24 ways to safely enjoy your summer, including a mural tour of Charlotte and a picnic in the park

24 ways to safely enjoy your summer, including a mural tour of Charlotte and a picnic in the park
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This guide is proudly presented by Atrium Health. Summer 2020 might not be exactly how you originally planned it but there are still ways to have fun and be safe. Protect yourself and others this summer with these tips from the pros at Atrium, setting the National Standard for COVID-Safe care.

This summer might look a little different than most, but there are still plenty of safe ways to enjoy the warmer weather. Here are 24 ideas for your summer bucket list.

(1) Take a self-guided mural tour around Charlotte.

What: Charlotte has a lot of beautiful street art. Make a day of checking some out and exploring the city with our guide of 70+ murals, sorted by neighborhood. Some recent additions to Charlotte’s walls are this Black Lives Matter mural by Alex DeLarge of Southern Tiger Collective in Villa Heights and a mural titled “Pure’ll Gold” by Darion Fleming in NoDa. Not to mention the block-sized Black Lives Matter street mural on Tryon Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, painted by 17 local artists.


Cost: Free.

Related guide: Aerial view of Charlotte’s Black Lives Matter street mural

black lives matter mural

The Black Lives Matter street mural spans one block of Tryon Street between 3rd and 4th Streets. (Photo by Spiracle Media for Axios Charlotte.)

(2) Go to a drive-in movie at Hound’s.

What: The drive-in theater is open Friday through Sunday, and movies start around 8:45 p.m. There are two screens to choose from and each one plays two movies a night.

Cost: $20 per car (cash only). Ticket booths open at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Agenda guide: How a pandemic brought back the drive-in (and not just for movies)

(3) Get ice cream from one of Charlotte’s best shops.

What: Nothing says summer like a post-dinner ice cream, dripping down the cone in the Carolina heat. If you’re in the mood for something funky, go with the raspberry rose jelly donut from Jeni’s or Two Scoops Cookie Monster. You can’t go wrong with soft-serve from Mr. K’s or a gelato on a stick from Popbar either.

Cost: Under $10.


Brambleberry ice cream from Jeni’s in South End.

(4) Participate in (virtual) 24 Hours of Booty.

What: The annual fundraiser is being held virtually this year, on July 24-25. Riders are encouraged to ride in their own neighborhoods, and Booty Block Party tool-kits will be available for those who want to watch and cheer on those participating. The kits will have stickers, tattoos, balloons, sparklers, and luminary bags.

Cost: $25 to register.

(5) See a museum exhibit virtually.

What: Though museums are closed, you can still experience them online. Create and see art with The Mint Museum, tour exhibits virtually and learn more about Black history through the Harvey B. Gantt Center, or do a science experiment with Discovery Place.

Cost: Free.

Agenda guide: 8 online resources to educate and entertain the whole family while we’re quarantined

(6) Go for a hike.

What: There are loads of trails within driving distance of Charlotte for all levels of hikers — just be sure to practice social distancing while you’re there. If you’re craving a change of scenery and a relatively easy hike, head to Uwharrie National Recreation Trail; go to Grayson Highlands to see some wild ponies; or climb Mount Mitchell if you want to push your limits.

Cost: Free.

Agenda guide: Definitive hiking guide: The 16 best hikes around Charlotte


(7) Rent a boat on Lake Norman and grab takeout from Hello, Sailor.

What: Pretend you’re on vacation and spend the day on Lake Norman. Some places to rent boats are Lake Norman Boat & Pontoon Rentals, Lake Norman Stay and Play, and Lake Norman Marina. While you’re out, pull up to Hello, Sailor for takeout, or stay for a drink on the waterfront patio.

Cost: Varies.


(8) Shop at a farmers’ market.

What: I get unreasonably excited for summertime produce — berries, watermelon, squash. It tastes better than store-bought options, and I like the idea of supporting a local farm. Some local markets to check out include the Uptown Farmers Market, Kings Drive Farmers Market, and the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. They’ve all made adjustments so you can shop safely, too. Mask-wearing is encouraged.

Cost: Free to explore, prices vary.

(9) Grab takeout and have a picnic in the park.

What: If you’re not comfortable dining in quite yet, most Charlotte restaurants are still offering takeout. Pick up food from your favorite spot and bring it to the park for a change of scenery. Or grab food from a local food truck like What the Fries or The Dumpling Lady. My favorite parks for a picnic are First Ward Park and Romare Bearden Park — you can’t beat the skyline views.

Cost: Varies.

Agenda guide: Fashion picks: 5 outfits for picnic and patio season — plus the No. 1 accessory right now

picnic first ward park

A family picnics in First Ward Park.

