Lake Norman is one of North Carolina’s most beautiful man-made attractions, with 520 miles of shoreline. Located 45 minutes north of Charlotte, its region includes Mooresville, Huntersville, Davidson, and Cornelius. Thanks to its serene and family-friendly atmosphere, it’s an excellent place to relax and unwind. Aside from water activities and outdoor offerings, Lake Norman can be fun at any time of year. Here are the best things to do at Lake Norman, NC, that I’ve experienced, including where to eat, stay, and shop.
How to Get to Lake Norman
You can get to Lake Norman via I-77, which provides easy access to several parts of the lake. Another option is to use NC 150, which runs parallel to the lake and gives you scenic glimpses of the water.
For families who enjoy the outdoors, Lake Norman has lots of options to keep everyone entertained. The lake covers over 50 square miles and features typical lake activities: fishing (perch, crappie, striped bass, catfish), boating, and kayaking. Rentals are available throughout the summer at Cornelius Pontoon Rentals and Saltshaker Marine, to name a few.
You can buy bait and fishing necessities at Carolina Fishing Tackle in Mooresville.
There are also several beaches on Lake Norman where you can sunbathe or hang out. Jet skiing, water skiing, and wakeboarding are popular activities — you can be as busy or idle as you wish at the lake.
For those who prefer to stay on land, the area is ideal for camping, birding, hiking, and cycling, with several parks and trails to choose from, such as Jetton Park (104 acres and picturesque formal gardens) and Birkdale Village Greenway.
Admire the fountain, pond, and frolicking geese at Roosevelt Wilson Park, with easy parking choices. I enjoyed walking around this park, watching the joggers and dog walkers.
Lake Norman’s Shopping
Plenty of shopping centers are near the lake area, which provides visitors and locals access to various stores and restaurants. I’ve been a faithful shopper at Birkdale Village, an outdoor Mecca for upscale shopping and tasty eateries, for 25 years or more. It’s also just a fun place to stroll around and people-watch.
Stores include Barnes & Noble, Fink’s Jewelers, Williams-Sonoma, Southern Tide, and Poppies, amongst many others.
Don’t miss a delicious dessert from Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop or a tasty barbecue meal from Midwood Smokehouse. Check the Birkdale Village website for events happening all year round.
If antiques are your guilty pleasure, you’ll need hours to browse Oak Street Mill’s 11,000-square-foot treasure trove.
Lake Norman’s Amazing Restaurants
There are so many excellent places to eat in Lake Norman that the narrowing down process can be daunting.
Hello Sailor is a swanky and cool restaurant that sits on the water in Cornelius with two rows of deck seating. They have a fantastic menu featuring dishes like Citrus Crab Louis Salad, Baby Back Pork Ribs, and Double Patty Skillet Burger, to name a few. I can vouch for the deliciousness of the Cauliflower Steak with romesco, Manchego cheese, and a fried egg.
Famous Toastery is another venue that provides families with comfort food, perfect for early morning breakfast or brunch. With their variety of flapjacks, waffles, toast, and French toast, it may be easier to flip a coin to help you decide what to order. I choose the Southwestern Omelet with fruit and toast if I’m craving something hearty.
Pair your breakfast or brunch item with a Flight of (4) Mini Mosas. Famous Toastery serves the breakfast menu all day.
The Egg at Davidson
OMG, go here for perfectly prepared Eggs Benedicts. They have seven delicious-sounding ones to choose from. Sit at the bar and avoid the crowds; The Egg at Davidson on Griffith Street is a very popular neighborhood eatery.
Port City Club
Port City Club in Cornelius is one Lake Norman eatery that left a lasting impression on me. It boasts a waterfront location, a charming beach area, and an impressive 15,000+ sq. ft. space. You can even arrive by boat.
If you’re considering appetizers, I recommend the mini crab cakes or the signature Fried Zucchini Chips with tzatziki sauce. They are both incredibly delicious. Regarding your main course, you can’t go wrong with the steaks or pasta. However, if you’re looking for something lighter, the fish tacos and lamb burger (which looks like a gyro) are excellent options.
One can explore Kindred, a charming eatery in the heart of downtown Davidson, as a dinner option, special celebration night, or drinks with friends. With its inviting outdoor tables, artfully crafted cocktails, and diverse menu, Kindred presents a delightful dining experience.
