We Pick the 20 Best Parks to Visit in Summer from Ft. Mill to Lake Norman

With temperatures rising, it’s tempting to stay cooped up indoors in the comfort of your AC. But summer is the perfect time enjoy exercising, playing, or just lounging in the shade at one of Mecklenburg County’s 210 parks with over 17,600 acres at your disposal…. which is both awesome and overwhelming.

Like an unexpectedly bad cup of coffee, there aren’t many worse things than heading to a park you haven’t explored only to find it’s not your style. I volunteer to be your “taste tester” for the area’s best parks this summer – and while I might also have an opinion on the best cups of Joe in the Queen City too, that’s for another time and another story.

Expanding beyond our “close in” Charlotte Parks Smackdown, we have handpicked the best parks all around the greater CLT area ~ and we hope our list introduces you to a few new ones to visit this summer.

We considered location, features (bonus points for the option to get wet and cool off), and more in our search and landed on these as our favorite summertime parks within a short drive:


Romare Bearden Park – 300 S. Church Street

This park has been delighting Uptowners and Uptown visitors alike since it opened in 2013, offering 5.4 acres of diverse gardens, greens, and walking paths to explore in the heart of Uptown. The Childhood Muse Plaza and waterfall feature are permanent park fixtures that will not only keep you cool, but also burn off some of that infamous summertime energy kids seem to absorb from direct sun and warmer temperatures immediately following that last bell of the school year. A scoop favorite? Their Music Box Lunch from May-August, “featuring solo artists or small combos that provide a mellow musical background for those who enjoy lunchtime in the beautiful surroundings of Romare Bearden Park. Tuesdays and Fridays from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. ” 



First Ward Park – 301 E. 7th Street

This space has similar offerings to its Uptown neighbor, Romare, including an interactive fountain and tree groves to keep you cool. Don’t miss the park’s upcoming Family Festivals July 16th, and August 20th!

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summer is coming.

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Freedom Park – 1900 East Boulevard

Although Freedom Park has long been the go-to park for Charlotteans from all walks of life, it’s sheer size and amenities bring it to the top of our list. With baseball fields, tennis courts, soccer fields, a basketball court, sand volleyball, a 7-acre lake, a music pavilion, playgrounds, NFL Play60 KidZone, walking trails, and gardens, you just can’t go wrong. If you plan forever in advance, you can even reserve one of the wonderful FP shelters for shade, seating, etc. Their Freedom Music Series features:

June 24 – Gabriel Bello opening for Nils featuring Brandon Willis
July 29 – Amos Hoffman Quartet opening for Alicia Olotuja
August 26 – Freeport Jazz opening for Nick Colionn

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Latta Park – 601 East Park Avenue

Here you’ll find all of the essentials for a summer day well-spent: a “Sprayground” something for every sports lover from basketball to tennis and volleyball to soccer; playground; walking/fitness trails; and a large picnic shelter with restrooms, electricity, and a grill in addition to the grill sites throughout the park.


Frazier Park – 1201 West Fourth Street Ext

A personal favorite and not only because it’s only a short walk from my front door, Frazier Park is also a favorite among dog owners in Uptown. My 85 lb furry pal loves to hit the park, sniff what there is to sniff, fetch what needs to be fetched, then cool off from his “chores” in one of the kiddie pools within the dog park fence (that’s him below). I’ve learned the hard way that the cool mud under the shady trees will also suffice… be warned. At the community garden, 10×15 plots are available for rent- hello fresh produce! For more information on rentals, call 704-336-4008.


William R. Davie Park – 4635 Pineville-Matthews Road

For those a little further south, the Davie Dog Park offers a similar experience for your favorite Fido. For those of us on two legs, the park also has a basketball court, soccer fields, softball fields, a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, a pond, playgrounds, and walking trails.


Park Road Park – 6220 Park Road 

This 72 acre park in South Charlotte has 12 lighted tennis courts, 8 basketball courts, 2 horseshoe pits, 6 baseball/softball fields plus 2 concession stands and 4 reservable picnic shelters. Unique to Park Road Park is a very special and unique children’s playground, th Newtown Memorial Playground, opened in 2014  as a tribute to the teachers and students who were lost in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. 


Colonel Francis Beatty Park – 4330 Weddington Road

In addition to the multi-purpose (run, walk, and bike) trails, the park also features basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields, and picnic areas. Add the lake with available kayaking, fishing, and canoeing, and you have the recipe for the perfect summer park!



Copperhead Island at McDowell Nature Preserve – 15200 Soldier Road

A boater’s paradise, Copperhead Island has direct boat launching access to Lake Wylie, 4 boat ramps, fishing piers, and trails, shelters, beach volleyball, horseshoes, and camping for the land-lovers in your crew. 6 (rustic) camp sites give you the opportunity to be one with nature for an overnight trip too!


Elon Park – 11401 Ardrey Kell Road

You favorite disc golfer will be in heaven with both beginner and advance disc golf courses onsite. With 118 acres to explore, you can spend time fishing in the pond, walking the trail, busting a move on the soccer field, perfecting your fastpitch on the softball field, or playing on the playground.


