The 9 best city parks in Charlotte for families, hikers and picnickers

The 9 best city parks in Charlotte for families, hikers and picnickers

Adjacent to Charlotte’s Uptown neighborhood, Romare Bearden Park is the most popular green space in town © Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images

Charlotte has a host of parks to suit nearly any lifestyle. 

Whether you’re looking to have a romantic picnic on the grass, drag the kids away from their devices for a few hours or take your pet out to meet new friends, there’s a green space in North Carolina’s largest city for you. And, if you time it just right, you may even catch live music or a few food trucks setting up, too.

Here’s our guide to the best city parks in Charlotte. 

Go for a long stroll in Freedom Park

One of the Queen City’s oldest parks, this 98-acre green space has been a landmark in Charlotte since 1948. While the site has undergone several changes over the decades, one thing has remained constant: the park’s glorious lake, which draws residents out for a casual stroll or daily run. 

At the East Boulevard entrance, you will find basketball courts, sports fields and the Play60 KidZone – an interactive area that simulates various NFL football practice drills. And in late September, you can catch the annual Festival in the Park, which brings together local musicians, artisans and food vendors. 

The 9 best city parks in Charlotte for families, hikers and picnickers

The lovely lake at Freedom Park has been a favorite of Charlotte residents for decades © Bruce VanLoon / Shutterstock

Hear live music in Romare Bearden Park 

Named for the famous African American artist with ties to Charlotte, Romare Bearden Park sits in the heart of downtown Charlotte and is the city’s most popular green space. 

Only a block away from the minor-league Charlotte Knights ballpark and three blocks from the Carolina Panthers stadium, this park is often the gathering spot for concerts, rallies and food festivals. 

It may look familiar, too: the park’s centerpiece fountain, illuminated with multicolored lights, is frequently used in photo shoots or as the backdrop for television spots.  

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Enjoy the lovely gardens of Independence Park

Independence Park has played host to some of Charlotte’s biggest cultural festivals, such as the annual Afro-Caribbean–inspired Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas. With playground equipment and a beautiful garden, this park attracts fewer crowds than it deserves to. 

Within easy walking distance of the park, you’ll find local favorite Hawthorn Pizza; Sunflour Baking Co., a local coffee shop and bakery; and The Crunkleton, a cocktail lounge. Opting to pack your own basket and stay put on the grass for the day is also an enticing option. 

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Take the family to Veterans Memorial Park

Another long-standing space that doesn’t get nearly enough shine, Veterans Memorial Park offers 19 acres of greenery in the middle of the city. Popular among families, the park is home to a fun “sprayground” that will provide hours of water-based fun for children. The spray park is also covered to protect from the sun on those really hot summer days. 

In addition to the sprayground, the park has basketball courts, a playground, tennis courts and indoor and outdoor picnic shelters perfect for a weekend family barbecue. 

The 9 best city parks in Charlotte for families, hikers and picnickers

First Ward Park offers almost 5 acres of beautifully designed green space among Charlotte’s skyscrapers © Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock

Bring your picnic blanket to First Ward Park 

Just off the 7th Street Public Market light-rail stop is First Ward Park, a pristine 4.6-acre green space surrounded by the city’s skyscrapers. Although one of Charlotte’s newest parks, it holds its own against classics like Freedom Park and Romare Bearden Park.

First Ward Park has a fountain, climbing equipment and public restrooms all on site. Just across the road is the 7th Street Public Market, where you can grab açaí bowls, wine, coffee or pizza to make your day in the park complete. All you need to bring is your favorite blanket.

Invite everyone to Frank Liske Park

While technically just outside Charlotte’s city limits, Frank Liske Park is a favorite of local families, especially those hosting family reunions or other large outdoor gatherings. 

The massive recreation area has nearly everything you would want in a park – from a 9-acre lake with fishing and paddle boats to 2.2 miles of walking trails, playgrounds and even a mini-golf course. Note that you’ll want to reserve your picnic shelter space in advance. 

Best time to visit Charlotte 

Hop on your BMX bike at Hornets Nest Park

Located on the city’s west side, Hornets Nest Park has been a staple for Charlotte’s Black residents for decades. In the early ’90s, parades of cars could be seen joyriding down the main road and around the park on Sunday afternoons – a real sight to behold. The park has also hosted more than its fair share of church picnics, family reunions and other fun gatherings over the years. 

Today, the 140-acre park features a BMX bike park, a Play60 KidZone, and picnic shelters and playground equipment for active recreation.

The 9 best city parks in Charlotte for families, hikers and picnickers

You can enjoy a bit of nature in the city all year long at McAlpine Creek Park © Tribune News Service / Charlotte Observer / Getty Images

Contemplate nature on hikes through McAlpine Creek Park

If you truly want a nature escape, this southeast Charlotte park and greenway will be your own slice of heaven. Nearly 12 miles of trails stretching through the park and beyond welcome those who want to walk, run or bike year-round.

The park also has a popular dog run, lake, playground equipment and plenty of benches in case you just want to stop, sit and take it all in.

Savor the solitude at Park Road Park

A hidden gem for visitors, Park Road Park has been a standby for locals for decades. Located in south Charlotte, the space has a beautiful 11-acre lake, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, basketball courts and baseball fields.

Near the back of the park are a playground, several picnic shelters and benches. Park Road Park is rarely crowded, so if you’re in search of peace, you’ll find it here. 

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