Schiele Museum: A Charlotte day trip must!

Schiele Museum: A Charlotte day trip must!

Top three reasons to visit the Schiele Museum of Natural History: Pirate Ship playroom, Planetarium show and lots of room for kids to run around! I’ve been seeing Schiele Museum pop up on Charlotte Parent calendars for YEARS. And then I see it’s in Gastonia and in my head I seriously think it’s on another continent. “Gastonia is SO far away, let’s just stay home and drive each other bonkers.” (Reality: it’s 43 miles from Matthews, 22 miles from Charlotte and about the same in minutes because it’s straight highway).

I’ve been going a little nuts with the kids (5 and 3 year old!) being done summer camp and home every day; and school is still 2 weeks out.  So I decided it was worth the drive and we’d check it out! We arrived around 11am, meeting up with some friends. We purchased our tickets, including tickets for a 1pm Planetarium Show. Prices for the museum and planetarium shows are separate but are quite reasonable, see the full list here (varies for resident/non and age of children).

First we went to explore the outdoor areas before it got too hot. There is a .7 mile trail that winds through the woods and it’s a beautiful area with several different exhibits. Unfortunately, most of them were not open when we visited. We could still walk around but the buildings were locked up, same with the Catawba Indian Village, which looked awesome from the outside! According to museum pamphlets, they only run certain hours and they finished up for the summer on 8/5. But that didn’t stop the kids from running around to check every building, and running down all the trails. (Parental supervision required for little ones, the bridges have very wide railings easy for little ones to slip through and also the pond has no fence!) We checked out the Stone Age Heritage Site and ended up at the outdoor playscape and pond, which was a big hit. Turtles sunning themselves on the rocks plus some cool houses to play in and rocks to jump off of. We also found a painted Gastonia rock (which was our hidden treasure for the day!).

 

After exhausting the kids on the hike, we grabbed our coolers and ate at a shady picnic table at the edge of the parking lot near the hiking trail. After lunch we went inside to cool off.

We went through the dinosaur exhibit rather quickly (not very interactive, just dinosaurs to look at, which is only fun for so long and then your kids want to climb over the exhibit walls and try to touch the dinosaurs). Yeah, the dinosaur exhibit did not impress. The Pirate Ship room was a different story!!  There is a huge pirate ship playground the kids can climb up into, pretend to shoot cannons, climb into a crow’s nest, go down the slide, climb into the bottom of the boat and up the rope ladder and then repeat, repeat, repeat. All the while shouting Aye Matey and Aarrrrgh! We went back to this room 3 times in the almost 4 hours we were at the museum. Yes, that long! We had to drag the kids out of there to go to the Planetarium Show at 1pm!

 

After a short wait in line for the show, we went inside and grabbed some very comfortable reclining seats. The show was Totality, which explained the upcoming solar eclipse in a fairly kid friendly way. I lost focus around the Albert Einstein part and may have dozed a little bit at some point, but that was more so the dark room/momlife/reclined chair effect than a reflection of the show. Both my 3 year old and 5 year old sat still for the entire 30 minute show without asking ONCE for a snack. This is a feat in itself. I would say the Planetarium is a must see when you go. It was really a cool experience; I want to go see another one.

After the show, we explored the rest of the museum. It just kept going! We dug for dinosaur fossils, moved a robotic dinosaur egg arm, pet some turtles (statues but Shea loved them, mommy turtle and baby turtle); saw a live skunk, possum, turtles, snakes and groundhogs. My kids enjoyed the Indian exhibit mainly for the telephone like recorded information stations at various exhibits. Button pushing is fun, even if you don’t listen to what comes out! We explored the everglades and the animals found there. The fish tanks provided a bit of entertainment as well.

 

The green roof was recommended, but somehow we missed seeing it, I am totally bummed but we will make a point to see it next time! I thought we explored everything before we ended up in the Pirate Ship room (again). The kids also enjoyed the huge T-Rex standing fossil in the entry way – they really wanted to climb it, but settled for running circles around it’s feet instead every time we passed it.

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We finally headed home around 3pm, and I got a nap out of my 3 year old!!! Ya’ll, the things that happened today just don’t happen every day. Which leads me to conclude this was worth driving to another continent to explore.  You can follow the museum on Facebook at the Schiele Museum of Natural History  for upcoming events or on Instagram @SchieleMuseum for up to date happenings.

