Charlotte is undoubtedly a green city with parks, gardens, and greenways from Uptown to the outermost reaches and suburbs. Greenway systems connect the parks throughout the city and are perfect for the more adventurous hikers and cyclists. If leisure is the goal, then any one of the city’s lush parks welcome picnickers and sunbathers to enjoy a relaxing day surrounded by natural beauty, so pack up a picnic and check out the best parks in Charlotte.
The UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens are located on the east side of the university campus and are open to students and members of the public alike. Opened in 1966, the gardens were originally an educational tool for biology students. They eventually opened to the public and expanded to fit the McMillan Greenhouse, Susie Harwood Garden, and seven-acre Van Landingham Glen, with each venue specializing in different plant life. The Greenhouse has over 1,000 species of exotic orchids, carnivores, and succulents – it also houses the famous Titun Arum, which drew massive crowds when it bloomed in 2007. The Glen has thousands of species native to the Carolinas and the Garden exhibits perennials and unique international plant life. Guided tours are available upon request, and admission is completely free!
UNC Charlotte Botantical Gardens, 9090 Craver Rd, Charlotte, NC, (704) 687-2364
Reedy Creek Park is well-removed from the Uptown crowds and has 146 acres of amenities, activities, and leisure spots. The park consists of sweeping lawns, sports and recreation facilities, playgrounds, ponds, a community garden, and an 18-hole disc golf course. Dog lovers can rejoice at the spacious Dog Park addition, where canines can run free while owners enjoy the sun and scenery. The Reedy Creek Nature Preserve is adjacent to the park, and offers miles of hiking trails, exhibits, and historical landmarks.
Reedy Creek Park, 2900 Rocky River Rd, Charlotte, NC, (704) 336-8869
On the Northern outskirts of Charlotte is the Latta Plantation Nature Center, a historic landmark and breathtaking nature reserve near the Catawba River. The plantation itself dates back to the 1800’s and was owned by Irish immigrant James Latta, who ran a cotton plantation on his many acres of land. Today, the plantation is owned by the county and serves as a historical museum with endangered livestock, cotton-picking demonstrations, honeybee exhibits, and more. The Latta Nature Center, adjacent to the plantation, offers equestrian tours, hiking trails, and water activities on the river. The views of Mountain Island Lake make the trip to Latta well-worth its distance from the city center.
Latta Plantation Nature Center, 6211 Sample Rd, Huntersville, NC, (704) 875-1391
The McDowell Nature Center and Preserve is a tranquil getaway in the middle of an urban center. This is a massive multi-functional campground with over 1,000 acres of hiking trails and picnic areas. The preserve protects nearly 200 species of wildlife, including the endangered ‘Prairie Dock’ flower and ‘Schweinitz Sunflower.’ Copperhead Island, adjacent to the preserve, has a complex of primitive camping grounds and boating activity rental sites near Lake Wylie. This is a wonderful spot to bring friends or family to spend some time in a pocket of true natural beauty in Charlotte.
McDowell Nature Center, 15222 York Rd, Charlotte, NC, (704) 588-5224