By Rachel Hoeing

Sometimes we all need a little escape! I currently have two teens in my house, and although I truly do need a getaway every so often, I am also trying to soak up as much time with them as possible. My daughter and I were brainstorming on some fun ways we could spend time together this summer. We had already knocked out a bunch of ideas on the “20 Places to Take Your Teen this Summer” list, so our next thought was the beach! After a quick search online, we realized that even a two night stay was going to cost us hundreds, and we were really hoping to do something less expensive.

We then thought about Hanging Rock Lake, which is always fun, but decided we wanted to go somewhere new. Although we’d been to Lake Norman many times with friends, we had never gone to the “beach” area, or the visitor’s center. We decided to give it a try and ended up with a beautiful day full of laughs, relaxation, and great bonding time!

    

Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center. It was a beautiful complex, and they had plenty of snacks and other gear that you may need in case you didn’t plan much in advance. Here we rented two paddle boards for an hour at just $7 each. There were also options to rent pedal boats, canoes, or kayaks for the same price. No need to bring your own life jackets – they supply those for you. I had called in advance to ask to reserve our paddle boards, but they are on a first come, first serve basis. It was not a problem though. My daughter and I arrived around 10:30am and literally had the entire lake area to ourselves!

You access the lake area behind the Visitor’s Center, which is great because you can leave things in your car if needed and just take the essentials down to the water. You need to be able to load and unload the paddle boards from the shed yourself. I can’t even describe how peaceful it was to be on the lake in this serene area. We paddled around the area for a while and then decided to just sit in the middle of the lake and enjoy lying on our boards in the sun. (See lead-in photo!) We chatted for quite some time and then would paddle again. Toward the end of our hour’s time, we saw families starting to arrive to enjoy a picnic under the covered shelter, or to ride bikes around the path that encircles the lake.

   

Because my favorite past-time is going out to eat, 😁 we only packed snacks for our trip and decided we would go out for lunch. I didn’t realize that the park is quite a bit off the beaten path from the highway, so our plans of a quick bite at Chick-fil-A were squashed. But, after chatting with one of the park rangers, she told us that downtown Troutman was just a short drive away. It was an adorable little town and Randy’s BBQ is right at the heart of it. In addition, there is a great place for dessert – Southern Treats! I’m a sucker for ice cream, especially on a sunny day.

 

After lunch, we went back to the park and this time went to the “beach area.” This is a swimming area with a beach-type entry, shaded areas under the trees, and picnic tables. There is also a bathhouse with restrooms, changing stalls, showers and lockers. There is also a concession stand (mostly just drinks and snacks). Be sure to check the website before your trip because although the swimming area itself is open year-round, certain amenities are only open at specific times of year. Lifeguard service is offered from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, and a fee is charged when lifeguards are on duty – cash only. Adults (13 and over) are $6/day and children (ages 3 – 12) are $4/day. For more information see the Fees/FAQs/Rules page.

The swimming/beach area was very clean and well-kept. It is sectioned off so that you won’t wade into areas that are being used by boats! We had a great time sitting on the sand and then sat in the water for a long time just enjoying the view and chatting. I don’t know if we just lucked out on a good day or what, but it wasn’t crowded at all. You can bring floats as well as beach chairs. I loved the set-up of one of the families who sat near us. (Pictured below) They did it right with their umbrella! There are not any slides, diving boards, or play structures, so if you have younger kids you may want to bring toys, sports balls, etc. (A great “beach-type lake” idea for younger kids can be found here.)

  

After our time on the “beach” we headed back home for dinner. It was such a fun day, and to think we did it all for under $50, food included! There is much more to do at Lake Norman State Park, including camping, fishing, biking, etc, so be sure to visit their website and get more ideas for fun.

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