While rising temps might tempt you to stay cooped up indoors nd in the balmy comfort of your AC, summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy exercising, playing, or just lounging in the shade. Even better if you do it at one of Mecklenburg County’s 210 parks with more than 21,000 acres at your disposal. To help you navigate the parks within the city and its surrounding areas, we have handpicked our favorites and hope our list inspires you to visit a few new ones this summer. Have a gem of your own you’d like to share with fellow Scoop readers? Leave your recommendations in the comments!

Find our favorite parks in the Center City vicinity in our recent Park Smackdown piece here.

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 destinations within a short drive of the city.

Romare Bearden Park – 300 S. Church St.

This park has been delighting Uptown neighbors and 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? The Wednesday night Party in the Park series happening twice a month now until September from 6-9pm.

Romare Bearden from @discoverclt

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 season, the 4-acre park also hosts Sounds of Summer, a popular free concert series.

First Ward Park from @ninamaykophotography

The Green – 425 S Tryon St.

An oasis in uptown to which I personally often escape during the workday, The Green has wonderful public art throughout and also hosted an invasion of giant bunnies for the recent Charlotte Shout festival.

The Green from @scoopcharlotte

Chantilly Park – 222 Wyanoke Ave.

A great option for Chantilly neighbors that don’t want to fight the crowds at some of the better-known parks. Chantilly Park has not one but two playgrounds from which to choose: one for the little ones and one for the big kids. There is also beach volleyball, ping pong (YES, ping pong), and a disc golf hole where you can hone your skills before hitting the course.

Freedom Park – 1900 East Blvd.

Although Freedom Park has long been the go-to park for Charlotteans, 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 in advance, you can even reserve one of the wonderful shelters for shade, seating, etc. Extra points for being the site of Festival in the Park.

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Latta Park – 601 East Park Ave.

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 trails. There’s also a large picnic shelter with restrooms, electricity, and a grill in addition to the grill sites throughout the park. Not to mention, the Saturday am pick-up tennis matches, open to all levels, are legit.

Frazier Park – 1201 West Fourth St. Ext.

Located off 4th Street Extension, 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.

Midwood Park – 2100 Wilhelmina Ave.

A hidden gem in the heart of Plaza Midwood, Midwood Park has a unique, modern playground good for plenty of entertainment for the kiddos. When the fun of the playground wears off, have them check out the adorable free library and get ahead of those summer reading goals swinging on the playset or lounging in the grass. If the adults start feeling a little left out, you can also find basketball and tennis courts, a community garden, and Midwood Maynia, an annual event the first weekend in May at this neighborhood park.

William R. Davie Park – 4635 Pineville-Matthews Rd.

For those a little further south, the Davie Dog Park offers a great 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 picnic shelters available to be reserved. 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 day!

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 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 beginner courses in everything from bird watching to mountain biking.

Anne Springs Close Greenway from @ascgreenway

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. 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.

Lake Norman State Park from @jo.thelaprador

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 and 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.

Blythe Landing – 15901 NC Highway 73

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!