Eat out, shop around, and get away -- all with your little one. These are the city's best family-friendly spots
Restaurateur Frank Scibelli brought his Dilworth gourmet burger concept, Big Daddy's Burger Bar, to the suburban family bastion of Ballantyne last year, and the daddies, mommies, kids, and babies there have been packing the place ever since. Parents appreciate the wide selection of burger toppings and beers, while kids get a kick out of the sliders and mini hot dogs. Everyone in the family can grab a straw and share one of the tasty milkshakes, or save your appetite for Saturday or Sunday morning, when Big Daddy's serves up a hearty breakfast. 1626 East Blvd., 704-714-4888; 15105A John J. Delaney Dr., 704-919-2700
Children's Clothing store
One of Charlotte's most popular children's boutique -- Looby Loo -- closed recently, but Magic Windows, a Phillips Place stalwart, has been holding on for twelve years by offering traditional, tailored children's clothing from lines such as Burberry, Lilly Pulitzer, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, and Vineyard Vines. This is the place to find that heirloom-quality baby gift or elegant outfit for a wedding, portrait sitting, or other special occasion. Phillips Place, 6800 Phillips Place Ct., 704-643-7040
If you hear the words "I'm bored" while you're at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, you know you're missing out on something, because you can't possibly fit in all the activities available through the One-day All Sports Pass in just one day. For $49 for adults and $29 for kids, you can raft, climb, kayak, zip line, eco- trek, and mountain bike until you drop. The littlest adventurers especially like flat-water kayaking on the Catawba River; for older thrill seekers, adventure rafting on the world's largest recirculating river is the main event.
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy., 704-391-3900
Give those drama queens and kings a creative outlet or help shy guys and girls come out of their shells via Children's Theatre of Charlotte's classes and camps taught by actors at uptown's ImaginOn, as well as satellite locations in Ballantyne and Davidson. Programs for the youngest players—in the three- to six-years-old group -- are especially popular, but the theater also offers more intensive training for kids in fourth grade and higher who are serious about a career as a thespian.
300 E. Seventh St., 704-973-2800
Children's Shoe Store
Hard-to-fit footsies will find just the right shoes at Tootsies Too, and so will those looking for something fantastic to go with that special outfit. The Myers Park shop carries the tried-and-true Willits line of saddle shoes and Mary Janes, as well as more trendy offerings rom brands such as Ugg, Ecco, and Asics. And if you're still looking for that special outfit to go with your kid's new shoes, try the adjacent children's clothing boutique, the ever-popular Fancy Pants. 1025-A Providence Rd., 704-379-1992
Online Parenting Resource
If a Web site could wear pants, CharlotteSmartyPants.com would choose whatever happens to be the hippest premium denim jeans out there right now -- but it would find them at the lowest available price. This group of savvy lady bloggers will clue you in to the coolest retailers, service providers, discounts, bargains, and activities for kids and their families -- hat is, unless you find them on Charlotte magazine's BOBs list first.
Family Weekend Getaway
Minimize travel time and maximize fun on your next weekend getaway by heading right over the county line to Concord's Great Wolf Lodge, where a gigantic indoor water park and other amenities can easily keep a family entertained for two days. If you're looking to mix a little luxury with your family time, one parent can watch the cubs while the other gets a massage, mani/ pedi, or facial at the spa. And with suites starting at $190 a night, it can be pretty affordable, too. 10175 Weddington Rd. Extension NW, Concord, 866-740-9653
Child and Family Photographer
If what you want is one of those classic family portraits where you're all sitting by the fireplace, heads tilted in and smiling serenely, Jen Hunt is not the photographer for you. This young professional shutterbug (along with her business partner/husband, Chris) is making a name for herself with candid, natural-light pictures where messy baby faces and hair wispies aren't Photoshopped out, they are celebrated. She sums up her philosophy this way: "Our goal is not to take the perfect picture, but to capture the family we're photographing perfectly." Sounds picture perfect to us! jenhuntphotography.com
Kids Consignment Sale
Baby Gap and Gymboree do not make the cut, but Lilly Pulitzer and Ralph Lauren do at the high-end consignment and overstock event Divine Consign Show, which hits Charlotte twice a year and typically draws more than 100 consignors and 300 shoppers over two days. Don't expect to see the kind of single-digit price tags that are common at your typical church rummage sale, but do expect deep discounts on the finest children's clothing out there. Look for the next sale in early fall.