 

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What you need to know before playing at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex

What you need to know before playing at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex

Playing at Mecklenburg County Sportsplex for the first time, from out of town or just not familiar with the area?? Read on – learn what you need to bring, pack and what to do in the area.

You can read a general overview of the Sportsplex here on the Mecklenburg County page, which tells you the basics about it and you can apply for reservations for conference rooms, fields, tournaments, etc. Here’s on overview map below showing the fields and areas. But here’s what you really need to know:

Mecklenburg County Sportsplex January 2017 map with edit
Playgrounds are circled in red!
  • Shade is scarce. This is a brand new complex – and while the landscaping has some small trees, it’s not something you can sit under. Bring a chair with an overhead shade thing, or better yet bring a tent canopy for the team. It gets HOT especially on the turf. There are several covered picnic areas (two at area A, one at area B) which have a substantial amount of picnic tables, but if you there during a tournament and need somewhere to relax between games and athletes want to lay down and chill – BYOS (bring your own shade!)018
  • There are no bleachers or seating for watching the games aside from the main stadium – so bring your own chair!!
  • There is no concession stand or food sold on site currently and area A doesn’t have vending machines. Area B MIGHT have a drink vending machine, I will update the next time I am there. So – BYOS (bring your own snacks and plenty of drinks!!).
  • Walkability – there are approximately 2 miles of paved trails/sidewalks that go around the perimeter of the fields and connect areas A & B. It’s great if you want to get some exercise between games and it’s very handicap/stroller friendly.
  •  The playgrounds are great for kids of all ages – there is a smaller, toddler playground at each one along with a larger one and some great features, like the racing ziplines in area A. See pics below! Each playground is conveniently located next to the restrooms, which are very LARGE (tons of stalls!) and have been immaculate every time I’ve been there.

 

 

 

When the Sportsplex was in the planning phase, I read in the local paper that originally a landfill was discussed for the land. WOW. Pretty happy that got changed!! I play in the Charlotte Women’s Soccer League and this is one of the locations we play at in the area. The soccer fields tend to be on the wide side in my opinion, FYI!

There are a TON of food options (as in, anything you could possibly want) and lodging accommodations in the Matthews area, all within a few miles of the Sportsplex. I’ll be adding my local recommendations soon, with the best local food and drink joints. Check back soon and follow my page for local updates!

Charlotte Area Little Kids To-Do List

Charlotte Area Little Kids To-Do List

I’m not the best planner. The weekend rolls around, it’s 10:30 am and we need to go do something out of the house in the 2 hours we have until the kids need lunch -and I always draw a blank.  I get 3 different emails from Charlotte Parents, hula frog and somebody else with activities for the weekend – and I usually take a peek and sometimes get an idea from there.  But sometimes it’s something you need tickets for, and sometimes I just don’t want to take my 4 and 1 year old to the current exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South.  Although I must say it is surprisingly semi-kid friendly, and very informative.  So while I’m trying to search on multiple websites for something to do that is quick and cheap, my daughter is trying to sit on me and bang the keyboard, while my 4 year old is insisting I look at his latest batman duplos creation…and it’s a real joy.  As a result, I started compiling my own master list of things to do, so I have it on hand (I keep it on my phone) and just pull an idea from there.  It’s also good for during the week when I need something to do with the kids.  Although it’s nothing groundbreaking, and it tends to be a little heavy on things in the Matthews/Indian Trail area since we live near there. Some of these I’ve never done but found somewhere on a google search so want to go.  And some I just forget about from time to time.  Also I would love to add more to this list – especially for fun things to do with kids when we have family guests in town!  I won’t be adding seasonal things like Easter Egg Hunts, etc.  This is just the basics.

