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10 Best Romantic Restaurants in Charlotte, NC

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In need of one of The Queen City’s perfect date night restaurants? Charlotte, NC knows how to create ambiance and a romantic atmosphere for couples through exceptional dining experiences. These 10 romantic restaurants in Charlotte, NC are certain to make date night even more special. These restaurants are perfect for a night out, Valentine’s Day, or any special occasion with your loved one. We have collected fine dining establishments in addition to some affordable options, so you can fit a date night into your budget!

Date night restaurants near Charlotte, North Carolina

Best Fine-Dining, Romantic Restaurants in Charlotte, NC

For any special occasion, finding the perfect restaurant that is luxurious and offers a unique experience is top of the list. These fine-dining date night restaurants in Charlotte, NC will make for the perfect night along with a wonderful memory.

The Fig Tree Restaurant

$$$
1601 East 7th Street, Charlotte, NC
Reservations

The Fig Tree is the epitome of fine dining and romance. With an expansive wine list and main course meals like Veal Osso Buco and Pekin Duck Breast over Creamy Pumpkin Polenta, you will be dazzled by the restaurant’s curated menu. The atmosphere is cozy and warm, a perfect setting for a romantic evening.

Peppervine

$$$
4620 Piedmont Row Drive Suite 170B, Charlotte, NC 
Reservations

If you are looking for a restaurant with a wow factor, then Peppervine is the place. With locally sourced ingredients, craft cocktails, and a large selection of worldly wines, you are certain to impress your date. The restaurant is known for its small plates shares with items like Thai Pork Spare Ribs and Spanish Octopus, or you can indulge in a large plate option of items like Lamb Pappardelle. Just, save room for dessert!

Stagioni

$$$
715 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC
Reservations

There is nothing quite like Italian food, it originates from one of the most romantic countries in the world! Stagioni is highly recommended and with modern Italian options like Truffle Tagliatelle, Duck Confett Gnocchi, and Spicy Braised Lamb Cavatelli, it’s easy to see why. Plus, you can order to go if you want to bring the delicious menu back to the coziness of your own home. However, it’s hard to pass on the supreme romantic ambiance and vibes of dining at Stagioni.

McNinche House

$$$$
511 North Church Street, Charlotte, NC
Reservations

Wanting to go a little more luxury? Then McNinche House is the ultimate fine dining experience. With three, four, and five-course dining options, you will spend the evening feeling the sparks fly between you and your partner while enjoying some of the best food you’ll ever have. If you’re already going all out, we recommend the 5 Course Chef’s Tasting, because Chef knows best! The restaurant is inside a Victorian house in the Fourth Ward, so dining is set up in various rooms with variations in decor and ambiance, all of which are stunningly romantic.

More Affordable: Best Date Night Restaurants: Charlotte, North Carolina

Date night doesn’t always have to be some extravagant experience. Sometimes it’s more about quality time with someone you love. These restaurants are perfect for a laid-back, low-key date night with good food, great drinks, and lots of love!

Alexander Michaels

$$
401 West 9th Street, Charlotte, NC
No Reservations Accepted

In need of a date night restaurant that is a little more affordable, but also has pub vibes? Alexander Michaels is loved by Charlotte locals, and with a relaxed vibe and warm lighting, it would make a great low key first-date option.

Customshop

$$ – $$$
1601 Elizabeth Avenue, Charlotte, NC
Reservations

With handcrafted cocktails, pasta dishes like Blue Crab Ravioli and Beef Tartare, and small plate options to share, Customshop is a wonderful option for a date night spot. The restaurant prides itself on sourcing high-quality local goods from farms and purveyors, giving a regional touch to the menu. Plus, it was voted one of Charlotte Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants.

Gibson Mill Market in Concord

$-$$
325 McGill Avenue NW, Concord, NC
No Reservations Required

Just a short drive north of Charlotte, you’ll find Gibson Mill Market. Date night here would be casual and fun! You can grab a brew from one of the 3 breweries, dine at one of many food hall-style restaurants inside the mill, and then head downstairs to play board games together at Luck Factory Games. There is also an escape room called The Valcarol Missions. Sounds like the perfect date night to me!

Gibson Mill and Market in Concord, North Carolina

The Market at Gibson Mill makes for the perfect laid-back date night!

Kindred

$$-$$$
131 North Main Street, Davidson, NC
Reservations

Looking for someplace fresh and farm-to-table? Kindred regularly changes its menu, so you can enjoy a date here with your significant other regularly and still have a new and unique dining experience. The restaurant is in the Davidson College area, with laid-back vibes to match.

Dilworth Tasting Room

$$
300 East Tremont Avenue, Charlotte, NC 
Southpark Location: 4905 Ashley Park Lane, Charlotte, NC

Date night wouldn’t be complete without some handcrafted cocktails! Dilworth Tasting Room takes crafting cocktails seriously, and you’ll find gorgeous drinks, delicious wine, and a complimentary menu that will elevate date night to spectacular. Plus, they have special nights you can enjoy throughout the week with wine flights, jazz music, and ½ off-wine deals. 

300 East

$$
300 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC
Reservations

Nothing says charming quite like a restaurant located inside a renovated house. 300 East has a quirky charm to it and serves sharable plates, salads and sandwiches, and entrees like Bronzed Sesame Salmon and Grilled Gorgonzola Cream Filet. They also have some tasty-looking cocktails too.


Whitewater Center Ice Skating: The Family Day You’ve Been Looking For in Charlotte, NC

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What is it like to ice skate outdoors at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC? The National Whitewater Center offers ice skating from November through mid-February annually and it is totally a blast. My husband and I had an absolutely wonderful time with our teen and pre-teen-aged kids. If you’re thinking about a visit to try some ice skating, we’ve got all the information for you, plus our parent’s review of skating at the Whitewater Center.



Ice skating at the Whitewater Center

About Whitewater Center Ice Skating

If you aren’t familiar with the National Whitewater Center, it is a large outdoor sports facility with many options like climbing, ziplines, ropes courses, mountain biking, and lots more. Tickets can be purchased for a full day of activities or just a single activity. We purchased tickets for ice skating only. The $25 per person fee covered a day of skating as well as our skating rentals.

We visited specifically to go ice skating at the Whitewater Center. The skating surfaces here are unique, much more than a simple oval rink. There are several skating areas for free skating, as well as loops of skating trails. The areas are divided into two sections of ice, which makes for a lot more variety than your typical ice rink!

The first section consists of two free skating areas, and an ice trail surrounding them. In the middle of this area is an off-ice island with benches, high-top tables, and a cute airstream trailer selling hot chocolate and other beverages. The second skating section is a large ice trail loop full of meandering twists and curves. Go around the loop as many times as you want, and you can freely move between the two skating areas!

Ice trails, ice skating at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC

Arriving to Skate

Our first piece of advice is to purchase your tickets and fill out your waivers online. It was easy to do online and it made the process when we arrived ridiculously simple.

When you arrive at the National Whitewater Center, you’ll pay to park ($12) and helpful staff will direct you to the parking lots closest to your planned activities. For skating, once you park, you’ll walk from the parking lot, past a pavilion with restrooms, and down a gravel path to the River Center where you’ll check in. You CAN purchase tickets and fill out waivers here if you need to.

Arriving at 11 am on a Saturday morning we did not wait in line at all. We were able to wall right up to the counter and show them our tickets to be scanned, then it was down the counter to grab our rental skates. Easy as pie.

