Imagine two gorgeous water towns so close to one of the biggest financial centers in the country that you can be there in minutes. Now, imagine leaving the busy city and office behind every night to spend the evening firing up the grill on a deck that overlooks Lake Norman or taking the boat out as a cool breeze blows off the water. Welcome to Davidson and Cornelius.
Both Davidson and Cornelius sit just north of Charlotte, along the eastern shores of Lake Norman, North Carolina’s largest manmade lake. Interstate 77 runs right through the center of both towns, which is just one reason why professionals choose to work at one of the big banks and businesses Charlotte is known for and take the short commute home to their peaceful homes on the water.
Davidson is also home to one of the top colleges in the nation, and the town has won countless awards over the last decade for its affordability, being biker and walker-friendly, its conservation efforts, and smart planning.
Cornelius is known for its charming green space — it is home to 10 parks — as well as its diverse community and housing options. It also has its own world-class golf course.
Long before there was a town of Davidson, there was Davidson College, a school that has graduated a president, professional athletes, world-renowned authors, and dozens of Rhodes Scholars. Unlike the surrounding areas that blew up with cotton farms, thanks to the railroad, Davidson College influenced the area’s culture, finances, and even the architecture, which meant a unique group of people settled the area. In 1891, the locals named the town Davidson, By the 1920s, Davidson had 1,500 residents, and while surrounding areas were made of us farms and mills, Davidson also had physicians, general stores, restaurants, banks, barbershops, and other services. Eventually, the decline of cotton farming and expansion of Interstate 77 saw people heading into Charlotte to work and shop, but today, Davidson maintains its reputation as an intellectual town with many specialty businesses.
Cornelius did not become an incorporated town until 1905 after two Davidson cotton firms got into a fight over whether or not to elect an official cotton weigher. One side didn’t like the results and picked up its cotton business and moved to the area south of Davidson. Bad roads in Davidson made the Cornelius area more appealing to cotton farmers, and eventually, Joseph Benjamin Cornelius invested enough to build a cotton mill in the area. The community named the town after him to thank him, and today, the Historic Preservation Committee works to preserve the area’s history.
- Population: 12,921 (Davidson) 31,737 (Cornelius)
- Both towns sit along the shores of Lake Norman, which was built between 1959 and 1964. At 32,510 acres and 33.6 x 9 miles, it is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. It can hold up to 3.4 trillion gallons of water.
- Both Davidson and Cornelius have their own branches of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
- Pet owners will love the fact that both towns are very dog-friendly. Cornelius is home to the Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, an indoor/outdoor sports bar and park where humans and dogs can hang out together. Davidson has its own off-leash dog park and a 200-acre farm and greenways where dogs are welcome.
- Much like the old days, Davidson remains a city of small businesses. Its “buy local” campaign is always in full force with the motto “Turn around. Shop in town.”
- History buffs delight in the fact that Cornelius is home to Potts Plantation, a historic district that dates back to 1753. The area is home to a two-story log home built in 1811, as well as numerous other structures, like the Slave Cemetery, a smokehouse, and Smith Cottage Complex.
When it comes to attractions in Davidson and Cornelius, obviously Lake Norman is the big appeal. However, there is much more to the community. Davidson is home to numerous specialty shops and businesses, and Cornelius has a sprawling country club. The entire area is home to countless restaurants that offer up a variety of cuisines for all budgets.
- Kindred – Travelers come far and wide for a meal at this Davidson attraction. The chef-driven restaurant changes the menu daily and sources local, fresh, seasonal ingredients. This award winning restaurant should be on everyone’s list for a one-of-a-kind meal.
- Hello Sailor – Hello Sailor is the 2nd restaurant by Joe & Katy Kindred located on Lake Norman in Cornelius. This location is the casual alternative to Kindred, but still a destination itself. The vibe is Palm Springs, the food outstanding, and the drinks, top notch. Bonus: you can drive your boat right up to the restaurant.
- Sangam Indian Cuisine – Sangam Indian Cuisine in Cornelius is out of this world. The takeout restaurant always receives rave reviews, and it is the perfect place to order a sampling of your favorite Indian dishes for a cozy night at home. You can even order online and have the food delivered.
