The Benefits of Obstacle Course Camps

Conquering challenges like a ninja warrior


Published:

Gerald, 15, of Cary, races up one of Warrior Tech OCR's warped walls.

Photo courtesy of Jack Morton Photography

STOP! This article is only for parents who want their kids to have fun, grow in athleticism and overcome obstacles in life … literally.

Parkour and ninja-style obstacle course programs offer these benefits, and are trending around the country. This movement, led in part by the popularity of shows like “American Ninja Warrior” and “Spartan Race” (both air on NBC), doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Several facilities have popped up in North Carolina to offer kids and adults safe environments in which to learn, train and play.

Raleigh mom Betsy Brown, whose children attend year-round schools, discovered Warrior Tech OCR (obstacle course readiness) in Morrisville while looking for a track-out camp. “My kids are athletic and active and they love the show, ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ so we gave it a shot.”

The verdict was unanimous with her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. “They loved it!” Brown says. “They came home exhausted and used muscles they didn’t know they had.” She immediately signed them up for Warrior Tech OCR’s summer camp to continue the positive experiences.


Why Choose an Obstacle Course Camp?

“There are countless benefits to all of these activities,” says Renato Varga of Kinetic Heights in Charlotte. “Ninja warrior and obstacle courses provide a unique, exciting and, most importantly, fun way to exercise. Oftentimes the obstacles are awkward and different enough from the typical movements people are used to during regular exercise, resulting in a workout that hits way more muscle groups.”

Ninja warrior training may also be the perfect athletic outlet for kids who haven’t found their place in traditional team sports. “Ninja as a sport requires a great deal of persistence and thoughtfulness,” says David Gordon, owner of USA Ninja Challenge in Durham. “Many of our successful students thrive on the individual challenge of ninja.”

Brown says Warrior Tech OCR’s instructors encouraged her kids to take a teamwork approach to working together. “It was fun to watch them talk to each other about how they got better at things or how they kept messing up at a certain spot,” she says. “They’d give each other tips to try — and encouragement.”

Varga agrees that one of the main benefits of obstacle course training is how it encourages cooperation. “While these activities aren’t quite team sports, they allow for training with peers in a manner that teaches that cooperation and teaching are better for everyone — not competition and showing off,” she says.

As challengers approach each obstacle, Warrior Tech OCR’s “Chief Kid Wrangler,” Justin Fitzgerald, explains different potential tactics, and encourages adaptation and watching those who go before them to help them learn.

When children complete obstacles they thought they couldn’t, or that they may have failed at achieving in the past, they gain a sense of confidence and realize that with hard work, they can overcome difficulties — “which could be anything from balancing across a scary beam, making a seemingly impossible jump … or (completing) a large school assignment,” Varga says. “Any obstacle can be overcome — what matters most is not giving up.”

It’s also important to expose children to a wide variety of activities so they can find their passion. This an essential element of the camp experiences at U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. Some of the youth camps there incorporate the center’s Long Point Obstacle Course and high- and low-ropes courses.

“We believe that everyone has the innate desire to get outside and play, and we believe that looks different for everyone,” says the center’s brand manager, Eric Osterhus. “In this day and age where everyone has a device in the palm of their hands, we see ourselves as a breath of fresh air in that you can tap into adventure that you can’t necessarily experience in day-to-day life.”

Katie, 16, of Apex, scales across the rings at Warrior Tech OCR. Ninja warrior obstacle challenges work muscles that participants don't use every day.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JACK MORTON PHOTOGRAPHY


What to Look For

Fitzgerald says a supportive atmosphere, good coaching and thorough training are musts. Warrior Tech OCR also includes discussions on muscle groups, nutrition, technique and adaptability.

It’s also important to make sure camp activities are appropriate for your child. At the U.S. National Whitewater Center, kids are exposed to new challenges based on their age, skill level and ability.

Varga emphasizes the importance of a good coach and variety of obstacles. “A truly dedicated, passionate and qualified coach can teach an enjoyable and meaningful lesson with just a few simple boxes,” he says. “Ideally, you want to find somewhere that has a wide variety of obstacles, passionate and qualified instructors, and most importantly, is fun!”

Kinetic Heights and the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte; Warrior Tech OCR and USA Ninja Challenge in Durham; and Enso Movement, a parkour training facility with locations in Durham and Raleigh, all offer youth camps, open play sessions and parties. Most of the camps offered at these facilities are suitable for children as young as age 5, with more difficult camps available only for older children and teens.

