US National Whitewater Center
A few weeks ago DH and I had an anniversary to celebrate. We ended up being fortunate enough to leave the boys with their grandparents and take some time in Charlotte. I have loved Charlotte in many ways already including Discovery Place, explored IKEA, and taken in a Carolina Panthers game. This time we were kidless so decided to try out the US National Whitewater Center, on my to do list for over 3 years.
The US National Whitewater Center is gorgeous, big, high on adventure, and great for kids. Provided that your kids are about 8 or older. Eight is the minimum age for a lot of the activities at the Center and a lot of the adventures require independence and coordination, as well as an adventurous spirit.
So here is what it is: a huge recreation center that focuses on whitewater fun. The place was originally constructed for Olympic trials and training. You have a couple of different options for whitewater experience. You can rent, or bring in your own, kayaks or you can go on three different types of rafting adventures (one is a family version). All vessels use the same river and the same course. You do loops of the course. What makes your experience more or less intense is the guide. The guide will run you through and hit the water in a way that can be full of mayhem or that can be gentler. Our guide asked us before we started what we wanted.
There is also flatwater activity. The USNWC is on a river and as part of your activities for the day you can kayak, canoe, and paddleboard.
There is high flying adventure: mega jumps, ropes courses, zip lines, obstacle courses, rock climbing walls, and more.
There are wooded trails for mountain biking and hiking.
There is a restaurant with a bar as well as a small snack shack that sells beer and wine.
Like I said at the beginning, the older kids are going to get the most out of this and have a lot of fun. However, there is no fee to enter the Whitewater Center. So there were many families camped out with pack n plays and picnics while various family members would take off and do activities. Just know that it can get a little crowded and hard to find shade if you pick this option.
The USNWC is very popular, especially during a hot summer. There is oodles to do and try here and the vibe is so laid back and wonderful that people like to go. That means that on a summer weekend you can wait in line for activities and in general just feel crowded. The good news is that for rafting you can make reservations online before you go (for an additional fee; trust me, worth it). Beyond that, just plan to spend all day to revel and enjoy. By the way, they are open very late in the season, all the way in to late September/early October.
There is a pretty awesome looking Canopy Tour that is new to the USNWC but you have to pay extra for that and make separate reservations.
You have to pay to park (they say it's their way of keeping the amount of cars down). You can bring your own equipment or rent for things such as mountain biking.
Bring good closed-toed water shoes. They are available to rent at the Center if you would rather. The rental equipment is great quality and in good shape. Also don't forget the sunscreen, towels, and a change of clothes. You can bring in food if you would like (not alcohol) and they have lockers and bins available for rent.
The USNWC offers a lot of special events throughout the year as well as various schools and kids camps.
We had a great time here, experiencing trouble we don't often get to, and were so glad we went.
US National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway