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25+ Family Friendly FREE Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

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Having fun with your family is always easier when you have free things to do! Charlotte, NC has a lot of options, from adventurous to educational. You don’t need expensive tickets to enjoy these activities, just bring your family and have a fantastic time, all without breaking the bank.

Free things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina for families.

Free Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Finding something to do with your kids that doesn’t cost an astronomical amount in today’s economy can be difficult. Luckily, we gathered some of the best free things in Charlotte, NC that are both family-friendly and fun.

Things to Do at Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center in Charlotte

The Playground at Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, and Preserve is so unique!

Schiele Museum of Natural History and Planetarium near Gastonia, North Carolina

The Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC has a free Tuesday night each month.

Free Things to Do Outdoors in Charlotte, NC

Pack your bag and explore the beautiful outdoors at Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, & Preserve in Charlotte, NC. They regularly have free events where your kids can meet and greet with animals and learn about nature. Plus, they have a nature center that is indoors, so you can visit any time of year. You’ll also find these events at the Latta Nature Preserve, McDowell Nature Preserve and Center, and Stevens Creek, all of which are part of the Mecklenburg County Nature Centers and Preserves.

Village Park in Kannapolis, NC has a gorgeous park with lots of trees, a playground, a splash pad in the warmer months, a huge greenspace, a paved walking trail, and even a Venetian carousel (only $1.50) that is stunning!

Village Park Kannapolis

Village Park in Kannapolis, NC has a free splash pad, paved trails, lots of green space, and a pretty cheap pass to ride a train!

You can also find an abundance of trails and greenways in Cabarrus County, many of which are paved. You’ll even find mountain biking on some of the trails.

Freedom Park is a beautiful park just outside of downtown Charlotte that has a huge playground area, shaded walking trails, and even a Play 60 NFL playground you can explore as well.

Head to Belmont, NC to check out the new tree house-themed playground at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park along the Catawba River. Enjoy the beautiful wide, paved walking paths, and public dock where you can put in a canoe or kayak and enjoy the river. We love the bench swings along the dock! Pack a picnic and make a full-day adventure out of this free park.

Looking for a day outdoors? This one isn’t totally free but they offer a lot for cheap. Get a family membership for just $12 a month to Anne Springs Close Greenway In York County, SC, just south of Charlotte. The Greenway has hiking, biking, and paddle sports!

You can spend the day outdoors at the Anne Springs Close Greenway in York County, SC, only 25 minutes from Charlotte. Family memberships start at $12 per month.

The Anne Springs Close Greenway in York, South Carolina

Interested in the history of Charlotte? Take a self-guided tour through the Fourth Ward, with stunning historic homes painted in pinks, blues, greens, and purple. The tour is something you can do time and time again, picking out different areas to explore each time.

Take a stroll around the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens and enjoy the sights and smells of a beautifully maintained garden while teaching your little ones about plants and how to care for the environment.

Free Things to Do Indoors in Charlotte, NC

The Schiele Museum offers Free admission on the second Tuesday of each month from 4 – 8 pm, so you can explore all of the fun science exhibits, including dinosaurs, critters, and even a mineral exhibit.

Visit your local Home Depot on the first Saturday of each month for a FREE project. Projects are usually themed for upcoming holidays or seasons, and your kids can build and make something they will love.

Home Depot has a FREE kids workshop each month that your kids will love bonding with you over.

Home Depot kids workshop

Cinergy Cinemas in Charlotte offers sensory-friendly screenings of a kid-friendly movie one Saturday per month! The theatre will brighten lights, reduce sound, and make space for people to move, talk, dance, and sing during these movies.

Wednesday Night Live at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is from 5-9 and is an excellent option for parents with older children or children who love the arts to explore the exhibits, listen to live music, and participate in an available workshop. 

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Culture Arts+Culture always has free exhibits and demonstrations you can check out.

Head to ImaginON, where you will find a plethora of free, family-friendly events. They have specialized events for younger kids like storytime, music performances, puppet shows, and so much more! Check out the ImaginON calendar to find out what’s happening the day you want to visit.

Legos at ImaginOn

You will also find free events and storytime at all 20 of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries, many of which occur weekly and are a great way to socialize as a parent with young kids!

Check out a FREE Live Story Time at the Ballantyne Arts Center, part of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. These events happen a couple of times a month and you will want to register ahead of time.

You will also find that the Mint Museum has Free admission on Wednesday Nights from 5-9. The exhibits feature permanent collections along with some rotating exhibitions. This is a great option to explore with older kids and teens who can learn while also enjoying the arts. They usually have a craft section set up on Wednesday night as well.

Kids Eat FREE!

Looking for Kids Eat Free deals in Charlotte, NC? These restaurants offer meal deals throughout the week, so you can save a little money on your kid’s meal while indulging in some delicious food! 

Kids Eat Free Charlotte, NC

Kids Eat FREE throughout the week at these Charlotte, NC area restaurants.

Seasonal Free Things to Do

These seasonal things to do near Charlotte, NC are completely free! You’ll find fun summer activities like spraygrounds and flower fields in addition to winter activities like holiday lights and sledding.

Free Summer Activities in Charlotte, NC

These Apple Store Classes and Camps for Kids are FREE. Your kids will learn design, inventing, and other STEAM-style lessons at this summer camp.

You can explore the Draper WMA Sunflower Fields at the end of June, the beginning of July each year. The fields are filled with sunflowers that you can take epic photos with. Just please, pack out what you pack in!

Draper Sunflower Fields in York County, SC has 24 acres of gorgeous sunflowers you can visit each summer!

Draper wma sunflower fields

Spraygrounds: Free Water Fun!

You will find nine spraygrounds operated by the Mecklenburg Parks and Rec that are a pretty great way to beat the heat. One of the most popular, Veterans Park, even has a cover so your little ones won’t get burned while they run around in the water.

Romare Bearden is another noteworthy park since it’s located on the outskirts of the city skyline, so you have an amazing view!

First Ward Park is right beside Discovery Place, so you can add a visit to the sprayground after visiting the science center.

Winter in Charlotte, NC: Free Activities

Though Charlotte doesn’t see much snow, just west in Western North Carolina you can check out these places for FREE sledding near Charlotte if you’re looking to take a day trip!

You’re in for a treat at this epic light display in Christmas Town USA! McAdenville, NC is home to a town that lights up during the holiday season, with almost every home participating for miles.

If you need a boost to your holiday spirit, check out the FREE display of lights at the Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, NC. Seeing the lights are free, and there is even a firework display and tree lighting on opening night!

Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, North Carolina

The Celebration of Lights has thousands of lights, a Venetian Carousel, train rides, and more!

Stuck at Home? Free Fun With What You Have!

Sometimes, we all get stuck at home because of the weather or just don’t feel like leaving the house today (we don’t judge). These 25+ Things to Do When You’re Stuck at Home are just what you need to make the day special with the things you already have on hand.

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Don’t miss our full guide to things to do in Charlotte, NC!

See Historic Planes for FREE! Western North Carolina Air Museum in Hendersonville, NC

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Did you know Hendersonville, NC has a FREE airplane museum? The Western North Carolina Air Museum is in a hangar beside a small runway full of historic airplanes. Learn about the history of the planes, how they’re made, and how they fly. There are even aircraft that kids can climb in, explore, and experiment with the controls. If you have an aviation enthusiast in your family, no matter their age, this is not a place you’ll want to skip. Let us introduce you to this amazing little gem in Hendersonville so you can plan your visit soon!

WNC Air Museum planes

What is the Western North Carolina Air Museum?

The museum consists of a single hanger filled to the brim with interesting and historic aircraft, informational exhibits, and knowledgable staff there to answer your questions and explain everything about these planes. There is also an aviation library that takes up almost an entire wall of the hanger, full of information for anyone researching an aviation topic whether it’s historical, technical, or anything in between.

Plane at the WNC Air Museum

Is the WNC Air Museum a Place for Kids?

YES! Definitely bring kids to this museum. Signage at the museum asks parents to supervise their children at all times, which makes sense since there are so many valuable aircraft and exhibits densely packed into the space.

That said there are definitely things for kids to touch, explore, play with, and enjoy. There are photo ops for kids in the form of a wooden painted plane. And your kids may also notice some stuffies doing a little piloting. Both a plane and a gyrocopter are available for kids to climb into the pilot’s seat and move the controls. They’ll actually be able to move the rudder, ailerons, and elevator. This was definitely my kids’ favorite part of the museum.

Kids lpiloting at WNC Air Museum

The staff at the museum were very kind to my kids, answering all their questions and complimenting us on their inquisitiveness and behavior. And really, what parent doesn’t want to hear things like that about their kids?

On our way out, my kids were offered copies of some aviation magazines which they eagerly accepted. Members of the Air Museum donate copies they are done with to the museum so kids can bring them home to learn more.

WNC Air Museum Stuffed Pilots

When Can We Visit the Western North Carolina Air Museum?

The regular hours of the museum are as follows:

  • April – October: Wednesday & Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm
  • November – March: Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 12 pm to 5 pm

The museum may also be open for additional hours for special events, like the Hendersonville Apple Festival. Visit the Western North Carolina Air Museum website for special event information.

WNC Air Museum

Getting to the WNC Air Museum

When you plug the address into your GPS or maps app you should have no trouble getting to the museum. It’s located just a few miles from downtown Hendersonville, but the area is residential and you may feel like you’re headed off in the wrong direction. The drive is gravel and you’ll see the hanger from the road.

WNC Air Museum entrance

Western North Carolina Air Museum
1340 Gilbert Street, Hendersonville
FREE admission and parking

Free Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC

There are so many more free and fun adventures in Hendersonville, NC!

Here’s our list of totally free fun in Hendersonville, NC.

These Apple Store Classes and Camps for Kids are Totally FREE

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Did you know the Apple Store provides free classes and camps for kids? Classes include the free use of Apple technology plus instruction allowing kids to be creative with music, photography, art, video, and even coding.

Over summer break, the Apple Store even provides FREE Apple Camp for kids, which are class events that culminate in a final project. All this happens through a program called Today at Apple.

My own kids have participated in several of these camps and classes and have always enjoyed the programs, wearing their free Apple t-shirts, and sharing their creations with our family. Thanks to that experience, in this article we’re sharing everything you need to know about signing up and participating in these classes and camps at the Apple Store, plus a few tips.

Apple camp

This article includes:
In-Store Apple Classes for Kids
How to Sign-up for Apple Store Kids’ Classes
Apple Camp: Free Summer Camp for Kids
Sign-up for 2023 Apple Camp
Things to Know About Apple Events for Kids


13+ Totally Free Things to Do With Kids Near You

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Kids are expensive. Are you looking for “free things for kids to do near me?” Making family memories while doing things with the kids doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are a lot of free things for kids near you. In addition to great local choices like visits to parks, playgrounds, hiking, and creek stomping, there are several totally free things for kids from national retailers, organizations, and kids’ programs all across the USA.

Free things for kids and families to do, free stuff for kids, near you! That means free activities for kids, family-friendly fun, free admission to museums, and lots more. That’s great news for families spending time together on a budget!

This is the list you want.

Free things to do for kids near you all year long.

Free things to do for kids across the USA

Bucket List of Free Things to Do for Kids Anywhere in the USA

Don’t miss any of these free activities, experiences, and projects for kids. Make some family memories and don’t spend a dime!

Home Depot Kids Workshop

Home Depot offers free kids’ workshop kits once a month. On the first Saturday of every month head to Home Depot for a free kids’ workshop. Pick up your kit and complete it at home. In-person workshops will very soon again be an option. Sign-up in advance to be sure your child will get their kit, but most of the time you can just stop by and join in the fun.

