Best Things To Do at the US National Whitewater Center

The US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, featuring the world’s biggest man-made whitewater river. This expansive complex offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking and biking trails, rock climbing, ropes courses, ziplining, and numerous water sports such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

Climbers have options like wall climbing, bouldering, and deep water soloing. With about 40 miles of trails, you can also enjoy walking, hiking, and mountain biking. During winter, ice skating is available. The center is also a great place for outdoor festivals, especially in the summer. The outdoor center caters to all levels of participants.

What to Know About Visiting the Whitewater Center

  • You can pay for activities individually or opt for an all-day pass that covers most activities. Note that the canopy tour has a separate charge.
  • Reservations are mandatory for all raft trips – book early as they can fill up quickly.
  • Bring towels and a change of clothes if you plan to take part in water activities. Secure footwear is mandatory. Acceptable options include sneakers, water shoes, or sandals with a back strap.
  • It’s advisable to start your day with a dry activity like zip-lining, rock climbing, or a ropes course before taking part in water activities, which will leave you very wet.
  • Storage bins, paid lockers, and locker rooms are available.
  • On-site food and beverage options are handy, including a beer garden.
  • Dogs are welcome in the Off Leash area, featuring a pebble beach, dock, and dog wash station. Enjoy hiking the scenic 1.5-mile Lake Loop trail and exploring open spaces and wooded areas perfect for fetch and training exercises.
  • All participants must sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of outdoor activities before purchasing an activity pass.
A serene lake reflecting the surrounding mountains.

Directions to the Whitewater Center

Located in the heart of Charlotte, NC, the Whitewater Center is your gateway to outdoor excitement! You can find the center at 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28214. Situated approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) northwest of Uptown Charlotte, the center can be reached via I-85 at exit 29 or I-485 at exit 12. On-site paid parking is available. 

Choosing the Best Times To Visit the Park

The US National White Water Center is open year-round, but remember that some activities are seasonal. Water activities are usually offered from March to October, aligning with the peak season. Ice skating is available from mid-November to mid-February. The center is also a popular destination after work hours and on weekends.

Best Things To Do at the Whitewater Center

Zipline: Fly High

Experience the thrill of soaring over the water and through the trees on one of the center’s exciting zip-lining routes. Options include Figure 8 (where you go  into the woods), Double Down (the two longest ziplines at the center), Canyon Zip, Pine Zip, and the newly opened  South and North Rim Zips (where you fly over the canyon). 

People enjoying a thrilling zip line adventure through the forest.

Rock Climb Over 95 Routes

Challenge yourself on one of the 95 climbing routes at the Whitewater Center’s impressive outdoor rock climbing complex, one of the biggest in the region. With 35 to 45 top-rope routes, a towering 46-foot spire, and nearly 50 bouldering problems, there’s an adventure for every climber.

Dive and Climb: Experience Deep Water Soloing

Scale towering walls and take the plunge into a deep pool below with the thrilling deep water soloing. With five walls ranging from 20 to 45 feet high, climbers can push their limits and enjoy an exhilarating fall into refreshing waters.

 Enjoy a refreshing swim in a pool featuring a climbing wall and slide

Blaze the Trails: Adventure Awaits

Explore over 40 miles of trails perfect for hiking, running, or biking. Before heading out for some trail running, hiking or biking, check the daily activity schedule for trail status updates to ensure your path is open and ready for your adventure.

Soar and Conquer: The Ultimate Ropes Course Challenge

Navigate suspended platforms, cargo nets, obstacles and rope bridges, high above the ground and over rushing rapids on the Whitewater Center’s ropes course. The course now features two new suspension bridges stretching over 700 feet above the canyon.

Take the Leap: Experience Thrilling Jumps 

Feel the rush as you leap from heights of up to 100 feet, with a harness providing a brief free-fall experience before gently lowering you to the ground. For excited high-jumpers, the 60-foot or 100-foot Hawk Jump offers the ultimate thrill. 

Ride the Rapids: Epic Whitewater Kayaking and SUP

Navigate through exhilarating class II-IV rapids on the world’s biggest man-made whitewater river with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP). This cool adventure requires prior experience in class III rapids and your own equipment. For those looking to gain the necessary skills, the Whitewater Center offers comprehensive instructional packages.

Whitewater rafting with Expert Guidance

Join a professional guide and up to seven fellow adventurers as you tackle class II-IV whitewater rapids.

Choose from four different options:

  • Rodeo rafting involves smaller rafts and requires a swim test. Minimum age requirement is 16 years old.
  • Big water sessions intensify the rapids and are available on Thursday and Friday evenings from May through September. Minimum age requirement is 16 years old.
  • Family rafting takes you down the wilderness channel with class II-III rapids. Minimum age requirement is 8 years old.
  • Adventure rafting includes the Competition and Wilderness Channels, featuring up to class IV rapids. Minimum age requirement is 11 years old.

