15 reasons to visit Waxhaw — including a tapas restaurant in a 19th century cotton mill

15 reasons to visit Waxhaw — including a tapas restaurant in a 19th century cotton mill
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Looking for a quick day trip from Charlotte? Here are 15 reasons Waxhaw, a 45-minute drive away, is the perfect choice.

With its Southern charm and quaint shops, restaurants and parks, a visit to Waxhaw (population a little over 15,000) should be on your radar. It’s obvious this small town is proud of its history, and seeing the imperfect brick shops lining downtown is a refreshing change of pace.

It’s about a 45-minute drive from Charlotte and almost everything is within walking distance on the city’s main street.

Here are 15 must-do activities in Waxhaw.

Waxhaw downtown


(1) Watch a game at Maxwell’s Tavern 

They’ve got the NFL Game Day Package, so this local watering hole is exactly where you want to be when your team’s playing.

The menu features primarily American bar food, like fried pickles, nachos, steak, burgers, chicken tenders, and other handheld comforts — the perfect football foods. Maxwell’s, a local favorite, has a solid 4-star rating on Yelp and a 4.6 on Google.

Maxwell's Tavern


(2) Sip a glass of wine at Cork & Ale (formerly black chicken)

With a quaint side patio and 300 wines to choose from, Cork & Ale is where you unwind and catch up with an old friend over a glass, or two, of wine. They’ve also got a small, light menu of sandwiches, flatbread, and salad.

Cork & Ale Waxhaw 1

Cork & Ale Waxhaw


(3) Get your cookie dough fix at Cookie Dough Bliss

It’s just like an ice cream parlor with a variety of flavors and toppings, except it’s all cookie dough.

The top sellers are the classic chocolate chip and cake batter.

If you’re up for it, try out their cookie dough shake, which includes any cookie dough flavor mixed with either chocolate or vanilla ice cream.


(4) Delight your inner history nerd at the Museum of the Waxhaws

For $5 per adult and $2 a child, you can learn more about Waxhaw’s history, dating back to the 1600s, tour a historic home, and check out the grounds.


(5) Connect with your retro side at the Used Book Store and Antique Mart

Whether you are looking for a vintage book to dive into, old records for cheap, pink roller skates (I was extremely tempted to buy) or fun nick knacks, these two stores are perfect for you. The Used Book Store has a hole-in-the-wall kind of vibe, with all kinds of novels to browse through.

And The Antique Mart has a maze of rooms filled floor to ceiling with trendy and retro items.


(6) Grab a rocking chair at Cross Roads Coffee House

Cross Roads Coffee House embodies the perfect combination of cool coffee shop and small town charm.

Try out one of their speciality lattes. I went with the Hazelnut and White Chocolate. Sitting on the front porch in one of their rocking chair with coffee in hand is definitely the move.


(7) Walk across the bridge with an ice cream cone from Waxhaw Creamery

After you grab a cone (I recommend the Black Raspberry Swirl during summer), mosey on over to Waxhaw’s famous bridge. It’s a huge part of the area’s historic charm, and shows off the best view of downtown.


(8) Eat at American tapas-style restaurant Emmet’s

Formerly a cotton mill in the 19th century, the space has been turned into a trendy social spot with a tapas-style menu.

Some of the most popular menu items include Poke Stuffed Avocado ($12), Crispy Green Tomatoes ($8), Ahi Tuna Salad ($15), and Figgy Flatbread ($11) during lunch.

Figgy Flatbread

Poke Stuffed Avocado


(9) Try out Music Bingo (or just drink) at Dream Chaser’s Brewery

This brewery is known for its transformed space — it once served as a fire station and now hosts Music bingo Tuesday nights from 7-9 p.m., trivia on Wednesday nights from 7-9 p.m., and the occasional build-your-own mimosa Sunday.

If you want a social evening out, go here.


(10) Make a pit stop at South Main Street Barbecue

A North Carolina staple, you can never go wrong with barbecue. Go with the platter that comes with your choice of meat, a side, and cornbread.

I tried out the A La Carte tacos with brisket and avocado salsa, topped with coleslaw, which came highly recommended from locals (rightly so). If you have room for dessert, spring for the liquid nitrogen ice cream.

South Main St BBQ waxhaw


(11) Shop and eat local at Provisions

If you’re in the mood for a local food market, delicious sandwiches and fresh salads, go to Provisions Waxhaw.

It definitely has a local flare with Waxhaw products, a community room to enjoy your meal, and even a vintage antique room in the back. I went with the classic BLT with avocado and a kale salad, but they are best known for their Rueben.


(12) Pick up delicious baked goods from 4th Corner Bakehouse and Coffee Co. 

This gem serves fresh and homemade breads, cakes, cookies, croissants, and other baked goods.

Either take a a loaf home (I recommend the Sour Dough), or share a treat with friends or family out on the back patio.


(13) Visit the Waxhaw Farmer’s Market during the summer

With weekly fresh produce, including berries, artisan breads and baked goods, local honey, grass-fed beef, local eggs, herbs and flowers, there is no better place to get your produce.

The market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday of the summer, rain or shine.

Rolling Hill Farms: If you can’t make it out for the Farmer’s Market, you can still buy fresh produce at the Rolling Hill Farms Fresh Market located right next door to 4th Corner Bakehouse and Coffee Co.


(14) Listen to live music at Jammin’ by the tracks (summer only)

Once a month during the summer in downtown, local bands come play underneath the Waxhaw water tower. Shows are from 7-9 p.m.


(15) Swim and play at Cane Creek Park

The perfect location to bring your family on a hot summer afternoon.

There are tons of outdoor activities available such as hiking trails, fishing areas, picnic spots, canoe, pedal boat and rowboat rentals to take out on the lake, several playgrounds, and a beach access. It is a little bit of a drive from downtown (about 15 minutes), but it’s definitely worth it.

Activities are available during the summer from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and it only costs $4 to park.

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