There are lockers available here if you’d like to leave your personal items locked up. But, most people seemed to just leave their shoes tucked under benches. This is what we did, along with a few discarded jackets as the day went on, and we had no problems.

From the skate rental area, it’s an easy walk down the rubber mats to the first skating surface. And that’s it, you’re ready to skate!

Video Review:

What’s it like to go ice skating at the Whitewater Center? See for yourself in our video tour!

What’s Special About Skating at Whitewater? Parent Review

Our trip to go skating at Whitewater was a day trip. We drove about an hour and a half to get to the Whitewater Center and it was totally worth it. I’ve never gone skating anywhere that wasn’t an oval skating rink. This was so much more interesting, and even when there were quite a few people on the ice, it didn’t feel crowded.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about that crowd. Some skaters clearly had significant ice skating skills, and then there were those, like us, who did not. So, don’t worry if you don’t know how to skate. Rails surround the skating spaces and line the ice trails and you can hang on all the way around if you want!

Arriving at about 11 am was perfect as there were very few people on the ice. It was a bit more crowded as it got into the afternoon, but there was still plenty of space.

Ice skating trails

Eating at the Whitewater Center

Beside the skating area is the Trail Center where you can order from a small menu of soups, chili, and sandwiches. There’s both indoor and outdoor space to enjoy your food, including several fire pits beside Adirondack chairs overlooking the skating rinks.

We did not get lunch when we were at the Whitewater Center, but we did enjoy some hot chocolate from the airstream trailer on the ice! The trailer only serves beverages, but it was such a nice spot to stop and relax for a few minutes of a skating break

The Whitewater Center also has a sit-down, full-service restaurant on site, called River’s Edge.

Hours for the food and beverage services around the center change from day to day. Check the food and beverage portion of the Whitewater website for hours on the day of your visit.

Hot chocolate at Whitewater Center Ice Skating

All the Things Parents Want to Know

How much is ice skating at the Whitewater Center?

$25 per person, and that includes the skate rental. You do not get a discount if you bring your own skates.

When does Whitewater Center Ice Skating open?

Ice Skating is available at the Whitewater Center from mid-November through mid-February. Daily hours change. Check the calendar at the Whitewater Center for pass activity hours to find the hours on the day you’d like to visit. Don’t forget that current weather conditions can change what is available so checking in on the status of activities the day of your visit is advisable.

Ice skating at Whitewater Center

Who will enjoy ice skating at the Whitewater Center?

  • Anyone who can walk is allowed to skate, so even younger tots can enjoy the ice. For little ones, I’d recommend visiting earlier in the day to have as much ice to yourselves as possible.
  • This was an activity that all my kids really enjoyed, even my hard-to-please teens who initially weren’t terribly happy with the prospect of a “family day.”

What does it cost to park at the Whitewater Center?

Parking is $12 per car. There is lots of parking available, so you shouldn’t have any trouble! And, the parking attendants can give you directions towards your desired activities.

Restrooms are plentiful. In fact, you’ll find some clean restrooms right beside the parking lot, which is perfect after a longer drive. You’ll also find clean restrooms between the skating area and the skate rental building. You can’t wear skates into the restrooms though, so, we highly recommend you visit the restrooms before you lace up!

Waivers must be filled out. I highly recommend doing this in advance to save time when you arrive! You can easily fill them out online when you purchase tickets.

Ice skating at Whitewater Center

Go Ice Skating at the National Whitewater Center

5000 Whitewater Center Parkway
Charlotte, NC
Whitewater Center Website: Ice Skating

5+ Places for FREE Sledding: Charlotte, NC

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Hoping for some snow for a little sledding? Charlotte, NC doesn’t get a lot of snow so if you’re tired of waiting, you can plan a totally free little day trip up to the mountains for some sledding. Really! These spots are just a couple of hours’ drive from Charlotte, and they are A LOT more likely to have snow.

Places for Snow sledding, Charlotte, NC

Of course, if you want a “guaranteed” snow-ish experience you can visit any of the snow tubing places near Charlotte, NC. But if there’s snow in the mountains, and you come armed with a sled and a good sense of fun (and maybe a thermos of hot cocoa and some favorite snacks) you can have a great time without spending any more money than the gas it takes to chase down that snow.

Check out these free sledding hills you can visit.

Free Sledding Hill in Beech Mountain, North Carolina

About 2 1/2 hours from Charlotte, NC

In addition to the Beech Mountain Ski Resort, the city offers a free sledding hill behind the Brick Oven Pizzeria at 110 Bark Park Way, Beech Mountain. This new sledding hill location is considered much safer than the previous hill behind the visitor’s center. There is more parking, the hill is fenced in, and there is no longer a power pole in the middle of the run. You’ll also find a bathroom and playground, so you can stay all day.

The Sledding Hill is open seven days a week, weather permitting. And, the city will often make snow for this hill, giving you lots more opportunities for sledding even if nature isn’t being cooperative. This is the only free sledding hill we know about that makes snow.

Blowing Rock, North Carolina Sledding

1 hour and 45 minutes from Charlotte, NC

Blowing Rock, North Carolina has several parks that offer a great opportunity for snow play!

Boone, North Carolina: Sledding Spots

2 hours from Charlotte, NC

Boone, NC sees a fair bit of snow, which means they have several parks used for winter fun. If snow is on the ground, these parks would be fun to visit for sledding. Of course Boone is a fun town for a day trip anyway, so just pack your sleds and boots and be ready for an adventure.

Check conditions before you go: Use the town of Boone’s webcam so you can check up on the snow status in real-time!

  • Moses H. Cone Memorial Park: Hills for sledding and even cross-country ski trails
  • Daniel Boone Park is a public park that offers sledding on Strawberry Hill. (Be sure to stop for a bathroom break before you head to the park because the restrooms are closed during the winter months.

Getting to some of these spots can be a challenge at times due to weather. The Blue Ridge Parkway often closes during inclement weather, making spots along this highway difficult to access.

But, this road closure can actually be really fun. When the road closes to traffic, it is open for walking, using snow shoes, and it even offers families a unique opportunity to sled right on the road. For road closure information, visit the Road Closures on the Blue Ridge Parkway page. To take a peek at what Milepost 241 on the Parkway looks like, head to the Bluffs Restaurant Webcam.

For more safety tips and info about The Blue Ridge Parkway in winter, head to the Blue Ridge Parkway Facebook page.

Brevard, North Carolina: Sledding Spots

2 1/2 hours from Charlotte, NC

Enjoy Winter in Charlotte, NC: The Premier Guide

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Are you looking for things to do this winter in Charlotte, NC? Winter has arrived! That means it’s time for all the activities the cooler weather lets us enjoy, from winter hikes to snow tubing, great family dining to awesome indoor play places. We created our Kidding Around Charlotte Winter Guide to help you plan your family’s fun! No reason to stay home and be bored!

Charlotte, NC Winter Things to Do

Outdoor Things to Do This Winter: Charlotte, NC

Snow Tubing

The ultimate family-fun winter day, snow tubing. There are lots of places about a 2-hour drive from Charlotte where you can head for a day of winter fun on a snow tube.

Here’s our list of places to go snow tubing near Charlotte, NC.

Ice Skating

Charlotte’s Whitewater Center is the place to go for ice skating in the winter. They offer skating from mid-November through mid-February, making it a true winter season offering. Day tickets for skating are $25 and that includes the skate rental and use of the 24,000 square foot skating space. The ice is unlike other rinks and is made up of 4 distinct skating areas, connected by ice trails.

