Be A Tourist In Your Town

As a child, and later as an adult, I lived on the Alabama Gulf Coast, in Baldwin County and in Mobile County. I moved to Spanish Fort, on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay when I was seven, and my mother took us to all the local attractions. What she didn’t cover, the school did on field trips.

Interestingly, no matter where we live, most people rarely hit all the tourist spots in our own towns/cities. When my daughter was between the ages of three and ten, however, we visited a lot of the attractions in the Mobile area when we went to visit my parents. I was able to relive some of the fun, and I was able to learn even more about the area I had called home.

We visited the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park numerous times, and while my daughter was never interested in reading all the information about the ship, she was always interested in climbing all the way to the top. Often, while our friends were carefully reading every detail, she and I were feeling the wind in our hair from the crow’s nest on the ship. It has always been amazing to me that it’s so much more breezy up there. After climbing all those stairs/ladders, I needed that cool breeze!

If you have some time to be a tourist in your own city, it’s a lot of fun. I recommend going on a weekday instead of a weekend, as most tourist attractions are busier on weekends. To find out which attractions to visit in your own city, ask friends what they have done, or check out the local visitor center. Another great resource I love to use is TripAdvisor.com. It lists attractions in order of popularity, and you can read reviews to see if it’s something you and/or your kids might be interested in doing.

I have some friends coming to visit soon, and they have never been to Charlotte. They will be in town for a few days, so we can’t just sit around our house the whole time. Therefore, I’ve been doing some homework to find cool things to do with visitors…things that are unique to the Charlotte area.

Anyone who has ever traveled with me could tell you I do my homework. I visited a friend in another city a few years ago, and she said I knew more about her city than she did! That’s why I rarely write a bad review on TripAdvisor…I do my homework.

So, if you have friends coming to town this summer, here’s a list of family-oriented things to do in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS BASEBALL: Even if you don’t enjoy watching baseball, these games are fun. People of all ages enjoy going to these games, because there’s baseball, beer, and other entertainment. We are fortunate to have a great AAA minor league baseball park in Charlotte, and night games offer a beautiful view of the uptown skyline. This is fun for the whole family…even teenagers enjoy it! And it doesn’t get any more wholesome than a baseball game. The team plays at BB&T Ballpark, which is celebrating its 5th season this year, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Regular season play runs through Labor Day,  and you can purchase individual game here. Make sure you check the schedule for special promotions. There are Fireworks Fridays and other special promotions through the season.

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Photo courtesy of Milb.com

BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM TOURS: Whenever I’m in different cities, I love to visit different sports facilities/arenas. I’ve visited stadiums and ballparks in cities all over the country. Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, offers tours at the price of $6 per adult, $4 for children ages 5-17, and $5 for senior citizens. Children under five are free. See tour dates on the website here. According to the website, the stadium is a “working facility year-round,” so tours can adjusted due to safety or security concerns, but generally, the tours visit the stadium bowl, the Panthers locker room, the weight room, practice fields, PantherVision Control Room, the visitors’ locker room, a luxury suite, the various clubs, and of course, the team store. It’s an inexpensive way to entertain sports fans.

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Photo courtesy of panthers.com

CAROLINAS AVIATION MUSEUM This is a very popular attraction in Charlotte, and it became even more popular after they added the aircraft from Miracle on the Hudson, a USAirways jet. This is fun for all ages. The museum serves up some aviation history, as well. It’s not a huge museum, but it’s worth a visit. Kids seem to enjoy seeing the different aircraft displays and exhibits. The museum is located on the grounds of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. You can see the website here. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for children and students. Children 3 and under are free. While you’re in the area, take the time to visit the Charlotte-Douglas Overlook, where you can watch planes land and take off. Info can be found here.

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Eastern Airlines DC-7 Photo Courtesy of Carolinas Aviation Museum

VARIOUS PARKS There are lots of great parks throughout the city. One of my favorites in Romare Bearden Park, located uptown on Church Street. This 5.4 acre park is great for families, and it hosts a weekly music series. You can get more info here. Ray’s Splash Planet is a water park funded by Mecklenburg County and operated by Mecklenburg County Park and Rec. With a lazy river, various water slides, and other water activities, it’s a great place to visit during the summer. It is currently undergoing maintenance and upgrades, planning to reopen mid-summer. Check the website frequently for more info here. Latta Park in the Dilworth area offers a great splash park for kids, basketball courts, tennis courts, a playground, and fitness trails. Fun for the whole family. See the website here. Freedom Park offers lots of festivals and activities throughout the year, and is a great place for a family picnic. Located adjacent to the park, on Sterling Road, is Discovery Place Nature. Kids love this place, as they can interact with some animals and see others they might not otherwise see. Worth a visit with children under 10. See the website here.

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Romare Bearden Park

US NATIONAL WHITEWATER CENTER If you live in the Charlotte area and have not visited this attraction, you need to go. We are very fortunate to have this in our area. With lots of outdoor activities, there is something for almost everyone. If you don’t enjoy outdoor activities, you might enjoy watching the rafting. If you like activity but aren’t into rafting or kayaking, you might enjoy the multiple bicycle trails, ziplines, ropes courses, the canopy tour, or some stand-up paddle boarding. I think lots of people are surprised to know they have more than just rafting and kayaking. My family has spent countless hours here. It’s not cheap, but if you think you will enjoy going more than once, get a season pass. You can see information about all activities and pricing here.

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Canopy Tour Photo Courtesy of US National Whitewater Center

CAROWINDS Even if you don’t enjoy amusement park rides, the people-watching at Carowinds is like nowhere else in Charlotte. Another attraction we are fortunate to have, Carowinds brings in people come from far and wide to ride the rollercoasters, watch the shows, and play in the water park. We have been going since our daughter was two years old. In fact, when she was between the ages of two and four, we went almost every day the park was open. Crazy, I know, but she loved the activity, and I loved being outdoors. Since we had a season pass, it was an inexpensive outing. She now goes with friends several times during the summer. Carowinds has some of the best, biggest, and fastest rollercoasters in the country. Lots of thrills! I highly recommend going on weekdays during the summer. Weekends are crazy. Or go without the kids and “be a kid again”! If you plan to visit more than once in a season, you should opt for the Season Pass. Check the website for daily rates, parking rates, and Season Passes. You can see the website here.

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Photo Courtesy of Carowinds

These are just a few of the “things to do” in Charlotte. We have lots of great museums and theaters, and countless fun things to do with families. We even have Segway tours of uptown and other types of tours as well. You can get more info from the Charlotte Visitors Center here. Or if you’d like to see some reviews of attractions, you can check TripAdvisor here.

Be a tourist in your own town! If that is somewhere besides Charlotte, see what TripAdvisor says are the top attractions in your area. And if you need to get away, Charlotte is a great place to visit! You can get a full dose of southern hospitality right here. The weather is great, and the people are friendly. It’s a beautiful city full of great things to do.

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