Worth the Risk?

These challenges are not without risk. Obstacles are high, difficult and unique. It’s imperative that the camp you choose puts a premium on safety and instruction.

“Make sure that they are teaching your child how to do these obstacles, not that they’re just throwing them in to ‘play,’” Fitzgerald advises.

At Warrior Tech OCR, each morning of camp begins with a warm-up to stretch and strengthen the muscles they will use that day. Coaches are also trained in spotting kids and teaching them how to fall safely.

Aware of the potential for injury, Brown believes these opportunities are worth taking advantage of.

“Of course there is some kind of risk,” she says. “But if you have a kid who is active and likes to challenge themselves, I think it’s a great environment.”

Kinetic Heights in Charlottes puts participants through a variety of obstacles to test their skills.

Photo courtesy of Kinetic Heights


The Author’s Ninja Experience

Thanks to my family’s obsession with “American Ninja Warrior” (Jessie Graff rules!), our family decided to take Warrior Tech OCR’s challenge for ourselves.

I took my three little ninjas, Maggie (12), Ben (10) and James (8), to meet with the facility’s “Chief Kid Wrangler” Justin Fitzgerald. Admittedly, I was a little nervous because my three are very different from one another, and I wasn’t sure how they’d react if one child could complete obstacles while the other two couldn’t (or vice versa).

I quickly, and pleasantly, realized my entire premise was wrong. Obstacle course training programs are not about proving what you can already do — they’re about learning how to push yourself to try new things.

Fitzgerald gave us a peek into how a day of Warrior Tech OCR’s school-age camp runs by showing my kids three different techniques to try with the first obstacle: the quad steps. “It’s not about getting it perfect every time, it’s about finding out which technique works best for you,” he told them.

In less than an hour, each of my kids succeeded in beating an obstacle they had failed to achieve on their first attempt. Although they were thrilled when they reached a new height on the warped wall or caught a new ring in the swinging apparatus, they never became discouraged when they fell.

“You have to be OK with failing here,” Fitzgerald says. “Failing here is different from failing in other places because you’ve probably never done anything quite like this — and they are really, really hard.”

One of the author's sons hangs from a rope net at Warrior Tech OCR.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Howard


Learn More

Enso Movement (Raleigh and Durham)

Kinetic Heights (Charlotte)

Warrior Tech OCR (Morrisville)

US National Whitewater Center (Charlotte)

USA Ninja Challenge (Durham)


Mandy Howard is a freelance writer and mother of three in Raleigh.

 

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July 2020

Have a fun night with the family at the ballpark.

Cost: $10-$15, children 3 and younger free

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Sims Park
1001 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way
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Matthews United Methodist Church
801 S. Trade St.
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Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
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Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
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Cost: Free to military service men and women

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Cost: $45+, children ages 3-5 free entry with a Pre-K Pass

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500 S. Tryon St.
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Sponsor: Authentic Teaching
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DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
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The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

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


Website »

More information

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

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

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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8116 University City Blvd.
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Cost: Free

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4330 Westmont Drive
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
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Defy Gravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
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5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
Concord, NC
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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

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Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
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More information

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

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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More information

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DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

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


Website »

More information

Explore the Mint Museum's exhibitions without charge.

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 704-337-2000
Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $21-$31

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: $11 for one hour

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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

More information

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

Cost: $6 for parking

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


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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

Cost: $21-$31

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: $11 for one hour

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

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

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


Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
Tiny Blooms Yoga
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
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Website »

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Teach or play with your child in the heated pool.

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

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: Free admission

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Resident Culture Brewing Company
2101 Central Ave.
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Cost: Free

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Sycamore Brewing
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Cost: Free

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Stumptown Park
120 S. Trade St.
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Website »

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Where:
Oak Street Mill
19725 Oak St.
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Cost: $25

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

More information

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

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

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


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: $10-$40

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


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

More information

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

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

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


Website »

More information

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

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
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View map »


Website »

More information

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

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library presents monthly story times at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. every second Saturday of the month.

Cost: Free

Where:
Northlake Mall Live 360° Games Court
6801 Northlake Mall Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: Northlake Mall
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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Bring chairs and blankets to watch movies in the park. Concessions will be available for purchase. The second Saturday of the month, May through September with a Halloween special on Oct. 17. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Stowe Park
24 S. Main St.
Belmont, NC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost: $10-$40

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

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

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

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

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

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

Education Guide

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