Ice skating at the Whitewater Center

Sledding

Even if there’s no snow on the ground in Charlotte (and let’s face it, there probably isn’t), you can still enjoy some free winter fun with a day of sledding. You’ll just have to drive into the mountains a bit. So toss those sleds in the car and grab the kids’ winter coats. It’s time to go find some snow.

❄️Here’s where to go sledding near Charlotte, NC.

Winter Hikes

Cooler weather can make for some much more enjoyable hiking conditions- less sweat, no humidity, and open views without leaves on the trees. There are places near Charlotte where you can enjoy a cooler weather hike or walk, and of course there are some fabulous day trip hikes you can take in the mountains.

Want to check out some of our winter hikes and see what you’re in for? We made a video for that, because these hikes are seriously gorgeous.

Indoor Things to Do This Winter: Charlotte, NC

Unwind Indoor Play Cafe

With a climbing wall, sandbox, and loads of sensory spaces, the Unwind Indoor Play Cafe is definitely a spot to check out for indoor play time. They even have snacks, coffee and other tdrinks available for purchase so you can make a whole afternoon of it.

Kidding Around Charlotte got to visit to review the play cafe, and we had a great time! Check it all out in our review: Unwind Indoor Play Cafe

Ninja Nation

Head up to Huntersville, NC for open gym time at Ninja Nation. Kids (and adults) can try out all their ninja skills on Ninja Nation’s course equipment in their super clean gym. We loved the friendly staff.

Here’s our full review of Ninja Nation.

Open Gym at Ninja Nation is for ages 5 and up. They offer open gym Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm, Monday through Thursday from 4 pm to 7 pm and Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm.

Open gym prices start at $20 for an hour of gym time with options for 2 hours and a full day pass.
14120 Statesville Road Huntersville, NC 28078

Discovery Place Science Museum

Any Charlotte area indoor list would not be complete without Discovery Place. The kids (and adults) will enjoy playing and learning here for hours.

You’ll save a few dollars if you purchase your tickets online. If you plan to visit more than once, a family membership is probably the way to go.

Online ticket prices: $18-19 for children, $23-24 for adults (Children under 2 are free)
Buy tickets online
301 N. Tryon Street, Charlotte

Gibson Mill

Get everyone something to eat that they’ll love at the food hall at Gibson Mill. Hang around and play games or visit the small arcade for a little family fun.

Gibson Mill outdoor seating

Here’s our full review of Gibson Mill.

Still Need More Options?

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Discover lots more things to do in our HUGE Charlotte, NC Things to Do Guide

Enjoy Holiday Lights on the River (2023): Columbia, SC

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Looking for an amazing drive-thru light display? Holiday Lights on the River in Columbia, SC may be just what you are looking for. This display features millions of lights along the 3-mile route, with themed sections of the display, lots of animation and family activities like a winter tube slide, hayride and Santa! Here’s everything you need to know about Holiday Lights on the River in Columbia, SC.

Holiday Lights on the River boats
Boats at Holiday Lights on the River, Photo Credit: Jen Husson

Holiday Lights on the River: The Details

The three miles of holiday lights that make up Holiday Lights on the River, make this display one of the largest in the Midlands of South Carolina and well worth the drive from the Upstate. You’ll find creatively themed sections of the display that make this drive-through light experience unique including sports-themed lights to enjoy, plus dinosaurs, trains, fairytales, snowy trees, and armed services.

Here’s a little sneak peek at what you’ll see at Holiday Lights on the River:

It was by far the best drive through display I’ve seen. Lots of movement and animation.

Jen H.
  • Holiday Lights on the River runs from November 23rd through December 31st, 2023.
  • Hours are 6 pm to 10 pm
  • Go early, and plan to wait in line, especially on the weekends
  • The cost is $25 per car / $50 per 12-15 passenger van / $75 for 15+ passenger vans
  • Your ticket includes the additional activities
Holiday Lights on the River
Holiday Lights on the River in Columbia, SC, Photo Credit: Jen Husson

Activities at Holiday Lights on the River

Admission to Holiday Lights on the River includes several activities you can stop and enjoy. However, if you choose not to stop, the lights themselves are still well worth the admission fee.

  • Hayride
  • Winter Wonderland tube slide
  • Laser light show
  • Letter writing station to Santa
  • Santa visits November 24th and 25th, December 1st and 2nd, December 8th and 9th, and December 15th though the 23rd, 2023. Photo packages are an additional cost.
Monster Truck Moose Holiday Lights
Monster Truck Moose at Holiday Lights on the River, Photo Credit: Jen Husson

Want to See Holiday Lights on the River?

Holiday Lights on the River
Saluda Shoals Park
6071 St. Andrews Road
Columbia, SC

Admission: $25 per car, $50 per 12-15 passenger van and limos, $75 per bus, plus a 3% fee for credit cards.

Saluda Shoals Park Holiday Lights
Holiday Lights on the River, Photo Credit: Jen Husson

Ready for more Christmas Lights Near Columbia?

Holiday lights and Christmas lights: Columbia, SC

We have a whole list for you! Really, we did all the work and now you can choose from over 15 Christmas and holiday light displays near Columbia, SC. Our list includes more drive-thru displays, plus free displays, lights you can walk through, and lots more!

Want to visit another of the South’s fabulous Christmas Towns? Here are the Best Christmas Towns of the South.

50+ Best Family Games: (2023) Parent-Tested Games Everyone Can Play

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Will you be looking for the best family games? We have gathered over 50 of the best family board games 2023 has to offer, so add these to your gift list! If you’ve exhausted your stash of family board or card games and need new ideas of things to do with your whole family, we’ve surveyed our readers for the best games for family game night. We discovered that our readers seem to be quite the board/card game experts! We took their advice and then added a few board game ideas of our own.

Best family games: board game addition

We looked specifically for games that everyone can play, including our little kids who can’t read yet. So here’s the massive list and short, product descriptions taken from the game itself. We also added our own thoughts on some games we really loved. Then, we added some tips on how to plan a family game night! Check off your gift list for the holiday, with many games having Black Friday board game deals!

In this family board game list you’ll find:

  • best family board games
  • favorite family card games
  • ideas for family game night
  • easy to learn games
  • strategy games for the family
  • games for families to play together, no matter the age range
  • board games for kids by age

If we missed your favorite board game to play with your family, let us know in the comments. 

Some products from Think Fun and Ravensburger were provided for the Kidding Around Team to review. Opinions expressed are those of our team members.
This list contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Family board games

Top Tips for Establishing a Family Game Night

  • Be consistent. Having a specific day and time that works for everyone will help make it a routine.
  • Designate a family member to plan a game night. This can be for every game night or switch off each time.
  • Turn off the tech! Put the phones on silent, turn off the TV, and tune in to your family game night!
  • Always have a backup game (or two) available. Especially when trying out a new game. This will help you see what everyone is interested in for future gameplay.
  • Bring out the snacks! Craft a kid-friendly charcuterie, break out the hot cocoa, whatever will keep your kid’s tummies full and happy while you play.
  • Most importantly, relax and have fun! When everyone is having a good time, then everyone is more likely to want to engage again next time.

Best Family Games For Families With Young Kids

Babies and Toddlers

While babies and toddlers aren’t really ready for traditional board games, they can still get in on the fun with some help from older siblings, parents, and friends!

My First Railway Light Up Rainbow Set

This simple train set uses sound and light-up colors to teach simple sequencing. To play just watch the blinking lights and drive the train on the path that lit up. Do this for each color of the rainbow and then you get a song and lights reward. While this game is marked for children 18 months and up, younger kids may still enjoy the blinking lights and sounds when they use the set with a caregiver.

My First Railway Light Up Rainbow Set


Great Family Games for Families With Kids Ages 3+

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

Your forest friends are hungry and they need your help. Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your squirrel squeezer, and place it into your log. Be the first to fill your log with delicious acorns and you win. You could also spin “pick an acorn, ” “steal an acorn, ” or “lose an acorn, ” so be strategic, little squirrel. The game is easy to understand, so my four year old enjoys playing it more than some other games. It is currently one of our favorite family board games.

Teh Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

Sequence

It’s the classic game of Sequence made just for kids! Play an animal card from your hand, and place your chip on the corresponding animal on the board. Wild cards add excitement to the game – use a unicorn card to place your chip anywhere, or use a dragon card to remove an opponent’s chip. The first player with four chips in a row wins! This exciting strategy game helps develop logical thinking skills. Reading is not required to play

Crazy Eights

Classic card game. Easy to play for kids.

Candy Land

This adorable version of the classic Candy Land game features gingerbread men as movers, colored cards, and fun illustrations that kids love, with different destinations like Cookie Commons and the chunky Chocolate Mountain. Candy Land is one of the classic favorite board games for families, and a wonderful introductory game for kids.

Chutes & Ladders 

Climb up and slide down in the exciting game of ups and downs, Chutes and Ladders! The Chutes and Ladders board game for girls and boys has been around for over 60 years and has been enjoyed by families for generations. Players can see the square marked 100, but how will they get there? If a player lands their pawn on a good deed, they can shimmy up a ladder, but land on the wrong spot and they’ll shoot down a chute!

No reading is required to play this simple and easy game for preschoolers. 

Family Treasure Hunt Game

GoTrovo is an action-packed pirate scavenger hunt board game for the whole family.

Hi Ho Cherry O

Preschoolers can have so much fun picking fruit to fill their baskets, that they don’t even realize they’re practicing math skills, such as counting, addition, and subtraction. Players choose from two different play options and take turns picking pretend cherries, blueberries, apples and oranges from their tree. If the spinner lands on a bird or a dog players will have to return cherries to their tree.

Pete the Cat Groovy Buttons

Pete the Cat is the coolest cat ever. Based on the best-selling book series, our Pete the Cat games introduce kids to simple learning concepts wrapped up in fun games. Kids learn color recognition, counting, and decision-making skills. Kids keep on movin’ and groovin’ with Pete the Cat.


Family Games for Kids Ages 4+

Hoot Owl Hoot

Hurry little owls: In this color-coordinated matching game, players cooperate to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up. Help all the owls home before sunrise and everyone wins!

“A friend just got my 3 year old this game! Fun for the whole family to play together. Highly recommend this one!” ~Amanda

Zingo

Zingo is one of ThinkFun’s most popular and bestselling games, and is the winner of an Oppenheim Gold Award and Parents’ Choice Gold Award, among others. It’s a fun pre-reading game for ages 4 and up. Like all of ThinkFun’s games, Zingo is built to develop critical thinking skills. Playing will improve language skills through fun and fast-paced play.

Zingo numbers bingo

Zingo Sight Words
Zingo Numbers

Banana Blast

Roll the die to see how many bananas you get to pick from the tree top. One of the bananas will make Banana Joe jump, but it’s a different banana every time. If the monkey jumps, all the players must try to catch him before he hits the ground. The player who catches Banana Joe gets a bonus!

Pop the Pig

Pop the Pig is an international preschool classic that is adored by millions of children. Kids roll the die, pop a hamburger into the pig’s mouth and pump his head. The more they pump, the more his belly grows (along with the suspense!) until – pop! The player who makes his belly burst wins the game.

Children can quickly reset the game with one pump of the pig’s head and experience consistent belly-busting gameplay each and every time.

Trouble 

The excitement begins as soon as a player presses the Pop-O-Matic bubble to roll the die. In the Trouble board game, kids race to get all their game pieces around the board; but be careful! A player could get bumped and sent back to the beginning.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

You’ll have a chompin’ good time with Hungry Hippo and his pals! Be ready to join in the feeding frenzy when you release all the marbles onto the game base, because all the hippos will be chomping and your hippo will need to move fast! If he chomps the golden marble, you win! 

Giggle Wiggle

Giggle Wiggle is a cute caterpillar with several hands to spare! Race to place your colored marbles from his bottom row of hands all the way to the top as he wiggles to the music. Watch out – this wiggly caterpillar will try to knock off your marbles. If he does, just pick them up and keep on racing. The first player to get all their marbles on in a row wins! This easy-to-learn, quick-to-play game is a fun, active challenge that will have kids laughing and dancing while they play.

Funny Bunny

Funny Bunny is an adorable game that is perfect for ages 4 and older. 2 to 4 players can race their bunnies up the hill to the giant carrot on top. Players are given four bunnies, and increasingly add them to the board as they draw cards to allow them a number of spaces to move. However, there are “click” cards that allow the player to turn the giant carrot clockwise, which opens pits, lifts bridges, or knocks your bunny off the board! As you move around the board, you can “hop” over other players. This game was highly enjoyed by my preschooler.

Funny Bunny


Best Family Games We Love for Kids Ages 5+

Monopoly Junior

Welcome to the first Monopoly game for kids, where they can earn money the fun way! The Monopoly Junior game is just like the classic Monopoly game, but it’s accessible and exciting for younger players. It’s fast, simple, and full of surprises. Kids choose their favorite Junior token and learn how to pass Go, buy properties, and collect rent. Single banknotes keep transactions fast and easy.

Dragon’s Breath

Dragons and crystal collecting, who could ask for more? This collecting game is part of the wonderful line of board games by HABA. The game follows a family of dragons as they try to get the most gems out of the ice-filled rings by choosing a color gem. Then, Dad Dragon “melts” the ice by removing gems, allowing the gems to fall from the tower to be collected by the kids. The goal is to gather the most gems. The game is engaging and imaginative while lasting around 15 minutes per play, and is the perfect game for family night.

Dragons Breath game

Pumbaa Pass

Any Lion King fan will love this new, exciting, and fun family game featuring a very hungry Pumbaa! Pumbaa’s ready for some tasty grub—icky bugs to you and me! Players take turns feeding him the colorful critters until, well, he tosses his cookies, loses his lunch—you know, pukes. Then it’s time to scramble to find the bugs you need to win! To win Be the first player to match all three bugs on three different leaf cards. 

“Not a board game but got this for our 3yo for his birthday, great for colors, matching and early counting.” ~ Scott

Race to the Treasure

In this game, which has won multiple awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, players try to beat the Ogre to the treasure by creating a path from Start to End. Along the way they need to collect three keys to open the treasure. Players strategize, cooperate and build a path together. If they do it before the Ogre gets there, they all win! 

Scrabble Jr.

What a great way for kids to play America’s favorite word game! Kid-sized words and colorful pictures make it fun to match letter tiles to words on the grid. Players move their funny tokens up the score track as they score points. When all of the tiles have been placed on the board, the player with the most points wins! Don’t worry, your little ones won’t outgrow this game; just turn the board over for the advanced level, where they come up with their own words. It’s going to be letter-matching fun for everyone with Scrabble Junior. 

