A quick primer on Charlotte-area parks and amenities

A quick primer on Charlotte-area parks and amenities
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Mecklenburg County is home to 210 parks totaling more than 21,000 acres of outdoor public space, including 250 athletic fields, 240 miles of trails, community gardens, spraygrounds, dog parks, pools and more.

Freedom Park

Disappointingly, national rankings released earlier this year by The Trust for Public Land scored Charlotte’s parks a dismal 97 out of 100 cities. The study found that while Charlotte has a lot of park acreage, walkable access to those parks isn’t great. According to the study, only 27 percent of Charlotteans live within a half-mile of a park.

While there is work to be done, there is still much to enjoy. Here’s a guide to some of Charlotte’s best parks.

General logistics

Hours: Charlotte-area parks are open sunrise to sunset and gated parks will be open by 7:30 a.m. Lighted courts and fields close at 10:30 p.m.

Facility reservations: Click here to reserve picnic shelters and make campsite reservations

List of all Charlotte parks: Click here

Urban parks

If you consider yourself only moderately outdoorsy at best, these manicured grounds in and near Uptown are your best bet for plenty of fresh air and just enough nature.

Romare Bearden Park

Romare Bearden Park – 5.4-acre park in the heart of Uptown near BB&T Ballpark and Bank of America Stadium. Features a splashpad that kids love and one of the best views in the city for skyline shots. Catch regular free live music performances May through September.

First Ward Park – 4-acre park on the north side of Uptown with a splashpad, fountain and community workout equipment.Located right on the Blue Line light rail. Grab food to go at 7th Street Public Market across the street and enjoy a picnic.

Marshall Park – 5-acre park near the government buildings with a small man-made pond, fountain and amphitheater. This space is often utilized as a gathering spot for protests and demonstrations. But it won’t be around forever — the site is set to be drastically redeveloped.

Freedom Park – 98-acre park 3 miles from Uptown with athletic fields, an amphitheater, playgrounds, walking trails and a 7-acre lake. You can access Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Discovery Place Nature Museum from here. A Charlotte classic.

Independence Park – Small 19-acre neighborhood park in Elizabeth with a unique stone shelter and reflecting pond

Midtown Park – This 1-acre micro-park is an extension of Little Sugar Creek Greenway at The Metropolitan, a shopping center in Midtown. It’s a popular spot for wedding, engagement, prom, Quinceañera and other occasion photos and has a great skyline view.

Cordelia Park – 21-acre park features a sprayground, outdoor pool and sprayground. It’s situated high on a hill with a cool view of Uptown.

Nature preserves

For a more immersive outdoor experience, check out one of 26 nature preserves totaling 7,600 acres of protected land in Mecklenburg County. Three are equipped with educational nature centers and are your best bet for long-distance trail hikes in excess of 5 miles.

McDowell Nature Preserve

McDowell Nature Preserve

McDowell Nature Preserve – 1,132 acres with 7 miles of hiking trails along the banks of Lake Wylie. This is the only Mecklenburg County Park that offers camping with 56 sites in the preserve and another 6 sites on Copperhead Island, a small 20-acre island in Lake Wylie. Learn more about camping.

Latta Plantation – 1,460 acres with 16 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. This preserve is home to an educational nature center, Carolina Raptor Center (a rehabilitation center for birds of prey) and Latta Plantation itself (a 19th century living history farm).

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve – 927 acres and 10 miles of hiking trails, including a popular stop at the Robinson Rockhouse ruins dating back to 1790.

Dog parks

Want to let your dog run free? Head to one of 6 off-leash dog parks in Mecklenburg County.

Related story: A definitive ranking of the 6 dog parks in the Charlotte area

Frazier Dog Park via Instagram

Frazier Dog Park – 1.3-acre dog park in Uptown; best bet if you live close to the city

Davie Dog Park – 5-acre dog park in south Charlotte; best overall

Ray’s Fetching Meadow at McAlpine Creek Park – Small 1-acre dog park in Monroe

Swaney Pointe K-9 Park at Ramsey Creek Park – 4-acre lakeside dog park in Cornelius

Barkginham Park at Reedy Creek Park – 4-acre dog park in east Charlotte

Shuffletown Park – Located in northwest Charlotte


Spraygrounds are a great way for kids to beat the heat in the unbearable summer months, but we won’t judge if you want to hop in too.

Related story: A guide to free public spraygrounds in Charlotte

Veterans Park sprayground

Romare Bearden Park – Uptown

The Green – Uptown

First Ward Park – Uptown

Veteran’s Park – Plaza Midwood

Little Sugar Creek Greenway – Elizabeth

Latta Park – Dilworth

Cordelia Park – Villa Heights

Birkdale Village – Birkdale

Waterfront parks

Beyond Charlotte’s urban parks with fountains and small manmade ponds, there are also a handful of parks situated alongside the area’s big bodies of water — Lake Norman, the Catawba River and Lake Wylie. Sadly, you can only swim at one of them.

Ramsey Creek Beach via Instagram

Jetton Park – 104-acre park located on Lake Norman in Cornelius. There’s a lovely beach for strolling but sorry, no swimming.

Blythe Landing – 24-acre park on Lake Norman in Huntersville. There’s a boat launch but, nope, still no swimming.

Ramsey Creek Park – 43-acre park on Lake Norman in Cornelius. This is the only public swimming beach in the county.

Parks with public golf facilities

Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec manages several public golf facilities, including 18-hole courses and a driving range. Book tee times at charlottepublicgolf.com.

Related story: Charlotte’s best golf driving range is only 2 miles from Uptown


Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park

Charles T. Myers Golf Course – 18 holes; Yardage (back – 6783, middle – 6334, front – 5321)

Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park – 18 holes; Yardage (back – 2936, middle – 2745, front – 2260)

Harry L. Jones, Sr. Golf Course – 18 holes; Yardage (forward – 5315, middle – 6115, back – 6730, championship – 7360)

Sunset Hills – 9 holes; Yardage (back – 6049, middle – 5593, front – 4527)

Paradise Valley – 18 holes and a mini golf course

Tradition Golf Club – 18 holes; Yardage (back – 6978, middle – 6095, front – 5422)

Golf Depot Cadillac Street Driving Range

QUICK GUIDE: Where can I…

Ride a horse?Latta Plantation has 15 miles of equestrian trails

Swim?Ramsey Creek Park is the county’s only public swimming beach

Skate?Grayson Skate Park at Naomi Drenan Recreation Center is a 13,000-square-foot skate park

Go camping?McDowell Nature Preserve has 56 camping sites from full RV hookup to primitive sites

And this isn’t even in the half of it. There are hundreds of green spaces to explore in and around Charlotte. So get out there.

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