Flow and Balance: Do Some Yoga 

Enjoy the yoga sessions offered daily at the South Ridge area. Experience SUP yoga on stand-up paddleboards along the Catawba River every first and third Sunday at 11am from May to September. Participants must be at least 14 years old. View the schedule here

Exciting Races at The Whitewater Center

Explore the Whitewater Center’s fun race series, offering a range of events from exhilarating New Year’s Eve trail run to competitive deep water solo climbing contests and dynamic paddle, bike, and trail race run challenges. 

Man jumping off water slide into pool.

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Dining Options: Fuel Up After Your Adventures

The Whitewater Center offers a variety of dining choices, from quick bites to full-service meals, all conveniently located on-site.

  • The Market: Offers a selection of sandwiches, salads, and lighter options as well as craft beer.
  • River’s Edge: Enjoy a scenic view of the rapids while indulging in a full-service menu of food, beer, and wine.
  • Outfitters: Stop here for snacks and a selection of rotating craft beers.
  • Pump House Biergarten: Dive into a selection of about 40 craft beers on tap alongside made-to-order favorites such as burgers and salads.
  • The Trail Center: Savor a variety of salads, sandwiches, and beverages including beer and wine.
Multiple rafts floating on calm water.

Catch a Festival: Experience Year-Round Fun

Experience a vibrant calendar of concert series at the Whitewater Center throughout the year, catering to every occasion from holidays to lively gatherings with friends, complete with live music and entertainment. Admission for these outdoor events is free; simply pay for parking to enjoy these festivities.

Gear Up for Adventure at the Outfitters Store

Discover everything you need to embrace your outdoor passions at the Outfitter Store in Charlotte’s Whitewater Center. From top-notch paddling and running gear to biking essentials and climbing equipment, their curated selection supports every aspect of your active lifestyle. Whether you paddle, run, bike, climb, or simply live for the outdoor lifestyle, you’ll find a diverse range of high-quality gear and apparel tailored to elevate every adventure. 

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Best Things To Do at the Whitewater Center: FAQs

​Can you just walk around the Whitewater Center?

A sprawling concrete and gravel path encircles the hub of activities at the Whitewater Center, where you can watch kayakers navigating the rapids, climbers scaling the Deep Water Solo wall, and adventurers taking on the zip lines and high ropes course. It’s fun to stroll around and take in the lively scene.

Where is the world’s largest human-made whitewater river?

The world’s largest human-made whitewater river can be found at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. It’s renowned for its extensive channels designed to simulate natural whitewater conditions, attracting enthusiasts from around the globe.

Can you explore the area without cost? 

While admission to the area is free, visitors should note that parking fees may apply. Additionally, to participate in activities offered, an activity pass must be purchased for access.

What to bring to the Whitewater Center?

When planning a visit to a Whitewater Center, here are some essential items you should consider bringing:

  • Clothing suitable for water activities: Swimsuit, rash guard, quick-dry shorts, and water shoes (if required).
  • Sun protection: Sunscreen (water-resistant), sunglasses, and a hat to shield from the sun.
  • Towel and change of clothes: Essential for drying off and changing after water activities.
  • Waterproof bag or case: Protects your belongings from getting wet.
  • Water bottle: Stay hydrated throughout the day. There are plenty of fountains available for refilling. 
  • Cash or credit card: For purchasing food, renting equipment, or other services.
  • Personal first aid kit: Include basic items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
  • Optional items: GoPro or waterproof camera for capturing memories, extra layers if the weather is cool, and any specific gear required for activities like kayaking or rafting.

Always check the specific Whitewater Center’s website or contact them directly for any additional recommendations or rules specific to their location.

What is the white water rafting activity?

White water rafting is a great adventure activity where participants navigate inflatable rafts through turbulent and fast-flowing rivers or man-made whitewater courses. It involves teamwork and skill to paddle through rapids, drops, and waves, providing an adrenaline-pumping experience amidst scenic natural surroundings or purpose-built facilities like the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A crowd of people on rafts floating in the water.

Can you bring your own food and beverages to the Whitewater Center?

While planning your visit to the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, it’s important to note that outside food and beverage are not permitted on the property, including the parking lots. However, the center offers a variety of dining options where you can refuel after your adventures on the water. Be sure to check out their on-site restaurants and cafes for a delicious selection of meals and refreshments to complement your day of outdoor fun!

Things to do at US National White Water Center: Final Thoughts

At the US National Whitewater Center, there’s a wealth of activities for all skill levels, from thrilling water sports and challenging ropes courses to serene trails and relaxing dining options. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or a peaceful retreat surrounded by nature, the Whitewater Center offers something for everyone to enjoy, making it a premier destination for an outdoor lifestyle.

best things to do in National Whitewater Center
US National Whitewater Center

Last Updated 7 days ago by Jessica Serna | Published: July 7, 2024