Riverwalk – Terrace Park, Rock Hill, SC

Picked for its proximity to water (the Catawba River runs through it), Riverwalk is an exciting neighborhood with plenty to offer from outdoor activities, to dining, to shopping. The Piedmont Medical Center Trail offers a taste of nature with the comfort of a gently rolling and winding paved trail along the banks of the Catawba. For the more adventurous, there are mountain biking trails for beginners through advanced riders.


Landsford Canal State Park – 2051 Park Dr, Catawba, SC

Another gem on the shores of the Catawba River, nature enthusiasts flock to this park in the spring for the famous spider lily bloom- there’s even a festival in May in honor of these water-dwelling beauties! The park also has a playground, museum, fishing, and canoe/kayak access to the river so you can cool off.

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Started off the new year exploring

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Anne Springs Close Greenway – 104 Adventure Rd, Fort Mill, SC

Area adventure-seekers need look no further than just a hair south of the Charlotte skyline to Anne Springs Close Greenway. Boating, camping, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and more are at your fingertips at this park. ASCG also hosts events from a jammin’ summer concert series under the stars to beginner courses in everything from bird watching to mountain biking.


Doby Bridge Park – 1905 North Doby Bridge Rd, Fort Mill, SC

America’s favorite pastime is king at this park. Boasting 3 lighted baseball diamonds, you can be taken out to the ball game anytime the mood strikes you. Don’t forget your peanuts and Cracker Jacks!


Steele Street Park – 600 Steele St, Fort Mill, SC

Ever get the urge to run through your neighbor’s sprinklers? Or worse, a nice stranger’s sprinklers? I am not too proud to admit that the thought has crossed my mind (and maybe sparked action a time or two). Practice cooling off in a more socially acceptable forum at this park’s Water Spray Park, open from 9:30am-8:30pm daily!

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Friday morning adventure

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Lake Norman State Park – 759 State Park Road

LKN is one of the biggest destinations in the Charlotte-area for summer fun on the biggest manmade lake in NC. Lake Norman State Park also offers mountain biking across 30.5 miles of single-track trail, boat ramp, fishing, camping, a public beach, and even a community building to rent with a kitchen, restrooms, and fireplace.

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Lake chillin #summerdaze #lovelife

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Beatty’s Ford Park – 8335 Shipley Lane

Two words: splash pad. If lake water isn’t your thing, no fear princess. You can cool off on the splash pad at Beatty’s Ford Park after working up a sweat playing disc golf, volleyball, horseshoes, or monkeying around on the playgrounds.


Jetton Park – 19000 Jetton Road.

There is a $3 per vehicle entrance fee for county residents and $5 for non-county residents… let’s just get that unpleasantness out of the way.  But this park is worth it! With bike/walking trails, a playground, tennis courts, and a formal garden, Jetton Park is my pick for some grown-up time on the water… although that splash pad thing still sounds pretty amazing.


Ramsey Creek Park & Public Beach – 18441 Nantz Rd.

With 43.7 acres of waterfront land, the beach area is just the tip of the ice berg, there are also docks, a dog park, trails, and a playground. This is a park you could truly spend all day exploring. Just remember, the beach can only hold ?? and you will be turned away. In addition, parking is a major challenge, so take the free shuttle that operates from Northcross Park and Ride lot in Huntersville (17126 Northcross Drive) on weekends and holidays. The shuttle will run every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Beach goers who use the shuttle will have free access to the beach. Here’s the 2017 Beach info:

The Ramsey Creek Beach will open May 20, 2017 – through Labor Day. Please check their Summer 2017 Beach Operating Schedule for day to day beach hours, including modified hours during CMS School schedule.  Individuals and families planning a trip to the beach will be able to visit daily between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.  Lifeguards will be on duty during beach hours. Throughout the summer (May 20, 2017- Labor Day), a park entrance fee will be collected. Rates are as follows:

  • Vehicles Monday – Thursday = County resident $5 per vehicle / Non-County resident $10 per vehicle
  • Vehicles Friday – Sunday and County observed holidays = County resident $10 per vehicle / Non-County resident $15 per vehicle 
  • Walk-in = Individuals 14 years and older $5 each / Children 6-13 years old $3 each / Children under 6 years old FREE
  • Season Passes = Season park pass County resident $52/ Season park pass non-County resident $77



Blythe Landing – 15901 NC Highway 73.

You know the drill: $3 per vehicle-county resident, $5 per vehicle non-county resident. This park is truly built for boaters. Not only does it offer floating piers for boat launching, but there is also a Dockside Café and Lake Norman Community Sailing and Rowing uses this park for many of their activities and camps. There are also sand volleyball courts and a playground to keep your crew busy while you ready your vessel to set sail.





Don’t stay inside this season. Get out! Have fun! There is plenty to explore out there and summer will be gone before we know it.


Don’t forget to tag @ScoopCharlotte in your adventures!


Nicole Brantley
Nicole is a native Charlottean that loves the Queen City almost as much as running, writing, and type-A organization.