How to spend the perfect 12 hours outside in Cornelius, 20 minutes north of Charlotte

How to spend the perfect 12 hours outside in Cornelius, 20 minutes north of Charlotte
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If you haven’t ventured up to Cornelius yet (about 20 minutes north of Charlotte), you’ll want to plan your visit immediately.

Along with its sister towns, Davidson and Huntersville, Cornelius makes up one of the three towns in Mecklenburg County north of Charlotte.

Cornelius is full of outdoor activities and local places to eat and definitely has a family, community feel to it. Let’s get started.

Morning coffee

As you should, start your day with coffee.

Local coffee shops are one of the best ways to start exploring a new area. My recommendations are What the Cup (try the Nutella Mocha or Snickerdoodle Latte) and Waterbean Coffee (try the coffee tasting flight: $9) Bonus: Both places serve beer and wine in the evening hours as well. Places that double as a coffee shop and wine bar are winners in my book.


Also, the macarons at Waterbean are worth the trip itself.


My recommendation would be to come on a Sunday so you can take advantage of the delicious, well-known brunch at Fork. Fork is located in a beautiful historic house with a wrap-around porch off of Main St.

For brunch, please promise you’ll order the fried chicken and waffle sandwich with bacon and maple butter ($11.50), which is the most popular item. Other stand out items include the prosciutto and crab benedict, smoked short rib and eggs, and the Mills Farm BLT Burger.

If it’s a weekday, you can check out the all-day breakfast menu at Cookhouse, a southern country style diner. Definitely get the scratch baked corn muffins with butter, jam or honey. They go through 1,800 of them weekly!

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Cast Iron Waffles comes highly recommended, where you can order authentic Belgian liege waffles. The favorites include the peanut butter cup or strawberry cobbler deluxe waffle.

Daytime activities

While Charlotte is hours from the coast and beaches, you can visit Ramsey Creek Beach in Cornelius!

Keep this in mind for next summer, since their season runs from late May to Labor Day.

They also have 1.5 miles of walking trails, a giant dog park, 3 picnic shelters, a horseshoe pit, volleyball court and playground if you’re there in the off-season.

If you want to get out on the water, you have that option too. You can rent boats or jet skis for the afternoon that take off from Ramsey. A pontoon boat for a ½ day (4 hours) goes for $185-$195, or rent for the whole day (8 hours) for $275-$325. You can also rent tubes and jet skis.

If you’re a YMCA member, you can instead choose to hang out at the Lake Norman YMCA beach and rent canoes or kayaks there. They also have a sand volleyball court which can get pretty competitive.


For lunch, you have plenty of variety to choose from. If you’re in the mood for Thai, try Thai House off of Catawba.

If you love New York-style pizza, head to Brooklyn South Pizzeria, where you can get pizza by the pie or slice ($1.95-$3.75). If you have trouble deciding, Nonna’s (square thick crust pizza topped with mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh garlic and olive oil) is always a delicious safe bet.

If you’re in the mood for a lighter or healthier option, try the local chain, Fresh Chef. It’s a smaller restaurant but they move guests quickly. I always say I’m going to try something new when I go, but every time I stick with the grilled salmon wrap ($13) out of pure routine deliciousness. Ask for the kale salad as your side. You won’t be disappointed.

Pass the time in the afternoon

Cornelius is exploding with new breweries, if you want to spend an afternoon at the brewery. Check out D9, with a newly expanded patio, Assclown, or the new Eleven Lakes, all located off Bailey Road.

Or, check out Bayne Brewery or the Cornelius Drafthouse & Bottle Shop, with a laid back vibe. You also have Old Town Public House if you want more of the neighborhood pub feel.


If a late afternoon brewery isn’t your thing, Cornelius is also home to ten public parks. Pack a picnic or some small snacks to enjoy, or set out for some afternoon exercise.

Dinner and dessert

Plan for dinner with a water view at the Port City Club. Afterward, hang around for lakeside drinks and story telling in their casual outdoor area on the beach.

If you have a sweet tooth, head down the street to the local spot, Carolina Cones. They make some pretty epic ice cream boats, where you pick your ice cream and toppings (I’m partial to the Reece’s toppings).

If you’re still not ready to leave Cornelius (I don’t blame you) and you’re looking for a little bit more, Old Town Public House has live music most days of the week for your perfect nightcap.

Cheers to Cornelius!

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