Among the recommended dishes are the fried oysters atop a tzatziki bed and the house-made pickles, truly a palate-pleaser. My favorite dish was the English pea (homemade) pasta dish. The true highlight of Kindred lies in its complimentary flower pot milk bread, a masterpiece evoking a savory taste experience, especially when paired with specialty butter.
I’m salivating just remembering how good it was.
Lake Norman offers a diverse range of attractions, including mini-golf, indoor go-kart racing, and the NC Auto Racing Hall of Fame, showcasing racing memorabilia and stock cars. Mooresville is renowned for being the residence of numerous NASCAR drivers and celebrities.
Another family-approved destination is the Lazy 5 Ranch. They have a remarkable collection of animals from around the globe and an engaging petting zoo. Visitors may encounter llamas, zebras, lemurs, yaks, African Watusi, and many more.
Fun Fact: Carowinds theme park is one hour south of Lake Norman.
I was hosted by Visit Lake Norman for my hotel accommodations, some meals, and attraction tickets. As with all posts on this site, all opinions and reviews are 100% my own and unbiased.
Carolina Raptor Center
The Carolina Raptor Center at Lake Norman is a must-visit family-friendly attraction housing a diverse range of awe-inspiring birds of prey, including owls, vultures, eagles, and more. Admission prices are $16 for adults and $12 for students aged 3 to 13. They are open daily from March to October and Wednesday through Sunday from November to February.
Some of the 30 remarkable birds of prey around the Raptor Center’s 3/4 mile walking trail are spectacled owls, magpies, black and King vultures, golden eagles, and great horned owls. Additionally, you’ll be delighted to know that a family pass for two adults and four children to the Carolina Raptor Center is available for just $100 per year.
For children aged 7 to 14, there’s also the exciting Raptors Rock summer day camp. Quest Nature Center and Latta Nature Preserve are also at this location.
Please note: The Carolina Raptor Center offers free admission for a family of four if participating in SNAP/EBT or WIC. Also, the Visitor Center is not fully accessible, and the erosion causing roots to stick up may make the Raptor Trail inaccessible for some and for more electric wheelchairs.
My guided tour of the center provided me with a wealth of knowledge and a deep appreciation for these magnificent creatures, solidifying their remarkable importance in our ecosystem.
Darling Downtown Davidson
Downtown Davidson portrays the epitome of charm in its quaint streets, beset against the backdrop of the immaculate Davidson College campus. The downtown area stretches across a few blocks. It features delightful local shops, dining establishments, a post office, and an expansive library that awaits exploration.
Main Street Books and The Village Store particularly captured my attention on my visit.
Amidst the downtownscape, you’ll find an idyllic setting replete with cozy benches, rocking chairs, colorful flower planters, and other visually captivating elements. Decorative flags adorning the light poles enhance the area’s character and community pride.
While my schedule did not permit total indulgence, I look forward to immersing myself in the quintessential Lake Norman experience next time. A serene coffee break at Summit Coffee, relishing handcrafted sandwiches at The Pickled Peach, and discovering the renowned Davidson Farmer’s Market offerings remain at the top of my agenda.
Back on the Davidson campus, take a sculpture walk to see fantastic larger-than-life works of art, including Common Ground, Waves III, and You, to name a few.
Craft Beer and Cocktails
The brewery scene at Lake Norman showcases its strength with an impressive assortment of sour beers, such as Wormhole, Whiskers on Kittens, Carnaval, and Trash Panda, from D9 Brewing in Cornelius. Sweet Rider, a tangerine session ale, is an excellent choice for IPA enthusiasts.
Furthermore, the craft cocktails at Kindred, previously mentioned in the context of food, certainly make a lasting impression with their expert craftsmanship.
Davidson Village Inn: Classic Accommodations
I found the Davidson Village Inn an ideal destination during my Lake Norman travels. Nestled in downtown Davidson, this charming establishment boasts proximity to popular shops and eateries while providing luxurious accommodations and friendly service.
As you enter the welcoming lobby, you’ll be captivated by the warm ambiance. Additionally, the inn offers the Vino Society, a unique wine sampling experience operating on an honor system. I found it all quite impressive.
The rooms at Davidson Village Inn are spacious and thoughtfully designed, ensuring the utmost comfort. The cozy sheets provided one of the best night’s sleep ever. I could have spent the entire day nestled in my comfortable bed.
Your stay includes complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking. Check-in, check-out, and other necessary details are seamlessly managed through text messaging, which I found to be incredibly convenient.
Overall, I highly recommend the Davidson Village Inn for an exceptional experience during your Lake Norman getaway.
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