5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy., Charlotte
HOURS: Daily 6 a.m.–10 p.m. (main gates); hours can vary by activity and are weather permitting, call ahead for details
COST: $5 parking, free trail access, activity-specific prices vary
The 307-acre U.S. National Whitewater Center is an official U.S. Olympic training site that is built around the largest man-made re-circulating river in the world. The rapids in the multiple-channel cement “river” are controlled through a state-of-the-art on-site system that ratchets up the water level and the rapids depending on how they’re being used.
The rapids range from Class I to IV; “Rodeo Rafting” takes the experience up a notch, sending rafters down the most aggressive lines of the river on a 10-foot raft.
There are also 14 miles of trails on-site for hikers and mountain bikers; it has been called the best single-track network in the region. The trails do close if it’s too wet, so call ahead for a trail status if the weather is iffy.
Kayaks are available for rent (for a flat-water paddle on the Catawba River, which runs along the perimeter of the property) and whitewater kayaking lessons are available. There is also a rock wall, zip line, and ropes course at the facility.