Guide to visiting Charlotte with kids

The 411 on Charlotte with Kids

Unsuspecting visitors should know: Charlotte is more than just race cars, sports, and barbecue. It’s a cultural hub created by locals who love where they live and continuously strive to make it better. As a new resident, I’m learning more about the city every day. Here are four of my favorite family-friendly activities, plus one awesome hotel and one restaurant recommendation for a getaway to Uptown Charlotte with kids.

Activity 1: Travel Back in Time

 Levine Museum in Charlotte
Interactive exhibits invite kids on a trip back in time at the Levine Museum of the New South.

The Levine Museum of the New South makes history fun. Their permanent exhibit, “From Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” tells the story of Charlotte from post Civil War to today. The exhibit is separated into six eras using artifacts and recordings to recreate the time.  My kids immediately ‘got it’.

They don’t know how to read, but the familiar scenes from the unfamiliar times drew them in. In the 1880s one-room farmhouse replica, my kids went right to the old-time music box, pushed the button, and started dancing to the music. They opened a refrigerator from the early 20th century kitchen and took out ingredients to start “cooking” on the stove. They continued their discoveries through each era. And as a bonus, with them entertained, I had time to read about the people and events that shaped Charlotte’s history. www.museumofthenewsouth.org

Please note: Some material may not be suitable for young kids, but the museum gives fair warning

Activity 2: Formulate and Test a Hypothesis

Charlotte's Discovery Place
Don’t try this at home: Charlotte’s Discovery Place lets kids take science into their own hands.

In the late 1950s when the Soviet Union’s Sputnik program was beating out the U.S. space program, Charlotte locals got a little nervous. They wanted to feel like they were doing something. Their solution? Give local kids more exposure to science.  The community agreed, raised funds, and built Discovery Place.

The name, Discovery Place, just fits. It’s a place of discovery. Each exhibit seems to stem from the thought, what have you always wanted to do, but your parents wouldn’t let you? Or, what do you want to try, but couldn’t figure out how to do yourself? It lets you ask, what would happen if…

For my kids this means looking at me to make sure I’m okay with what they’re doing. Yes, you can play with the duct tape. Go ahead, touch the fish. Sure, lie down on a bed of nails. This is the place to do it. www.discoveryplace.org

Activity 3: Read, Play, or Take in a Show

Charlotte's ImagineOn.
Get your imagination on with inspiring options at Charlotte’s ImaginOn.

ImaginOn is a children’s library. And it’s a children’s theater. The library part is filled with books and app-loaded iPad stations. The theater section runs frequent professional shows based on the stories and characters children love. Both of these are awesome by themselves, but ImaginOn is more than just a library and a theater.

Their mission is to bring stories to life. They don’t do this by just letting kids be passive observers. They want kids to participate. The free play activities throughout the library encourages kids to use their imaginations. The colorful displays make one thing clear: ImaginOn is fun. It may be hard to leave. www.imaginon.org

Tip: Book tickets to the show in advance on their website. They frequently sell out.

Activity 4: Check Out the Skyline

Romare Bearden park and gardens.
Fresh air and fun at the Romare Bearden Park and gardens.

When it’s time for fresh air, head to Romare Bearden Park. The city often hosts public events there so don’t be surprised if there’s a band playing or vendors selling cotton candy or both. You may get lucky and join a pep rally for a local sports team. On quieter days you’ll still see people playing ball, doing yoga, or just lounging with a book and a snack. Kids run in the grass or get soaked in the splash park. Sit close to the waterfall to up the relaxation factor.

Tip: Romare Bearden is walking distance to BB&T Ballpark. Check their schedule in advance and book tickets to watch the Charlotte Knights Baseball team. See Romare Bearden Park online, and visit the BB&T Ballpark website.

1 Great Place to Stay: Omni Charlotte

Omni Charlotte
The Omni Charlotte awaits families with activity bags and bedtime cookies.

When I’m staying in a city with my kids there are two things I look for: location, and kids activities. The Omni Charlotte covers both.  Once you leave the hotel it’s only a short walk to most of Uptown’s most popular sites and restaurants. You can even walk to the Epicentre–a central hub of food, entertainment, and shopping–via a connected walkway.

As for kids, they’re covered. The “Omni Sensational Kids” program includes a bag of toys and activities at check in, plus milk and cookies for them on the first night. And for kids who love a view, take the elevator to the rooftop pool. See the Omni Charlotte online and visit the Epicentre website.

1 Great Place to Eat: 7th Street Public Market

Charlotte's 7th Street Market.
Take your pick and pick your take for lunch at Charlotte’s 7th Street Market.

The vendors at 7th Street Public Market highlight one thing: Charlotte’s food culture. Based on the meals I’ve had here, that means everything is elevated with fresh, local ingredients. My pick is to share a pizza from Pure Pizza and then get a latte from Not Just Coffee. Order at the vendor’s booth and let them know you’re sitting outside. They’ll bring it to you when it’s ready.

My kids love sitting outside because it’s just next to the last stop for the light rail. Also, the “Touch My Building” exhibit on the building’s first floor exterior. Multiple panels light up and make pleasing sounds when touched. The tables are next to these panels and give the kids something to do while waiting for their food. www.7thstreetpublicmarket.com

Map & Pinnable for Your Trip Planning:

Charlotte with kids

Ann Belle
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Ann Belle

Travel Blogger at Belle NRW
Travel will always be part of Ann’s life. She graduated with a degree in International Relations and planned study abroad programs at a local university. When she had her first kid while living as an expat in Germany, she combined all of her passions into a mission of encouraging families to travel with intention. Her first step was creating an English-language directory of family friendly activities in her state in Germany.BelleNRW.com was born. However, shortly after the site’s launch she relocated to Charlotte, NC. Now she has a more location-independent site with the same mission: to use books to encourage children to travel and delve deep into the local history and legends. Follow Ann on Twitter:@kidstravelbooks and on Facebook: Kids Travel Books.
Ann Belle
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7 thoughts on “The 411 on Charlotte with Kids”

    1. Thanks, Elena! I honestly thought about it as a conference town, too, because I knew so many people who came here to do the same thing.

  1. I love the sound of ImaginOn, what a fantastic space for kids. I also really like the idea of visiting the Levine Museum of the New South. Museums such as this one, that allow visitors to really be part of history and to interact with displays, are so good for children. As for 7th Street Public Market, I’m sold!!

    1. I think the Levine Museum is a great museum for parents who are worried about visiting history museums with kids. It’s really fun to see how interested kids can be.

      And 7th Street Market is probably my favorite place in the whole city.

    1. If I have a chance to visit a new city without worrying about parking, I’m all for it. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to one of my favorite family travel series.

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