When it is time to go outside and play, you couldn’t ask for a better place than Charlotte. The Charlotte metropolitan area is home to over 200 parks comprising around 17,500 acres; many public golf courses, biking, hiking, and equestrian trails; and dozens of nature centers, public gardens, and green spaces.

Parks

Often referred to as Charlotte’s Central Park, Freedom Park is located in the historic Dilworth and Myer’s Park sections of the city. The 100-acre park is home to Charlotte’s Festival in the Park and features a 7-acre lake, paved hiking and biking paths, tennis courts and sports fields, and a large playground.

The 125-acre Reedy Creek Park is located in the Newell section of Charlotte, and is adjacent to the 735-acre Creek Nature Center and Preserve. The park contains several ponds, play ground equipment, a soccer field and tennis courts, and a dog park. The heavily wooded nature center features ten miles of challenging and not-so-challenging hiking trails, a playground for kids called the Nature Explorer Zone, and a habitat garden with bird-feed feeding stations which hosts the nature center’s annual hummingbird festival.

Latta Plantation, located in nearby Huntersville N.C., is the largest nature preserve in the United States. Sprawling over 1,345 acres, over 16 miles of trails run through the surrounding forest and are open to hikers and horseback riders. The park features Latta House which was built in 1800 and is used, along with the area immediately surrounding it, to demonstrate what plantation life in antebellum Charlotte was like.

The 380-acre Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is located in neighboring Belmont N.C. and features hiking trails, a large rose garden, an Asian garden, a dozen large fountains, and one of the finest Orchid conservatories in the South.

Golf

The Queen City area is home to more than 40 public golf courses and a number of private clubs. The Golf Club at Ballantyne in South Charlotte features a par-71 public course, large driving range, and hosts several public and private tournaments each year. The par-70 course at the Rocky River Golf Club in Concord N.C. runs through some of the most beautiful countryside in the Charlotte metro area, featuring rolling hills and natural wetlands. Considered by many golfers to be the best course in the Charlotte area and one of the best in the country, the course at the Quail Hollow Club is home to the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship; past winners include Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. The club is also set to host 2017’s PGA Championship. Other notable courses in the area include The Club at Longview, the Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park, and the Old Sycamore Golf Plantation.

Other Outdoor Activities

One of the more unique venues for outdoor activities in the area, the non-profit U.S. National Whitewater Center covers 1,100 acres along the Catawba River in Charlotte. Open to the public since 2006, the center welcomes tens of thousands of visitors every year and features whitewater rafting and kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, zip lining, rock climbing, and more than 25 miles of mountain biking trails. And speaking of biking, cyclists will definitely want to check out the Booty Loop, a 2.8 mile bike trail running though the Myers Park neighborhood. The bike trail is very popular with the city’s bicyclists, and is used for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s fundraising event, 24 Hours of Booty.

With a fine selection of well-kept parks, a wide variety of world-class public and private golf courses, and other fun outdoor activities and venues, the Queen City has something for nature-lovers and exercise-junkies alike. And with Charlotte’s mild climate and excellent weather most of the year, there is plenty of time to enjoy it all.