The Queen City pro sports scene offers fun for all ages
With a pro team in pretty much every sport, there’s always a game (or race) to take your kids to in Charlotte. Even better, they all have family-friendly extras to help you get the most for your ticket price.
Bank of America Stadium, 800 S. Mint St., Charlotte
If your definition of tailgating now includes towing tiny ones around, the Carolina Panthers have you covered. Panthers in the Park, held before each home game at Romare Bearden Park, lets kids practice their skills while also meeting TopCats cheerleaders and the Panthers’ mascot Sir Purr. Once inside the stadium, head to the area outside gate 138 to visit Sir Purr’s Play 60 Den, where the young ones can try on football pads, pretend to be play-by-play announcers and run around on astroturf. If your little ones don’t share your pigskin passion, grease their wheels beforehand by enrolling them in either the Little Purrs Newborn Club (ages 3 and under) or the Kids Club (4 and older). For $25 a year, the team showers club members with fan-building goodies such as merchandise, birthday cards, a stadium tour and magazine subscription.
Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St., Charlotte
The great thing about taking your kids to a Hornets game is that it doesn’t matter whether they’re basketball fans or not because there is plenty of dancing, music, games and other extra-sensory stimuli to keep them entertained. The Hornets also bring the action with T-shirt cannons and plenty of chances to get on the scoreboard big screens. As a bonus, park along the light rail route and take the train to the Spectrum Center for extra fun and adventure. The NBA team helps kids with more than just gameday fun. The Michael Jordan-owned NBA franchise helps several YMCA basketball coaches and programs by providing them with training, uniforms and even complimentary tickets through its Junior Hornets program.
Bojangles’ Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd., Charlotte
One of the best aspects of minor-league sports is the creativity used to lure fans into buying tickets. The Checkers, the top minor-league affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, make sure families know that they’re part of the plan with themed events, including a daddy/daughter game with Disney Princesses and a Harry Potter Night. Fans can even skate with the team following Sunday afternoon home games. Before you load your brood in the car and buy tickets at the window, check for the club’s regular Family Night promotions to save 40 percent with group pricing.
Courtesy of Charlotte Checkers
BB&T Ballpark, 324 S. Mint St., Charlotte
There aren’t many American family traditions that have endured like taking in a ballgame under the lights. At BB&T Ballpark, you can get peanuts, Cracker Jacks and one of the best views in American sports. The Knights moved to uptown from nearby Fort Mill, S.C. in 2014 and have grown in popularity as a family attraction, especially with regular family-friendly freebies, firework shows, and fan-favorite dragon mascot, Homer. Kids can run the bases after Sunday home games. If all that isn’t enough, check out the bounce house and carousel at the Kid Zone, located at the end of the concourse on the first-base side. Kids can run off all that Cracker Jack sugar and you get the glory of taking them to a ballgame.
Wells Fargo Championship
Quail Hollow Club, 3700 Gleneagles Road, Charlotte
It might seem counterintuitive that a professional golf event at a posh country club would be a great place to take your kids, but the Wells Fargo Championship gives young golf fans plenty of ways to get engaged while still respecting the boundaries. Kids age 12 and younger can head to the Kids View for up-close access to the sport’s biggest names as they warm up on the driving range. If you need a break from the course head over to the Kids Village for special activities and giveaways. Since even a short stay at the tournament can take several hours, you can rest assured that available menu items such as peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, whole fruit and yogurt are available to help keep them going.
Sportsplex at Matthews, 1505 Tank Town Road, Matthews
The Charlotte Independence club features the highest level of professional soccer in the area, competing in the United Soccer League, just one step away from Major League Soccer. A playoff qualifier in two of the past three seasons, Charlotte Independence offers high-level soccer with a tight-knit feel thanks in part to the cozy confines of the Sportsplex at Matthews. This often means post-game high fives and autographs from the players. Young fans can get even closer access by joining the Junior Jacks club, which includes tickets to each home game, as well as a shirt, admission to an exclusive soccer clinic, access to players and a birthday surprise.
Bojangles’ Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd., Charlotte
With Hail Marys, big hits and triple-digit point totals, there isn’t room for boredom at a Carolina Energy football game. As a member of the American Arena League, the Energy play at Bojangles’ Coliseum. The venue allows fans to feel as if they’re on the sidelines of a sport that’s equal parts professional football and video game. The franchise also does a great job of letting young fans earn cheers of their own with potato-sack and three-legged races held on the field during breaks. At $16 per ticket, however, it’s already a great family entertainment option for Charlotte parents.
Courtesy of Carolina Energy
Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Parkway S., Concord
There are few experiences as memorable as attending a NASCAR race. From the scream of the car engines to the unmistakable smell of hot-tire rubber, taking in one of the area’s big-time races at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a must-do. NASCAR certainly does its part to help make it a family affair. Children age 13 and younger can get a ticket for $10 with a paying adult to the Coca-Cola 600, the Bank of America Roval 400, and the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. Once at the track, find the Kid Zone sections with bounce houses, slides, face painting and more. The track also holds non-NASCAR events, such as car shows and the multi-mile Speedway Christmas light display.
Aaron Garcia is a freelance writer and father/survivor of twins.