Waxhaw is a picturesque town located in western North Carolina, roughly an hour away from Charlotte.
Located near the border between North and South Carolina, the town got its name from the Waxhaw people, a Native American tribe that once resided in North Carolina and South Carolina.
In the late 19th century, the town started to develop cotton mill factories.
With the help of railroad access to Atlanta, these industries brought wealth and prosperity to the city.
As one of the oldest towns in Union County, Waxhaw maintains its small-town charm, with its historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Combining its heritage with must-see sights, here’s a rundown of the best things to do in Waxhaw, North Carolina:
Explore the Waxhaw Historic District
Step back in time as you go on a walking tour around Waxhaw Historic District.
Despite its rise from a cotton-producing town, Waxhaw still keeps its old-town charm, with well-preserved buildings lined up along several blocks downtown.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the district includes commercial and residential buildings with various architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Bungalow, and American Craftsman.
On your visit to Waxhaw, join a guided walking tour of Waxhaw Historic District and discover the history of the buildings and see the establishments there today.
Aside from going on a guided tour, you can rent a bike or visit on your own and soak up all the culture and history.
Learn Local History at the Museum of the Waxhaws
Start your Waxhaw vacation by learning about its history at the Museum of the Waxhaws, one of Union County’s cultural and historical learning centers.
The museum contains permanent and temporary exhibits documenting historical events in the region, bringing Waxhaw’s heritage to life.
At the museum, see replicas of houses and dwellings built by Waxhaw Native Americans, tour a 19th-century homestead, and follow the path where natives once hunted.
In addition, visitors can experience panning for gold, explore the herb and vegetable garden, and watch live performances and reenactment of select historical events.
If this is your first time visiting Waxhaw, a visit to the Museum of the Waxhaws is an excellent way for you to get an overview of the town and learn what makes it unique.
Shop at Waxhaw Farmers Market
The Waxhaw Farmers Market is a seasonal farmers’ market that promotes a sustainable and healthy lifestyle to its residents while supporting local vendors and growers.
As a “producers-only” market, all vendors grow and make their products to sell directly to consumers.
Visit the farmers’ market on Saturday to start your weekend in town, shopping for various goods while interacting with the locals.
Find fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries, poultry, meat, balsamic vinegar, and other homegrown and produced food.
You can also find non-food items like skincare products, leather products, handmade soaps, pottery, and accessories perfect for gifting at the market.
As you visit one stall after the other at Waxhaw Farmers Market, satisfy your appetite with brick oven pizzas, gluten-free baked goods, coffee, and other local eats.
Find Various Antiques at Waxhaw Antique Mart
Located in a historic building in downtown Waxhaw, Waxhaw Antique Mart is an unmissable site when exploring the area.
The antique shop offers aisles and shelves teeming with vintage and trendy items like jewelry boxes, purses, clothes, furniture, and home decor.
Besides vintage finds, the shop also sells handmade accessories, scented candles, crystals, and other wellness-related items.
For music lovers, Waxhaw Antique Mart has an extensive collection of vinyl records, tapes, and rare baseball, football, and basketball cards for sports enthusiasts.
You’re sure to find something to purchase, whether you stick to a budget or are willing to splurge for one-of-a-kind or rare collectibles.
Cross the Historic Waxhaw Foot Bridge
Waxhaw’s iconic footbridge has existed since 1888, becoming a popular photo spot and tourist destination.
The footbridge passes above the railway tracks, initially owned and maintained by the railroad company.
It used to serve automobiles, but the narrow bridge now allows only pedestrian traffic, perfect for hanging out on a lazy afternoon or strolling around downtown Waxhaw.
Go for a walk, stop by the historic Waxhaw footbridge, and enjoy the view from above.
With large trees and benches flanking both sides, this is one of the best places to relax and spend some downtime in Waxhaw.
Join the Waxhaw Kaleidoscope Fest
Throughout the year, Waxhaw hosts several annual and seasonal events you shouldn’t miss.
The town celebrates the arrival of spring by holding its Kaleidoscope Fest, featuring live musical performances, dancing, craft markets showcasing local handmade products, and farm-fresh food.
Meanwhile, Jammin’ by the Tracks is a series of free outdoor concerts held during summer where locals and tourists can dance their shoes off while enjoying the warm weather.
Autumn Treasures is the town’s grandest festival of the year, celebrated with hundreds of local craft vendors, fun carnival rides, live music, and mouthwatering food.
Welcome the holidays at Waxhaw through its annual Christmas Parade and find marching bands and elaborately decorated floats parading the streets in town.
Take a Food Trip around Waxhaw with Maxwell’s Tavern
Besides its picturesque buildings and historic downtown, Waxhaw is famous for its restaurants.
What better way to spend time in town than indulging your inner foodie?
At Maxwell’s Tavern, enjoy classic American food like burgers, sandwiches, and steak paired with an ice-cold bottle of craft beer.
On the other hand, head to Crossroads Coffee House, where you’ll feel like staying in a cozy cabin while sipping on a warm latte.
Emmet’s Social Table is a former cotton mill turned into a hip dining spot serving poke-stuffed avocado, quesadillas, flatbreads, and other tapas-style eats.
Take Your Kids to David G. Barnes Children’s Park
David G. Barnes Children’s Park is one of Waxhaw’s best places to visit if you’re traveling with children.
