By Smarty mom Kiara Harlow
So you missed summer camp registration, and now you’re scrambling. I know the feeling. That was me last year. At 5, my oldest was finally old enough to attend most camps. And he was the world’s most eager beaver! Little did I realize that it was the norm to literally be sitting at the computer when registration opened, and that many of the most popular camps in town would sell out within the hour (I’m looking at you, CLT Bike Camp.) So my boy was disappointed. And I was bummed that I let him down. But here’s how we managed to make our summer magical, and you can too!
Sign up for local memberships
Snag a few memberships to the places your kids love most. For us, that means family memberships at Discovery Place, Carowinds, a trampoline park, and Riverbanks Zoo. You get all three Discovery Place museums—Science, Nature, and Kids—for about $200. They have rotating exhibits that are fun and interesting for the whole family. And you truly can’t beat it on days when the weather isn’t ideal for being outside. Carowinds has free preschool memberships for kids under 5 years old. And we all know about the roller coaster thrills, but their water park rivals that of some of the best family resorts we’ve visited. Not to mention, membership allows you year-round access, including Scarowinds and Winterfest, plus free parking.
Trampoline parks truly speak for themselves. Before I became a parent I said I’d protect my kids’ bones and never take them to one of those danger zones. But, as with so many things in motherhood, I find myself eating my words. We love them. LOVE. THEM! You may need earplugs if you’re a mom who’s sensitive to noise like me. But nothing beats the naps my boys get after an hour and a half of incessant bouncing and climbing!
Riverbanks Zoo is a little bit of a trek, but Columbia is home to me, and Riverbanks has just enough animals, experiences (think feeding giraffes and a rock climbing wall) and food options to keep my crew happy all day.
Schedule outdoor activities
Schedule a few long hikes or bike rides. My nearby favorites are in McDowell Nature Preserve, Crowders Mountain, and the Whitewater Center. My youngest is a strong-willed 3-year-old who wants nothing more than to keep up with his brothers now, and I expect that we’ll be able to make it through each of our hikes/rides this year (I usually keep it under 2 miles when I’m solo with the kids) with no one on my back. Yippee!!
Relish the time
Appreciate the easy pace that the end of school brings. This summer, we don’t have any back-to-back weeks of camp by design. I only get a maximum of 18 summers with my kids, and I refuse to spend them shuttling everyone back and forth and watching the clock like I do all school year long. I love waking up slowly, making breakfast with the boys while we dance around the kitchen, letting them play in the sprinklers before nap, watching the sun set over the lake while we eat a picnic dinner on the rocks. So hit up every park within a 20-mile radius. Eat popsicles in the backyard. Watch movies on the porch in pajamas. Make it your business to catch every free festival and parade that comes to town. Charlotte’s got a lot, and you don’t have to spend a mint or become a parent taxi to enjoy everything our city has to offer and have an epic summer!
After all, summer is for families and rest. No love is lost if every minute of it isn’t occupied with planned and paid activities. So cut yourself some slack and lean into the little things. Magic lives there!