On our way south to visit family for Thanksgiving, we decided to make a stop in Charlotte, N.C., so we could explore the Billy Graham Library and the Discovery Place Science Center. After doing some research, Jarrett found the perfect place to camp at Carowinds amusement park.
The campground had four sections, the Elm, Maple, Oak, and Redwood loops. However, during our visit the Oak Loop had semi-permanent camping guests and wasn’t even showing on the website map below for reservation (the Oak Loop would normally be in the tree area in the top left-hand corner). The Redwood Loop is just for cabins and the lodge.
Sites in the Elm Loop had a lot more sloping: Sites 58, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67, and 69 were shorter sites, but appeared more level than the other sites in the Elm Loop. We stayed in the Maple Loop in site 174, which was a full hook-up, 50 amp, back-in site. We did not need to use levelers because the pad was nice and level, and it seemed that the majority of sites in the Maple Loop were the same. Sites 193-199 were long pull-throughs: We even saw a motorhome with a pickup truck and horse trailer all on a single site pad!
The rate at the time of our Thanksgiving visit was about $44 per night. For a private campground, where site spacing is often closer together, we felt that there was adequate space between the sites, but on a busy summer weekend I’m sure the campground fills up and may feel more crowded.
Note: The campground does not permit ground fires—any fires must be in the provided grill or in an above ground fire pit, which can be rented at the camp store.
The shower house featured four spacious, individual bathrooms, each equipped with a large shower, toilet, sink, changing table, and benches. The showers were hot, and each bathroom had its own heater to take off the November chill. There was another bathroom facility (and laundry) at the Trading Post office/store.
We didn’t have time to check out the campground’s additional amenities, but there was a seasonal pool, corn hole, shuffle board, volleyball court, and game room. The wifi signal was excellent during our stay. Campground guests can purchase discounted amusement park tickets, and a complimentary tram runs between the campground and the park.
One thing to note: The campground is located along a flight path, and there was a lot of plane noise two of the three nights we were there.
The area surrounding the campground features a plethora of shopping and dining options, including a Cabela’s just five minutes away. But what made Carowinds the perfect place for us to stay is its proximity to Charlotte hot spots, including the Billy Graham Library that is located less than 10 miles away. Jarrett and I had stopped here when the kids were much younger, and we had always wanted to return when the children were old enough to appreciate the tour. Had we been able to time our visit just a few days later, we would have been able to enjoy Christmas at the Library, when staff transform the grounds into a winter wonderland celebrating Jesus’ birth. You can learn more about all the special activities during the month of December by going here.
We started our visit at the library with the Journey of Faith tour, which is an hour and a half long tour through approximately 13 rooms that tell the story of Billy Graham’s life and his evangelism ministry. The exhibit features videos, interactive exhibits, and display cases of items related to Graham’s life and ministry.
Children can work on a scavenger hunt questionnaire while walking through the tour, and then at the end of the tour they can stop by the gift shop to receive a prize for completing it.
The museum grounds also features the Graham family homestead, the first floor of which is open to tour, and a memorial prayer garden where Graham and his wife Ruth are buried. If you are hungry for a bite to eat during your visit, you can stop by the Dairy Bar, which offers sandwiches, salads, soups, and treats like Mother Graham’s pound cake.
Note: The grounds does not have a picnic area, and guests are asked not to bring outside food onto the property.
The next day we headed into downtown Charlotte to visit the Discovery Place Science Museum, which was only 13 miles away from the campground. We currently have a Carnegie Museum membership, which nets us reciprocal membership benefits at participating ASTC and ROAM locations. So our visit was completely free for our whole family. If you plan to do a lot of traveling and sightseeing, I would highly recommend looking into the benefits of having a museum membership with reciprocal benefits at other museums.
We were really impressed with Charlotte’s Discovery Place. The museum featured vibrant, interactive displays, a rainforest, mini aquarium, maker space, and live shows/demonstrations. I think we covered almost every square inch of the museum during our visit because the kids wanted to do it all!
One of our favorite parts of the museum was attending the Musical Tesla Coil show. We’ve seen Tesla coils at other museums, but this was the first time we’ve seen the coil “play” music. There is something completely terrifying and entrancing to watch a million volts of electricity arcing off of the sphere and into the air. All while playing familiar tunes like “Let It Go” and Looney Tunes’ “That’s all folks!”
Our other favorite part of the museum was the maker space on the third floor. The Discovery Place staff have provided all kinds of machines and supplies to allow children to use their imaginations to create works of art. Our kids were drawn to the wood cutting and 3D printing machines. The museum provides computers and software that kids can use to design a block of wood. The machine then cuts the wood block (one per family) with the pattern. Similarly, the museum has computers and software for the 3D printing station where kids can design an object using primary shapes and then watch as the 3D printer creates it.
Our visit to Charlotte was short, but it offered a perfect two-day stopover to explore and have fun with our kids over Thanksgiving break.
Have you visited Charlotte? If so, what places did you explore?