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23+ Great Things to do in Cornelius NC 2023 from a Local

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If you have been to Charlotte, NC, you may have heard of a nearby town, Cornelius. Cornelius is a popular “small town” suburb of Charlotte that borders Lake Norman and offers some relaxing experiences away from the big city.

Originally established in 1893 and incorporated in 1905, Cornelius was initially known as Liverpool before it was renamed after Joseph Benjamin Cornelius. At that time, Cornelius was a popular cotton-weighing town, and farming land was abundant around the outskirts of the city center.

The Cowans Ford Dam was completed in the early 1960s, which created Lake Norman. Once this project was complete, the town had a population burst and has been growing ever since. 

Cornelius today is considered an affluent suburban town with charming stores, lakefront amenities, and other activities. From spending the afternoon on the lake to checking out the downtown shops and parks, Cornelius is a beautiful place to spend time. 

Things to do in Cornelius NC

If you are intrigued to learn more about Cornelius, you’ve come to the right place. We happily put together this list of all of Cornelius’s best activities, things to do, places to eat, and so much more. 

1. Ramsey Creek Park 

Address: 18441 Nantz Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Ramsey Creek Park is one of the most popular parks in town because it is a large park that allows guests to have lake access at Lake Norman.

Ramsey Creek Park Beach Picnic Area

The 46-acre park includes beach areas, boat launches, a playground, picnic shelters, walking trails, a fishing pier, and a fenced-off dog park. This is a very easy place to get onto the lake and spend a relaxing day by the water. 

Ramsey Creek Park Pier

There is a $10 parking fee for non-residents and a $5 parking fee for county residents to get into the park. 

2. Jetton Park 

Address: 19000 Jetton Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Jetton Park is another beautiful park that has lots of lakefront access. Jetton Park is a 104-acre park with lots of shady trails, small beach areas (no swimming), tennis courts, a playground, a concessions area, and picnic shelters. This park tends to be less crowded than Ramsey Creek Park if you are looking for a quieter experience. 

Jetton Park

3. Lake Norman Miniature Golf

Address: 18639 Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Lake Norman Mini Golf is a fun 18-hole mini golf course that is great for the whole family. They also offer rock climbing, axe throwing, and a laser maze, and they have a wonderful concessions area with ice cream, beer, fries, and other snacks.

LKN Mini Golf

4. Enjoy Lake Norman

Lake Norman is a focal point of the town and really what made Cornelius the town it is today. It is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina and covers over 32,000 acres. 

Lake Norman is a fully recreational lake, so everyone can enjoy all the fun lake activities, including water sports, swimming, fishing, and boating. There are also lots of amazing hiking trails and nature paths that border the lake area.

You can’t visit Cornelius without stopping to see the lake! If you are looking to access the lake, check out the parks above or look at the local boat rental companies.

Lake Norman

5. Bailey Road Park

Address: 18268-18298 Old Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Right off Hwy 115 is Bailey Road Park, a 66-acre park with many outdoor activities. There are lots of sports fields, a farm-themed playground, a disc golf course, walking trails, a small stage where local concerts take place, and many annual events. 

Bailey Road Park

6. Robbins Park

Address: 17738 W Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Robbins Park has something for everyone. They have nature-themed playgrounds for kids of all ages, multi-purpose fields, pretty walking trails, and lots of space to run around. You will also find tennis, sand volleyball courts, a gaga ball pit, a disc golf course, and fishing spots. 

Robbins Park

7. Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

Address: 17001 Kenton Dr, Cornelius, NC 28031

If you are looking for some fun indoor activities, Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park is one of the best places to be. This large-scale trampoline park has many fun attractions like the adventure hub, the dropzone, a tumble track, bumper cars, virtual reality, a ropes course, climbing walls, trampoline dodgeball, and so much more that the whole family can enjoy. 

