School is almost out for the summer and you may be thinking how am I going to entertain my kids. Especially with prices on the rise for everything. Well, good news. Summer fun doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve told you about a lot of free and cheap things to do in Charlotte, but now it’s time to venture (not far) outside the city limits. Today we’ve got some affordable family activities to check out near Charlotte this summer. All 10 places on this list are within an hour and a half drive so easy to do for a day trip. Plus nothing on this list costs for than $20 per person and some are just a couple of dollars.

There is something for everyone, whether you like animals, rides, science, history, or adventure!

List: 10 Affordable Family Friendly Activities A Short Drive From Charlotte


  • Old Salem

    Address: 900 Old Salem Road, Winston-Salem

    Cost: $20 for adults, $12 for children and students

    What it is: Old Salem Museums & Gardens is a historic site and museum combating food insecurity and exploring the stories of people, including Moravian, Black, and Indigenous peoples, in the American South. As one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions, our museums—the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), and the Gardens at Old Salem—engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience.


  • Greensboro Science Center

    Address: 4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro

    Cost: $19.50 for adults, $17.50 for children (up to age 13), $18.50 for seniors

    What it is: The Greensboro Science Center is committed to excellence in science education by providing the community with a dynamic, experiential and family-focused attraction designed to inspire scientific curiosity and encourage personal discovery about life and the natural world. It features an aquarium, zoo, and museum.


  • North Carolina Transportation Museum

    Address: 411 S Salisbury Ave, Spencer

    Cost: $12 for adults, $8 for kids, $10 for seniors/military

    What it is:

    The N.C. Transportation Museum is a historic site, once home to Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair facility in the southeast, and a museum featuring all types of transportation history – railroading, automotive, aviation, and more.

    Historic structures include Barber Junction Depot, an authentic train station built in 1898 that serves as the museum’s Visitor Center.  The Bob Julian Roundhouse is the largest remaining roundhouse in North America, and is home to locomotives, passenger rail cars, and a full-size replica Wright Flyer.  The massive Back Shop, where steam locomotives were once completely overhauled, now houses rail cars of the past, antique automobiles, fire trucks, and the restoration of the Piedmont Airlines’ Potomac Pacemaker DC-3.  The Flue Shop houses the museum’s Bumper to Bumper automotive exhibit.


  • Village Park in Kannapolis

    Address: 700 West C Street, Kannapolis

    Cost: Free to walk around, rides are $1.50

    What it is: Village Park features an award-winning concert series, the Rotary Express Train, a double-decker carousel, a splash pad, and more!


  • Schiele Museum of Natural History

    Address: 1500 E. Garrison Boulevard, Gastonia

    Cost: $7 for adults, $6 for kids and seniors; FREE admission the second Tuesday and fourth Friday of every month

    What it is: The Schiele Museum brings together professional educators, curators, administrative staff and facilities staff to provide a quality venue for learning and making memories in the heart of Gaston County, NC. Through our efforts, we seek to inspire wonder and appreciation for science and the natural world.



  • North Carolina Zoo

    Address: 4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro, NC 27205

    Cost: $15 for adults, $11 for children, $13 for seniors

    What it is: At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. Being the world’s largest natural habitat zoo means the animals here have plenty of room to roam. Our dedicated team of experts provide exceptional, compassionate care to the more than 1,800 animals that call our Park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. Be sure to check out our wide variety of virtual programs so you can stay connected and learn about nature. The North Carolina Zoo welcomes everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity.


  • Reed Gold Mine

    Address: 9621 Reed Mine Rd, Midland

    Cost: Free to tour $3 per person to pan for gold

    What it is: Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. From this discovery, gold mining spread gradually to nearby counties and eventually into other southern states. During its peak years gold mining was second only to farming in the number of North Carolinians it employed. The estimated value of gold recovered reached over one million dollars a year. North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848, when it was eclipsed by the great rush to California.


  • 8. Historic Brattonsville

    Address: 1444 Brattonsville Rd, McConnells, SC

    Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for children 4-7 (3 and under free), $7 seniors

    What it is:

    Historic Brattonsville presents the history of the Scots-Irish and African-Americans in the South Carolina upcountry through preserving and interpreting the buildings and stories of the Brattonsville community. Featuring more than 30 historic structures from the 1760s to the late-19th century, the site provides visitors with an opportunity to see the evolution of Southern culture and architecture in the Carolina Piedmont. Currently, two of the Bratton family houses are closed for preservation.

    Learn how people farmed the land, cooked their food, and entertained themselves in the 18th and 19th centuries through costumed interpreters. These historical activities and others are presented year-round, Tuesday through Saturday.

    Delve into the founding struggle for liberty by walking the American Revolutionary War battlefield of Huck’s Defeat and watching a video documentary that brings to life the events of July 1780. Come away with an understanding of the continued struggle for liberty in the years following the American Civil War by visiting the new exhibit entitled, “Liberty & Resistance: Reconstruction and the African-American Community at Brattonsville, 1865-1877” inside the recently restored Brick House.


  • Carrigan Farms

    Address: 1261 Oakridge Farm Hwy, Mooresville

    Cost: $15 per person for swimming

    What it is: A 5th generation family-owned farm, Carrigan Farms specializes in growing quality fruits and vegetables, educational school tours and field trips, weddings, swim parties, and other special events.


  • Hounds Drive In

    Address: 114 Raven Circle, Kings Mountain

    Cost: $20 per car

    What it is: This drive in theater shows current movies Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights on 3 screens.

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