Nature Deficit Disorder. While not technically an official medical or psychological condition-It's a real thing. It's the term Richard Louv has coined to describe the "alienation of children from the natural world" in his book Last Child In The Woods.
Getting outdoors is essential. I've seen the amazing healing even a 2 mile hike has on my own anxiety and ADHD. So it's its no surprise the research suggests it helps kids too. We wanted to give our local Queen City readers a list of places to go to "seek treatment" for their families and friends.
1) Reedy Creek Park & Nature Preserve: We have this listed as #1 because its the park we visit the most. Located in the University City area North of Uptown Charlotte, this park is full of history and nature. We love to bring our nephews and nieces here. First stop is the Nature Center and the adjacent playground nestled in the trees. This is by far my favorite of the playgrounds because it's all about exploration and imagination. Plus there's TONS of shade in the hot summer. Reedy Creek has several trails, including marked nature trails to learn about the biodiversity of the park.
2) McDowell Nature Preserve: This is definitely one of our favorites of the city parks. It's located in South Charlotte along Lake Wylie so there's TONS to do here. There's a fantastic Nature Center where you can take your kids to learn about the plants and animals native to the park. Then hit the trails to see what you learned about. The trails meander through the trees and along the lake where you can rent boats to explore Lake Wylie. If you really want to have an adventure with your little explorers- set up camp and spend the night! McDowell is the only park in the City Park System with a campground! This is a perfect option if its your first camping trip with your little adventurers or you want to stay close to home.
3) Latta Plantation Nature Preserve: I haven't been to this park- yet- but everyone I've talked to highly recommends it. It's located in close to Mountain Island in Huntersville so it's a great option for those who live in the Western Charlotte area. In addition to the Nature Center, both the Carolina Raptor Center and the Historic Latta Plantation are located within the preserve. And just like the other nature preserves- Latta has lots of trails for you and your little ones to explore.
4) Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve- One of Charlotte's newest parks, Ribbonwalk is a hidden gem off Statesville Rd only 10 minutes from uptown. There aren't as many trails here, but they are usually less crowded and quite peaceful. This is a great park for this part of town!
Nearby State Parks
5) Lake Norman State Park- This might be as good as it gets within 20 minutes of downtown Charlotte. You can camp, fish, boat, hike, bike, and so much more. We love to hike the Lake Shore Trail- it's 6 miles but there's a shortcut if your little hiker is tired.
6) Crowders Mountain State Park- This is a Queen City Favorite since it's only about 30 minutes from town off I-85. If the weather is nice on a Saturday or Sunday you have to get there early or you won't find parking. While there are many trails to choose from- there are two popular hikes that draw visitors here: King's Pinnacle and Crowder's Mountain. Both offer amazing views of Charlotte.
7) South Mountains State Park- We saved the best for last. It's definitely one of my favorites under 2 hours from Charlotte. You really drive into the middle of nowhere to get here, but this is also a park that can get crowded by lunchtime on a warm day. The main attraction is the High Shoals Waterfall and Upper Cascades. We took my nephew here last month and he LOVED hiking up to the waterfall and playing on the rocks. It's all he talked about for the next few days. There are also several backpacking sites and a car camping area nearby.