The Grape Escape

This Play-Doh-based game allows players to create their grape character with clay, and then try to make it through the board game and past the factory contraptions to the grape launcher without getting squished in the process. The key to the game is to get your grape to the launcher and fling it out of the factory first. This game is perfect for ages 5 and up and is quick-paced so it can be played multiple times during family game night.


Great Games for Kids Around Ages 6+

Connect 4

Challenge a friend to disc-dropping fun with the classic game of Connect 4! Drop your red or yellow discs in the grid and be the first to get 4 in a row to win. If your opponent is getting too close to 4 in a row, block them with your own disc! Whoever wins can pull out the slider bar to release all the discs and start the fun all over again! 

Guess Who

Beloved 1980s version of the classic mystery face game is back! There’s a mystery person on your opponent’s card. Can you find the matching face in the crowd? Start with your game full of silly-looking characters. Then ask the right questions to eliminate the wrong faces! Does your person have blue eyes? Is your person wearing a hat? Once you’re down to a face or two – solve the mystery by guessing who! If you’re the first to identify your opponent’s mystery person, you win.

“It’s not a board game per say, but we play Guess Who a lot. We team up, since my 3 year old needs a little help, but she’s getting pretty good at it!” ~Jennifer

Sorry

Slide, collide and score to win the Sorry! Game. Kids draw cards to see how far they get to move one of the pawns on the board. If they land on a Slide they can zip to the end and bump their opponents’ pawns – or their own! Jump over pawns and hide in the Safety zone where opponents can’t go. Kids keep on moving and bumping until they get all three of their pawns from Start to Home.

Operation

In the Operation game, you get to be the doctor and make Cavity Sam better or get the buzzer! Cure him of all his wacky ailments like headphone headaches and gamer’s thumb by picking funny ailment pieces out of the game tray with a pair of tweezers. But watch out! If you touch the sides of the openings, you’ll get the buzzer and light up Cavity Sam’s nose! The player who removes the most ailments wins!

Spot It!

Test your observational skills and your reflexes with the award-winning gameplay of Spot It!, a game of lightning-fast choices for two to eight players. With dozens of awards and possible versions married to elegant gameplay, Spot It! has become a global phenomenon. Five distinct mini-games within a set of Spot It! ensure that the game will be different every time you play, and because it’s always your turn, there’s never any downtime.

Aggravation

Take a trip down memory lane with this retro 1989 edition of the fun family-favorite, the Aggravation Game! It’s The classic marble race game where 2 to 6 players compete. Opponents race around the board from base to home, disrupting each other’s marbles in the quest to be first. 

Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Players of all ages can now venture across America by train in Alan R. Moon’s ticket to ride: first journey. With a brand new map and simplified rules, first journey is the perfect way to introduce new players to the game of cross-country travel while you claim train route. Just like in ticket to ride, players collect train cards, claim routes, and try to connect cities coast-to-coast. In first journey, though, routes are shorter, train cards are drawn straight from the deck, and the game ends when one player Completes six tickets, claiming the Golden ticket as their prize. Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a wonderful starter game when delving into the Spiel des Jahres board game world.

Munchkin Wonderland

One of the many versions of the Steven Jackson Games Munchkin, this version is simplified so that kids as young as 6 can play! This card game is based on Alice in Wonderland and is full of silly jokes, treasure hunting, monster bashing, and more. The game takes about an hour to play and is great for groups of 2 to 6 players. The game is a lot of fun, and is a great starter game if you are looking to get your kids into the Munchkin universe in the future (I know we are!).


Games for Families With Kids Ages 7+

Battleship

This Battleship board game is the classic game of naval combat that brings together competition, strategy, and excitement! In a head-to-head battle, 2 players search for the enemy’s fleet of ships and destroy them one by one. With convenient portable battle cases and realistic-looking naval crafts, the Battleship game puts players right in the middle of the action. Players command a powerful fleet that includes an aircraft carrier, a destroyer, a submarine, a patrol boat, and a battleship. Each player announces the coordinates of each strike and sees if it hits. Battleship still holds its own in comparison to some of the more modern board games, and is truly a classic.

Blink

Blink is a lightning-fast game where two players race head-to-head to be the first to play all of their cards! Using sharp eyes and fast hands, players quickly try to match the shape, count or color on the cards. For instance, a card with four yellow stars could be played on any card with yellow (color), or on a card with stars (shape), or on a card with four symbols (count). Don’t be fooled by the games’ simplicity—your hand and eye coordination will be put to the test! The first player who can rid themselves of all their cards wins. 

Blokus

Stake your claim and protect your territory with the Blokus game! It takes less than a minute to learn, but offers endless strategy and fun challenges for the whole family. Each player gets a set of 21 pieces – in red, blue, green, or yellow – then takes turns placing them on the board. There’s just one rule: each piece you play must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners! The goal is to fit the most pieces on the board. The game ends when no more pieces can be placed down, and the player with the lowest number remaining wins!

Labyrinth

Search for treasure deep within the twisting maze! The playing board constantly changes so no two games are ever the same! The cards will determine your quest. Looking for the Dragon? How many routes can you take and also foil your opponents? Try to gain the advantage by inserting the extra tile to move walls and open passages of the labyrinth. Block and advance is the strategy! The first play to reach all of their treasure wins!

“We love labyrinth. Our 5-year-old can play but needs help occasionally. My 10 and 8-year-olds really enjoy trying to beat Mom and Dad.” ~Kristen

Disney Villian Labyrinth

Labyrinth is my family’s absolute favorite board game. This version replaces the original Labyrinth characters and objects with all of your favorite Disney villains. You use the tile pieces to create a random maze on the game board. Each player has a set of cards with characters that they need to collect on their journey through the maze. The maze changes as each player takes their turn, keeping everyone on their toes.

Disney Villains Labyrinth is a 2-4 player game recommended for ages 7-99.

Taco vs. Burrito

TACO vs. BURRITO is a deliciously unpredictable card game where players compete to create the weirdest, wildest meal. Created by Alex Butler, age 7, this game is easy to learn – and not so easy to win. Fun for (and play-tested by) all ages, TACO vs. BURRITO is the ultimate Game Night Food Fight! The game is one of our favorite party games when we have younger family members over.

Sequence Dice

Roll the dice and place a chip on a corresponding number on the game board. Roll a 2 or 12 ….get another turn. Roll a 10…remove an opponent’s chip. Roll an 11…place your chip on any number. Get 5 chips in a row and YOU WIN!

Skip-Bo

Skip-Bo is the ultimate sequencing card game from the makers of UNO! Players use skill and strategy to create stacks of sequentially numbered, ascending cards (2,3,4…) until they have no more left to play. Once everyone is dealt their own personal stockpile of cards, play begins by drawing from a central pile and building up to four “build” piles. The Skip-Bo “wild” cards break up static situations and may be played as any number. Use these cards wisely, for they can really help you beat your opponents! The first player to deplete all of his or her Skip-Bo stockpile cards is the winner!.

UNO

UNO is the classic family card game that’s easy to pick up and impossible to put down! Players take turns matching a card in their hand with the current card shown on top of the deck either by color or number. Special action cards, like Skips, Reverses, Draw Twos, color-changing Wild and Draw Four Wild cards, deliver game-changing moments as they each perform a function to help you defeat your opponents. If you can’t make a match, you must draw from the center pile. And when you’re down to one card, don’t forget to shout “UNO!” The first player to get rid of all the cards in their hand wins. 

