When is it OK to Leave Your Child Home Alone?


Published:

Editor Michele Huggins discusses how to know when your child is ready to stay home alone on WCNC Charlotte Today.


There’s something about hearing those words — home alone — that immediately conjures up the image of a young Macauley Culkin with his hands slapped up against his cheeks and his mouth open in a big scream in the movie “Home Alone.” As a new school year kicks off, parents may be toying with the reality of letting their child be home alone for a few hours after school. But when is it OK to leave a child home alone?

Some states have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving children home alone: Illinois law requires children to be 14 years old before being left alone; in Maryland, the minimum age is 8, while in Oregon, children must be 10 before being left home alone.

In North Carolina, there are no hard and fast rules. The Department of Health and Human Services follows the state fire code, which says children under the age of 8 must be supervised due to the risk of fire. After that, it’s up to the parent’s discretion.

Are They Ready?

“When deciding whether to leave kids home alone, parents have to use [their] own judgment, because every child is different,” says Leslie Petruk, director of The Stone Center for Counseling and Leadership in Charlotte and licensed family counselor. “Think about their maturity level and whether they’ve got good impulse control.”

You might already have a good handle on those things, but it can help to observe their behavior when they aren’t being directly watched. Remember too, it’s not as much about following rules, but more about staying safe.

“Kids will always test limits,” Petruk says, “but the question of whether or not they are ready to stay home alone isn’t so much about whether they try to sneak in an extra TV show or eat a few cookies for dinner.”

Ask yourself these questions about your children to help gauge readiness:

  • Do they tend to obey the house rules?
  • Do they tend to make good decisions?
  • Do they have good impulse control?
  • Do they understand the difference between dangerous situations and safe situations?
  • Do they know how to respond in an emergency, if one did arise?

“When we began observing how our children acted when we weren’t in the same room with them, it really gave us a sense of their behaviors and typical responses,” says Robin Brooks, a mother of three children, ages 13, 11 and 6, in Rock Hill, S.C. “Within the past couple of years we’ve left all three kids at home for short periods of time only during the day. I’m pretty sure the kids sneak candy and watch extra TV when we’re gone, but I trust them on bigger issues like not answering the door and what to do in an emergency. We lay some basic ground rules, and then trust them until they demonstrate poor judgment.”

Talk About It

Talk with your children to see how they feel about staying home alone. Some children may be ready for it before you are, realizing it’s a new step toward independence, while other children may show hesitation.

“If your child seems anxious or worried, it’s a good indicator they’re not ready,” Petruk says.

Talking with siblings about what is expected is also important. “It’s good to have a conversation with the kids to let the younger one know the older one is in charge, but also let the older one know they can’t abuse their power,” she says.

Safety First

Laying a few ground rules and going over safety procedures can go a long way in easing anxieties for kids and parents. If your child doesn’t have a cell phone, be sure that a phone is in the house that they can use to call in case of an emergency, and have your child text you once they are home safe if arriving home alone after school.

Other safety basics and expectations to address:

  • Know how to use the stove and the microwave, if this is allowed.
  • Set expectations for answering the door or the phone.
  • Make sure they know how to lock and unlock doors.
  • Leave a list of emergency numbers, including neighbors and family.
  • Make sure they know how to get in touch with you.
  • Create rules around posting on social media about being home alone.
  • Make sure you have parental controls set on digital devices so no one stumbles onto something they shouldn’t.
  • Set guidelines for whether friends are allowed over and are they allowed to leave the house to go to a friend’s house.
  • Designate a neighbor’s house as a “safe house” for your child to run to if he or she feels in danger.
  • Go over how and when to call 911.

“Role play is a great way to teach kids how to handle different situations and help you both feel comfortable in their ability,” Petruk says. “For example, ask them what they would do if someone came to the door, or what they would say when they answer the phone.”

Taking the Plunge

Once you’ve decided it’s time to venture out on your own, start out with a short amount of time, such as half an hour, and gradually increase the time away. While it’s hard not to worry a little bit, enjoy this newfound freedom, and understand it’s good for your kids too.

“We don’t want to teach our kids that the world is to be feared,” Petruk says. “Giving them independence communicates to them that we trust they can handle the situation and make good decisions, helping grow their self esteem.”


Karen Alley is a freelancer and also mom to a 12-year-old.

