contact Name: Christie Hester
Website »

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Come explore how the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has reached out to those in crisis around the world—from providing food, medical supplies and shelter in the aftermath of major...

Cost: Free

Where:
Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
Charlotte, NC  28217
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Sponsor: Billy Graham Library
Telephone: 704-401-3256
Website »

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Throughout the year museum curators work behind the scenes to further our understanding of the natural and cultural history of our region. Visit with the curators and learn about current...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Discover the McDowell Nature Preserve with others in search of hidden treasure. This geocache program, for newbies and pros alike, will teach participants how to use a GPS and discover caches...

Cost: Free

Where:
McDowell Nature Center
15222 York Road
Charlotte, NC  28278
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Sponsor: McDowell Nature Center
Telephone: 704-588-5224
Website »

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Habitat and Wildlife Keepers, Great Outdoors University and the Town of Matthews will host Kids In Nature Day, a free family event. Bring the family and enjoy nature activities such as...

Cost: Free

Where:
Squirrel Lake Park-Matthews
1631 Pleasant Plains Road
Matthews, NC  28105
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Sponsor: HAWK
Telephone: 704-8411-640
Contact Name: Leslie Wieser
Website »

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Street Jam features free family-friendly activities, live DJs, workshops, and other international acts that represent hip hop culture. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Spirit Square
345 N. College St.
, NC
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Telephone: 704-348-5770
Website »

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This festival will feature children and adult author readings, family crafting activities, live drumming, live music, theatrical performances, an artists’ marketplace, books for sale,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Little Rock Cultural Center
401 N. Myers St.
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-906-0668
Website »

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Discover an assortment of Colonial skills and crafts from tinware to textiles, carving to cookery, music and more. Meet the artists & craftsmen as they demonstrate their unique trades.

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
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Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

The Animals Are Soul Too is a workshop for family, youth and friends of all ages. The workshop will explore God's creatures and the lessons they teach us. Also, discover how Souls of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Eckankar Center of Charlotte
818 Tyvola Road #105
Charlotte, NC  28217
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Sponsor: Eckankar of North Carolina
Telephone: 704-892-8753

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This free uptown street festival spotlights Latin American culture in Charlotte with food, music, folkloric dances, and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E. 7th St.
, NC
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Telephone: 704-333-1887
Website »

More information

This ice skating extravaganza presents characters from "Inside Out," "Frozen," "Finding Dory," and more. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $20+

Where:
Time Warner Cable Arena
333 E. Trade St
, NC
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Telephone: 800-745-3000
Website »

More information

Journey across the Solar System to explore the Sun and its family of planets, moons, comets and asteroids that define our place in space.  This exhibit features dynamic interpretive kiosks,...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

  Pick a pumpkin, take a hayride, visit the petting zoo, and sample some fresh apple cider.

Cost: $10 per person

Where:
Carrigan Farms, LLC
1261 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy.
Mooresville, NC  28115
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Sponsor: Carrigan Farms, LLC
Telephone: 704-664-1450
Contact Name: Kelly Carrigan
Website »

More information

Currently the only Egyptian mummy in North Carolina. Families can explore the culture and history of the 22nd Dynasty, uncover the mystery of mummification in the hands-on CSI Lab, and meet...

Cost: $6

Where:
Iredell Museums
134 Court St.
Statesville, NC
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Telephone: 704-873-7347
Website »

More information

This annual festival is full of attractions, entertainment, games and rides, live performances, jousting, authentic food such as turkey legs and fish and chips, shopping, and costumed cast...

Cost: $13+

Where:
16445 Poplar Tent Road
Huntersville , NC
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Telephone: 704-896-5555
Website »

More information

The Great Pumpkin Fest has family-friendly Halloween attractions for the little ghosts and goblins, including a costume parade, foam zone, mazes and more. 

Cost: See website for admission

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd
Charlotte, NC  28273
View map »


Sponsor: Carowinds
Telephone: 704-588-2600
Website »

More information

Set in 1926, this fast-paced musical dinner show takes you to East Tennessee where the fun never ends. Sing along with fabulous old Southern classics and watch the gospel truths unfold through the...

