It’s 6:30 a.m. and my adorable but chipper “alarm clock” is babbling in her crib. I stumble myself out of bed, throw a waffle on the highchair and watch her shovel handfuls into her mouth while I try to pry my eyelids open. By 10:00 we have turned our apartment into a pigsty. No toilet paper roll or makeup brush is safe from those precious chubby fingers. For this reason, I have decided the key to raising a baby/toddler is to simply leave.the.house. Every day. For as long as possible.
Before we know it we will all be driving a minivan and running kids to school, soccer practice and sleepovers. But this one kid/new parenting business is a unique time of life. For now, we are in desperate need to keep a toddler (and let’s be honest, ourselves too) busy with enriching activities. When my husband and I moved to Charlotte, we set our minds to seeing every site this city had to offer, even if it meant going to a museum with a toddler. Boy does it feel good to get out and see this city and have all of my toilet paper rolls in tact by the end of the day! Win, win if you ask me.
Here are my top three summer excursions that are fun for both Mom and baby/toddler and help you learn a little bit more about Charlotte.
The Splashpad at The Green and a Trolley Ride through the City
There is a little hidden splash pad smack-dab in the middle of Uptown at The Green. The water turns on at 10 a.m. and there are usually only a handful of kids, if that. In fact, I have debated about even sharing this gem. I kind of want to keep it for myself. We play for an hour or two, meet up with Dad for a quick lunch (there is a pizza joint within steps of the pad) and then hop aboard the Gold Rush for a free ride around the city. It stops just outside the Wells Fargo branch on Tryon. It is air-conditioned and feels like an old trolley car making its way around the city. I suggest visiting the info center on Tryon Street before you ride to snag a Liberty Walk map. As you ride you can follow along with the map and learn about all sorts of interesting historical facts. It is meant to be walking historical tour of the city but I suggest just reading the history on Tryon St. aboard an air-conditioned trolley and saving the walk for the fall. Within 20 minutes you will be back to the splash pad and ready to head home for naps.
Catawba Queen Storytime and Birkdale Village
I live near Uptown and have noticed that my neighborhood friends and I are pretty reluctant to make the trip to Lake Norman with kids. It seems so far away. I finally braved it this last week and was shocked at how quick I got there. We decided to make a morning adventure out of it. Our first stop was a story time aboard the Catawba Queen. It happens every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 am and is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Make sure to call ahead for reservations. It was an absolute ball for both my daughter and me! The one-hour ride was just the right amount of time to see the lake and enjoy some entertainment. It was quick and easy to board and we even fed giant catfish off the dock after. On our way home we popped off the Highway at Birkdale Village. It is now one of my favorite spots in Charlotte. We cooled off while Annie got out her last few ounces of energy in the splash pad, snagged ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s and zipped on the highway back home – all before her 1 p,m. It was the perfect little day trip without all the hassle.
Sugar Creek Breezeway and Farmers Market
Let’s get real, during July and August the parks are smoldering! Taking my one-year-old to play on the playground just isn’t enjoyable (and maybe not even safe) with this heat. One of my favorite alternatives is the Sugar Creek Breezeway. I park at Freedom Park in the East Blvd lot and make our way to the Farmers Market on Kings Dr. for a little snack (the Farmers Market is open Tuesdays and Saturdays and is cash only). The Breezeway goes under the roads and down by the river so it has a ton of shade and cooler areas. Annie loves the short stroller ride and I am grateful for any ounce of exercise I can get. If we are feeling extra ambitious we will even walk to the Metropolitan to check out the giant fountain and snag frozen-yogurt.
By 6:30 pm my energizer bunny is winding down. I (usually) still have my patience and we are ready for a peaceful bedtime thanks to a busy day and tired toddler. Yes, leaving the house is crucial to my survival as a new mom. Two points for team Mom!
Share your favorite digs for fellow Smarty Moms with toddlers in tow!