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View map »


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View map »


Website »

More information

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View map »


Website »

More information

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View map »


Website »

More information

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More information

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8335 Browne Road
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Grounds Bookstore and Cafe
Website »

More information

Preschoolers can bounce with their parents in a safe, climate-controlled facility. 

Cost: $8

Where:
BounceU (Matthews and Charlotte locations)
10624 Metromont Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come join story time with other families. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble: Morrison Place
4020 Sharon Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore the Mint Museum's exhibitions.

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

Explore nature in and around the recreation center Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
West Charlotte Recreation Center
2401 Kendall Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Instructors will provide assistance to students in grades K-12 in reading and math. The instructions will be primarily facilitated by NC Educator licensed teachers.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Revolution Park Sports Academy
1225 Remount Road
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Revolution Park Sports Academy

More information

Charlotte Ballet's Cultural Dance Program presents African Dance classes. Classes are drop-in format, open to all ages and free of charge for participants. There is also child supervision...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugar Creek Recreation Center
943 West Sugar Creek Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Dive into these crustacean's habitats, learn crazy crabby facts, and face off with Crabzilla, the Japanese Spider Crab whose legs can span up to 15 feet.

Cost: $11-$20, includes museum admission, children younger than 2 free

Where:
SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Creepy Nature is designed to share the actual science of weird and unusual plants and animals. This exhibit features horror fiction concepts like vampires, zombies, mummies and alien invaders....

Cost: $6-$7, includes museum admission

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


Telephone: 704-866-6908
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 50 international artists and more than 100 works of art, Under Construction explores the growth of the collage technique and aesthetic in the work of Romare Bearden and his...

Cost: $15-$6; Free for children 4 and younger; Included in admission

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


Website »

More information

"Welcome to Brookhill" is a collection of images that, like poetry, stir emotion. The photographs reveal what this neighborhood, like every other neighborhood, has come to be to its...

Cost: $7-$9, Children 5 and younger free

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


Website »

More information

tapestries and rugs designed by artists usually associated with painting, sculpture, and architecture. Examples of the more familiar media will be installed alongside the textiles. The Bechtler...

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

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


Website »

More information

Exhibit explores the 1929 Loray Mill Strike, including why strikers chose to organize with the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU) and how the strike influenced mills across the country. The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gaston County Museum of Art and History
131 West Main St.
Dallas, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore another part of the world through the IMAX original film, "Pandas," a breathtaking documentary adventure high in the mountains of Sichuan, China.

Cost: $5-$10

Where:
Discovery Place Science
301 N Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This modest exhibition presents twenty works created over four decades by seventeen artists from six different nations. Yet all of them, regardless of their style, form, material or subject proved...

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 Cabarrus Arts Council's newest exhibition, "On Paper." The exhibition will feature a wide array of artwork including cut and sculpted paper, collage and works on paper by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Galleries
65 Union St. S.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids can get creative in Block Party, the new interactive building exhibit for children.

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

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


Website »

More information

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Create, experiment and practice teamwork teamwork in age appropriate challenges. May the force be with you! Explore the vastness of space in this session.

Cost: $15

Where:
Latta Nature Center
6211 Sample Road
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Use multiple critical thinking skills and the library's online resources in a small group setting to solve puzzles and codes in an interactive escape room game.

Cost: Free

Where:
Independence Regional Library
6000 Conference Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore space with activities, games and an out-of-this world snack! Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Fort Mill Public Library
1818 2nd Baxter Crossing
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones bounce under the supervision of their parents and without interference from bigger kids. Jumpers need Sky Socks, which are available for purchase, and a signed waiver.

Cost: $8

Where:
Sky Zone
10200 Centrum Pkwy.
Pineville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 6 and younger can jump at a discounted rate, and for an additional $2, parents can jump too. All jumpers need to purchase Altitude Trampoline Socks for $2.

Cost: $6.95

Where:
Altitude Trampoline Park
3490 E. Franklin Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing to songs, move to the music and enjoy an active practice with caregiver and child. Parent or guardian must be present in class.

Cost: $15

Where:
Blossom Tree Wellness
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Tiny Blooms Yoga
Website »

More information

Preschoolers can bounce with their parents in a safe, climate-controlled facility. 

Cost: $8

Where:
BounceU (Matthews and Charlotte locations)
10624 Metromont Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones and adults discover nature together through crafts, games, songs, animal encounters and outdoor exploration. March 16-17, Inching Along; May 23-24: Life of a Ladybug. Registration...