Cost: $7-$35

Where:
NarroWay Productions
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


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

More information

Enjoy music and movies on the Green at Promenade on Providence, Fridays and Saturdays, 7-10 PM. Free fun for the whole family. Promenade on Providence is located at corner of Providence Road and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Promenade on Providence
Charlotte, NC


Sponsor: Promenade on Providence
Website »

More information

Carowinds is transformed from a “theme park” to a “scream park” at SCarowinds – the Carolinas' largest Halloween event. Experience the thrills on your favorite...

Cost: See website for prices

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd
Charlotte, NC  28273
View map »


Telephone: 704-588-2600
Website »

More information

The international festival of hip hop showcases performances from artists all over the globe.

Cost: $20+

Where:
Levine Center for the Arts
550 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Telephone: 704-372-1000
Website »

More information

Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders can gain free access to participating museums in the Charlotte area, including The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, The Harvey B. Gantt Center, Levine...

Cost: Free for cardholders

Where:
Locations vary
, NC


Website »

More information

This showcase includes an array of selected jewelry alongside examples of more conventional artwork, celebrating the craftsmanship and creativity of artists who explore texture and color through...

Cost: $4-$8

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


Telephone: 704-353-9200
Website »

More information

This collection of twenty works in wood by artists John Mascoll and Avelino Samuel features the use of the lathe tool to create a unique art form.  Closed Mondays; open...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Charlotte native and folk artist Nellie Ashford presents a collection of crafted-mixed media works that reflect real-life experiences of families, children, dancers, and musicians and the stories...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

This exhibition uses the work of one of the most renowned artistic quilt makers, Faith Ringgold, as an entry point to look backward at traditional African American quilts and forward to decorative...

Cost: $7-$9

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Join Friendly Frog and Cranky Toad as they  journey through the four seasons, celebrating the differences that make us friends with one another. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $12+

Where:
Children's Theatre of Charlotte
300 E. 7th St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-973-2828
Website »

More information

A fury is building on the surface of the Sun--high velocity jets, a fiery tsunami wave that reaches 100,000 kilometers high, rising loops of electrified gas.  What's driving these strange...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Volcanoes tower 80,000 feet above the barren surface. Monstrous hurricanes rage for 400  years. And multicolored rings sit suspended in air. Travel through our solar system faster than...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Enjoy two great mini programs in the Science Theater. First, explore the constellations of summer in a seasonal stargazing tour of the night sky. Then, learn about modern unmanned lunar...

Cost: $3 in addition to paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The early settlers in the Carolina Backcountry fashioned a life from the fields and forests of the area, bringing them traditional skills and styles from their native lands. Explore the incredible...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard a miniature pirate ship, The Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost. Children can dress-up, learn and play at their own...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6923
Website »

More information

Share in the very special friendship between a spider, a pig, and many other farm animals in this beloved tale based on the novel by E.B. White.

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Lincoln Theatre Guild
403 E. Main St.
Lincolnton, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-452-7830
Website »

More information

Young mates set sail on a self-guided pirate voyage aboard our miniature pirate ship, the Adventure, at anchor in the Explorer's Outpost.  Children can dress-up, learn and play at their...

Cost: $6-$7

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

Discover 400 years of Catawba Indian history as you explore replicated structures that reflect the life and culture of the Carolina Woodlands. Weather permitting; closing dates are...

Cost: Free with paid museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Sponsor: The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Telephone: 704-866-6923
Contact Name: Philip McGinnis
Website »

More information

The N.C. Transportation Museum is transformed into a wonderland Thomas the Tank Engine fans will love. Take ride on Thomas or Percy (or both!), meet Sir Topham Hatt, and more. Purchasing tickets in...

Cost: $20+

Where:
North Carolina Transportation Museum
411 S. Salisbury Ave.
Spencer, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-636-2889
Website »

More information

This haunted trail located in Mooresville is open Thursday-Sunday throughout the month of October and is appropriate for ages 12 and older. 

Cost: $15 - $25 varies

Where:
Carrigan Farms, LLC
1213 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy
Enter at West Entrance
Mooresville, NC  28115
View map »


Telephone: 704-664-1450
Website »

More information

This unique dinosaur exhibit features more than 50 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, interactive dinosaur "digs," inflatable mazes, themed activities, and more. Sat., 9am-8pm; Sun.,...

Cost: $20+; kids under 2 free

Where:
The Park Expo and Conference Center
800 Briar Creek Road
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-333-7709
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

This comprehensive guide covers preschool, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.

GPS [Go. Play. See.]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2016 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.