With temperatures rising, it’s tempting to stay cooped up indoors in the comfort of your AC. But summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy exercising, playing, or just lounging in the shade at one of Mecklenburg County’s 210 parks with more than 21,ooo acres at your disposal…. which is both awesome and overwhelming at the same time. To help you navigate the parks within the city and its surrounding areas we have handpicked the best parks — and hope our list inspires you to visit a few new ones this summer.
While crafting our list of Charlotte’s best parks we considered several factors location, features (bonus points for the option to get wet and cool off), and more, and landed on these as our favorite summertime parks within a short drive of the city:
Romare Bearden Park – 300 S. Church St.
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 St.
This space has similar offerings to its Uptown neighbor, Romare Bearden, including an interactive fountain, tree groves to keep you cool, and benches in case you need a quick break. Throughout the year the 4-acre park also hosts Live on the Green a popular concert series that’s free.
Freedom Park – 1900 East Blvd.
Although Freedom Park has long been the go-to park for Charlotteans from all walks of life, its 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 advance, you can even reserve one of the wonderful FP shelters for shade, seating, etc.
Latta Park – 601 East Park Avenue
Here you’ll find all of the essentials needed for a summer day well-spent: including a spray pad, something for every sports lover from basketball to tennis and volleyball to soccer, a playground, and walking/fitness trails. There’s also a large picnic shelter with restrooms, electricity, and a grill in addition to the grill sites throughout the park. And the Saturday am pick-up tennis matches, open to all levels, are legit.
Frazier Park – 1201 West Fourth St. Ext
Located right off 4th Ext., Frazier Park is a favorite among dog owners, because of its 1.3-acre fenced-in, off-leash dog park — one of only a few off-leash parks in the city. It also boasts a community garden where small plots are available for rent. For more information on rentals, call 704-336-4008.
William R. Davie Park – 4635 Pineville-Matthews Rd.
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 Rd.
This 72-acre park in South Charlotte has 12 lighted tennis courts, 8 basketball courts, 2 horseshoe pits, 6 baseball/softball fields, as well as 2 concession stands and 4 reservable picnic shelters. Unique to Park Road Park is a very special children’s playground, the Newtown Memorial Playground, 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 Rd.
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 Rd.
Copperhead Island is a boater’s paradise with 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. The park’s 6 (rustic) camp sites give you the opportunity to be one with nature for an overnight trip too.
Elon Park – 11401 Ardrey Kell Rd.
Your favorite disc golfer will be in heaven at Elon Park, which has 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 swing 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 right 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 is Landsford Canal State Park, where 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.
Anne Springs Close Greenway – 104 Adventure Rd., Fort Mill, SC
Adventure-seekers need to look no further than just 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! There’s also 4 picnic tables available, 2 covered shelters, restrooms, and children’s play equipment.
Steele Street Park – 600 Steele St., Fort Mill, SC
The 5-acre Steele Street Park offers guests a spacious picnic shelter, grills, jungle gym, and a lighted basketball court. The park also boasts a popular water spray park that’s open from 10am-8:30pm daily.
Lake Norman State Park – 759 State Park Rd.
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.
Beatty’s Ford Park – 8335 Shipley Ln.
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 Rd.
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 iceberg, there are also docks, a dog park, trails, and a playground. This is a park you could truly spend all day exploring. In addition, parking is a major challenge, so take the free shuttle that operates from the Cornelius Park and Ride lot (20300 Sefton Park Rd.) 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.
Be sure to check the Ramsey Creek Park Summer 2018 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, 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
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Blythe Landing – 15901 NC Highway 73.
You know the drill: $5 per vehicle-county resident, $8 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!