Conveniently located near downtown Waxhaw, the park offers an acre of playgrounds and slides for toddlers and school-aged children.
There’s also a small picnic shelter, benches, and short walking trails nestled under trees for adults to rest and relax while the kids play.
Halfway through your tour around Waxhaw, stop by David G. Barnes Children’s Park and let your kids play at the park grounds and meet new friends.
After visiting the park, visit Waxhaw Creamery for a cone of ice cream or a slice of cake at Burney’s Sweets and More.
Spend the Day at Cane Creek Park
On a hot summer day, visit Cane Creek Park and enjoy various outdoor activities.
The park has a wide beach area where visitors can rent canoes, rowboats, and kayaks to explore the water and see the park from a different perspective.
There are also fishing areas where anglers can catch crappie, catfish, largemouth bass, and bluegill.
Back on land, Cane Creek Park has several playgrounds, a mini golf course, picnic spots, and plenty of trails perfect for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Whether you want to swim in the waters or chill under the trees, the park is a worthwhile destination when it’s hot.
Hike along Mineral Springs Greenway
Mineral Springs Greenway is part of the Carolina Thread Trails, a network of green trails connecting 15 counties in North and South Carolina.
At Waxhaw, follow the Mineral Springs Greenway, a 1.8-mile hike through woodlands along a natural surface.
The trail is ideal for walking, running, mountain biking, and horseback riding, suiting tourists of all fitness levels.
Along Mineral Springs Greenway, you can find picnic tables where you can stop for a mid-hike snack before resuming your trip.
Since tall trees surround it, the trail is perfect for all seasons and is open all year round.
You can bring dogs, but keep them on a leash.
Visit Stewart’s Village Gallery
Stewart’s Village Gallery showcases whimsical art pieces from hundreds of American artists, including its owner, Bill Stewart.
As you visit the rooms, find hand-blown glassware, woven scarves, wind chimes, stonework pieces, and other decorative art pieces.
The gallery’s owner specializes in pottery so visitors can find a diverse selection of ceramic glasses, plates, bowls, and mugs.
You can also find colorful blown glass waves, stained glass mirrors, and decorative yet functional ornaments like window charms and salt and pepper shakers.
With all the well-crafted and gorgeous art pieces, it’s impossible to leave Stewart’s Village Gallery without buying a couple of their works!
Unleash Your Inner Artist at Art Box Ceramics & Canvas
Tap into your creative side at Art Box Ceramics & Canvas, a local shop that offers painting and ceramic-making workshops.
In addition to workshops, the establishment has paint-your-own pottery sessions, paint and tea events, and art lessons for kids and adults.
Learn how to paint on canvas and ceramics and make ceramic ornaments, wheel-thrown pottery, and other artworks.
In time for Halloween or Thanksgiving, you can also make seasonal decorations like vintage Christmas trees, trucks, and pumpkin-shaped figurines.
At Art Box Ceramics & Canvas Paint and Tea events, enjoy hot or cold tea paired with homemade treats as you work on your canvas, ceramic, or clay project.
Discover the History of Writing at the Museum of the Alphabet
The Museum of the Alphabet takes a deeper look into the heart of language, culture, and Bible translation through its exhibits and rooms.
The displays in the museum go back in time and trace the origins of alphabets from around the world: from cuneiform, Native American language, to tonal languages.
Each gallery features languages like Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Cyrillic, and the museum also explores other writing systems like mathematics, music, and Braille.
Best of all, the Museum of the Alphabet offers free admission, making it one of the best free things to do in Waxhaw.
After visiting the exhibits and halls, stop by the gift shop and find souvenirs from different countries, like hand-painted fridge magnets from the Philippines, canvas bags, and jewelry.
Hang Out at Waxhaw Sk8 Park
Near downtown Waxhaw, Waxhaw Sk8 Park is a haven for skaters and skating enthusiasts.
The skating park has a half-pipe, quarter-pipe, rails, ramps, a bowl, and other fun courses for skaters to show their skills.
You can also find quirky and fun sculptures surrounding the park, adding an artsy touch to the location.
But even if you don’t plan to skate, you can chill by the park and watch skaters go about their day.
On select evenings, Waxhaw Sk8 Park hosts Sk8 Night events where skaters with the best flip, best wipeout, and other tricks win awards, with food trucks and live music.
Follow the Twelve Mile Creek Greenway
Also part of the Carolina Thread Trails, the Twelve Mile Creek Greenway splits into two segments, one in Waxhaw and the other in Lancaster, South Carolina.
The segment in Waxhaw is only 1.4 miles, suitable for walking, jogging, trail running, and biking.
Start your Twelve Mile Creek Greenway hike at Town Creek Park, a 19-acre green space, and enjoy a relaxing stroll across the meadows.
The second portion of the trail is in the Millbridge neighborhood, where you’ll cross several bridges nestled beneath tall trees and end at the Twelve Mile Creek Suspension Bridge.
However, note that the greenway doesn’t connect with the Lancaster segment; this is as close as you can get to South Carolina from Waxhaw.
From its postcard-perfect historic downtown to its must-try restaurants, there are plenty of things to do in Waxhaw.
The town preserves its heritage through its museums, parks, and historical sites while adapting to the ever-changing environment through its diverse restaurants and more contemporary art galleries.
Discover the hidden charm of Waxhaw and plan your dream getaway to this town in North Carolina today!