Charlotte's outdoor activities include sightseeing in the surrounding countryside as well as a number of more structured events. Charlotte offers over 14,000 acres of parks and 17 designated recreation centers. Charlotte Metro Zoo prides itself on letting visitors "see the animals up close at a safe distance," including its prized collection of large primates, bears, and big cats. The Lazy 5 Ranch allows visitors to drive through a real ranch and look at over 600 animals. Visitors can enjoy the 3 Â½ miles safari drive in their own cars or in horse-drawn wagons. Some outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate Balloons Over Carolina, offering one-hour balloon rides over Charlotte and the surrounding environs 7 days a week. Two large lakes nearby encourage a variety of water sports including water skiing, boating and fishing.
The city's museums and galleries display many of the much sought after crafts produced by area residents. The Brem House Artisans Gallery and the Fieldcrest Cannon Textile Museum offer visitors a look at local handicrafts from times past and from the present. The First Light Fine-Craft Gallery and the Harris Holt Gallery also showcase local artists and their creative talents. For more traditional art offerings, visitors should seek out the Mint Art Museum, the first art museum in North Carolina. Children love Discovery Place, which is rated one of the top hands-on science museums in the country.
North Carolina has become one of the nation's premiere vacation spots in recent years, and Charlotte is the ideal place to begin an exploration of this remarkable state. Natural splendor is only a short drive in any direction, whether one is looking for spectacular beaches or for the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is so much to see and explore in this family friendly southern city. Some parts of the itinerary can be planned in advance, but leave room in the schedule for the enjoyable discoveries that will be sure to occur during a Charlotte, North Carolina vacation.