The usual suspects
Discovery Place KIDS Huntersville and Discovery Place(uptown)
Charlotte Nature Museum
ImaginOn
Levine Museum of the New South (ok, it made the list)
Carowinds
Carolinas Aviation Museum
NC Transportation Museum
Carolina Raptor Center
Main Street Children’s Museum – Rock Hill, SC – this place is so nice – the drive is worth it!
Chuck E. Cheese – Pineville – very clean, and I’m very impressed with their menu now!   This is one of my go to spots for rainy weekdays when I have both kids – we have the place to ourselves and prices aren’t bad.
Concord Mills Mall and Play Area – play area, carousel, and train ride through the mall. There is also the Sea LIFE Aquarium there, which is a bit pricey and my kids couldn’t care less about looking at all the fish after the first 5 minutes – Bass Pro Shops has a big fish tank for a cheaper under the sea experience.
Carolina Place Mall – kids play area, ride on mechanical animals (they have a booth near the play area.  You’ll know them when you see them)
Skyzone Trampoline Park – the cleaner one of the two in Pineville.  Toddler jump Tues and Thurs morning 10a-12pm half price ($6).
Sky High Sports – The other sky jump place in Pineville.  This place is nice too, the foam pits just look a bit grungy to me.  They have an overhead obstacle course for older kids and more trampoline areas.

Outdoor activities
Windjammer Beach Park – Tega Cay, SC – I’ve never been here and the parking situation on their website confuses me.  Has anyone gone here?
Energy Explorium – Lake Norman
Charlotte Airport Overlook
Reedy Creek Park – nice hiking, their playground is adorable(the one by the nature center) and very cute nature center too.  Dog Park there too!
McDowell Nature Preserve – hiking, play area, nature center
Rural Hill Nature Preserve – hiking
Crowder’s Mountain – hiking
South Park Mall Play area (by Dick’s Sporting Goods)
Kannapolis Village Park – gated splash pad (small charge to enter), rotary train, playground (so fun at Christmas – light show and Santa)
Dan Nicholas Park – Salisbury – too much stuff to do to list!
Lazy 5 Ranch – Mooresville
Zootastic Park of Lake Norman
Ride the Streetcar in Uptown (free)
Ride the light rail (lynx)

Seasonal/day specific
Matthews Farmers Market – Great local produce, organic meats, they have live chefs cooking and giving samples, free coffee and tea, bluegrass music jamming, delicious popsicles (watermelon and basil anyone?).  It’s within walking distance of Stumptown Park as well which has a sandbox and small playground.
Atherton Farmer’s Market – can someone give me a good review on this place?  Haven’t been in ages and I don’t know the area well.
Food truck Fridays in Matthews – personal fav – trucks start serving around 5pm, @ Stumptown Park in Matthews.  We’ve never had trouble parking very close – police on hand to regulate traffic – really awesome!  I’ve never been to the Food Truck Friday in Charlotte because we live in Matthews and I’m totally partial.
Superior Play – Open play indoors on Wednesdays and Fridays
Belle Johnston community center – Pineville – Wednesdays 9a-11am open play 5 and under through May
Michael’s Craft Stores– Saturday Morning Craft 10am $2/kid
Lakeshore Learning Stores-Saturday morning 11a-2pm crafts – this link is for the Matthews location
Home Depot – 1st Saturday of the month Craft 9a-12pm
Hall Family Farm – spring and fall PYO strawberries and pumpkins, hayride, corn maze
Hodges Farm – spring and fall PYO strawberries and pumpkins, hayride, petting zoo
Wise Acres – Another personal favorite – organic farm PYO strawberries and pumpkins, sand box, swings, zip line, lawn mower barrel train, seasonal corn pit.  The owners are always on hand and so friendly.
Patterson Farm – tomato picking?
Carrigan Farms – apple picking – fall
Italian Festival – Raffaldini vineyard – 3rd weekend in September

Others
Berewick Rec Center – personal favorite.  Hardly ever crowded, clean, right by the outlets, $2 entry.  Great for play date meetups as the kids can explore and moms can sit and chat.  Hours vary daily.
Mallard Creek Rec Center Playroom-haven’t been here yet
Pike’s Soda Shop
Madison’s Coffee House – Indian Trail – I haven’t been here since new ownership but they used to have a kids corner with chalkboard, magnetic characters and clothes, books and games.
AMF Bowling – Matthews
Kate’s Skating Rink – Indian Trail – ok so this is for the older kids, but I love a good roller skating rink so had to add this to the list.
Extreme Ice Skating Rink – Indian Trail.  Ice skate rentals start at size 10 for toddlers (3 years old give or take, same with ice skating lessons.
Treehouse Vineyards – Monroe – the tour and wine tasting kid friendliness is dependent on your kids – it’s quick and they can nibble on oyster crackers and other snacks while you do your wine tasting.  Fun events in summer.

**this list is still under construction – more to be added and I would love to add your suggestions too!**