9 Things to Do with the Family in West Charlotte
Tony’s Ice Cream
604 E. Franklin Blvd., Gastonia
Family-owned Tony’s Ice Cream has been a Gastonia staple since 1947. Twenty-eight flavors are made in its plant right next door, ranging from kid favorites such as grape, cotton candy and cookies-and-cream to Southern favorites such as peach, black walnut and banana pudding. Sizes include kiddie cups and cones, which are $1 on Tuesdays. Speaking of Southern favorites, before dessert try a Pimento cheese or liver mush-and-egg sandwich, though there are plenty of other choices that are easy on the wallet.
Portofino’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria
3637 E. Franklin Blvd., Gastonia
Portofino’s stands out in an area populated with chain restaurants. Open for lunch and dinner daily, it has an extensive menu with pastas, chicken, veal, seafood, sandwiches and, of course, New York-style pizzas. The casual atmosphere combined with affordable prices and daily specials makes this a friendly place to take the kids any day of the week.
Sports Page Food and Spirits
179 Cross Center Drive, Denver
This sports bar menu has something to please everyone in the family, from burgers and salads to steak and pasta dishes. On the kids menu, apples and fries come with all the entrees, including chicken fingers, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Be sure to check their calendar for kids eat free nights, often on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Schiele Museum of Natural History
1500 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia
This gem in Gaston County boasts an authentic Catawba Indian Village and an 18th century living history farm complete with farm animals. Permanent exhibits include examples of prehistoric life (dinosaurs!) as well as more recent flora and fauna. Be sure to take in the night sky or the rings of Saturn at the James H. Lynn Planetarium. Traveling exhibits and frequent special events mean you’ll want to return again and again.
2600 E. Franklin Blvd., Gastonia
This entertainment center is open all day every day for a variety of family fun activities. Try your luck on three different themed 18-hole miniature golf courses. Contestants of all ages can drive, dance or blast their way to prizes with 29 different arcade games. Seven batting cages can be reserved or rented hourly on a first-come first-serve basis and offer variable pitch speeds. Find different daily specials as well as coupons on the website.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens
6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont
There’s something to see in every season on the growing 380 acres of gardens, fountains and pathways. A highlight is the five-story, 8,000 square-foot Orchid Conservatory, featuring walls that overflow with orchids and tropical plants. Classes for young and young at heart are offered throughout the year, and be sure to visit around the Christmas to see Santa and the garden strung in lights, as well as at Easter when Peter Cottontail hops by for pictures and spring fun with the kids. There areplenty of beautiful spots to lay a blanket, pull out notepads and pencils to sketch your favorite flowers. Lost Hollow, a new children’s garden is currently in the planning stages.
522 Park Office Lane, Gastonia
Train your future hikers on these scenic mountain trails, keeping an eye out for the abundant birds and blossoms along the way. None of the trails is very long. A couple of easy loop trails are only .8 miles; the longest – a moderately difficult one – is 6.2 miles. Most trails are less than 2 miles, though some are quite steep and strenuous even on this mountain of only 1,625 feet. To relax, there are picnic grounds and a small lake with canoe rentals near the park entrance.
Off Cramer Mountain Road, Cramerton
Thirty-acre Goat Island sits in the middle of the South Fork River and is a playground for all ages. For the adventurous there are kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals as well as an 18-hole disc golf course. For the less adventurous, there’s a treehouse playground and a paved greenway that’s part of the Carolina Thread Trail, which consists of 115 miles of trails linking 15 counties. Covered picnic areas are also available.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
There is much more here than whitewater rafting. On land, try zip lines, rock climbing and ropes courses. On water, there’s kayaking and paddle boarding on the adjacent Catawba River. And yes, there’s whitewater rafting of varying degrees of difficulty. Even younger children can participate – kids as young as 4 can climb the rock wall and as small as 45 pounds can do a zip line. Not adventurous? Enjoy the restaurant overlooking the whitewater course while listening to the rushing water then try out the 20 miles of trails.