Cost: $4

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


Website »

More information

Make a variety of crafts each week to take home. Parent participation and registration are required.

Cost: $4

Where:
Berewick Recreation Center
5910 Dixie River Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This class incorporates songs and movement and ends with a calming story.

Cost: $15

Where:
Tiny Blooms Yoga
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
Huntersville, NC  28078
View map »


Sponsor: Tiny Blooms Yoga
Website »

More information

Rock out to live entertainment, access to racing’s brightest stars, giveaways and interactive displays. Each day starting at noon, vendor displays, kids’ activities,...

Cost: Free for festival; tickets to Romare Bearden Park's concerts start at $15

Where:
Uptown Charlotte
Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come out every Thursday for live music in Uptown.

Cost: Free

Where:
Epicentre
210 East Trade St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn how to supervise children, recognize safety hazards, handle first-aid situations, play age-appropriate games, change diapers, carry out parents' instructions and discuss job...

Cost: $65-$95

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


Telephone: 704-716-4600
Website »

More information

River Jam brings live musical performances to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. See website for information about River Jam Run, open water swim, big water sessions, yoga and...

Cost: Free, $6 for parkig

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


Website »

More information

Dive into these crustacean's habitats, learn crazy crabby facts, and face off with Crabzilla, the Japanese Spider Crab whose legs can span up to 15 feet.

Cost: $11-$20, includes museum admission, children younger than 2 free

Where:
SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Creepy Nature is designed to share the actual science of weird and unusual plants and animals. This exhibit features horror fiction concepts like vampires, zombies, mummies and alien invaders....

Cost: $6-$7, includes museum admission

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


Telephone: 704-866-6908
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 50 international artists and more than 100 works of art, Under Construction explores the growth of the collage technique and aesthetic in the work of Romare Bearden and his...

Cost: $15-$6; Free for children 4 and younger; Included in admission

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


Website »

More information

"Welcome to Brookhill" is a collection of images that, like poetry, stir emotion. The photographs reveal what this neighborhood, like every other neighborhood, has come to be to its...

Cost: $7-$9, Children 5 and younger free

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


Website »

More information

tapestries and rugs designed by artists usually associated with painting, sculpture, and architecture. Examples of the more familiar media will be installed alongside the textiles. The Bechtler...

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

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


Website »

More information

Exhibit explores the 1929 Loray Mill Strike, including why strikers chose to organize with the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU) and how the strike influenced mills across the country. The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gaston County Museum of Art and History
131 West Main St.
Dallas, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore another part of the world through the IMAX original film, "Pandas," a breathtaking documentary adventure high in the mountains of Sichuan, China.

Cost: $5-$10

Where:
Discovery Place Science
301 N Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This modest exhibition presents twenty works created over four decades by seventeen artists from six different nations. Yet all of them, regardless of their style, form, material or subject proved...

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 Cabarrus Arts Council's newest exhibition, "On Paper." The exhibition will feature a wide array of artwork including cut and sculpted paper, collage and works on paper by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Galleries
65 Union St. S.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids can get creative in Block Party, the new interactive building exhibit for children.

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

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


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Guests will be mesmerized this summer by dozens of vibrant sculptures by Seattle-based artist Jason Gamrath including towering 10-foot orchids, vivid pitcher plants, energetic Venus flytraps and...

Cost: $8-$15, children younger than 2 free, includes garden admission

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


Telephone: 704-825-4490
Website »

More information

The Hot Wheels is taking the Legends Tour experience Concord Walmart store parking lot. There will be a gaming console, Hot Wheels track play station and a vending machine giving fans a chance to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Walmart
150 Concord Commons Pl. SW
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Hike unexplored areas for fun and adventure, and learn through activities.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

This clinic teaches the basics of orienteering, including how to read map features and compasses, recognizing symbols and how to effectively use both for navigation. Stick around for live music...

Cost: Free, $6 for parking

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


Website »

More information

Hear this duo blend country and blues in Spirit Square.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spirit Square
345 N. College St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come watch movies in Village Park!     May 24: "Incredibles II"     June 7: "Sandlot"     June 21: "Jumanji"...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Children ages 6 and younger can jump at a discounted rate, and for an additional $2, parents can jump too. All jumpers need to purchase Altitude Trampoline Socks for $2.

Cost: $6.95

Where:
Altitude Trampoline Park
3490 E. Franklin Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Preschoolers can bounce with their parents in a safe, climate-controlled facility. 

