It’s good sometimes to do things you normally would not plan. Like standing in the middle of a Victorian-era garden surrounded by birds, white-water rafting minutes from uptown, attending a Southern hockey match or hand-feeding wild animals. Sound interesting? Those activities may not be foremost on many “To Do” lists, which is why we count them among the best activities you wouldn’t think to do in Charlotte. - Jeff Hawkins
Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary
248 Ridgewood Ave.
Charlotte, N.C. 28209
A 3-acre site, built in the 1920s, surrounded by brick walls and near uptown may not sound like the ideal setup for a garden and bird sanctuary, but Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sactuary continues to flourish and cultivate nature. Hours: Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
Charlotte, N.C. 28214
For the adventurous souls, the U.S. National Whitewater Center offers Olympic-caliber whitewater rafting, kayaking, flat-water kayaking, hiking, biking and rock climbing in nature surrounding the Catawba River. Wilderness exploration and survival classes provide adventure in nature moments from the heart of uptown. Check out the free River Jam concert series, cool tunes while watching the sun set over the river. Hours: Monday through Sunday, dawn to dusk, pending weather conditions.
212 Tryon St.
Charlotte, N.C. 28281
Considering the mass of northern transplants who have settled in the Queen city, many may have wondered if they were leaving behind an opportunity to attend professional hockey matches. The Puckheads can relax. The Charlotte Checkers, members of the American Hockey League and the top minor-league affiliate to the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, provide a top-prospect spectacle at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hours: Check the Checkers’ 2010-11 schedule.
Lazy 5 Ranch
15100 Mooresville Rd.
Mooresville, N.C. 28115
Interested in going on a mini-safari? How about a drive-thru petting zoo? Don’t laugh. It’s possible, about a half-hour north of Charlotte. With creatures big and small coming up to passers-by, eager to be fed, this experience is about as up-close-and-personal with the wild as most visitors are likely to get. Definitely an experience the kids will enjoy. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.