I found myself, by myself, with an excuse to visit a part of North Carolina I’d never seen. I attended a weekend training to learn Healing Touch a form of energy healing therapy. My secondary motivation was to check out the area, a short two-hour drive from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, to see if it was a place my family would be interested in visiting or even living one day.
Armed with a good book, a few favorite podcasts, an airline ticket, and car rental reservation, along with my ever-present sense of adventure, I set out to explore three small towns on the southeastern border of Lake Norman—Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville.
I rented a room in a lovely home well located in town on Airbnb. It was a fraction of the cost of a hotel. The homeowner has been hosting for years and was perfectly hospitable and helpful. With the use of her kitchen and some space in the frig, I scored some provisions at the Earth Fare, a natural food store, on Griffith Street, shortly after my arrival.
Here’s a rundown of my best of the best in the area, (keeping in mind that I had no opportunity to get onto the lake).
A charming small town full of friendly folks with the beautiful Davidson College campus as its centerpiece, I spent most of my time here. I really enjoyed wandering Main Street’s boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants. I also found a few places a bit off the main drag worth noting.
[PRO TIP: There’s a farmer’s market every Saturday in town.]
There are two local coffee shops in town that I loved. Good Drip [108 S. Main] and Summit Coffee [128 S. Main]. With a certified organic roasting facility in North Carolina, Summit is the first specialty coffee company to begin franchising.
I can never pass up a great local books store, and neither should you! Main Street Books [126 S. Main]
Moxie Mercantile [202 S. Main] was my favorite boutique with several outposts in North Carolina specializing in locally made and vintage finds.
For lunch or dinner, Carrburritos is a winner for tasty fare, cold drinks, in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. No reservations necessary. [445 S. Main]
If you’re looking for something fancier, shall we say, try Kindred. [131 N. Main]
After a long day as a student, I popped into Brickhouse Tavern [209 Delburg Street] to get a delicious wood-fired oven pizza to go. Just a hop, skip and a jump to my Airbnb, I enjoyed my pie with a refreshing glass of Vino Verde, procured at Earth Fare earlier.
In the small shopping plaza on South Main Street near the Catawba intersection are some delightful little gems. My favorite was Whit’s Frozen Custard. I got an afternoon treat there twice. As of this writing, you can find them in ten states.
Next door is Honeysuckle Home worth a look around for unique gifts of the home goods variety.
For some killer vegan and vegetarian fare, hard to come by in these parts, try Davidson Ice House, not an ice house at all anymore but a fast-casual restaurant serving up salads, bowls, burgers, and sandwiches.
Just south of Davidson is Cornelius. On my last day in the area, I popped over to the visitor’s center to learn even more. The staff was super friendly and helped me find Jetton Park, one of the few lakefront public parks. Lake Norman mostly offers access to residents or those with boats, so this was a welcoming place for visitors.
The Temple—If I had known about this self-care studio that specializes in holistic cosmetology and the healing arts, I would have happily booked a treatment before my arrival.
Old Town Public House—Coffee shop by day, tap house by night, I enjoyed a lazy few hours reading on a rainy afternoon at this community hub. Live music most nights.
My last meal watching the boats bob up and down in the marina at one of the few dining establishments on the water—Hello, Sailor [20210 Henderson Rd.] Owned by the same folks who own Kindred in Davidson, the menus offered similarly interesting twists on fresh ingredients and inventive cocktails.
[PRO TIP: Although the server asked on both occasions (at Hello, Sailor, and Kindred) if they needed to be aware of any food allergies or preferences (I am a plant-based eater) the restaurants offered few accommodations, which left me wondering why they ask in the first place!]
The largest of the three towns, Huntersville is mostly suburban and considered part of Charlotte’s metro area. I had read about Birkdale Village so I planned to explore this large community of shops and restaurants on the afternoon of my departure. A bit of a disappointment, looking more like a strip mall with a movie theatre rather than a destination unto itself, made worse by the roads under construction within the “village.” I found some cute gifts at Poppies Gifts but was otherwise not impressed.