Kids & Family
Museums, Clothes, Toys, Water Parks, Restaurants, Playgrounds, Websites, and More
"I have four kids of my own," laughs photographer Caroline Ghetes, "and I'm constantly using them as guinea pigs!" Ghetes knows all the tricks to get that perfect shot of newborns and kids of all ages. "You can get the most creative with newborns and posing them but I also love chasing kids around," the veteran photog says. "I'll put the camera around my neck and run after them until I get the look I'm after." The result: photos of babies, toddlers, and families that are candid and fresh, exactly what you want in a memory.
Swimming Pool/Water Park
Latta Park Sprayground
601 E. Park Ave., 704-432-4280, parkandrec.com
On a hot summer day, there's no better place to be than one of the city's free spraygrounds. Water sprays, nozzles, streams, and spouts keep kids busy and cool at Latta Park Sprayground in Dilworth. Typically open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day through September, this water park is county run, and did we mention it's free?
Kid's Shoe Store
Tootsies Too Children Shoes
1025 Providence Rd., Ste. A, 704-379-1992, tootsieschildrenshoes.com
It's easy to put your little ones' best feet forward thanks to Tootsies Too Children Shoes, where you'll find everything from the basic brands (Keds from $25 per pair, Sun Sandals, Mia, and Kenneth Cole) to Ecco and Ugg (from $65 to $140) in sizes from baby to adult. A colorful activity area allows the wee ones to try out their new kicks before purchasing or play while their siblings try on sneaks. And if you can't find what you're looking for, Tootsies' staff will track it down for you.
Museum (ages 9 To 13)
301 N. Tryon St., 704-372-6261, discoveryplace.org
Math and science really can be fun. Seriously. And at Discovery Place, that notion's even more evident since its eighteen- month, $31.6 million renovation, which resulted in even more hands-on, interactive exhibits, cool experiments, and close-up encounters with nature. Tweens love the aquarium, the bridge through the rainforest, and the chance to get personal with stingrays. And if nature's not your kid's thing, he can always try his hand at the bed of nails.
Museum (age 8 and under)
Discovery Place Kids
105 Gilead Rd., Huntersville, 704-372-6261, discoveryplacekids.org
Since opening last October in Huntersville, Discovery Place KIDS has been packed with families and tots. It's the only children's museum of its kind in the area, catering to kids through second grade, and it offers a great family outing with an "I can!" theme, as in "I can build, I can create, and I can grow." Each exhibit allows kids to tap into their creativity and leadership by asking them to do everything from perform in a play to pretend to captain a ship. The museum even has a special play space for the wee ones.
Toys and Co.
242 S. Sharon Amity Rd., 704-365-7890, toysandco.com
It's old-school fun at Toys and Co., with traditional wooden toys and games that kids never outgrow. This Cotswold staple also carries the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets that kids love, including limited-edition Legos, Pillow Pets, and Squishables. The family-owned business has three stores throughout the Carolinas, but the Charlotte location is the biggest.
Charlotte Mothers of Multiples semiannual sale
Moms in town agree: the mother of all consignment sales is the one the Charlotte Mothers of Multiples hosts twice a year in the spring/ summer (February) and fall/winter (August) at the Charlotte Metrolina Expo Trade Center. Everything you need—maternity clothes, kids toys, shoes, onesies, cribs, sippy cups, strollers, and of course kids clothes—are all organized under one very large roof. CMOM has more than 600 members, many of whom consign during the sale, and because they're moms of multiples expect to find two of nearly everything. Bonus: after 8:30 a.m. it's free admission for access to a warehouse full of heavily discounted goods for the kiddies.
Local Parenting Blog
A team of moms helps you get smart about parenting — or at least makes it easier. CharlotteSmartyPants.com will fill you in on the best area pediatricians and OB/GYNs, the latest products, the school systems, and even offers parenting advice. Need to know where to buy cheap diapers or cool birth announcements? Curious what family-friendly thing is happening around town? The site has you covered. Founded three and a half years ago by a working mom and her best friend, a stay-at-home mother of four, this website grows in depth and popularity every year.
Children's Clothing Store
4732 Sharon Rd., 704-556-0889, Ste. T, chocolatesoup.net
Chocolate Soup isn't just for aspiring fashionistas. This SouthPark shop will get your little one dressed for a party or help you find the perfect casual wear for playdates and school pictures (girl sizes from preemie to sixteen; boys go from preemie to seven). You'll find lines like Laura Ashley, Baby Lulu, and Twirls and Twigs among Chocolate Soup's popular smock dresses. Best of all are the prices: from affordable (outfits under $20) to splurge (Peaches and Cream outfits go for $60 each). The regular sales, which feature items from 20 percent to 75 percent off, can't be missed.
3700 Avenue of the Carolinas, Fort Mill, plazafiestacarolinas.com
Even on a rainy day, there's no such thing as cabin fever, thanks to Plaza Fiesta's indoor playground palace just south of the border in South Carolina. Parents love it because it's clean and safe. Kids love it because the play area is huge, with giant slides and a massive climbing piece where the kids will spend hours weaving through tunnels and partitions playing hide 'n' go seek. At just $4 a day per child, your wallets won't suffer.
Pike's Old-Fashioned Soda Shop
1930 Camden Rd., 704-372-0092, pikessodashop.com
When Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus come to town, the owner of Pike's Old-Fashioned Soda Shop says he can barely keep up with the hoards of tweens dining before the concerts. Designed like a traditional soda shop, complete with spinning barstools and ice cream sundaes, Pike's boasts house-made desserts, delish Southern comfort food, and a $5.99 kids menu with staples like mac and cheese, PB&J, and chicken tenders. In other words, it's never hard to please even the pickiest eater in the family.
Levine Jewish Community Center
5007 Providence Rd., 704-944-6733, charlottejcc.org
Yes, they'll get their homework done. But kids at the Levine Jewish Community Center's J-Team after-school program can also take part in classes like art and theater, not to mention tennis, swimming, and music lessons. Plus, the JCC provides transportation to and from several area schools. There are various packages and price ranges to choose from, some of which include holidays, school breaks, and snow days, so your kid will never be bored.
Lazy 5 Ranch
15100 Highway 150 E., Mooresville, 704-663-5100, lazy5ranch.com
Take your kids on a safari, where they'll get up close and personal with some seriously cool animals (ostriches, anyone?). Spend about an hour meandering the three-and-a- half-mile path at Lazy 5 Ranch, whether from the comfort of your car or on a wagon ride. Grab a bucket of grain and feed the more than 750 animals from six continents, including giraffes, rhinos, and endangered Grevy zebras. At the petting zoo, the little ones can meet kangaroos, camels, and more. Bring along a picnic basket and relax in the shade while the kids run around on the playground. Adults can enjoy the fun for $8.50; kids get in for $5.50 (wagon rides and feed are extra).