The Ultimate Guide to Charlotte’s Coolest Playgrounds
From spraygrounds and nature trails to zip lines and rock walls, the Queen City is popping with playgrounds for kids of all ages. Grab snacks and sunscreen (and water, of course) and escape the house for a day filled with play.
by Amanda Lea
The warm weather is here and the kids seem to have more energy than ever. When the “floor is lava” games are getting old and your craft supplies are looking tired, it’s time to wear the kids out with some fresh air and new adventures.
Address: 6500 Elmstone Dr.
Highlights & features: A natural playground, these are the largest known exposed boulders in Mecklenburg County. Big kids will enjoy climbing the giant rocks and hiking the trails that lead to the creek.
Good to know: Weave your way through the Ballantyne neighborhood and snag a parking spot on the street (you’ll see a sign for the entrance to the trail). The walking trail to get to the rocks is unpaved and uneven, so skip the stroller.
Address: 2365 Carmel Road
Highlights & features: The two playground structures are aimed for different ages and are separated by a set of swings. The large field is perfect for tossing the football or playing a round of freeze tag. Bring a basketball to take advantage of the adjoining courts.
Good to know: There’s plenty of parking and a lot of shade, but restrooms are not available.
Nearby: Pick up a few pies from Hawthorne’s New York Pizza & Bar on the way home to feed your hungry squad.
Address: 222 Wyanoke Ave.
Highlights & features: Check out the two playgrounds aimed at kids of various ages. Here you’ll find a big blue dinosaur for kids to climb, a swinging bridge and multiple slides. Bring a soccer ball to kick around the fields.
Good to know: Park on the neighborhood street and enjoy the short walk on the paved sidewalk to the playground. There’s not much shade, so be sure to grab a hat. Restrooms are not available.
Nearby: Pick up sandwiches from Lupie’s Cafe on the way home for a quick and tasty dinner.
Address: 1466 Cherry Road, Rock Hill, SC
Highlights & features: Nestled in a beautiful 68-acre park, the playground is complemented by scenic trails and multi-purpose fields for active play.
Good to know: Parking is available in the center of the park and restrooms are located throughout.
Address: 4330 Weddington Road, Matthews, NC
Highlights & features: The playgrounds are just a small part of all this park has to offer. Pack snacks and allow time to explore the beautiful views and creature encounters.
Good to know: Wind through the park’s main road and hang a right to park near the playgrounds. Restrooms are located throughout the park. Tables and grills are plentiful if you want to plan a cookout playdate.
Nearby: The cherry on top of a day at the park? Mouth-watering ice cream prepared with locally-sourced ingredients from The Local Scoop.
Address: 5900 Oakwood Ln., Indian Trail, NC
Highlights & features: This is the coolest woodland-themed playground with a zipline and a lot of room to explore. There’s also a separate ADA playground for kids of all ages and abilities. Nature trails and a sprayground offer additional entertainment.
Good to know: Restrooms are easily accessible and parking is plentiful. There are picnic tables, so don’t forget provisions.
Nearby: Throw it back to the good old days with a trip to Kate's Skating Rink, Indian Trail.
Address: 2219 Tyvola Road
Highlights & features: With options for toddlers and teenagers alike, your group will have a blast testing out the engaging and challenging equipment. Curved monkey bars and an elevated ropes course will keep kids on their toes, while a boat-themed slide and rock wall will get the creative juices flowing.
Good to know: Parking is available right near the playground. Restrooms are not currently available.
Nearby: Stop by Mugs Coffee to have some caffeine in hand while the kids play.
Address: 1908 East Blvd.
Highlights & features: This sprawling park has a lot to offer. You’ll find two playgrounds, access to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, a paved loop around the pond, and tons of green space. The NFL Play 60 KidZone is a great challenge for big kids dreaming of the big leagues.
Good to know: Restrooms (including a family restroom!) are located near the pond and by the Play 60 KidZone. There are multiple entrances and parking areas. A smaller, fenced-in playground is located off Princeton Drive. A larger playground and the Play 60 KidZone can be accessed from the East Boulevard entrance.
Nearby: Discovery Place Nature is adjacent to Freedom Park and is perfect for nature lovers of all ages.
Address: 6301 Beatties Ford Road
Highlights & features: Be sure to check out the Carolina Panthers Play 60 Challenge Course – there’s even a timer for kids and parents to race each other through the course. For a change of pace, the BMX Bike Track hosts bicycle motocross competitions every Saturday and spectators can cheer on the racers for free. Ready, set, go!
