Grabbing the leash, whistling for your pup and going for a walk—it’s one of the best bonding experiences you can have with your dog. It’s all about exercise, exploration and socialization! Walks are important for your dog to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Unfortunately, constantly walking the loop around your neighborhood gets old. Need a little more adventure? Try these parks, trails and other cool, dog-friendly hangouts in Charlotte.

1.      William R. Davie Regional Park | 4635 Pineville-Matthews Road

Nestled in South Charlotte, this 107-acre park has walking trails, a pond and its own 5-acre, off-leash dog park, the Davie Dog Park. With beautifully-maintained grounds and lots of space, it’s a great choice for letting your pup meet other dogs and even practicing on an obstacle course! users rate it a perfect score.

2.      Reedy Creek Park | 2900 Rocky River Road

Located in the North Park region, this 146-acre park boasts a ton of activities you and your pooch can enjoy, including its own 4-acre, off-leash dog park: Barkingham Park. From the fishing pier, to the three ponds, to the 10 miles of hiking trails within the 737-acre nature preserve—there’s lots of ground to cover. And if you and your dog love sports, there’s everything from basketball, soccer, cricket, horseshoes, volleyball and disc golf!

3.      McAlpine Creek Park and Greenway | 8711 Monroe Road

Located in the South Park and Matthews regions, this 114-acre park features a lake, 1.5-mile nature trail-perfect for dog walking, 5K champion cross country course and its own off-leash dog park: Fetching Meadow. While its grounds are less manicured than other parks, it offers a natural getaway from the bustling city around it. Lush tree-covered trails let you and the pooch experience the solitude of nature.

4.      The Dog Bar in Noda | 3307 N. Davidson Street

Located in the heart of the Arts District, this is Charlotte’s one-and-only off-leash dog bar. Just like at a dog park, the Dog Bar is a fenced-in environment that lets your pup explore and interact with other dogs.  With both a climate-controlled indoor space and shaded outdoor patio, the Dog Bar is a fun, cool, casual way to take your furry sidekick out for drinks with you! Prices are inexpensive but does require a membership to bring your dog and proof of shots.

5.      Midwood Park | 2100 Wilhelmina Avenue

Hidden in the Central Park region east of Uptown, this 6-acre park is small, but its trails weave through an outdoor amphitheater, a community garden, a big multi-purpose field and picnic areas. While residents say it’s hard to find, that’s part of its charm: it’s one of Plaza Midwood’s best kept secrets.

6.      Shuffletown Park | 9500 Bellhaven Boulevard

Located in the North Park region northwest of Uptown, this park features places for sports, a playground and its own 4-acre, off-leash dog park. A gravel pathway circles the entire park, and a wooded area provides shade from the heat. Residents say it may not be the biggest or fanciest park around, but it’s an ideal spot for your dog to roam and socialize.

7.      Frazier Dog Park | 1201 West 4th Street Ext.

Running parallel to Highway I-77 in the Third Ward neighborhood (northwest of Uptown), this 16.5-acre park offers Greenway walking trails along Irwin Creek, a community garden and its own off-leash dog park. Even though you can hear the bustle of traffic from the highway, residents describe this park as a hidden gem on the outskirts of the city. With beautiful lawns, huge trees and a usually busy 1.3-acre dog park, it’s enough to keep you and your dog entertained.

8.      U.S. National Whitewater Center | 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway

Located west of Uptown, the Whitewater Center offers a plethora of outdoor activities—from rafting, to adventure courses, to zip-lines, to rock climbing. But you can also bring your pooch and hike the 20 miles of trails that stretch along the Catawba River. Pups must stay on leash at all times, but that shouldn’t limit their exercise and stimulation. Out of all the parks and places on this list, the Whitewater Center costs money. On-site parking is $5 for a day pass, but hiking the trails is free! And the views—they’re beautiful.

All the Mecklenburg County dog parks in this list are open from 7:30 a.m. until sunset seven days a week. Admission to the county parks is FREE.

By Deanna Morono