Jul 6, 2020 - Things to Do

What to know before you visit the Whitewater Center during the coronavirus pandemic

Whitewater Center

Whitewater Center

Unlike most activities in North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. National Whitewater Center never fully closed. Throughout the stay at home order, Charlotteans could still go for a walk or bike ride on one of the center’s many trails.

Now the Whitewater Center is operating its full roster of activities — including paddleboarding, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing — with social distancing and additional disinfecting measures in place.

And let’s get this straight. The purpose of this article is not to encourage you to go out to the Whitewater Center. That’s up to you. This is just me saying if you’re going to go, here’s how to do it by the book.

In 2019, the Whitewater Center drew approximately 1.3 million visitors. Summer is normally the center’s most popular time.

This year is different. All events, such as the popular River Jam concert series, are paused until the state enters phase three of reopening. That means outdoor concerts could start back up at the Whitewater Center as early as July 17.

Summer camps are still happening, but the center caps class sizes at 10 and conducts daily health screenings for all campers, Jesse Hyde, brand director for the U.S. National Whitewater Center, told the Agenda. All staff members are also screened daily.

Here’s everything else you need to know about a trip to the Whitewater Center during the coronavirus pandemic:

(1) Face masks are required, but there are exceptions

The Whitewater Center requires staff and guests to wear masks, but there are some exceptions, as Governor Roy Cooper laid out in his executive order. For example, you don’t have to wear a mask when you’re engaging in one of the Whitewater Center’s water-based activities like whitewater rafting, or when you’re exercising.

“Facial coverings also pose a significant risk of overheating in an outdoor environment in the middle of the summer; therefore, guests and staff are permitted to lower their facial coverings so long as they are appropriately distanced from others,” says Hyde.

That means you can take your mask off, so long as you’re far from others.

(2) Don’t congregate in groups

emma wearing mask
Wear a mask.

The Whitewater Center is located on 1,300 acres and 50 miles of trails, so spread out. Even if its a busy Saturday, there’s still space to practice social distancing and stay at least six feet away from others.

(3) Activities are by reservation only

Purchase your activity pass(es) ahead of time online and reserve your time slot either online or once you arrive (different activities have different reservation procedures). If you show up late for your scheduled time on the zipline, for example, you’ll have to reschedule. This is to minimize any potential crowding.

(4) Go at off-peak times

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, weekends at the Whitewater Center can get busy. If you want to go, consider going at an off-peak time like on a week day afternoon.

(5) If you’re not feeling well, or worried you may have been exposed to COVID-19, stay home

If you’re experiencing any coronavirus-like symptoms — fever, cough, etc. — stay home. This shouldn’t be news.

[Related Agenda guide: Here’s how and where to get a COVID-19 test in Charlotte. Plus, antibody testing explained]

(6) Your annual pass is extended for 45 days


If you purchased and activated an annual pass for the Whitewater Center before March 25, it’s automatically extended for 45 days.

(7) Restaurants are open for takeout and dine-in

The Whitewater Center has a few options for dining, including the Pump House Biergarten, River’s Edge restaurant, and The Market. Be sure to wear your mask unless you’re sitting at your table and/or actively eating or drinking.

[Related Agenda story: Restaurants’ responses to COVID-19 cases vary greatly — from closures and press releases to discreet cleanings]

(8) Check the weather before you go

This isn’t coronavirus-related, but don’t make the same mistake I did this summer. Storms can come on fast so check the weather radar regularly.

Never been to the Whitewater Center before? Read this first: The Agenda Guide to the Whitewater Center.


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