Good to know: There’s not much shade in the playground area, so don’t skimp on the sunscreen. Parking is easy and restrooms are located throughout the park. Have your phone handy for some picturesque photos by the pond.
Address: 601 East Park Ave.
Highlights & features: Spraygrounds, playgrounds and trails, oh my! This tree-lined park tucked in the Dilworth neighborhood is small but mighty. When the kids get tired of playing, take a scooter or stroller ride through the trails.
Good to know: This one checks all the boxes – there’s shade, bathrooms and parking. There are several sets of stairs to get to the playground and sprayground, so little ones might need a hand.
Nearby: If you’re up for some more park-hopping, Freedom Park is just down the road.
Address: 2100 Wilhelmina Ave.
Highlights & features: A hidden gem in Plaza Midwood, this playground has various features that will keep your climbers busy, plus a huge field for bubbles and ball throws. There’s also an outdoor amphitheater if an impromptu performance strikes.
Good to know: Restrooms are available and parking is a short walk to the playground.
Nearby: Take a detour to stop and smell the roses at McGill Rose Garden.
Address: 6000 Statesville Road
Highlights & features: At Nevin Community Park, there are separate playgrounds for big kids and tiny tykes plus a shaded sprayground. There’s also plenty of green areas for impromptu bubble-blowing and tag tournaments. Walking trails are bike and stroller-friendly.
Good to know: Restrooms are available. There’s plenty of parking near the playground and sprayground.
Nearby: Dine on kid-friendly grub at Derita Dairy Bar. From grilled cheese and hot dogs to burgers and fries, the menu selection is a win-win for everyone.
Address: 6220 Park Road
Highlights & features: There are three playground spaces for varying ages and abilities. One is built with tiny tots in mind, with wide landing platforms instead of steps and small tunnels for exploring. The larger playground is perfect for your future ninja warrior, with a variety of spinning monkey bars and challenging rock walls. Once the kids are worn out, take a stroll around the pond or a bike ride on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.
Good to know: Parking is available right in front of the playgrounds, as well as near the pond and greenway entrances. Restrooms are located at various shelters throughout the park.
Address: 909 Lakeview Dr., Pineville, NC
Highlights & features: At Pineville Lake Park, you can expect a group of playgrounds at one end, a sprayground at the other, and a beautiful pond with a walking loop in the middle.
Good to know: Park at the Lakeview Drive end for playground access and park at the Johnston Drive entrance for the sprayground. Restrooms are available in the shelter by the outdoor stage.
Nearby: Snag some burgers and fries at the iconic Dive N diner and eat by the park’s pond.
Address: 1307 Riverwalk Parkway, Rock Hill, SC
Highlights & features: This playground is fully fenced in so kids can run, swing, climb and slide without a worry. The zipline is the main attraction but the elevated ropes course is also a big hit. While there are a few smaller obstacles for toddlers, this playground is ideal for bigger kids who have a need for speed.
Good to know: A true “hidden gem,” this playground can be tricky to locate. Look for the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. The playground parking lot is around the corner to the right. Restrooms are not available and there’s not much shade.
Nearby: Riverwalk Trestle is a peaceful path along the Catawba River. Bridges and boardwalks will satisfy adventure-seekers and nature lovers alike.
Address: 621 Elmhurst Road
Highlights & features: Also known as the “butterfly park” because of its outline, this playground is known for its slides and swings. Don’t miss the paved trail that meanders around the park.
Good to know: The park entrance sits behind Sedgefield Middle School off Poindexter Drive (Look for the sign, it can be easy to miss.) Street parking is available but limited. Restrooms are not available.
Nearby: Grab lunch at Price’s Chicken Coop and enjoy a picnic at one of the park’s tables or benches.
Address: 9530 Bellhaven Blvd.
Highlights & features: At Shuffletown Park, kids can play at two different playgrounds or explore the walking trail. Bring a volleyball and practice your serve on one of the two courts.
Good to know: Parking is a breeze and restrooms are available.
Nearby: For a fun twist, stop by X-tra Ball premium ice cream and pinball parlor. Since it’s located within the comic book shop Spandex City, you can enjoy comics, games and sweet treats all under one roof.
Address: 1631 Pleasant Plains Road, Matthews, NC
Highlights & features: Gorgeous greenery and a peaceful pond are the perfect backdrop for the playgrounds at this park. After conquering the play spaces, take a stroll on the paths and play a nature-themed round of “I spy.”
