Small Towns, Big Escape: Your Ultimate Guide to Lake Norman

By: TLP's Partners

Just a 20-minute drive from Charlotte sits the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. Boasting 520 miles of shoreline, Lake Norman is the perfect destination for a quick trip or small getaway any time of the year, providing something for everyone to enjoy. Nestled on the banks of Lake Norman, the quaint towns of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville each have their own personality and a narrative truly worth visiting.

A display of colorful glass art at the Cain Center for the Arts.
Cain Center for the Arts


Start by exploring Cornelius, the popular lake town with a rich history behind it. Cornelius became one of the first Charlotte-area towns to establish a social district. Located in the historic downtown area, the district starts at Thigs Cocktail Bar and ends at Milling Way, which includes Old Town Public House and Cain Center for the Arts. Lake Norman’s newest home for inspiration, creativity, and the community welcomes visitors to bask in its artistic offerings at Cain Center for the Arts. Watch a performance or wander through their beautiful art gallery. Hungry? Dine at 131 MAIN, specializing in classic American fare prepared from scratch each day to ensure a delightful symphony of flavors. The cast-iron corn bread served with honey is a starter you won’t forget. 


An outdoor art sculpture outside of Davidson College
Davidson College

After exploring the treasures of Cornelius, you will want to revel in the charming southern college town of Davidson. This town is admired by many locals and visitors alike, as it provides all of one’s most-loved within a convenient walking distance. At the heart of Davidson lies the revered Davidson College, a campus that allows you to immerse yourself in its rich heritage. Engage in the history and unique features that the 180-year-old campus offers, such as perusing the art galleries and campus sculptures or attending a Davidson Wildcats game. Just a short walk from Davidson College, you can explore the historic main street featuring a vibrant tapestry of shops, restaurants, and more. With wide sidewalks, Davidson’s bicycle-friendly landscape has more than 12 miles of greenways and bike lanes inviting visitors to meander through the town on wheels. 


A caretaker at the Carolina Raptor Center holding a large owl during a presentation.
Carolina Raptor Center

Before leaving Lake Norman, a visit to Huntersville promises a diverse excursion of attractions and entertainment, shopping, and natural parks, offering a fulfilling experience for everyone. A trip to the Latta Nature Preserve is a must-do activity as it offers many amenities. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy 16 miles of trails, a haven for hikers and a playground for activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and even sand volleyball. The preserve houses a new modern facility known as Quest, a beautiful nature center encompassing interactive indoor exhibits and a 6,000-gallon gar aquarium. For those enamored by birds, Carolina Raptor Center stands within the preserve devoted to the conservation and rehabilitation of birds of prey. Guests can walk through the Raptor Trail and learn about birds from across the globe. To wrap up the Huntersville experience, a visit to Birkdale Village beckons. The open-air shopping, dining, and residential area in Huntersville is a popular space to spend a leisurely afternoon. Finish the evening with dinner, drinks and/or a sweet treat at their village of 20+ dining spots. 

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