UNO DOS
We at UNO have long believed that two is better than one, and now we’re making it official! If you like UNO, you’ll love UNO DOS! In the beloved card game UNO, you (or your team) are trying to be the first to score 500 points. You score points by being the first to get rid of all the cards in your hand, and action cards let you make things more difficult for your opponents. In this twist on the family favorite game, now when you’re down to two cards, don’t forget to yell “Dos!” See why this color-coded card game has been a hit for so many years.


Best Family Games: Best for Ages 8+

Life

In The Game of Life game players choose a path and move their car tokens around the gameboard from Start to Retirement. Who is headed for wealth and fortune? Pick a path for a life of action, unexpected surprises, and dream vacations, but spend cash wisely because the wealthiest player at the end wins the game.

Rack-O

Rack-o was originally released in 1956, and since then families have enjoyed this Rack’Em & score fun-filled card game. This new addition, featuring fine-quality cards with bold numbers, will delight players young and old. Rack-o is timeless fun. Players randomly slot 10 cards on their rack. The race then begins to draw and discard until one player positions 10 cards in numerical sequence from low to high. 

Quixx

This quick-playing dice game will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end! Qwixx is simple to play but each decision is crucial – the more numbers you cross off, the more points you score. With no downtime between turns you’ll have a chance to gain from each and every roll. Just one round of this thrilling game and you will be caught up in Qwixx-fever!

SKYJO

The goal is to collect as few points as possible over the course of several turns as after every round every player’s points are counted and added to his score. As soon as a player reaches 100 points or more the player with the fewest points wins. Collecting the fewest points means to look for low or even negative numbers.

Rummikub

With more than 55 million units sold, Rummikub is one of the world’s best-selling and most-played games! It’s really no surprise that Rummikub is so popular – it has all the elements that make a great game: it’s easy to learn and fast moving, it’s different every time it’s played, it combines luck and strategy, and it changes quickly so every player has a chance to win until the very end.

Think Fun Rush Hour

My family went on a lot of road trips when I was a kid, and my brothers and I loved playing this game to keep ourselves entertained. Rush Hour is a logic game that uses cars and trucks on a grid to create a puzzle. Challenge cards are included to show you how to set up the puzzle. The goal of the game is to free the red car from the traffic jam. 

Rush Hour is a 1 person game recommended for ages 8+.

Rush Hour

GeoLogic

Geologic is a one-person world-changing puzzle game. With 60 challenges from beginner to expert, this game is fun for the whole family. The game is recommended for ages 8+ but my 7 year old was able to complete the beginner challenges.

Geologic includes a 30 sided Planet Core and 14 biome tiles. The challenge cards show a picture of how to set up the Planet Core to begin and has a list of which tiles are needed to complete the puzzle. The back of the cards show the answer to the puzzle.

If you’re a fan of logic puzzles, this game is for you!

Geologic

Gravity Maze

This game is just for one person and has three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The player has to arrange towers of holes and slides to get the marble to the target square. It comes with a gray board and three marbles in case you lose some of your marbles. Don’t do that. 

So how it works is that you choose what level you want to complete and take a card the game provides. On the front of the card is the gray board and it has the colors and placement of the red target block and one other color block that is used in the puzzle. On the bottom are the colors of the other blocks used in that particular puzzle – the trick is that you need to figure out where to place the other blocks in order that the marble slides to the target, red block successfully. If you Google how to play the game, ThinkFun has a YouTube video that explains it better than I am.

We played this with kids ages 8, 9, and 11 years old and they all loved it. I tried it also as an adult and it’s fantastic because it’s one of those games where you have to focus on the puzzle and nothing else. Gravity Maze is especially great for kids who like to play by themselves, for kids who love problem-solving, and for kids who are probably future engineers.


Do a Puzzle Together! Family Puzzles Kids Love

Puzzles are great for kids, teens, and adults because everyone can work on them together. So, these puzzles are getting their own category.

Ravensburger Star Wars The Madalorian Puzzle

This Ravensburger Mandalorian Star Wars Puzzle is great for any Star Wars fan, even the hard-to-buy for teens. The high-quality pieces fit together easily. The whole family can enjoy putting this one together!

Minecraft Ravensburger Puzzle

The puzzle has 300 XL puzzle pieces and will create a picture of a Minecraft scene. It says that the puzzle is for ages 9+ but younger kids who are good at puzzles will have no problems putting the puzzle together. The puzzle pieces are pretty large and fit together perfectly. They are also smooth and easy to handle – I don’t know why I like this but I do. 

If you enjoy both puzzles and Minecraft, you’ll love this one.


Games for Teens: Family Games Teens Will Love

Escape the Room: Murder in the Mafia

If you are feeling bored with some of your usual games, then you should check out an escape room game! ThinkFun’s Escape the Room games are essentially escape rooms in a box. They come cleverly assembled in the box in such a way that you only have to follow a few simple instructions to pop the room up before you’re ready to start looking for clues and playing the game.

Murder in the Mafia is ThinkFun’s newest Escape the Room game, and it’s designed for ages 14 and up, and 1 to 3 players. Solve the office crime scene clues to find the murderer before they find you. This is a cooperative game and there really is no limit on the number of players. But more than 3 people may have some difficulty crowding around the room to find evidence and solve clues. My kids ages 9-14 all participated with my husband and I and we all enjoyed this one.

Throughout the game the story booklet guides you through each chapter as you solve the clues, and see if you can determine who is the murderer. And if you get stuck you can go online for additional clues and assistance.

While other escape room games require you to mark up or cut up game materials, ThinkFun Escape the Room games can be reset to be played again. While you might not want to play it again as you already will know the solution, the game can be passed on for someone else to enjoy.

Additional ThinkFun Escape the Room titles include:

EXIT Games

Another fun version of an escape room board game are EXIT games. You can spread these materials out and a larger group can work to solve these games. Clues are on cards, in booklets, and hidden in the strangest places. The card and solution wheel systems help you get hints if you’re stuck and also guide you from clue to clue. These games can only be played once as solving them often requires cutting or marking up game pieces, but they are worth it for a fun afternoon with family and friends.

EXIT Games: The Abandoned Cabin

Echoes: Audio Mystery Game

Download a free app for Echoes: Audio Mystery Game and use it to scan the cards and listen to the audio hints. Put them together in the right sequence to unlock each chapter with additional story clues. Finally, use the clues to put the story into the right order. This one is a great family teamwork game. The sounds are a little creepy, and the clues require listening carefully. But don’t worry if you get lost, the app can give you clues if you’re stuck!

Wingspan

Wingspan is such a fun game to play if you have a nature lover or even just a teenager who loves strategy as they build their flock of birds. We played the original game, which came with North American birds, each with a quick fact on the bottom of the card that had me geeking out a little. If you like the game, you can buy different expansion packs for birds around the world.

The game has you focus on your own flock of birds, so there is less of a direct competition between players, though, of course, you want to earn points and have the most by the end of the game. The ultimate goal of the game is to have the most points, and you can gain those points by laying eggs, drawing new birds, and gathering food. Plus, you get to roll the dice through an awesome cardboard-built birdhouse that is provided.

Munchkin

A classic deck card game in our home that has been played at least 100 times over the years is Munchkin. It’s an awesome game with silly classes, monsters you’re trying to defeat, and a lot of strategy against your opponents. With curses, combats against monsters, and the opportunity to take your opponent down, there is a lot going on as you try to reach your 10 points.

The cards are the absolute best because they are hilarious and weird. With item cards like “Boots of running really fast” and “pointy hat of power”, your kids will love the silliness. There are some pretty great pictures too. Plus, they get to defeat monsters (or be killed by one if they can not defeat it, but that’s where you can come in to help save their character).

