I don't know about you, but I am loving spring. As a city, the daylight savings leap forward and longer evenings has made it feel like we’re stretching our legs after a long, dark winter of bundling up and binge-watching House of Cards. The farmers markets are starting to bustle again, more runners are taking the streets, and all of our favorite outdoor activities are finally opening back up. Since I've lived in Charlotte, one of my favorite spots has been the Whitewater Center - so, today's post is for the locals! Or the tourists. AKA, you should all come explore Charlotte and visit me. I'll treat you to ice cream.
If you are local and haven’t discovered the US National Whitewater Center yet, you’re probably living under a rock – but even if you have been there once or twice, you may not know about everything it has to offer. The Whitewater Center has been a central part of Charlotte since 2006, and today I’ll highlight a few ways that you can spend time there.
I figured I should mention this one first before everyone said “wait, isn’t this just a whitewater rafting center?” – so, yes! You can whitewater raft here, for sure. After you have a little training and are strapped into a life vest tight enough that it’s hard to breathe, you'll launch out into the course with your guide. The course has two big loops that start in the same little pool and end in the same little pool, and then you and your raft-mates ride a conveyor belt back up to the beginning that makes you feel like a Krispy Kreme Donut waiting to be glazed. Depending on your guide and raft-mates, you may or may not get dumped in the water. However, the low water level and hoards of people nearby pretty much guarantee that you’ll still be alive at the end of it, even if you’re a little wetter than you planned on.
Tackle a Ropes Course
If you’re not one for the water but magically aren’t afraid of heights, there are several ropes courses for you to try your hands & feet at. The harder ones require you to take a pull-up test before you jump in, but there are several that are suitable for all strength levels and still will test your will to go on. You’ll climb, jump, push, pull, and swing your way through – and if you’re anything like my former boss who got suckered into the ropes course as part of a “team building” event, you’ll be nervous enough to look the poor girl working straight in the face at the end of it all and say, “Dude...that was so sketchy.”
If you love water but the rapids aren’t quite your speed, the whitewater center happens to back up to the Catawba River. There, you can flatwater kayak or paddleboard, with or without a guide. It may not give you quite the adrenaline rush that the rapids do, but it will definitely give your biceps a workout.
Run a Trail Race
Tired of Charlotte’s flat roads and looking for a challenge? The Whitewater Center hosts trail races throughout the year that will give you a change of scenery. Whether you’re more of the 5k or 10k type, there’s sure to be a race that fits your level of comfort. Lace up your shoes and prepare to get sweaty! As a bonus, you can always hit the rafting course or river for a cool-down afterwards.
Aside from the daily adventures offered, the Whitewater Center has special events all throughout the year on their calendar that are perfect for a date night, afternoon with friends, or just an excuse to skip your standard routine and do something different. My husband and I did the Microbrews Cruise last summer, and it was a blast – for the price of a nice meal out you get 2 hours of guided flatwater kayaking, followed by a chef-prepared dinner and craft beer tasting. Did I mention that this isn’t your normal night out? Highly recommended.
The best-kept secret about the Whitewater Center is Riverjam: twice-weekly throughout the late spring and summer (Thursdays & Saturdays), live bands grace the stage over the rapids. People come out with their kids, friends, spouses, families, and dogs to lay out picnic blankets or camping chairs and listen. They have a full-service outdoor restaurant as well as a bar and biergarten where you can grab a drink, and the music goes until later than you want to stay up on a worknight. My friends and I are there almost every week that it’s not raining in the summer – see you there?
Logistics - A $5 parking pass gets you into the Whitewater center for free, and the outdoor activities range from $15 (for Kayaking) to $58.95 (for an all-day, unlimited pass). There are no extra charges for attending Riverjam. This post isn't sponsored, and the Whitewater Center doesn't know me personally.