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Charlotte is ringed by nature preserves and parks, including the nearly 1,000-acre McDowell Park and Nature Preserve, about 12 miles south of the city center on N.C. 49 (tel. 704/588-5224; www.mcdowellparkassociation.org). Its heart is Lake Wylie. The preserve has many hiking trails, and paddleboats can be rented on the lake. Swimming isn't allowed, but fishing is. Call for more information.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center, 820 Hawfield Rd. (tel. 704/391-3900), on the banks of the Catawba River, is the world's largest artificial white-water river. At a cost of $38 million, the center is part of a 307-acre public adventure sports facility that includes not only white-water rafting but kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking trails. Raft trips cost $39 to $60 per person, and a day pass for white-water kayaking goes for $20 per person.

Even bigger is Latta Plantation Park, the largest in the county, at 5225 Sample Rd. in Huntersville (tel. 704/875-2312; www.lattaplantation.org), 12 miles northeast of the city center. It's a favorite resting place for waterfowl and has some 2,500 acres devoted to nature. It also has stables where you can rent horses and ride along 7 miles of trail. A nature center and picnic tables are available. Fishing is permitted; swimming is not.

For bikers, the best route is between SouthPark and uptown Charlotte. If you'd like a route map, write to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, PO Box 25201, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Because there are so many fishing possibilities in the Greater Charlotte area, you may want to obtain a state license from the North Carolina Wildlife Commission; call tel. 919/707-0391 or visit www.ncwildlife.org for more information. License prices vary.

Tennis courts are available at many places in the area, including several city parks. Among the best are Hornet's Nest, Park Road, and Freedom. The Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department (tel. 704/336-3854; www.charmeck.org) can advise you on which ones are closest to your hotel or motel, assuming that there isn't a court where you're staying. The people of Charlotte, like those in all Piedmont cities, are devoted to golf. For a preview of what's available, visit www.golfholes.com. The Visitor Information Center (tel. 704/331-2753; www.visitcharlotte.com) has a complete list of courses that are open to the public.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.