U.S. National Whitewater Center
Vibe: With a forty-six-foot open-air climbing spire, the world's largest recirculating whitewater river, and fourteen miles of mountain bike trails, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is, without a doubt, Charlotte's most extreme outdoor rec center. But while you might run into Olympic kayakers, expert climbers taking on one of the largest climbing facilities on the planet, and bikers who look like they were born wear- ing a helmet, don't be intimidated. Visitors to the 307-acre facility are often first-timers, and a summer afternoon typi- cally finds the place packed with middle-schoolers enrolled in one of the center's many day camps. A single-day AllSport pass ($49 for one adult, $29 for kids under eleven, plus a $5 parking fee) gives you access to all of the center's facilities, so you can take the family on a two-hour guided Catawba River canoe trip while still giving the rock wall a shot. Need a little more adrenaline? A ninety-minute Adventure Rafting trip will help get your feet wet — well, probably more than just your feet.
Best part: Two words: zip line. To ease into the thrill, try the Climb 2 Zip, a 100-foot line accessible with a $25 OneS- port pass. You'll glide from a secure platform and delicately drop to the ground, enjoying a view of the center's facilities and forests. With that taste of flight, though, you'll want to soar new heights, meaning it's time for the Mega Zip. Gliders can climb a forty-six-foot platform and take off on a 1,123- foot-long flight, getting an overhead view — and maybe a splash — of the rapids.
Amenities: Conference room; River's Edge Bar & Grill; open-air covered pavilion; gear rental; restrooms (three); outfitter's store; hiking, biking, and running trails (fourteen miles); climbing facility (forty different roped climbs); whitewater rafting; flat-water canoeing and kayaking; whitewater kayaking; eco trekking; zip lines (two).
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.; 704-391-3900; usnwc.org