If you’re willing to drive just a little bit — about 45 minutes from the center of Charlotte — you can spend the day at a family-friendly attraction with a ton of low-price fun.
Dan Nicholas Park, at 6800 Bringle Ferry Road, Salisbury, has been supplying low-priced fun for families in Rowan, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg Counties, and beyond, for years. People who remember riding the carousel or miniature train as kids are now bringing their own kids to do the same — and many of the prices haven’t gone up. Kids can still ride the carousel or miniature train for a dollar.
You even camp here, and take your time enjoying all the different attractions. Picnic shelters and fishing are also available.
Read on for a rundown of all that Dan Nicholas Park has to offer. Admission to Dan Nicholas park is free.
Also, throughout the summer, there is a farm very close to Dan Nicholas Park that will have sunflowers blooming, on and off. Check out Oddie’s Sunflowers in this list of sunflower fields near Charlotte. You might want to also visit the North Carolina Transportation Museum while you’re in the area!
- Signing up for Charlotte on the Cheap's daily email
- Upcoming free and cheap events for kids
- Kids Eat Free deals
- Free and cheap things for kids to do this summer in Charlotte
- Swimming pools, spraygrounds and free swimming lessons in Charlotte
- Outdoor movie series around Charlotte
- Charlotte summer camp databases (and more)
- 42 indoor play areas
- Free events this week
- Free museum days in the Charlotte area
Hurley Train Station
A couple of generations of kids (and adults) have enjoyed this train ride through the woods, and through two tunnels. Buy your ticket in the store at Hurley Train Station — and, yes, tickets are just a dollar — but before you check out, take a look at the old-fashioned sweets and souvenirs in the shop. That stick candy tastes great on a train ride!
The unmistakable carousel music will draw you to Haden’s Carousel, which is also just $1 to ride. (Children 12 months and under ride for free with paying adult.) Buy tickets at the store at Hurley Train Station. Kids can ride on a giraffe, a zebra, a sea horse or whatever whimsical creature speaks to them.
Miner Moose Gem Mine
Search for treasures at the flumes at Miner Moose Gem Mine. Pay for your bucket, which ranges in price from $9 to $22 (according to size.) You can also all but guarantee success by buying a “Special Bucket” for $32 or a “Prize Bucket” for $47, each of which will include a pre-cut stone.
After you uncover your finds, you can get them identified by one of the gem mine’s rock hounds. They also offer cutting and jewelry services. Basic Geology Classes or a simple “How To” class for younger children, can be scheduled for groups of 10 or more at no extra charge. Call 704-216-7810 to schedule.
Paddle boats are available for $2 per person for 30 minutes. Age 3 or under free with paying person age 16 or over.
The Rowan Wild Nature Center is free to visit. Meet fish, reptiles, birds and more. This small nature center can be enjoyed in about 15 minutes.
Rowan Wildlife Adventures
Rowan Wildlife Adventures offers a chance to see and learn about native North Carolina animals. Between Rowan Wildlife Adventure and the Nature Center, over 30 different species are represented. A visit will take about 30 to 45 minutes. The cost is $1 for age 10 and older, $.50 for children age 1 to 9, and free for infants under a year old.
T.M. Stanback Barnyard
The Barnyard is the third of the attractions that are part of Rowan Wild (in addition to the Nature Center and Rowan Wildlife Adventures.) At the Barnyard, you can meet domesticated animals like sheep, donkeys and goats. A visit will take about 15 minutes. The cost is $1 for age 10 and older, $.50 for children age 1 to 9, and free for infants under a year old.
The water plaza is not open, as of June 14th, 2021, due to staffing issues, but hopefully will open soon. It will be free to visit.
Dan Nicholas Park offers two 18-hole mini-golf courses for $4 per person per game. Kids 3 and under are free.
Dan Nicholas Park features a large playground
Dan Nicholas Park offers 67 camp sites with power and water, six cabins, and three primitive sites. Learn more here.
The park includes volleyball and tennis court, sports fields and a horseshoe pit.
More Events for Kids
Check out our huge list of upcoming events for kids in the Charlotte area, or look at a few of them here: