Get the kids off the couch and out of the house this summer on playdates the whole family will love right here in Charlotte. Whether it’s an old-fashioned mud, sticks and sand natural area or the typical slide, swings and monkey bar playground – these days out are sure to please. If it’s too warm, enjoy indoor activities including laser tag or rock climbing, sure to burn a little energy even in the most athletic of kids.
Reedy Creek Nature Center
Nature Explore Zone
2900 Rocky River Road
Charlotte, NC. 28215
Instill a love for the outdoors in the kids beyond the slides and swings of a manufactured playground. The Nature Explore Zone is a natural play area featuring sticks, sand, boulders, hills, logs and water. These types of play areas are popping up across the nation, bringing kids back to the roots of real nature. They offer a unique and creative opportunity for play. Grapevine tunnels become forts and bird houses, nature paths, tree-trunk sections and sand pits that will keep the kids busy for hours of imaginative play.
Squirrel Lake Park
1631 Pleasant Plains Road
Matthews, NC. 28105
The 30-acre park is a certified wildlife habitat. With a fishing rod and a little patience, there’s catfish to be caught in the pond off the handicap-accessible pier, too. Visit the park on a clear day to see turtles soaking in the rays on floating logs. The park playground area includes swings, teeter-totters, a climbing wall for little ones and multiple slides. Pack a lunch to eat at the covered picnic tables, with restroom facilities nearby. The paved parking area makes stroller unloading a breeze, tipping this one over the top as a perfect playdate location.
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400 Towne Centre Boulevard
Pineville, NC. 28134
Price: $6.50/$3.50 skate rental
Beat the summer heat and meet up at the rink. The Pineville Ice House provides an NHL-sized ice rink ideal for any fun family. A group private lesson may be arranged if the kids have never laced up before. The $60 fee can be split among the families, making it a more-than-affordable playdate. The rink snack bar menu includes chicken tenders, french fries, mini corn dogs and fountain drinks. Wine and draft beer are available for the parents, if they’d like to chill together off the ice.
1161 Ardrey Kell Road
Charlotte, NC 28277
Price: $25 per person in advance/$30 at the door
Kids Night Out at Sports Connection is a supervised night of fun, non-stop action and food. Parents may drop off the kids, and enjoy a night out on the town while kids jump, bounce and slide around on the huge, inflatable play area. Older children will enjoy the high-tech, fast-action laser tag accompanied by music. Of course, the object of the game is to get as many points possible. There’s also rock climbing on a 25-foot gigantic, indoor wall and a wide array of arcade games. The night includes pizza, chips and soda for kids, and parents may join in the fun, or grab a tasty sandwich and salad in the café.
NASCAR Speed Park
8461-G1 Concord Mills Boulevard
Concord, NC. 28027
Price: $14.99/$11.99 groups
The next Ryan Newman or Danica Patrick could get an introduction to NASCAR on these tracks. This NASCAR Disneyland is located in a suburb city, not far from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Let the kids loose on a 200-foot starter track with electric-powered cars. Kids must be at least 40 inches tall to ride. For littler (36 inches tall or taller) kids’ playdates, NASCAR offers a Junior Speedway. If these turbo-charged tracks are too extreme, there’s an indoor playground with steering wheels, climbing tubes and slides. Mini-golf, speed bumper boats, rock climbing and arcades supercharge this afternoon of fun.
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Catherine Lash engagingly connects with people. She has learned that interested listening and thoughtful questioning are the means through which collaboration creates a story. She grew up traveling the world and learning military life in an Air Force family of seven. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and three kids. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.