Cost: $8

Where:
BounceU (Matthews and Charlotte locations)
10624 Metromont Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones and adults discover nature together through crafts, games, songs, animal encounters and outdoor exploration. March 16-17, Inching Along; May 23-24: Life of a Ladybug. Registration...

Cost: $4

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


Website »

More information

Participate in educational and therapeutic activities for children with special needs with Little Achievers, a sub group of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte.

Cost: Free

Where:
South County Regional Library
5801 Rea Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids will learn some basic yoga positions that go along with the story.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes and Noble - Birkdale Village
8725 Townley Road
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Rock out to live entertainment, access to racing’s brightest stars, giveaways and interactive displays. Each day starting at noon, vendor displays, kids’ activities,...

Cost: Free for festival; tickets to Romare Bearden Park's concerts start at $15

Where:
Uptown Charlotte
Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Make a unique project out of clay that will last a lifetime. Projects will be taken back to Clayworks to be fired and glazed before being returned to Grier Heights Community Center for pickup.

Cost: Free

Where:
Greer Heights Community Center
3100 Leroy St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 980-498-1487
Website »

More information

Starting in May and running through October, come out to Camp North End in the Boileryard on Friday nights for food and music. Children and leashed pets welcome!

Cost: Free

Where:
Boileryard at Camp North End
1824 Statesville Ave.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Matthews presents food trucks, kids' activities, craft beer and wine, and weekly bands.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy live music, food trucks and a beverage garden. May 10 and 24, and June 7 and 21.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Belmont
S. Main St.
Belmont, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Bring your blanket and chairs and enjoy a movie in the park. Food available for purchase. Movie begins at dusk. March 29 and Aug. 23 at Crooked Creek Park, 5900 Oakwood Ln.,...

Cost: Free

Where:
, NC


Website »

More information

Come listen to music every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer, except June 21, which is Movie on the Green.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Green at Promenade on Providence
corner of Providence Road and Interstate 485
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate 20 years of music at Stonecrest with weekly family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stonecrest Shopping Center
7900 Rea Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

River Jam brings live musical performances to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. See website for information about River Jam Run, open water swim, big water sessions, yoga and...

Cost: Free, $6 for parkig

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


Website »

More information

Dive into these crustacean's habitats, learn crazy crabby facts, and face off with Crabzilla, the Japanese Spider Crab whose legs can span up to 15 feet.

Cost: $11-$20, includes museum admission, children younger than 2 free

Where:
SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Creepy Nature is designed to share the actual science of weird and unusual plants and animals. This exhibit features horror fiction concepts like vampires, zombies, mummies and alien invaders....

Cost: $6-$7, includes museum admission

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


Telephone: 704-866-6908
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 50 international artists and more than 100 works of art, Under Construction explores the growth of the collage technique and aesthetic in the work of Romare Bearden and his...

Cost: $15-$6; Free for children 4 and younger; Included in admission

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


Website »

More information

"Welcome to Brookhill" is a collection of images that, like poetry, stir emotion. The photographs reveal what this neighborhood, like every other neighborhood, has come to be to its...

Cost: $7-$9, Children 5 and younger free

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


Website »

More information

tapestries and rugs designed by artists usually associated with painting, sculpture, and architecture. Examples of the more familiar media will be installed alongside the textiles. The Bechtler...

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

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


Website »

More information

The Mint Hill Madness festival offers something for everyone, food, music, a family carnival, an arts and crafts fair, parade, and a spectacular firework show. Fireworks begin at approximately 10...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park
8850 Fairview Road
Mint Hill, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Town of Mint Hill
Website »

More information

Exhibit explores the 1929 Loray Mill Strike, including why strikers chose to organize with the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU) and how the strike influenced mills across the country. The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gaston County Museum of Art and History
131 West Main St.
Dallas, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore another part of the world through the IMAX original film, "Pandas," a breathtaking documentary adventure high in the mountains of Sichuan, China.

Cost: $5-$10

Where:
Discovery Place Science
301 N Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This modest exhibition presents twenty works created over four decades by seventeen artists from six different nations. Yet all of them, regardless of their style, form, material or subject proved...

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

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


Website »

More information

Richard Childress Racing and the NASCAR Hall of Fame will launch an exhibit to honor the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing using artifacts, race cars, images and audio/video displays.

