One of North Carolina’s best-kept secrets is the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is a 700-acre non-profit training facility and outdoor park that is heaven on earth for nature and adventure sports enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels.
What to Do at the US National Whitewater Center
The heart and center of the park is the world’s largest man-made whitewater rafting course designed by three-time Olympian Scott Shipley. The artificial river is filled with 12 million gallons of well water and powered by 7 630-horsepower pumps. The course serves as the official Olympic training center for whitewater slalom, but guests are free to test their skills there too.
After a quick introduction lesson, you and your team will be given a boat and an experienced raft guide and be put to the test on the raging rapids. The river includes three different courses, each increasing in difficulty and thrill. On one ride, your leader will allow you and your team to try each different course at least once.
Family-style rafting is not the only fun on the water. They also offer whitewater or flatwater kayaking and whitewater or flatwater stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, and more.
If you don’t want to get wet, you can try their many land-based thrills from zip lines to an array of ropes courses. They also have mountain biking trails, rock climbing, and an obstacle course.
You can either pay for individual activities or buy an AllSport pass and spend the entire day hopping from adventure to adventure at your will. It is the thrill of a theme park without any passive sitting. There are also over 25 miles of beautiful nature trails open for hikers, runners, and bikers to enjoy for free.
Tips for Visiting the US National Whitewater Center
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is located at 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28214. The main gates are open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year. The availability of activities varies from season to season. A one-day AllSport pass costs $59. For water sports only, passes cost $49. There are other pricing options available on their website (USNWC.org). Parking costs $5 for an all-day pass.
Where to Eat Near the US National Whitewater Center
The US National Whitewater Center has two onsite restaurants for visitors to enjoy. River’s Edge is a full-service restaurant open for lunch and dinner with a full bar, along with sandwiches and salads. Pump House Biergarten is located on Belmont Abbey Island and is a popular spot for an afternoon pint.
The Market, The Trail Center, and Outfitters also each have craft beer, coffee, and snacks. Across the river, JR Cash’s Bar and Grill at the marina has steak, seafood, and burgers.
Where to Stay Near the US National Whitewater Center
There are a number of hotels in Charlotte, including the ones in Belmont closest to the US National Whitewater Center. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Charlotte Belmont is two miles away and has free WiFi, an outdoor pool, and free daily breakfast. Home2 Suites by Hilton Charlotte Belmont is also nearby, with perks like room service and in-room kitchenettes.
About the Author: Susanna Olson is a history student at Cardiff University. Although she was born in Southern California, North Carolina has been her home for as long as she can remember. She fell in love with the history and culture of the South while volunteering as a tour guide at the Mint Hill Historical Society and has been happily exploring her adopted homeland ever since. She is currently missing home as she blogs the rants and raves of a misplaced country girl studying abroad in the United Kingdom at www.miss-adventure.com.
All images are courtesy of the U.S. National Whitewater Rafting Center and used with permission. This post has been updated from its original format.