Urban Air

8. Rotary Veterans Park

Address: 20015 N Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

The names of over 1,100 veterans line the pillars at Rotary Veterans Park, a park that opened in 2011. There is also a six-foot-tall bronze memorial statue of Corporal Jerry K. Crump standing at the center of the park.

Cornelius Veterans Monument

9. Smithville Park

Address: 19710 S Ferry St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Smithville Park is a smaller, family park with playground areas for ages 2-12. It is a great place for toddlers to run around and get energy out while the older kids enjoy the greenery. There is also a fun splash pad area in the summer. Smithville Park can be found right off Catawba Ave, near downtown Cornelius. 

Smithville Park

10. Antiquity Greenway

Address: 20036 Zion Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

The Antiquity Greenway is a small, 0.8-mile section of the Carolina Threads Trail. The trail is entirely paved, so it is great for biking, walking, or jogging with a stroller. It goes through a small section of the Antiquity community neighborhood.  

Antiquity Greenway

11. McDowell Creek Greenway Phase II

Address: 8509 Magnolia Estates Dr, Cornelius, NC 28031

The McDowell Creek Greenway is the newest addition to the Cornelius Emerald Necklace Greenway, a series of greenways throughout Cornelius that goes for 13 miles. The McDowell Creek Greenway (phase 2) is a paved 1.5-mile trail safe for bikers, joggers, and walkers. The trailhead is near the Publix parking lot. 

McDowell Creek Greenway

12. Caldwell Station Creek Greenway

Address: 10000 Bailey Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

The Caldwell Station Creek Greenway is a 4-mile, out-and-back trail that is a beautiful wooded path through the center of Cornelius. The course is considered easy and is completely paved. 

Caldwell Station Creek Greenway

13. Cain Center For The Arts

Address: 21348 Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Cain Center for The Arts is a community visual and performing art center. They hold tons of fun shows done by local performers and host art classes for pottery, painting, and more. They also have small exhibits displaying the community’s works of art. 

Cain Center of the Arts

Bars & Breweries in Cornelius, NC

✅ Ass Clown Brewing Company

Address: 10620 Bailey Rd # E, Cornelius, NC 28031

Ass Clown is a very popular brewery and one of the more established in the Charlotte area. In their garage-style brewery, guests can enjoy a fun variety of craft beers from their 31 rotating taps. They hold events, have a fun staff, and are pet-friendly

Ass Clown Brewery

✅ D9 Brewing Company

Address: 11138 Treynorth Dr, Cornelius, NC 28031

A laid-back brewery with award-winning beers and sours. They host weekly food trucks, hold events, and have a casual, laid-back environment. 

D9 Beer

✅ Eleven Lakes Brewing Company

Address: 10228 Bailey Rd #201, Cornelius, NC 28031

A small-batch brewery with a fun, community-oriented vibe. Stop in for a quick drink and catch a live show or visit their weekend food trucks.

Eleven Lakes Brewing Co

✅ Lost Worlds Brewing Company

Address: 19700-D One Norman Blvd, Cornelius, NC 28031

While Lost Worlds Brewing Company has only been open for a few years, they’ve already won state and national awards for their brews. Each one of their six main beers is focused on adventure, travel, and bringing together like-minded people. 

Flight at Lost World's

✅ Thigs Cocktail Bar

Address: 21234 Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Thigs Cocktail Bar is a European-style cocktail bar with a huge list of premium liquors, an excellent selection of wines, and great local craft beers. You can try one of their many craft cocktails or enjoy a whiskey or tequila flight if that’s your preference. Small bites are also available.

Thigs Cocktails

✅ Lucky Dog Bark & Brew

Address: 19607 Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

If you are a dog lover, this will be the most fun bar you could possibly go to. Lucky Dog Bar & Brew is a totally dog-friendly establishment that caters to pets first and people second.

At this one-of-a-kind experience, people and pets will find a large, comfortable area for dogs to run around, including grassy areas, misters, free water, and toys.