The game is recommended for ages 10 and up and can accommodate 3-6 players, with an average playtime of 1.5 hours. Munchkin has tons of additions, expansion packs, and options to make it creative and more fun over time, so you will never get bored!

What’s your family’s favorite board or card game to play together?


Educational Gifts for kids, and educational gifts for Christmas

Check out these 31+ Educational Gifts so you can put a new skill under the Christmas tree this year!


11 Best Back-to-School Hacks Our Readers Swear By

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Make back-to-school time easy this year! Our readers are really smart, which is why we asked them about their very best back-to-school hacks.

Getting back into the swing of things for a new school year is no joke. It is hard. The early mornings, the bus schedule, the lunch packing, the homework, the extracurricular sports, the chalkboard first day or school photos. It can be overwhelming, which is why we turned to the most knowledgeable group of people we know to ask for tips: our readers. Here’s what they said.

Back to School Hacks from local moms

#1 Start the bedtime/wake-up time school schedule a couple of weeks before school starts

This was one of the top pieces of advice from our readers. Getting up early on day 1 is zero fun in and of itself. If your kid(s) has been doing it for at least a week or so, it’s a tad bit easier.

Consider planning a couple fun outings the week prior to school starting such as going out for donuts to make the earlier rising time an adventure.

Practice lunch by packing the lunch box and setting a timer for the amount of time that your child has for lunch at school.

#2 Pick out the clothes for school for the entire week.

Multiple readers said they help their kids to lay out clothes for the whole week on Sunday or tell their teens to do so themselves. One reader even had a brilliant idea to use hanging cubbies to put clothes for each day. And this is why we ask our readers these questions.

#3 Don’t buy a brand new “back to school” wardrobe

The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans with school-age kids are spending upwards of $867 per kid on back to school supplies and clothing. That number is enormous but can be cut back without going all out for a new wardrobe for your kids. There are tons of consignment shops and sales to make use of to help get your kids a new-to-them wardrobe.

Also, consider purchasing just a couple outfits at the beginning of the school year versus an entire new wardrobe. Your kids might change their mind on what they want to wear after seeing what other kids are wearing and the colder weather is just a couple months away.

#4 Meal prep

Many of our readers noted that prepping meals ahead of time for during the week is a lifesaver when getting back into the swing of things. One mom even prepares one big meal at the beginning of the week that can feed everyone for several nights and just switches up the sides to add variety.

Anything you can prepare the night before such as packing lunches will also make leaving the house on time in the morning much easier.

Setting up a breakfast station the week before with breakfast foods ready to go can also make the morning move smoother.

#5 Take the “first day of ____ grade” pictures the day before!

As yes, the First Day of __ Grade Back to School photos. You know, the ones where you’re desperately trying to get your kid to school but then remember you want to memorialize the occasion but need a chalkboard and pen and paper and nothing else that you have right then but are already late? Yeah, those. Do them the day before school starts. Reader Kerry says, “Just chill. The chalkboard thing doesn’t have to happen; neither does posting to social media. Let them dress for comfort instead of trying to dress to impress.” Another mom said she just has her kids hold up the number of fingers to correspond to the grade they are going into.

#6 Don’t schedule any appointments that first week of school

No doctor appointments. No dentist appointments. Nothing that will give you even more stress than you’re already handling. Schedule them for a few weeks out from the first day of school if you can.

#7 Use Alexa to help you remember things you/your kids need to do

One reader said she programs her Alexa device to set reminders about things her or her kids would likely forget like when the library book is due, what day of the week her kid(s) needs to wear gym shoes or a reminder to plug in the Chromebook.

#8 Plug in that Chromebook

Be sure to plug in the Chromebook on Sunday night because going to school with a dead laptop is no fun.

#9 Keep the social life to a minimum

One mom said she has found that restricting weekend plans for the first few weeks into the school years has helped her kids to get the relaxation they need and helps them to focus on the new school year.

#10 Use your calendar to keep up with events

One mom said she plugs all of the school events into your calendar on her phone before the school years so she knows what to expect and can plan for events.

#11 Keep all school-related things in one place

Mom Stacy has this amazing idea: “I have a back-to-school binder. It has the school calendar and sections for each child for their supply lists and forms teachers send home for platforms the kids use, passwords, usernames, etc and contact lists.

Anything important that’s sent home, especially those early weeks, goes straight in the binder. The supply list stays so I can touch base with the teacher through the year on possible extra needs or send in extras that are consumed quickly.”

What’s your back-to-school hack?

East school night dinners

And then there’s dinner.

Get some new ideas: School-Night Dinner Secrets from our readers

Guide to Travel: North Carolina Family Adventures To Embark On

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If you love to travel, North Carolina has so much adventure to offer! North Carolina is a popular place for both day trips, vacations, and backcountry exploration. From the lush and adventurous mountains of the west to the stunning coastline and Outer Banks of the east, there is so much to do in North Carolina.

If you’re planning a trip up to North Carolina, we’ve got some great information on places to stay, where to eat, and things to do.

This article includes travel destinations in:
Western North Carolina
Central North Carolina
Coastal North Carolina

Vacations rental homes in Western North Carolina (WNC).

Check out our list of Western North Carolina Vacation Rentals to help pick the perfect lodging for your epic adventure!

Western North Carolina

If you’re traveling to WNC for a day trip or weekend getaway, you’ll find this information handy. We’ve organized some helpful content by city, so you’ll be able to easily find reader-recommended things to do, places to eat, and lodging advice. Enjoy your trip!

Looking for the perfect day trip destination? Check out our Day Trip Destinations in WNC article.

Black bear at the WNC Nature Center

Asheville

Asheville is a popular destination for many of our readers and is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. With a thriving art scene, delicious and unique food options, and a beautiful downtown to explore, no wonder Asheville is consistently named on top travel lists throughout the country. Our helpful guides below offer information to make planning your trip to Asheville a breeze.

Check out our Guide to Asheville for reviews on our favorite things to do in the area, plus some really fantastic places to eat. Lots of these places are recommended by our readers and we’ve included their quotes, so you know what to expect!

Flat Rock

Though Flat Rock, NC has become heavily associated with the famous poet Carl Sandburg, there is so much natural beauty, food, and exploration to enjoy. For more great things to do, check out A Day in Flat Rock or look over our reviews of popular places in Flat Rock below.

Explore why A Day in Flat Rock makes for the perfect day trip to WNC!

Baby goats at Carl Sandburg House

Brevard

Brevard, North Carolina is a cozy little area of NC tucked away at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest near the SC border. Dining, river tubing, waterfalls, and a hunt for the white squirrels that populate much of the city make Brevard, NC a perfect day trip destination.

Check out our reviews of some of the fun things to do in Brevard below.

Indoor exhibits at the Cradle of Forestry

Enjoy a day trip to Brevard, NC, and maybe even explore the Pisgah Forest!

Hendersonville

Hendersonville is a gem of WNC destinations, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Greenville! Home to many u-pick orchards, snow tubing centers, and vineyards, activities in Hendersonville will pill your entire day’s itinerary. Don’t miss our list of Free Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC! You can find reviews of some of the best Hendersonville has to offer below.

Fairy house on the trail at Bullington Gardens in North Carolina.
Fairy House at Bullington Gardens Fairy Trail

Learn more about the wonderful Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC!

Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC.

