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U.S. National Whitewater Center

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Did you know one of the best and most unique activity centers in the United States is located right here in Charlotte? The U.S. National Whitewater Center, which opened in 2006, is an outdoor recreation and training facility. It features whitewater rafting, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, running and so much more. 

Fun fact: it is also an Olympic Training Center for the whitewater slalom race. Who knew? Due to the plethora of activities that one can do at the Whitewater Center, we thought it would be helpful to share with you some highlight activities and events that one can enjoy!

We’re not kidding when we say this place is no joke. Besides all the outdoor trails that one can choose to hike or run, the USNWC offers over 30 different types outdoor activities. This is the perfect place to try a new hobby or find a new passion. Always wanted to try mountain biking or whitewater rafting but have been too scared? Well the USNWC offers a complete judgement free zone where one can try just about anything.

Imagine yourself zipping through the sky on their zipline or navigating through their rope courses. For those seeking a little less thrill, they offer canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, and more! 

Here is just some of the 30+ activities that are offered at the USNWC:
Whitewater Rafting
Deep Water Solo
Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Rock Climbing

From duathlons to triathlons to stand up paddle board races the USNWC pretty much has every type of competitive race there is. They even have ones that happen on holidays like the ever popular Memorial Day Trail Race and the Battle Royale SUP Sprint on July 4th. 

One of our personal favorites is the Build Your Own Boat Competition, that takes place during their Fall Festival. We love it for many different reasons. First, it’s hilarious seeing the costumes that some people show up in–also watching some of those boats epically fail is always great. Another reason is that it gives all those people who have had the hopes of owning and designing their own boat the opportunity to put their knowledge to the test. 

There’s truly a race for everyone! From the most skilled athletes to the newbies attempting their first race, the USNWC has it all.

Now onto the REALLY good stuff! Our absolute favorite thing is all the incredible festivals that the USNWC throws every year. The best part about the majority of the festivals is that they are essentially free to the public. 

Only certain activities require participants to pay a fee. For instance, Tuck Fest is entirely free to those who want to watch the competitions and costs a one-time flat fee for those who want to compete. Talk about a deal! 

The festival season stretches from March until October. 

It all starts with the Green River Revival, which takes place every March around St. Patrick’s Day. Each year the river is transformed into a green masterpiece. The morning begins with the Color Me Green 5K that literally has participants colored green. There is also live music, yoga, and beer to celebrate the day!

Tuck Fest, is a celebration of everything outdoors. From live demos, competitions, races, and insanely talented headlining bands, this is one of the most anticipated festivals of the Spring. 

Some of the demos that participants will be able to take part in include Intro to Rock Climbing, How to Camp in Your Car, and Wildlife Rescue 101. 

Past musical headliners include Shake Graves, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and The Revivalists just to name a few. This year fans will be able to enjoy music from CAAMP, The Marcus King Band, Tyler Childers and more! 

Who doesn’t love live music? Especially when it is played on a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue in the middle of the largest man-made whitewater rivers. 

River Jam is a music series that runs Thursday nights through Saturday nights from May until September. It features many different types of musical acts that perform everything from bluegrass to funk. 

It’s the perfect weekend activity to enjoy with your friends! There’s also craft beer and wine available for purchase. Oh, did we forget to mention that it’s free admission? Because it is.

If you’re staying in town for the long weekend and are dying to get on the water, well you’re in luck because each year the USNW throws a pretty rocking Memorial Day Celebration all weekend long! Festivities include yoga, trail races, and live music on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The celebration ends with an incredible fireworks display on Sunday. 

Speaking of fireworks, the USNWC throws an incredible July 4th Celebration each year. This also is not just a one day celebration–it covers both the 3rd and 4th! There will also be a live fireworks display on both of the nights. Along with all the typical USNWC activities, there will be yoga, a Battle Royale SUP Sprint, and plenty of live music. 

Confluence is the  ULTIMATE local musical experience. It gives local musicians the opportunity to take the stage and captivate the crowds and industry people alike. It’s both a festival and a platform. 

Artists will be given the opportunity to network and learn from professionals in the music industry. There will be discussion panels, workshops, and clinics focusing on everything from songwriting to branding. The workshops are not just for musicians but are open to anyone wanting to learn more about the industry. 

If you’re just coming to listen to the bands and artists, they’ll be playing nonstop all weekend long!

The perfect celebration to end the summer! For two days there will be plenty of ways to get outside during Labor Day Weekend.  Saturday includes yoga classes, The Dry Tri, Aqua Rock Deep Water Solo Comp, and much more! Sunday’s festivities feature the Labor Day Trail Race and plenty of outdoor activities. 

River Jam will also be going on providing spectators with live music every night. The weekend ends with a live fireworks display on Sunday night!

For those in need of centering the mind and inspiring self-discovery, the USNWC holds a one-of-a-kind spiritual journey called Flow Fest. And it’s for everyone from beginners to seasoned yogis. 

Flow Fest blends together wellness and mindfulness in an outdoor setting. Activities include sunrise yoga, restorative classes, and much more. Engagement is not just centered on the mat either. There will be plenty of opportunities to engage off the matt as well with different types of workshops. 

Whether you are looking to further your practice or just learn more about yoga, Flow Fest is the perfect start. 

Some of the top names in the Outdoor Sporting world will be setting up shop for the day during the Outdoor Market. The Market offers guests a hands-on experience with gear from some pretty awesome brands.

Guests will have the opportunity to demo bikes, shoes, kayaks, more throughout the entirety of the USNWC. There will also be group rides, yoga, and clinics along with craft beer and wine for those who want to unwind!

Festivals in the fall are just as fun as those in the spring and summer! Especially the Fall Festival. Guests will be able to participate in trail races, themed yoga classes, cider tasting, and more! 

One of the best parts of the Fall Festival is the  Build Your Own Boat Competition. Those who think they know what it takes to build a boat must make one completely out of DIY materials. The challenge? The boat has to be able to make it through the whitewater rapids. 

Extra points go out to the best theme boat and costumes! So grab the family and the lounge chairs because this is one competition that you do not want to miss!

There's More!

There’s so much more to do at the USNWC! They offer plenty of learning opportunities through summer camps, certifications, team development, clinics, and even field trips. They also offer one-of-a-kind dining experiences like Zipline & Dine and Paddle to Table. 

From April to October they hold a Film Series, which features outdoor feature-length films from across the globe. For a complete list of events offered, visit U.S. National Whitewater Center’s website

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Chessie Abplanalp

Chessie Abplanalp

Chessie is the City Manager for UNATION and author of the   Stuff to Do in Charlotte blog. For more insight on the best events and things to do in the Charlotte area, download the UNATION app and follow @StufftoDoinCharlotte on Instagram and Facebook.

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