Lowes Kids Workshop

Lowes Home Improvement offers free kids workshops once a month in-store. Let the kids build and make something all their own. You won’t even have to deal with paint and wood bits all over your house. Just enjoy the free activity and bring your child’s creation home. You do need to sign-up in advance for these workshops, but they are totally free.

JCPenney Free Kids Craft

On the second Saturday of each month head to JCPenney for Kids Zone free crafts. Kids can make a totally free craft with all the supplies included, and parents will get a 10% off store coupon.

Kids Bowl Free

Did you know kids can bowl free all summer long? It really is true. Just sign up for Kids Bowl Free. Two games a day are totally free. If you don’t have bowling shoes, you will need to rent shoes, but you will not pay for the games. There’s even a family pass you can purchase for a one-time fee that lets grown-ups bowl all summer long, too. Check out Kids Bowl Free for a summer of free fun away from the screens.

Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops Holiday Free Photos

At both Christmas and Easter, kids can get a completely free 4×6 photo at Cabela’s along with a holiday visit with Santa or the Easter Bunny, plus fun activities and little treats.

Kids Eat for Free!

National Kids Eat Free promotions

Meal time can get expensive, which is why we love kids eat free deals. There are a number of restaurants that offer kids’ eat-free days all across the country. Get a free kids’ meal at these national chain restaurants.

Apple Kids Camp and Kids Classes

The Apple Store offers totally free Apple camps in the summer along with kids’ class activities throughout the year. During camp kids can bring their own iPad device or the store will provide one for kids to use. Kids will learn to use various Apple apps to create music, stories, and more that they can present to the other kids in the camp. Kids also get an Apple Camp t-shirt. Reserve camps and classes in advance. In fact, camps fill up so quickly, you’ll want to fill out this Apple camp form to be notified when reservations are open.

Apple camp
Apple Camp

4th Grade National Park Pass: Every Kid Outdoors

4th graders can bring their families along to National Parks for free with the Every Kid Outdoors, 4th Grade National Park Pass. In most instances, the 4th-grade pass gets all occupants of the car with the 4th grader into the park for free. So, go visit a National Park for free with your 4th grader.

Viewing wildlife at Yellowstone National Park

Kids in Parks

Have kids who like to earn free prizes? The TRACK Trail, Kids in Parks program sends prizes to kids who hike, bike, and even play disc golf at parks with Track Trails. They’ll learn about nature and even history as they complete each TRACK Trail, which makes this free thing for kids both an educational opportunity and an incentive to earn fun prizes. See how one family enjoyed Kids in Parks in this review.

Smithsonian Museum Days

Once a year you can get free admission for your family to Smithsonian Museums on Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. Museum Day usually occurs in September.

Summer Reading Programs

Summer reading programs equal free food, books, and lots more prizes. Not only will kids earn prizes, but they’ll receive one of the best gifts of all: reading time! Check out these summer reading programs available nationally, then don’t forget to check with your local library. Many libraries give out amazing summer reading prizes!

Free Donuts at Krispy Kreme

Keep your eyes out for special promotions from Krispy Kreme. They do them a lot! At participating Krispy Kreme donut shops, kids can get free donuts for everything from good grades to wearing a costume on Halloween. Pick up your free donut and head to a local playground for a totally free and fun family outing.

Local Libraries

Local libraries are a treasure trove of free family fun. It’s more than books, although reading together is awesome and free! But, local libraries offer special events for kids and families that go beyond storytime. We’re talking about free family movie nights complete with popcorn, craft kits, book boxes full of treats and books to keep, concerts, game nights and so much more. Seriously, if you are looking for free family fun, spend some time on your library’s website and check out their calendar. There’s probably a lot more there than you thought!

BONUS! $2 Movies All Summer Long

It’s not free, but you can bring the kids to family-friendly movies at Regal Cinemas for just $2 per person. Find out how to get tickets in our article on Regal Summer Movie Express.a