- Brickhouse Tavern – Brickhouse Tavern is one of Davidson’s most popular eateries. It is located inside an old cotton mill that dates back to the 1800s, and the restaurant is very community-oriented. As if that weren’t enough, the classic tavern food with a modern twist and beer are amazing.
- North Harbor Club– Davidson’s North Harbor Club is truly a lake town restaurant. Known as much for its decor as its food — actual boats adorn the walls —the restaurant offers an extensive drink, brunch, and dinner menus, as well as private dining options.
- Mestizo Contemporary Mexican Cuisine - Located in downtown Davidson, this restaurant offers great food and great views. The outdoor area is popular during the spring and fall. Try the delicious Mexican dishes such as Chile Relleno, Carne Asada, or try one of the many seafood dishes. The wine list is like none other you will find in a Mexican restaurant. The list is a fusion of carefully selected wines from Mexico, Spain, and Chile.
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport– Both Davidson and Cornelius are a little over 25 miles from Charlotte Douglas International, the country’s sixth busiest airport. It is also the main hub for American Airlines.
- Lake Norman Shuttle and Taxi Service– Private transportation is available between Cornelius and Davidson and Charlotte, as well as Charlotte Douglas International Airport and several smaller airports in the area. Shuttles, limos, and cabs are all provided through Lake Norman Shuttle and Taxi Service.
- Downtown Davidson– Since its incorporation, Davidson has been a mecca for small businesses, and that fact remains today. A simple trip to the Downtown Davidson area can provide residents with hours of shopping at specialty stores like the Davidson College Store and Main Street Books.
- Downtown Cornelius– If you can’t get enough of these locally-owned businesses, head on over to Downtown Cornelius. The charming, walkable district features bridal shops, gift shops, consignment stores, restaurants, and some delicious bakeries and candy shops.
- Birkdale Village– If you can’t find what you’re looking for at one of the local shops, head about five miles to Birkdale Village in nearby Huntersville. The mall features familiar stores like Banana Republic, lululemon, LOFT, Bath & Body Works, Francesca’s, Gap, Williams-Sonoma, and much more. It also features several restaurants.
- Our Town Cinemas (Temporarily closed) – The Charlotte Observer named Our Town Cinema in Davidson one of the “top 10 places to go” in the Charlotte area. The quaint theater runs new movies on its four screens. It also features bistro tables in each screening room, so movie-goers can dine on dishes like pizza, burgers, and wraps, as well as beer and wine.
Things To Do
- Lake Norman State Park – Lake Norman State Park is one of the area’s biggest attractions, and there is plenty to do for residents of all ages, such as boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking. You can also just kick back and enjoy the scenery or have a picnic.
- Davidson Farmers Market – The Davidson Farmers Market is a great way to spend a Saturday stocking up on locally grown foods from within a 100-mile radius of the community. Vendors sell mostly organic and sustainable fruits, vegetables, bread, meats, cheeses, eggs, honey, flowers, and soaps. You can even find some prepared foods there.
- The Peninsula Club – The Peninsula Club sits along the shores of Lake Norman, and it is both a residential neighborhood and a golf club. It boasts a Rees Jones-designed golf course, a 35,000 square-foot clubhouse, eight tennis courts with a pro shop, a pool, baby pool, poolside cafe, aerobics studio, exercise room, spin bike and barre studio, children’s activity rooms, restaurants, and much more.
- Ramsey Creek Park – You don’t have to drive 3+ hours to enjoy a beach day. Head on over to this seasonal park on the shore of Lake Norman and enjoy the water, playground, fishing pier, and more. The beach is open from Memorial Day-Labor Day.
Real Estate Information
Like any lake town, both Davidson and Cornelius are home to miles of beautiful lakeside homes. Many of them sit on wooded lots, and even several of the neighborhoods that are not right on the lake offer beautifully landscaped yards, natural lots, and mature growth trees. Of course, also like any lake town, the waterfront homes can range in price, and there are many multi-million-dollar estates in the area, ranging from old European to modern traditional styles. You will also find a number of newly built Southern-style homes in the area with rocking chair front porches. In Davidson, many communities sit along the town’s greenway paths that provide residents a safe trail along which they can walk right into town.
- The Peninsula
- Bailey Springs
- Jetton Cove
- Summers Walk
- Crown Harbor
- River Run
- Blue Stone Harbor
- Robbins Park
- The Farm at Riverpointe
- Park Creek