Then, of course, you can grab yourself a drink from their full bar featuring craft cocktails and 20 beers on draft. All dogs that visit this bar MUST be registered before visiting. 

Luck Dog Bark and Brew

✅ BoatYard LKN

Address: 18418 Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

If you want to see live music, BoatYard is the best place to go! They have live music almost daily during the summer months and a full bar with handcrafted cocktails, beers on tap, wine, ciders, and more. 


✅ Cornelius Drafthouse and Bottle Shop

Address: 19818 N Cove Rd C, Cornelius, NC 28031

A nice little neighborhood bar with ten beers on tap and over 100 different kinds of bottled and canned beer options from both the local area and around the world to choose from.

Cornelius Drafthouse and Bottle Shop

✅ Barley Market

Address: 20052 Zion Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Barley Market is a fun tasting room and bottle shop with a vast selection of craft beers and wines. Guests can use this as a little gathering spot and a great place to create mix-and-match six packs to go.

The Barley Market

✅ Old Town Public House

Address: 21314 Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Old Town Public House is a laid-back bar and music venue. They have tons of pop-up events with dancing, food trucks, and a great selection of craft beers and housemade cocktails. 

Old Town Public House

✅ Ash and Barrel Cigar Social Lounge 

Address: 19907 N Cove Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

An upscale neighborhood cigar lounge with drink specials, weekend live music, and a wide variety of cigars from around the world. 

Ash & Barrel

✅ The Hideaway LKN (Inside Ferrucci’s)

Address: 20910 Torrence Chapel Rd D7, Cornelius, NC 28031

One of Cornelius’ newest bar and music venues. The Hideaway brings fun with local performers, a full bar, 16 rotating taps, and a fabulous outdoor area with couches, yard games, and umbrellas. 

The Hideaway

Coffee Shops in Cornelius, NC

✅ Waterbean Coffee

Address: 19420 Jetton Rd #105, Cornelius, NC 28031

Waterbean Coffee was the first coffee shop on Lake Norman to offer pour-over, French press, Aeropress, and five espresso blends that everyone can choose from.

They have a wonderful variety of coffee, all your favorite caffeinated beverages, light breakfast treats, and a comfortable atmosphere to start your day. 

Waterbean Coffee

✅ Willow Wood Coffee

Address: 19801 S Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Willow Wood Coffee can be found in the old town of Cornelius, and they serve a little something for everyone. They have specialty coffee roasts, teas, espresso, soft-serve ice cream, and baked goods.

Willow Wood Coffee

✅ Main Street Bakery & Coffee
Address: 19905 W Catawba Ave #105, Cornelius, NC 28031

Main Street Bakery & Coffee is a small, casual coffee shop with a relaxing atmosphere. They are also a wholesale bakery with divine handmade pastries, cakes, bread, cookies, cupcakes, and more. 

Main Street Bakery & Coffee

✅ French Market Cafe & Gourmet Shop

Address: 20920 Torrence Chapel Rd # B1, Cornelius, NC 28031

French Market Cafe is a family-owned and operated coffee shop and cafe that focuses on French and European bites and drinks, all in a French-style atmosphere.

The prices are extremely great for such quality food. You’ll feel like you stepped right into Paris upon arrival! Reservations are highly recommended, especially for parties over two. 

French Market

Restaurants in Cornelius, NC

We cannot list them all, but here are some great options for you to choose.

✅ Hello, Sailor

Address: 20210 Henderson Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Hello, Sailor is a beautiful waterfront restaurant with a Southern flair. They have a very coastal vibe that is light and casual. Guests can enjoy a great arrangement of Southern-style lunch and dinner items, lots of delicious appetizers, housemade cocktails, and more.

Hello, Sailor Restaurant

You should also check out their sister restaurants in Davidson, NC, which include Kindred and Milkbread.