Cost: $12-$25, children 2 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
NASCAR Hall of Fame
400 East Martin Luther King Blvd
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the Cabarrus Arts Council's newest exhibition, "On Paper." The exhibition will feature a wide array of artwork including cut and sculpted paper, collage and works on paper by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Galleries
65 Union St. S.
Concord, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The story of this great Apache leader comes to life and is a triumphant story of hope and healing that transcends time.

Cost: $10-$37

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


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

More information

Kids can get creative in Block Party, the new interactive building exhibit for children.

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

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


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Guests will be mesmerized this summer by dozens of vibrant sculptures by Seattle-based artist Jason Gamrath including towering 10-foot orchids, vivid pitcher plants, energetic Venus flytraps and...

Cost: $8-$15, children younger than 2 free, includes garden admission

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


Telephone: 704-825-4490
Website »

More information

Cover the different types of fish and the different methods used to catch them.

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Anne Springs Close Greenway Scoville Dock
2573 Lake Haigler Drive
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come for a stroll around Discovery Place Nature’s Paw Paw Nature Trail.

Cost: $8, free for children younger than 2, included with museum admission

Where:
Discovery Place Nature
1658 Sterling Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Listen to a story, and meet Wonder Woman and Spider Man.

Cost: $9

Where:
SAS Cupcakes
9941 Rea Road
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This ongoing nature program is designed to inspire children and adults to explore the natural world of the Carolina Piedmont. This Saturday is "Natural History Jeopardy."

Cost: $5-$8, free for children younger than 3, Included with admission

Where:
The Museum of York County
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

Don’t miss NASCAR’s rising stars competing in the May 25 Alsco 300, a daytime donnybrook for sun-drenched supremacy.

Cost: $26.75+

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


Website »

More information

Discover the world of science through books, hands-on educational activities and experiments.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugar Creek Library
4045 North Tryon St.
Suite A
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Discuss teen fandom of pop culture while enjoying snacks and fun geek activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Scaleybark Library
101 Scaleybark Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

One of the country’s largest gospel music festivals is returning to Carowinds, featuring Mary Mary, Marvin Sapp, Travis Greene, Jonathan McReynolds and more.

Cost: $38-$69

Where:
Carowinds Paladium
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come see "Christopher Robin." The concession stand will be selling popcorn and other snacks. The film will begin shortly after sunset.

Cost: Free

Where:
Ebenezer Park
4490 Boatshore Road
Rock Hill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come play with your kids at My Gym! Parent participation is required. Parents wear socks; children go barefoot.

Cost: $10 per child

Where:
My Gym Southpark
5110 Park Road
2D
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones bounce under the supervision of their parents and without interference from bigger kids. Jumpers need Sky Socks, which are available for purchase, and a signed waiver.

Cost: $8

Where:
Sky Zone (Pineville and Charlotte locations)
10200 Centrum Pkwy.
Pineville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come for 90 minutes of hands-on Lego Robotics with a certified K-8 public educator! Each week, scholars will build a robot with new features. No prior experience required.

Cost: $35

Where:
Ballantyne Hotel
10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Digi-Bridge
Website »

More information

Paddle the edges of McDowell Nature Preserve with certified instructors while enjoying nature. Children ages five to nine are required to be in a tandem with an adult. Registration is required.

Cost: $20 single, $25 tandem

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


Website »

More information

Join this family-friendly open art session where your little Picasso can shine! Each week will be different activities including easel painting, sensory stations and themed art projects.

Cost: $10

Where:
Noah's Art of Southpark
5110 Park Road
2C
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Noah's Art of Southpark
Website »

More information

Guided trail rides are open to riders of all experience levels.

Cost: $45-$50

Where:
Anne Springs Close Greenway
1058 Horse Road
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Website »

More information

Swim in the cool, deep water at Carrigan Farms Quarry. Ages 11 and under must wear a life jacket at all times in the water. Anyone 12 and older are eligible to take the swim test. Bring your rod...

Cost: $15 per person, cash or check only

Where:
The Quarry at Carrigan Farms
1213 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy.
Mooresville, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Carrigan Farms
Telephone: 704-664-1450
Website »

More information

Meet a resident bird and an expert keeper in these half-hour sessions along the Raptor Trail. Saturdays 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays 1 and 3 p.m.