(10) Compete in the virtual River Jam Run.

What: In-person races may be halted, but you can still compete against other runners for the top spot in the 5K or 10K divisions. You choose your own route, and track your own time.

Cost: $15 to register.

(11) Spend the day at the Whitewater Center.

What: Depending on the day, now-open activities include: whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, the Pine zipline, a handful of the ropes courses, jump stations, climbing, and mountain bike rentals, as well as hiking trails. You can also sit on the property and hang out (highly recommend grabbing a beer, too).

Cost: Free to explore, $6 to park. Day passes for activities start at $49 for kids, $59 for adults.


(12) Do cocktail hour al fresco.

What: Go with rosé and charcuterie at Dilworth Tasting Room for a fun girls night, or head to Suffolk Punch with a small group for a brew, or two.

Cost: Varies.

Agenda guide: The 15 best patios in Charlotte


Dilworth Tasting Room’s patio even has a koi pond.

(13) Work your way through your summer reading list.

What: Check out books from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library, and join the library’s summer reading challenge. Or support local independent bookstores like Park Road Books or Shelves Bookstore. If you need help with what to read next, Abbi Glen, owner of Shelves, has a list of her favorites.

Cost: Varies.

park road books

Park Road Books is currently operating a curbside pickup program.

(14) Go tubing down the Catawba River.

What: Hop in an inner tube and let the Catawba River carry you away. Bring a cooler for your beer (or water, or snacks). You can rent tubes through Catawba River Outdoors — following their Facebook to see when rentals are open.

Cost: $20+

(15) Go strawberry picking at Wise Acres.

What: We’re in prime strawberry-picking season, so gather your fam and head out to the farm. Due to Covid, you’ll have to make a reservation ahead of time online here.
Cost: You-pick strawberries are $3.29 a pound.

(16) Walk the Rail Trail.

What: One of my favorite things to do is walk the rail trail early in the morning (before it gets crowded), listen to a podcast, and grab a coffee from one of the nearby shops, like Not Just Coffee, Eight + Sand, or Central Coffee.

Cost: Free.

(17) Go golfing.

What: Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club, Carolina Lakes Golf Club, The Golf Club at Ballantyne, Mooresville Golf Club, and Eagle Chase Golf Club are some of the best public courses.

Cost: $36+.

Agenda guide: 10 best public golf courses around Charlotte, ranked

rockbarn golf course jackson course hole 15 par 3

Rock Barn

(18) Or play some disc golf, if that’s more your speed.

What: Head to the park with some friends and play a competitive round of disc golf. You can find courses open near you through the Charlotte Disc Golf Club.

Cost: Free. BYO-discs.

(19) Visit one of Charlotte’s Nature Preserves.

What: If you’re craving fresh air and a little adventure, head to a rarely-crowded nature preserve. Some options include Cowan’s Ford, Reedy Creek, and Evergreen; you can find a full list here.

Cost: Free.

(20) Go for a bike ride along Little Sugar Creek Greenway, all the way to Freedom Park.

What: Stop to take in the historical markers along the way, too. Park near The Metropolitan for a four-mile ride, or check out other parking and route options here.

Cost: Free.

(21) Relax on the patio of Optimist Hall with a cocktail or meal.

What: I love ordering something small from several places for a sort of DIY tapas experience. There are more than a dozen food and drink options to choose from — including Bao and Broth, Village Juice, and Ava — and they’re all delicious.

Cost: Varies.

Agenda guide: Everything you need to know about Optimist Hall

(22) Slurp a cold brew slushee from CupLux.

What: The locally owned drive-thru coffee shop always hits the spot, especially the cold brew slushee on warm days. Go for the vanilla flavor.

cuplux coffee drive thru

(23) Dine from Camp North End’s new outdoor food stalls and cocktail bus on Fridays.

What: Several new food stalls are coming to Camp North End this summer, including Bleu Barn Bistro and La Caseta. Black Moth Bars, a mobile bar in an airstream camper, is opening, too. Grab your food and explore the giant Camp North End campus.

Cost: Varies.

(24) Drink local beer.

What: It wouldn’t be a summer in Charlotte with visiting a brewery, right? Grab drinks at classics like OMB, Birdsong, or Wooden Robot, and check out a new spot, like Edge City or Charlotte Beer Garden. Many have drive-thru or takeout programs available so you can take the beer home with you. Oh, you can also look forward to Summit Seltzery coming in July.

Agenda related guides: Complete list and map of Charlotte’s 30 local breweries, plus the most popular beer at each

Looking for more things to do? Check out our neighborhood and suburb guides, as well as our events board.

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