Milkbread Restaurant in Davidson NC Original Chicken Sandwich and crispy cauliflower

✅ Barrel & Fork

Address: 20517 N Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Barrel & Fork is an intimate restaurant with an old-timey feel, set in a renovated 1906 house. They serve seasonally fresh dinners and a wonderful Sunday brunch that is a local favorite. Reservations are recommended for dining here. 

Barrel and Fork


Address: 21726 Catawba Ave B, Cornelius, NC 28031
Address: 17015 Kenton Dr, Cornelius, NC 28031

Crafty Burg’r n’ Tap is a family-friendly, fun place to get a quality burger and a great beer at a fantastic price. They have a large selection of craft beers and burgers with quality meats and buns baked fresh daily. 

Crafty Burg'r

✅ Harp and Crown LKN

Address: 19930 W Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Harp and Crown is the most wonderful Irish and English pub, set on the west side of Cornelius. They specialize in handcrafted cocktails and have a great lunch and dinner menu.

The Harp and Crown

✅ The Waterman Fish Bar LKN

Address: 9615 Bailey Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

The Waterman Fish Bar is a newer restaurant in Cornelius, and they bring a whole bunch of flavor and delight. Guests can dine on fresh seafood dishes and oysters. They have indoor dining and a 360 bar, or you can eat on their stunning wrap-around patio. Make reservations ahead of time for this place, especially on weekends.

The Waterman

✅ Osito’s Tacos & Tortas

Address: 20700 N Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Osito’s Tacos & Tortas combines authentic Mexican flavors with the delicious flavors of their Southern roots. They feature both traditional and eclectic varieties of tacos and tortas (a Mexican sandwich). They also serve quesadillas and burritos as well as side options like Mexican street corn and chips with guac or salsa. This place is highly unique and so worth the visit. 

Tacos and Corn at Osito's

✅ Carolina Cones

Address: 20801 N Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Carolina Cones has been serving up ice cream for years and is a local hot spot for cold treats in the summer heat. Located in front of their lovely garden center on Main Street, both shops are only open seasonally. 

Carolina Cones

✅ Port City Club

Address: 18665 Harborside Dr, Cornelius, NC 28031

Port City Club is a unique waterfront restaurant with tons of seating in their spacious indoor dining room, in their lounge, or on their enclosed outdoor patio.

Port City Club Patio

They focus mainly on fresh-caught seafood dishes, steaks, and specialty cocktails. Port City Club also has boat slips available to tie up on if you are coming in off the water! 

Port City Club View

✅ The Cork and Cask

Address: 9624 Bailey Rd Ste F, Cornelius, NC 28031

The Cork and Cask is a fun, casual bar and restaurant with a kind of laid-back, retro atmosphere. They have a great menu with things like charcuterie boards, tacos, brisket sandwiches, and other bar appetizers. They also have a fantastic beer list with a large selection. 

The Cork and Cask

✅ Sangam Indian Cuisine

Address: 20910 Torrence Chapel Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Sangam Indian Cuisine serves an excellent selection of authentic Indian cuisine with lots of vegetarian and meat options. You can dine from their buffet or enjoy the a la carte style dining. 

Sangam Indian Cuisine

✅ 131 MAIN

Address: 17830 Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

131 MAIN is a restaurant on the nicer side that can be found near downtown Cornelius. Apart from having beautifully delicious meals and chef specials, they have a warm and inviting atmosphere where guests can dine on their outdoor veranda and by the fire pits with a full view of the kitchen. This is a great place for a date night. 

131 Main

✅ Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream Cornelius

Address: 20545 Torrence Chapel Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream has been in business since 1945, and they still use the same recipes they started with. With over 100 locations nationally, Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream is a major crowd-pleaser with their great selection of ice cream flavors, as well as sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, banana splits, and more. 

Handel's Homemade Ice Cream Salted Caramel Truffle

✅ Maola’s Pizzeria & Restaurant

Address: 20129 N Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Maola’s Pizzeria opened in Cornelius in 2017 with over 35 years of cooking experience. They serve tons of mouthwatering, authentic Italian dishes and flavor combinations from around the world. 


✅ Tenders | PDQ

Address: 18341 Statesville Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Tenders is a casual, “fast-food” restaurant, but with food that is made with care and love. They have hand-breaded buttermilk chicken tenders, sandwiches, and amazing signature sauces.

Tenders went from being a local favorite to inspiring the famous PDQ chicken restaurant chain. Those entrepreneurs fell in love with this restaurant, bought it from the previous owners, and used it to model PDQ after. Although you’ll find some PDQ branding, they chose to keep the Tenders name for this location. 

Tenders Fresh Food

✅ Fusion Bowl Cornelius

Address: 19905 W Catawba Ave #109, Cornelius, NC 28031

A quality Asian food and sushi restaurant with lots of options, drinks, and a casual environment. 

Fusion Bowl Asian Bistro

✅ Daniel San

Address: 20822 N Main St, Cornelius, NC 28031

Daniel San is a family-owned, Authentic sushi and Filipino restaurant between Davidson and Cornelius, NC. Guests can enjoy anything from poke bowls and dumplings to sushi rolls, seaweed wraps, tempura, and more. They also have a great kids’ menu.  


✅ Pho Nam

Address: 18059 W Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Pho Nam is a casual, small, authentic Vietnamese restaurant with traditional pho bowls, tofu rolls, seafood options, and more. 

Pho Nam

✅ Mac’s Speed Shop

Address: 19601 Liverpool Pkwy, Cornelius, NC 28031

Mac’s Speed Shop is a regional chain restaurant with a ton of different BBQ options, wings, sandwiches and more. This is a great casual spot to chow down on some barbecue, hang out with family/friends, share some beers or drinks, and get to know locals.

Macs Speed Shop

✅ Peninsula Prime

Address: 19918 N Cove Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Peninsula Prime is a nice steakhouse with upscale, American-style foods, including fresh-caught seafood dishes and specialty cocktails. They have a warm, inviting atmosphere, perfect for a date night. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends. 

Peninsula Prime

✅ Pasteles la Andinita

Address: 20833 Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

Looking to try something new or unique? Pasteles la Andinita is a family-owned Venezuelan food truck that offers handmade empanadas, Andean Pasteles, freshly squeezed juices, and more. 

Pasteles La Andinita

✅ Sunset Slush Lake Norman

Address: 21303 Catawba Ave, Cornelius, NC 28031

If you want a cool treat, visit Sunset Slush, an independently-owned Italian ice stand with unique flavors.

Sunset Slush Lake Norman

✅ El Toro

Address: 20930 Torrence Chapel Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

El Toro is a family-friendly, authentic Mexican cuisine restaurant with a large menu, kids’ meals, desserts, and more. 

El Toro Restaurant Meal

Things to do near Cornelius, NC

While Cornelius is full of delights, there are some gorgeous things nearby that you’ll want to check out.

✅ Lake Norman State Park

Address: 759 State Park Rd, Troutman, NC 28166

Less than a 30-minute drive from Cornelius is the entrance to Lake Norman State Park. This state park is at the heart of Lake Norman and a place with easy, complete access to the lake and the natural beauty surrounding it. There are vast hiking trails, lake views, beaches, and so much more.

Lake Norman State Park entrance

✅ Frankie’s of Charlotte

Address: 10621 Bryton Corporate Center Dr, Huntersville, NC 28078

Frankie’s of Charlotte is the premier fun and adventure center for people of all ages. They have go-karting, bumper cars, laser tag, bowling, arcade games, concessions, and so much more. 

Annual Events in Cornelius, NC

Here are some of the exciting annual events that take place in Cornelius that you don’t want to miss. 