Cost: $8-$12, children 3 and younger free

Where:
Carolina Raptor Center
6000 Sample Road
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Carolina Raptor Center
Website »

More information

Participants learn critical reading and writing skills, advocacy, volunteerism, art, videography, public speaking and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
President James K Polk State Historic Site
12031 Lancaster Hwy.
Pineville, NC
View map »


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

Rock out to live entertainment, access to racing’s brightest stars, giveaways and interactive displays. Each day starting at noon, vendor displays, kids’ activities,...

Cost: Free for festival; tickets to Romare Bearden Park's concerts start at $15

Where:
Uptown Charlotte
Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about vultures found at Carolina Raptor Center.

Cost: $8-$12, children 3 and younger free, included with admission to Raptor Trail

Where:
Carolina Raptor Center
6000 Sample Road
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Glide along the water while enjoying nature. Registration is required.

Cost: $15 single, $20 tandem

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


Website »

More information

Instructors will provide assistance to students in grades K-12 in reading and math. The instructions will be primarily facilitated by NC Educator licensed teachers.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Revolution Park Sports Academy
1225 Remount Road
, NC
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Sponsor: Revolution Park Sports Academy

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Teens ages 16 and younger receive three hours of discounted jumping. Jumpers are required to purchase Altitude Trampoline Socks for an additional $2.

Cost: $19.95

Where:
Altitude Trampoline Park
3490 E. Franklin Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Come listen to music every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer, except June 21, which is Movie on the Green.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Green at Promenade on Providence
corner of Providence Road and Interstate 485
, NC
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Celebrate 20 years of music at Stonecrest with weekly family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stonecrest Shopping Center
7900 Rea Road
, NC
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River Jam brings live musical performances to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. See website for information about River Jam Run, open water swim, big water sessions, yoga and...

Cost: Free, $6 for parkig

Where:
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Watch a free, outdoor movie in Uptown. May 25: "Back to the Future" June 22: "The Goonies" July 27: "Jurassic Park" Aug. 27: "Jumanji"

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Charlotte
406 N. Tryon St.
, NC
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Dive into these crustacean's habitats, learn crazy crabby facts, and face off with Crabzilla, the Japanese Spider Crab whose legs can span up to 15 feet.

Cost: $11-$20, includes museum admission, children younger than 2 free

Where:
SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC
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Creepy Nature is designed to share the actual science of weird and unusual plants and animals. This exhibit features horror fiction concepts like vampires, zombies, mummies and alien invaders....

Cost: $6-$7, includes museum admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Telephone: 704-866-6908
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Featuring more than 50 international artists and more than 100 works of art, Under Construction explores the growth of the collage technique and aesthetic in the work of Romare Bearden and his...

Cost: $15-$6; Free for children 4 and younger; Included in admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 South Tryon St.
, NC
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"Welcome to Brookhill" is a collection of images that, like poetry, stir emotion. The photographs reveal what this neighborhood, like every other neighborhood, has come to be to its...

Cost: $7-$9, Children 5 and younger free

Where:
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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tapestries and rugs designed by artists usually associated with painting, sculpture, and architecture. Examples of the more familiar media will be installed alongside the textiles. The Bechtler...

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

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 South Tryon St.
, NC
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The Mint Hill Madness festival offers something for everyone, food, music, a family carnival, an arts and crafts fair, parade, and a spectacular firework show. Fireworks begin at approximately 10...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park
8850 Fairview Road
Mint Hill, NC
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Sponsor: Town of Mint Hill
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Exhibit explores the 1929 Loray Mill Strike, including why strikers chose to organize with the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU) and how the strike influenced mills across the country. The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gaston County Museum of Art and History
131 West Main St.
Dallas, NC
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Explore another part of the world through the IMAX original film, "Pandas," a breathtaking documentary adventure high in the mountains of Sichuan, China.

Cost: $5-$10

Where:
Discovery Place Science
301 N Tryon St.
, NC
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This modest exhibition presents twenty works created over four decades by seventeen artists from six different nations. Yet all of them, regardless of their style, form, material or subject proved...

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

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Richard Childress Racing and the NASCAR Hall of Fame will launch an exhibit to honor the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing using artifacts, race cars, images and audio/video displays.

Cost: $12-$25, children 2 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
NASCAR Hall of Fame
400 East Martin Luther King Blvd
, NC
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The story of this great Apache leader comes to life and is a triumphant story of hope and healing that transcends time.

Cost: $10-$37

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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Kids can get creative in Block Party, the new interactive building exhibit for children.

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

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Annual Guides

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

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2018 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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