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Brian Mister, race director of Charlotte’s Around the Crown 10K presented by Truist, had the wild idea in 2019 to shut down the city’s inner beltway for the Labor Day

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Brian Mister, race director of Charlotte’s Around the Crown 10K presented by Truist, had the wild idea in 2019 to shut down the city’s inner beltway for the Labor Day

7 Outdoor Activities in Charlotte

Brian Mister, race director of Charlotte’s Around the Crown 10K presented by Truist, had the wild idea in 2019 to shut down the city’s inner beltway for the Labor Day race. So now, for a few hours during holiday weekend, the three-mile I-277 loop closes as more than 5,000 athletes sprint their way around Charlotte.

“This race offers a chance to see the Queen City like never before,” Mister says. “Participants can take in the downtown skyline while experiencing Charlotte at a new speed — five miles per hour.”

Mister, who loves to get outside with his young family, points to running as one of many ways people can explore the Queen City. “From trails to climbing and paddling, Charlotte is a special place for the outdoors,” he says.

Whether or not Mister has his family with him when he hops in the car for an outdoor adventure, he often ends up off the beaten path. Read on for some of his favorite destinations.


Sip a brew in the shade at Camp North End. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Camp North End

The centuries-old Camp North End facility has quite the past: a Ford Factory in 1924, a US Army Quartermaster Depot during World War II, the Charlotte Area Missile Plant (CAMP) during the Cold War, and finally the Eckerd factories in 1975.

Today, Mister describes the 76-acre property as “a hub for inspiration, whether you’re a parent, a small-business owner, or a runner. There’s something for everyone.”

In addition to touring the outdoor murals in the Boileryard district, Mister’s visit usually involves a stroll down the pedestrian walkway on Keswick Avenue, where he likes to stop by the food stalls and enjoy the open-air dining area. During the summer, he recommends the music and outdoor movie series.

Mister also offers a tip for runners of all skill levels: If you can get away on a Tuesday, don’t miss Mad Miles, the largest running club in Charlotte. It’s not unusual for 400 people of all ages and paces to hit the ground running.


Paddle through the rushes at the Whitewater Center. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

The Whitewater Center

Nature lovers thriving on adventure find more than 30 outdoor activities at the Whitewater Center. About 20 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, this 1,300-acre nature facility has rafting, climbing, and 50 miles of trails calling visitors for a hike, run, or bike ride.

Grab a paddle and take a thrilling ride on the world’s largest man-made whitewater river with water splashing as you tackle the twists and turns of the rapids. Water lovers can also kayak and paddleboard while enjoying flora and fauna.

In addition to water activities, you can also soar through the forest and over rapids on zip lines or challenge yourself with ropes courses. The Whitewater Center is also home to the largest outdoor climbing facility on the East Coast.


Catch a Charlotte Knights baseball game at Truist Field. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Uptown Adventures

Take a walk in Romare Bearden Park. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Romare Bearden Park, tucked away in Uptown on South Church Street, is equipped with a field for playing catch. In the summer, you can dance and sing along to live music while watching the kids splash in a waterfall.

Mister suggests following an afternoon park visit with an evening at Truist Field, home to the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team. Thanks to its Uptown skyline views, Truist Field is said to be one of the country’s most beautiful minor league stadiums.

While exploring Uptown, don’t miss First Ward Park. Surrounded by UNC-Charlotte buildings, this greenspace features a splash pad, exercise equipment, and a small walking path.


Sugar Creek Greenway

Little Sugar Creek Greenway, part of Charlotte’s greenway system, is a Mister family favorite. “We love being just outside the city limits,” he says, adding that you don’t have to go far to find tranquility. “Sometimes just on the other side of a few trees, strolling along a creek mutes out sounds of the thriving city.”

The greenway runs by Freedom Park, where you can stroll along trails, visit a duck pond, and play at the NFL Play 60 KidZone. If you want to grab a coffee or browse unique shops, head north to end up in the NoDa arts district.

“Little Sugar Creek Greenway is special because of the variety of users,” Mister says. “You may see a cyclist kitted out and getting a workout in or a family of strollers chugging along.”


Explore shops, breweries, and restaurants along the Rail Trail, which runs through South End. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Hike a Trail

Hardcore hikers and laid-back meanderers have plenty of options in the Queen City. Mister recommends the Cross Charlotte Trail, a 30-plus mile path that traverses across the city, going through Uptown and on to University City, and ultimately connecting to the City of Pineville.

Another option is the Rail Trail in South End, a 3.5-mile linear park that takes you by shops, restaurants, and galleries. Stop anytime to explore shops, sip a craft brew at The Suffolk Punch, or grab a snack at Tavern on the Tracks.

Big Rock Nature Preserve is an ideal family destination, as young and old hikers enjoy a short 0.6-mile loop with creeks and larger-than-life rock formations. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for a boulder that looks like a rattlesnake.


Admire the blooms at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Stroll Through a Garden

If serene gardens are more your speed, the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, located in University City, offers 10 acres for wandering and spectacular year-round views. In late spring, beautiful hydrangeas and daylilies blossom.

In the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in nearby Belmont, 30 acres include a magical children’s garden. Along 3.2 miles of walking trails, colorful blooms make walking a pleasure. In the spring, the Cottage Garden fills the air with fragrances of fresh blooms, and in the summer, tropical plants bloom around a water feature in the Canal Garden.


Pack a Picnic

Plenty of picnic spots await along 10 miles of hiking trails at Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve. There’s also a fishing pier and a four-acre fenced Barkingham Park for dogs to frolic.

A yellow, caterpillar-shaped monkey bar beckons families with young children to Park Road Park, where they stay to enjoy lunch at one of the many picnic tables. After lunch, explore the park’s 72 acres or head to the playground, complete with monkey bars, swings, slides, and a lake.

Especially in the summer, Mister likes to picnic at Park Road Park and Anne Springs Close Greenway: “Both offer the shade you’ll need!”

Anne Springs Close Greenway, just south of Charlotte, features 40 miles of hiking, running, and horseback riding trails, not to mention an abundance of picnic spots. “There is so much for a family to do here,” Mister says. “It’s become one of our favorites around town.”

This story was published on May 09, 2023

Lane Russell

Lane Russell is a writer based in Raleigh.