Good to know: The parking lot by the playground can fill up fast, but parking is also available along the park’s dirt road. Restrooms are handily located right next to the playground.
Nearby: The play area and children’s book selection at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Matthews branch is a refreshing break. Plus the train across the street from the library is a fun photo opp.
Address: 340 Stallings Road, Stallings, NC
Highlights & features: The toddler section of this park is a caregiver’s dream. The park is fenced-in and completely shaded, with a sandbox area and sidewalks to roll toy trucks. For a more tranquil experience, go on a family nature walk on one of the park’s trails.
Good to know: Restroom access and parking are very easy. Bring some toys for the sandbox.
Nearby: You won’t regret stopping by The Steak 'n Hoagie Shop for an authentic Philly-style cheesesteak.
Address: 7714 Tega Cay Dr., Tega Cay, SC
Highlights & features: As the first inclusive playspace in York County, this brightly colored playground is outfitted with equipment for children of all ages with sensory, physical, cognitive or social development limitations. Musical instruments and a zipline round out the exciting options that will keep kids entertained for hours.
Good to know: The playground is fenced in and restrooms are available. Handicapped-accessible parking is plentiful.
Address: 2136 Central Ave.
Highlights & features: With playground options for all ages, look out for slides to speed down or the shaded sprayground for cooling off. A noteworthy feature at this park is the “world’s largest free outdoor gym network” consisting of dynamic stations for veterans and the community.
Good to know: Parking and restrooms are steps away from the playground and sprayground. Bring a basketball to play a few rounds of HORSE on the nearby courts.
Nearby: Grab an iced latte at Undercurrent Coffee to stay cool and collected while the kids explore.
Address: 4635 Pineville-Matthews Road
Highlights & features: The best part of this park is that it’s fenced in, which makes it easier to monitor multiple kids at once. There are structures and activities for different ages and abilities, plus a shelter with mini picnic tables for snack time.
Good to know: Restrooms are easily accessible and the parking lot is right in front of the playground.
Make it a Day Trip
Just outside of Charlotte, there are diverse playgrounds and parks for a full day of play. (Bonus: Maybe the kids will catch a nap on the way home!
Address: 1515 Neal Hawkins Road, Gastonia, NC
Highlights & features: This castle-themed playground is truly magical. From the moment your kids enter they’ll be enthralled by the turrets, bridges, ladders and slides. The 1-acre playground is nestled within a 58-acre park with walking loops, soccer fields and volleyball courts. The hours will fly by exploring this dazzling destination.
Good to know: Paved parking and multiple restroom sites are available. Bring sunscreen, snacks and water. Break out the bikes and helmets to take advantage of the loops.
Nearby: For a change of scenery, spend time exploring The Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium.
Address: 700 W C St., Kannapolis, NC
Highlights & features: In addition to the playground and sprayground, this 16-acre park also offers an amphitheater, a carousel, walking trails and train rides. Bonus: They typically offer a “Concerts in the Park” and “Movies at the Park” series in the summer.
Good to know: Some activities charge a small fee and are operating on a limited schedule, so be sure to check before you go. Free parking is available and restrooms are located throughout the park. There are plenty of tables to enjoy a picnic lunch.
Nearby: Getting a treat at The Sweetest Thing Ice Cream Shoppe (directly across from the park) is a must.
Address: 19000 Jetton Road, Cornelius, NC
Highlights & features: In addition to the cool playground, enjoy walking (or biking) on the trails, roaming the gardens and “sunning” on the beach (no swimming allowed). The lush greenery and beautiful lake views are the perfect change of pace.
Good to know: Parking is easy and restrooms are located near the playground. Bring sunscreen and bug spray.
Nearby: Stop by Discovery Place Kids - Huntersville on the way home for the kids to let their imagination run wild.
Address: 6800 Bringle Ferry Road, Salisbury, NC
Highlights & features: There’s no shortage of things to do at this park. Between the playground, paddle boats, nature center, aquarium, mini-golf, carousel and train station, you can (and should!) spend hours enjoying all the attractions.
Good to know: Some attractions are available for a small fee, but admission to the park and many of the activities are free.
Nearby: Be sure to grab some sustenance before hitting the road to head home. Besides the usual fare, there are a variety of local gems right off I-85. Try Christo's Family Restaurant, The Smoke Pit or Spanky’s Homemade Ice Cream & Deli.
Go ahead and bookmark this carefully curated guide to some of the best playgrounds in the Charlotte area. It’s a cheat sheet to help you easily reference need-to-know info for each playground so you and your crew are prepared to have some high-vibe fun.