Best Charlotte Suburbs for Families
What you need to to know about living north, south, east and west of Charlotte’s city center.
Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius is a summer escape with its lakeside beach and swimming area.
Photo courtesy of Mecklenburg County
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Life Near the Lake
There are many benefits to living in the northern suburbs of Charlotte, including access to Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in North Carolina, and proximity to Charlotte’s sporting events, festivals, or a day of shopping in 20 minutes or less. Having lived in the Lake Norman area since 2003, I’ve watched the area expand, change and adapt around me. Parents who commute into Charlotte or work closer to home have access to top-rated schools, the arts, and towns that offer something exciting to do almost every weekend, plus a variety of year-round recreational activities.
There’s more lake to be found in the ever-evolving town of Cornelius, which was originally a mill town and farming community. Smaller ranch-style houses are available in neighborhoods near Main Street, while newly built townhomes and single-family home neighborhoods can be found on the edges of Highway 115 and Highway 21. Large lake homes line the shores along Lake Norman, as well as the Peninsula neighborhood that has access to The Peninsula Club, which includes a yacht club and golf course.
Residents enjoy lake-access neighborhoods, public parks and annual events like the All-American Dog Show and Symphony in the Park Fireworks. On any given weekend in the spring and summer, there are food trucks and street festivals, plus family-friendly breweries. Ten public parks make outside playtime easily accessible. Robbins Park has a treehouse-themed playground that’s popular for the little ones, and public art installations are featured among the paved walking trails.
Cornelius PARC is the town’s thriving parks and recreation program. In the summer, Ramsey Creek Park has a public beach on Lake Norman that allows swimming from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, along with fishing piers, nature trails, playgrounds, a dog park and picnic shelters. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Cornelius branch library is in the heart of old town Cornelius and offers programming for all ages.
For all the draw of small-town charm with city amenities, there comes congestion — lots of it. Interstate 77 between Huntersville and Mooresville is one of the state’s most congested stretches of highway. A highly debated toll lane is under construction, but in the meantime commuters can expect back-ups coming and going to Charlotte.
My family has always loved the charming college town of Davidson. With our children enrolled at a small charter school in the heart of town, we were happy to make it our permanent home in 2017. The town is pedestrian and bike friendly, and Main Street is popular for dining out, visiting the independently owned Main Street Books and grabbing coffee at one of the many breakfast spots. Last year, actress Reese Witherspoon made sure to stop by Kindred, a family-owned restaurant in a brick building that once housed the town’s pharmacy. The weekends are perfect for shopping for local produce and flowers at the seasonal Farmers Market or browsing through the stores in the heart of town.
Davidson College anchors the town and provides plenty for local residents to enjoy, from touring musicians, theatrical performances, art exhibits and sporting events. Davidson Community Players produces three youth shows per year, plus five Main Stage performances. Just outside of town is Fisher Farm Park, with miles of trails for walking, running, mountain biking and dog walking.
Huntersville is the closest town in proximity to Charlotte. It stretches for 31 miles and includes affordable single-family home neighborhoods built in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as rural areas with farms and acreage, and a small downtown area.
Families look forward to the annual Hello Huntersville! festival in the spring and Christmas in Huntersville in the winter. The children’s museum Discovery Place KIDS is located right in the middle of downtown, along with nearby restaurants and breweries. Huntersville is also home to Joe Gibbs Racing, which offers a souvenir shop with one-of-kind memorabilia and merchandise.
Birkdale Village is a shopping hub with a movie theater, restaurants, clothing stores and annual Fourth of July parade and Christmas tree-lighting event.
Outdoor enthusiasts can visit birds of prey at the Carolina Raptor Center, or check out Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve, with its free nature center, lakefront hiking trails, horseback riding, and the Historic Latta plantation.
In recent years, Mooresville, located in Iredell County, has exploded in popularity, due to more affordable taxes and lakefront property. It’s headquarters to many NASCAR team drivers, as well as race museums. Racing enthusiasts can trace NASCAR history at the North Carolina Racing Hall of Fame or rev up their own engines with some go-kart racing at The Pit.
On the outskirts of town, Carrigan Farms is popular for its pumpkins, haunted Halloween trails in the fall, and swimming in the picturesque rock quarry in the summer. Visitors can swim on the public beach or take a hike at nearby Lake Norman State Park.
The thriving downtown area, which used to be little more than a small depot area for unloading trains, is picture perfect with local stores and restaurants, food truck rallies, live music performances, and The Charles Mack Citizen Center, where kids can enjoy a show produced by The Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre. You can also take in several of the impressive murals painted on the walls of the historic brick buildings.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Davidson with her husband and two kids. Visit her website at finishedpages.com.
Where to Explore
DeLuxe Ice Cream, started in 1924 in Mooresville, has served generations of ice cream lovers at its downtown Mooresville store. With flavors like Lemony Sunshine, Sassy Strawberry, and Dreamy Vanilla Cream, it’s a favorite family outing any time of year.
Pack a picnic and enjoy one of the Sunday Concerts on the Green in Davidson on evenings April through September.
Jetton Park in Cornelius is situated on 104 acres of lakefront property and features paved walking trails and a sandy beach area.
The annual Carolina Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace in Huntersville takes place from late September through mid-November and provides a fun glimpse back in time with costumed characters, themed events and food.