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Fall adventures in Charlotte

Do gymnastics on horseback and mountain bike through forests.

Although Charlotte is the most bustling metropolis in North Carolina, it’s still home to pristine nature. Fall is an ideal time to go, with the summer humidity subsiding and leaves exploding in a myriad of colors. This October, there’s more reason to visit as Charlotte’s calendar is filled with fall festivals, including the Charlotte VegFest celebrating plant-based and sustainable eating.

You can also take advantage the Queen City’s forested trails, blue-green lakes, and active adventures. Here, four heart-pumping options:
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  • Ride the rapids.

    Ride the rapids.

    The U.S. National Whitewater Center is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, pumping 12 million gallons of well water to create class II through IV rapids. Or, kayak, canoe, or stand up paddle board around the center’s lake. If you prefer dry land, the 1,300-acre facility also has multiple zip lines and rope obstacle courses. There’s also hiking and biking trails, and a 46-foot-high open-air climbing wall.
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  • Go for a sail.

    Go for a sail.

    Known as North Carolina’s inland sea, Lake Norman has 520 miles of shoreline. Take advantage of the calm water with a sailing lesson at the LN Community Sailing Center. On Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, the center also hosts social sails, which are set up like non-competitive regattas.
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  • Learn to vault on horseback.

    Learn to vault on horseback.

    Equestrian vaulting is gymnastics on horseback (picture: leaping onto and standing on a moving horse). At Shea-Rose Farm, the horses trot on a line in a 20-meter circle, so you don’t have to be an expert rider to take the two-hour group class. But it does require balance, coordination, and strength. If vaulting isn’t your thing, you can also go on a trail ride or learn how to jump.

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  • Mountain bike through forests.

    Mountain bike through forests.

    The Carolina Thread Trail is a network of trails that stretches 250 miles across 15 counties and two states. Their tracks traverse forests, steep slopes, and greenways. One to try: The Seven Oaks trail meanders around the shoreline of Lake Wylie. En route, take a pit stop at the 380-acre Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. On October 17, you can take part in a five-mile sunset ride at the Lower McAlpine and McMullen Creek Greenway. If you didn’t bring your own wheels, you can rent a bike at Uptown Cycles.
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