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 offers a public beach area on Lake Norman with swimming and lifeguards.
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Life by the Lake
I first became aware of the Lake Norman when my husband was relocated to a new corporate headquarters in Mooresville. With an infant in tow, we only had a few weekends to explore the suburbs north of Charlotte and decide where we wanted to settle. While we loved the lake property in Mooresville and Cornelius, we eventually settled on Huntersville because we liked the outdoor recreation areas, proximity to shopping and the city of Charlotte, and the variety of neighborhoods with single-family homes. Fifteen years later, we still call this area home.
The town of Huntersville has an ever evolving downtown with local businesses and restaurants, and the children’s museum Discovery Place Kids. Downtown Huntersville is home to the popular Christmas in Huntersville and Hello Huntersville! festivals. Birkdale Village provides a popular blend of places to eat, shop and take in a movie.
Families who love the outdoors can find plenty to do throughout the year at Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve, located off Beatties Ford Road. The center includes a discovery hall, live native animals and outdoor amphitheater. Admission is free. Explore the hiking trails and see creations left behind each year from the annual Fairy House Festival. For an additional fee, you can tour Historic Latta plantation house, a 19th-century living history home, and visit the Carolina Raptor Center.
A town that originally was developed as a mill and farming community, Cornelius has embraced its roots while also keeping up with the numerous residents that embrace it for its laid-back environment. Cornelius offers recreation and home sites on 54 miles of shoreline. The downtown area, known as Old Town Cornelius, is quickly becoming a hub for a vibrant arts and culture scene. Residents attend regular food truck rallies and street festivals, live music venues, breweries, boutiques and dine at farm-to-fork restaurants.
Visit the Cornelius Public Library, part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library System for family-friendly programming year round. Sign up for an art, athletics or fitness class through the Cornelius PARC program, which also puts on popular annual events such as the All-American Dog Show and Symphony in the Park Fireworks at Bailey Road Park.
Bordering the popular Peninsula neighborhood, Jetton Park is a 104-acre lakefront park with paved trails for walking, running and biking. Visitors can pack a picnic and relax on the sandy beach area. A few miles down the road, Ramsey Creek Park offers a public beach area with swimming from late spring into early fall, plus a playground, picnic shelters, nature trails and fishing piers.
Photo courtesy of Visit Lake Norman
Lake Norman has miles of lovely shoreline to explore.
The town of Mooresville is growing due to a top-rated school system, beautiful neighborhoods and year-round opportunities to play and explore, both on land and the water. The downtown heart of Mooresville provides a small-town feel with coffee shops, ice cream stores, and restaurants featuring a variety of cuisine to boutiques, antique stores, galleries and specialty stores. Signature events include the Festival of Food Trucks, a Weiner Race featuring local dachshunds sprinting toward the finish line and a Holiday Light Spectacular. Live music events, as well as productions for The Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre, shine on stage at the spacious auditorium at The Charles Mack Citizen Center on Main Street.
Families can see exotic animals at the Lazy 5 Ranch, go on a hike or swim at Lake Norman State Park, do some go-kart racing at The Pit, or visit one of the many racing museums in the area, such as the North Carolina Racing Hall of Fame.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TOWN OF DAVIDSON
Trying out the ELF Bicycle at Davidson's Earth Day Fair.
With its college-town vibe courtesy of Davidson College, wooded neighborhoods and eclectic culture, Davidson is welcoming to entrepreneurs and artists alike. Most days of the week you’ll find residents running, walking and driving through the downtown streets, or grabbing a cup of coffee at Summit Coffee. Foodies love trying the cuisine at Kindred, Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse, Carrburritos and Mestizo. The independent bookstore Main Street Books features free story times and other activities for children, and the Davidson Public Library is right in the middle of town. Reminiscent of movie theaters from another time period, you can order a burger or pizza and have it served to you while you enjoy your movie at Our Town Cinemas.
Budding young actors can take a class or summer camp at the nonprofit theater company Davidson Community Players, or get tickets for one of three youth shows (including two musicals) performed throughout the year by actors ranging in age from 8 to 20. Roosevelt Park sits just a half-mile away from the college, with its walking trail, pond and playground. There also are many greenways that connect neighborhoods, including one at Fisher Farm Park that has trails for mountain-biking enthusiasts, dog walkers or runners.
On warm days you’ll often find families tossing a football or Frisbee on the town green, and in the summertime it is home to a popular weekly live music and concert series.
Where to Explore
- Every fall the Carolina Renaissance Festival returns and lures visitors with its magical Medieval castles, performances and revelry.
- Queen’s Landing in Mooresville. Take a sight-seeing cruise on Lake Norman on The Catawba Queen or Lady of the Lake and finish off your day with a round of mini golf at Queen’s Landing in Mooresville.
- Choose from a brownie sundae, soft-serve cone or one of the 50 flavors of ice cream and frozen yogurt at Carolina Cones in Cornelius, now in its 30th year of business.
- Head to the Davidson Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, from 8 a.m.-noon, to pick up a hot, gooey doughnut, fresh produce, flowers and other baked goods.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who lives with her family in Davidson. Find her work at finishedpages.com.