My child? He likes to get out. The living room? Not so much his thing. I’m grateful I live in such a vibrant community, full of fun things for my bored toddler to do that don’t bore the bejeebus out of me!
I’ve spent the first year and a half of his little life figuring out how to keep him happy, and the following 10 places are sure bets for some serious kidlet fun.
(1) Discovery Place Kids
Located in Huntersville, it’s called a “children’s museum,” but a more accurate description is “magical fairyland/utopia for small children and their tired parents.” There is a section for children under 3 with lots of toys, soft spaces and amazing water tables. The rest of the museum is great for all ages of kiddos. They can play on fire trucks, go in submarines and get their engineering skills on with a multitude of blocks. Seriously. It is the best.
(2) Charlotte Nature Museum
It’s not quite as amazing as Discovery Place Kids, but it’s still a great place to spend an afternoon with your toddler. There are creepy-crawly creatures to look at, a nature walk you can go on outside and lots and lots of kid-friendly, hands-on activities. There’s even a beautiful butterfly room!
Having children doesn’t mean you have to give up beer (trust me on this one). Charlotte is home to a lot of incredibly kid-friendly breweries. My favorites are Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Sugar Creek Brewery (conveniently located super close to each other). Both breweries have outdoor space for toddlers to run and jump while parents enjoy a cold one (or several).
(4) Hodges Family Farm
Depending on the time of year, you can get a pumpkin, a Christmas tree or just a few cute photos with barn animals.
(5) The Carolinas Aviation Museum
One quick caveat: Do not go in the summer. That place is hot in the summer. The Carolinas Aviation Museum is in an air hangar, which is not air conditioned, BUT it’s also a lot of fun. Your kiddo can look at all kinds of planes (old, newer and the famous Miracle on the Hudson plane) and even venture inside a few cockpits.
(6) SouthPark mall
This mall has the number one best toddler playground in Charlotte. It’s so colorful! It’s so soft! The kids love it! It’s right next to the food court so you can easily get a burrito!
(7) Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
This gorgeous garden is located outside of Charlotte in Belmont. I love it for the flowers (especially the breathtaking Orchid Conservatory). My toddler loves it for the fountains (which I let him play in even though maybe I’m not supposed to) and its lush, grassy areas.
(8) U.S. National Whitewater Center
Oh man, this place is fun. It has a huge, man-made river, hiking trails and beer (what can I say? I like the beer). May through September, it hosts a free concert called River Jam every Thursday and Saturday night, and it has festivals sporadically throughout the year. This is a great place to get your kid outdoors and playing in some dirt.
(9) McDowell Nature Preserve
The Charlotte area has tons of great places to hike, and this is one of the best. You can go on some serious hikes (with your kidlet securely in a hiking backpack) or just walk around and enjoy the beautiful sights (Lake Wylie, I’m talking about you). Woods are good!
(10) Lazy Five Ranch
The Lazy Five Ranch is located in Mooresville, but trust me, it is worth the drive. This place is bonkers in the best way. You can choose between driving yourself through the animal-filled “safari” landscape or being escorted on a horse-drawn wagon (go for the wagon, it’s stressful trying to drive around emu and brahma bulls). The ranch has a wide range of animals including ostriches, zebras, giraffes and even a rhino.
Honorable mentions: All the parks and libraries (thanks for the free stuff, Charlotte!) Also: IKEA. Toddlers love trying out furniture as much as adults do, if not more. Trust me on this one.