✅ Back 2 School Bash (August 19, 2023)

To kick off the end of summer and the start of the new year, the Parks and Recreation Department of Cornelius hosts this back-to-school bash each year. The family-friendly event is complete with games, inflatables, food trucks, vendors, and more. Held at James Hoyt Wilhelm Park, the event ends with a movie under the stars at 8:15 p.m. 

✅ Cornelius Festival of Cultures (October 7, 2023)

This year marks the first, of hopefully many, Festival of Cultures events in Cornelius. Held in Cain Park, the festival will be to celebrate the many wonderful cultures that make up Cornelius and allow everyone to share and experience new and exciting things. There will be lots of food, games, music, dancing, and more. 

✅ All-American Dog Show (October 1, 2023)

For 23 years, the All-American Dog Show has been a favorite day for pet lovers and families alike. It is a large celebration for dogs with dog contests, concessions, pet-related vendors, and more. 

✅ Laketoberfest Music & Brew Festival (October 14, 2023)

Laketoberfest is a fun, annual, family-friendly event that takes place in Bailey Road Park. The festival will include food trucks, vendors, a kids area with games and crafts, live music, and beer from local breweries. Admission is free. 

✅ Halloween Treat Trail (October 28, 2023)

Each year, starting at Bailey Road Park, families get together to celebrate a “pre-Halloween” with the community. Local businesses and restaurants will be handing out candy to the kids walking from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and there will be a family-friendly Halloween movie at Sunset in the park. Only kids 12 and under will be trick or treating, though everyone is welcome to stay for the movie. 

✅ Light Up Cornelius (November 29, 2023)

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Cornelius holds their annual tree lighting ceremony, along with the lighting of the Christmas lights all around town. Hundreds of people from around the town join together to witness the giant tree being lit, see the community performances, enjoy tasty treats, take carriage rides, and get a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. 

✅ Santa Paws in the Park (December 3, 2023)

A fun little event in Robbins Park where you can bring your dog to meet Santa, get some treats, and take pictures. 

​​Where To Stay in Cornelius, NC

📍Luxurious Waterfront Penthouse– This gorgeous, spacious penthouse is the perfect place for a family getaway in Cornelius. Located right on Lake Norman, this waterfront condo has everything you would need for a long stay. There is a beautiful enclosed patio, three bedrooms, full bathrooms, and a full kitchen, and you are just a short walk away from Port City Club, kayak rentals, and beach access. 

📍1st Floor Waterfront Condo – Whether you are looking for a comfortable place to stay for the family or a quiet place for a romantic vacation, you will absolutely love this waterfront condo. Right from the front door, you can step out and see the gorgeous Lake Norman, and you will have full beach and lake access with your stay. Other amenities include an outdoor pool, yard games for kids, grills, and tennis courts, and you would be just a short walk from Port City Club. 

📍Lake Norman Inn and SuitesLake Norman Inn and Suites is the inexpensive, clean hotel of your dreams. Along with your fully accommodating, comfortable room, all guests get continental breakfast and access to the pool, fitness center, and family rooms. Lake Norman Inn and Suites are also pet-friendly. 

Cornelius, NC: FAQs

📌 What is Cornelius, NC, known for?

Cornelius is known for being a lake town (Lake Norman) and a comfortable place to explore and live. 

📌 Does Cornelius, NC, have a downtown?

Cornelius has a lovely downtown area with many unique shops, restaurants, and historical sites. 

📌 How far is Cornelius, NC, from the ocean?

Cornelius is about 176 miles or a little over a 4-hour drive to the ocean. The closest ocean beach to Cornelius is Wrightsville Beach in NC, near Wilmington, NC. 

📌 How far is Cornelius, NC, from Charlotte, NC?

Charlotte is 25 minutes or 20 miles away from Cornelius, depending on traffic.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for an excellent way to relax this summer, there is no better place to be than in the lakefront town of Cornelius, NC. For people of all ages, there is something fun to explore, and there are great restaurants, new experiences, and lots of great times to be had. 

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