15 Kid-Friendly Summer Excursions Under $15

Animals, arts, and outdoor adventures around the Queen City
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6345 Sample Road, Huntersville, NC 28078

Located at Latta Nature Preserve, Quest’s brand new 13,000-square foot facility offers endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Walk the Carolina Raptor Trail, hike alongside a naturalist, create a nature craft, kayak, paddleboard, canoe, fish, and more. Check their calendar for special events and programming to plan your visit.

While admission to Quest is free, you must purchase tickets to the Raptor Trail (Adult ticket – $12, Students – $8, Seniors/Military/Teachers – $10, Children 3 and under are free.). Paddle sports also have fees. See website for details.

Reed Gold Mine

9621 Reed Mine Road, Midland, NC 28107

Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold discovery in the United States.

Today, kids can pan for gold, take a tour of the historical site, and enjoy trails and outdoor exhibits. Admission is free. Gold Panning is available Tuesday through Saturday, between April 1 through October 31, weather permitting, with a charge of $3 per pan (plus tax).

Ramsey Creek Park

18441 Nantz Road, Cornelius, NC 28031 

This 46-acre waterfront park has a public swimming access area, boat launching and docks, a playground, picnic shelters, nature trails, and a fishing pier. The swim beach is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Wednesday through Sunday from noon-6 p.m. Parking is $10 per vehicle for county residents and $15 per vehicle for non-county residents.

Power Alley at Charlotte Knights

324 South Mint Street

Take them out to the ballgame and enjoy the freedom and low cost of the Power Alley section. Situated on the sloped grass, kids are free to run around, and tickets are just $14.


Baby Goat Play Date & Cuddle Sessions

Cotton Beam Goat Farm – 29631 Herrin Grove Road, Mount Pleasant, NC

Yes, you read that correctly. Get your baby goat fix and have a cuddle session at Cotton Bean Goat Farms in Mt. Pleasant. Spend 45 minutes in the goat pasture on a baby goat playdate where you can snuggle and bottle feed the farm’s Mini Nubian milk goats. Due to North Carolina heat, all summer play sessions are scheduled before noon. Call 704-941-7944 to schedule. $15 per person

Lazy 5 Ranch

15100 Mooresville Road, Mooresville, NC 28115 

Lazy 5 Ranch is home to more than 750 animals including birds, domestic farm animals, and exotic species. Kids can watch animals roam the ranch and get up close to feed them out of feed buckets right from your own car window! The ranch is open seven days a week, but call to confirm if storms or extreme heat is predicted.

Adult Admission (ages 12-59) $15
Children Admission (ages 2-11) $11
Senior Admission (ages 60+) $11

Feed buckets (64oz)- $3 each

General Admission includes the drive-thru in your own vehicle and walk around the petting zoo. Cash or North Carolina check only. No credit cards.

Discovery Place Nature

1658 Sterling Road  

Geared toward younger children, but enjoyable for all ages, the hands-on nature facility lets kids get up close with animals and insects. The nature museum has both indoor and outdoor exhibitions, including “Creature Craven” and “Insect Alley,” where kids can go nose-to-nose with a variety of creatures and bugs. Discovery Place Nature is open Tuesday through Sunday, at $8 per person. Children under 2 are free. Purchase tickets in advance online. 

Tiger World

4400 Cook Road, Rockwell, NC 28138 

Tiger World Endangered Wildlife Preserve is a nonprofit animal conservation and educational center dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and preservation of exotic animals. Walk around freely on self-guided tours, or join one of the guided educational tours Monday through Friday, at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. (They encourage you to call and book your tour – 704-279-6363.) Big cats sleep during the hottest parts of the day, so they suggest you come before noon on hot summer days. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for children 2 – 17, and $12 for seniors over 62.


Imaginon Summer Exhibit: Some Assembly Required

300 East 7th Street

Created in partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop, Some Assembly Required is a 1200-square foot display that engages children in fun and challenging activities that help foster the development of social-emotional skills. The exhibit, which runs through September 11, invites children and families to construct a bridge, form a band, plant a community garden, and participate in other experiences that feature storytelling, coding/logic, construction activities, mechanical concepts, music, visual communications, design, agricultural sustainability, and diversity. Admission is free. Please note this is NOT a Build-A-Bear workshop and no custom bears will be made.

Mint Museum

500 South Tryon Street

Visit the Mint Museum Uptown to check out the Lewis Family Gallery, a hands-on space where kids can create art, do puzzle challenges, pose for pictures, decorate a crown, and step into a Romare Bearden collage. This summer, a different pop-up art activity is available each month. Admission is $15 for adults, $6 for children 5 to 17, and free for children 4 and under. See website for Lewis Family Gallery hours.

Family First at the Harvey B. Gantt Center

551 South Tryon Street 

Family First programming at the Gantt Center offers beginner through master level art instruction for kids and their caregivers. Typically held on the first Saturday of the month, tickets are $10 per participant. Upcoming programs include:

July 9thMinnie Evans-Inspired Doodling

August 6thActing Up! Drama Workshop 


Ray’s Splash Planet

215 North Sycamore Street 

With an array of slides, spilling overhead buckets, water basketball, a lazy river, special “Saturation Station” for children under 48 inches tall, and more, you’ll understand how Ray’s has been ranked on the city’s best-of lists since opening in 2002. Entry is $8 to $10 for residents and $10 to $15 for non-residents.

Just Play

9535 South Blvd.

Just Play is an adventure playground with climbing structures, a ninja course, interactive digital games, and more. The littlest patrons can enjoy a designated toddler area, and parents play for free! Tickets are $9 for ages 2 and under, Monday through Thursday, and $11 Friday through Sunday. For ages 3 and up, tickets are $12 Monday through Thursday and $14 Friday through Sunday.

Playland Indoor Playground

2700 Gray Fox Road, Monroe

Kids 12 and under can enjoy slides, obstacle courses, ball blasts, swings, ball pits, and a special toddler play section. Parents will love Playland’s coffee café, free WiFi, and open floor plan that allows for full visibility. Two hours of playtime is $8.99 to $13.99, based on age and day.

Discovery Place Kids

105 Gilead Road, Huntersville

Suited for children 7 and under, the museum and its extensive play exhibitions are themed around a small town, allowing children to learn through play. Discovery Place Kids is closed Monday through Wednesday, and tickets ($14 per person on weekdays, $15 per person on weekends) must be purchased online in advance.