Local mom Bethany Winston reviews the Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, and Preserves in Charlotte, North Carolina. This free day-trip destination includes a treehouse-themed playground, hiking, and an indoor nature center.
Recently, my family discovered an amazing nature center and preserve about 6 miles northwest of downtown Charlotte: Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve located inside the large Reedy Creek Park. This county-owned park was completely free, including parking. While there might not be an admission fee, don’t make the mistake of thinking that means that this nature center is not worth the drive from Greenville.
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Family-Friendly Things to Do at Reedy Creek Park
Reedy Creek Park has three playgrounds that we discovered. The first playground was on our left almost immediately after entering the park. It’s a large playground with plenty of slides, ramps, and ladders. The play structures were not particularly high and I think even smaller children would enjoy it as long as they are comfortable climbing short ladders.
There was little shade on this playground and it was hot on the day we visited so my kids chose not to play long, but it was a large, interesting playground and I’m sure would have been a completely different experience if we had visited earlier in the day or during a cooler season of the year.
Adjacent to the playground, we also found basketball courts and picnic shelters. There was also a rather large dog park on our right before we reached the playground.
Just a little bit farther up the road, we found the parking lot for the Reedy Creek Nature Center. This area of the park was wooded (quite a relief due to the heat).
Outside the Reedy Creek Nature Center, we found a second playground that felt like a hidden magical world tucked away in the forest. The playground included natural-themed play structures such as artificial tree stumps and the main focal structure was a treehouse complete with a bridge. My kids played for a good hour on this playground and probably would have been content to spend the day on it.
Later in our day, we drove up to the third playground which was beside a lake. This “playground” only had a couple of swings and a volleyball court, but it was an easy walk down to a beautiful lake with a fishing pier. We saw several families picnicking and fishing in this area.
Reedy Creek Nature Center
The Nature Center was small but it was free and even better air-conditioned. Inside the Nature Center, our children were able to look at animals and small science displays. We also found a quiet area for pretend play where our children could dress up as rangers and play in a pretend campsite.
The room had a couple of rocking chairs for adults too. It was very quiet on the day we visited and we had the spot to ourselves. Our kids had a lot of fun and didn’t want to leave even after a long playtime.
Hiking at Reedy Creek Park
After a long day of fun (we had already spent hours at Discovery Place in downtown Charlotte) our kids were too tired and hot for us to dare attempt sustained hiking, but the map showed several easy hikes on the preserve that we hope to try on another day.
One hike lead to a historic site and was only an hour’s walk. The grounds also had butterfly gardens, bird feeders, streams, vast wooded areas, and lakes. We were able to obtain a free map from the Nature Center so that we could still take a short stroll. The trail system was clearly marked and it was possible to take both short walks along the trails and longer hikes.
Tips for Your Visit
- If you visit on a hot day, be sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray. While the preserve does have a lot of shade, there are several open spaces with little shade.
- Plan plenty of time if you want to get the full experience. The preserve alone is over 900 acres of woods. Fortunately, the park does have a decent road system and multiple parking lots, so you can drive to the parts of the park in this article if you are short on time or if your children are tired (like us).
- Don’t forget your fishing supplies. The park has two fishing lakes. Visitors over 16 must have a fishing license.
- The Nature Center has a gift shop for those who would like to purchase souvenirs.
- Bikers will find plenty of bike-friendly areas but are limited to the gravel trails and paved roads.
Hummingbird Festival at Reedy Creek Nature Center
Each August, a hummingbird festival is held at the Reedy Creek Nature Center. It includes bird banding, science experiments, bird hikes, art vendors, and storytelling sessions. The events are held throughout the week, and some require pre-registration. The front desk at the Nature Center recommended coming early to see the most hummingbirds.
About the Reedy Creek Nature Center & Preserve
Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, and Preserve
2900 Rocky River Rd.
Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday, 1-5 pm
Have you ever been to the Reedy Creek Nature Center?
For more inexpensive day trip ideas see our list of day trips under $25 from Greenville.