Cherokee

Cherokee, North Carolina is rich in both history and culture while complemented by spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains! If you haven’t visited national parks in a while, Cherokee makes for a easy day trip to one.

This is the place to go if you are looking for a mountain adventure where you can delve into the history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Maybe you will even see some Elk crossing the Oconaluftee River during your visit!

Check out some of our reviews of Cherokee, North Carolina below.

Elk crossing the street in Cherokee, North Carolina

Check out of KA review of Cherokee, NC, and learn why it is such a great place to spend the day with your kids.

Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock is home to Tweetsie Railroad, one of North Carolina’s oldest wild-west themed amusement parks. You can find out all about Tweetsie Railroad in our review below. You can also visit a mile high swinging bridge while you are in Highlands of North Carolina at Grandfather Mountain!

Tweetsie Railroad in Western North Carolina.
Engine 12 at Tweetsie Railroad

Little Switzerland

Considered the “Jewel on the Blue Ridge Parkway”, Little Switzerland, North Carolina is the perfect stopping place when traveling between North Carolina and Tennessee. Check out our review of Emerald Village in Little Switzerland below.

You Can Hunt for Treasure at Bon Ami Mine in Emerald Village
Pan for Gold at Gold River Camp and Cabins

Cashiers/Highlands

If you love to travel, North Carolina has in gem hidden in the mountains called Cashiers, NC. Loaded with Waterfalls, river tubing, and beachy lakes, the Highlands area is the perfect place to unwind while taking in spectacular views. We have reviews of some of the best things to do in Cashiers below.

Children sliding down Sliding Rock in Cashiers, North Carolina.
Sliding Rock in Cashiers, NC

Bryson City

Bryson City is an adorable little getaway town in Western North Carolina that is home to the Smoky Mountain Railroad! The downtown area offers shopping, dining, and the rich history of WNC without the touristy vibes of some of the larger cities. Plus, you are right at the door of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you know it’s gorgeous there.

Polar Express Bryson City, NY
Polar Express at the Smokey Mountain Railroad

Learn more about Bryson City and everything this mountain town has to offer!

Guide to Bryson City, North Carolina.

Tryon

Tryon, North Carolina is a small town that borders South Carolina just above Landrum and is home to one of the country’s largest Equestrian centers. You can check out more information in our review below!

Saluda

Saluda, North Carolina offers an abundance of spectaular wilderness and is only 50 minutes from Greenville. You can check out our review of one of Saluda’s most popular hikes (with a spectacular waterfall as a prize). If you love river tubing, be sure to check out the excellent tubing adventure on the Green River!

Rutherfordton

You can explore the picturesque historic downtown of Rutherfordton North Carolina during your visit to Hendersonville, its neighboring city. While you’re there, be sure to visit their amazing interactive children’s museum! You can find our review below.

KidSenses children's museum in Rutherford, NC

Chimney Rock / Lake Lure

If you love a mountain adventure that also involves hiking, a gorgeous mountain lake, and a sandy beach with waterslides, then the Chimney Rock and Lake Lure area of Western North Carolina is where to go!

Views from Chimney Rock, NC

Check out our guide to Kidding Around Western North Carolina, where you can find even more things to do in WNC!

Kidding Around WNC: things to do in Western North Carolina towns

Waterfalls at Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest

Looking for places to hike throughout the Upstate and Western North Carolina? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Hiking to find that perfect trail to spend the day!


Central North Carolina

For those who love to explore and travel, North Carolina offer the central region with big cities and lots to do. The Central region of North Carolina includes cities such as Charlotte and Concord. With big cities comes lots of adventures to behold! Below you will find organized content that will help you plan the perfect trip to the Queen City and cities surrounding the Charlotte Metro area, including places to eat, things to do, and awesome places to stay.

Charlotte / Concord

The Queen City is the largest city in North Carolina. With excellent dining experiences, sporting events, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and one of the largest amusement parks on the east coast, Charlotte is a world-renowned destination. There are also epic places like the U.S. National Whitewater Center to take your older kids for an amazing day trip!

You will find tons of information in our Ultimate Guide to Charlotte, as well as reviews of Charlotte and Concord area adventures below.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Charlotte, North Carolina, with things to do, places to eat, and more!

View of the racetrack at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Gastonia

Gastonia, North Carolina is just south of Charlotte and offers a great day trip destination for those looking to get away for a few hours without burning through an entire tank of gas. Check out our list of Top 10 Things to do in Gastonia, NC, and find reviews of a natural history museum in Gastonia that’s worth the trip below.

Dinosaurs at the Schiele Museum

Learn more in our list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Gastonia, NC!


Coastal North Carolina

When you are looking to travel, North Carolina has beaches galore! Plus, many of the beaches offer excellent things to do, tons of history, and even some unique qualities you may not find anywhere else (I am looking at your Outer Banks).

Surf City

Located near Wilmington on Topsail Island off the coast of North Carolina, Surf City is a quaint and quiet beach town perfect for families with small children. The town is walkable, with small shops and local restaurants to enjoy after a day at the beach. There is even a turtle rehabilitation center you can visit. You can read our review of Surf City, North Carolina to see some of what this beach town has to offer!

View of the Atlantic Ocean from dunes at Surf City, North Carolina.
Surf City, North Carolina

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach, North Carolina is an excellent option for a family-friendly beach vacation. This beach is less crowded than some other beaches but offers fun entertainment such as an amusement park on the boardwalk. You can read our Carolina Beach review to find some great ideas for dining and entertainment to plan the perfect beach getaway!

The Boardwalk at Carolina Beach, North Carolina.
The Boardwalk at Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is absolutely stunning! Located off the northern coast of North Carolina, this 175-mile-long strip of barrier island offers quaint beach towns, humongous sand dunes (including the tallest living sand dune!), wild horses, watersports, historical lighthouses, and so much more!

Plus, Outer Banks beaches are wonderful for an adventure, including the stunning beaches in the Cape Lookout National Seashore on the southern park of the barrier islands.

Check out our review of the Outer Banks, including popular destinations along the island’s coast such as Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hill.

Kite Flying at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

What is your favorite destination in the spectacular state of North Carolina?

SouthEast Travel Guide

Always up for an adventure?

Check out our KA Travel Guide, with dozens of ideas for the best kid-friendly places to visit during your next trip!

Travel Guide to Charleston, SC: Things to Do, Where to Stay and Places to Eat

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Looking for a Charleston travel guide? Does your family love hitting the highway and heading south to this seaside town in South Carolina?

We’ve covered lots of different things to do and see in Charleston and you can find them all here in this Charleston Travel Guide. Everything from an itinerary for a long weekend without kids to a list of things to do that won’t break the bank. We’ve even included some things we plan to cover in the coming months.

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10+ Things to Do with Kids Near Concord, NC in Cabarrus County

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Have you visited Cabarrus County in North Carolina? Just a short two-hour drive from the Upstate, Cabarrus County offers tons of fun for kids from a historic gold mine you can tour, to a famous NASCAR speedway and NHRA dragway. In this article, we’ll share more than 10 places you can take your kids near Concord plus all the tips you need to make it a family memory you will never forget.

Thank you to Explore Cabarrus for providing lodging and some of these experiences.

This article includes:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
ZMAX Dragway
Reed Gold Mine
Great Wolf Lodge
Concord Mills
SEA LIFE Aquarium
The Speedpark
Lionel Retail Store
The Percantile & Creamery
iFly Concord
Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store
K1 Speed Indoor Karting
Kannapolis, NC: Village Park and More
Sunflour Baking Company

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