In the past couple of months I have received quite a few emails, messages and Instagram DMs about living in Charlotte, NC.
I wrote a few posts about Charlotte two summers ago but this city is changing so rapidly that I think it’s time for an update!
First, here are links to those three posts. Definitely start with these!
Here are two of the messages that I received.
“My husband and I live in Columbia, SC. We are actually considering relocating. We are looking at Charlotte, Nashville, Denver and San Diego (random list, I know). I was curious your thoughts on Charlotte. Do you enjoy living there? We are looking for a city we love with tons of activities (outdoor living, hiking, parks, proximity to lakes and mountains, farmers markets, etc.). Charlotte seems like a great city.”
“I have a question for you about Charlotte and I’m hoping you can give me some advice. I live and work in the NYC area and, for some reason, feel really curious about Charlotte as a future home. I’m not a city person and would like to live in/near a smaller city, plus all of my hobbies take place in the outdoors (golf, hiking, horseback riding) and it’s pretty challenging to find the time and money to take part in those hobbies while in NYC (since I have to travel hours to get anywhere to do them). I don’t know why Charlotte interests me but for some reason it’s calling to me! I seem to think it’s a more rural city that would be more by speed. Or maybe it’s because my dog’s name was Charlotte? 🙂 Just wanted to ask your advice here. Am I even valid in thinking Charlotte may be a better place for what I’m looking for? If I were to take a trip to visit, what neighborhoods would you suggest I check in/live in? I’m in my late 20s and single. Not a huge partier so I don’t need to be where all the post-grads are but would like to be an an area with others in my demographic. Can you help point me in the right direction?”
I think I’ll start with this. Do I like living in Charlotte? Yes. Do I think I’d be happy living somewhere else? Yes. (Note: I’m not saying happier, just happy.)
In this post I’m going to cover off on what I like about Charlotte, what I could do without and resources for more reading.
Here’s the good…
Charlotte Population and Growth
Charlotte is growing like crazy. The July 2016 census put us right over 842,000 residents and the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metropolitan area came in right under 2.5 million. Charlotte is the 17th largest city in the country and the 2nd largest in the south.
Young, Vibrant, Family-Oriented City
Charlotte feels like a young, vibrant and family-oriented city. We have a booming millennial population. It seems like a popular place for people to move after college graduation or in their 20s. I also know many people who have chosen to move to Charlotte from bigger cities to have a family and raise children.
Tons of Development
From apartment buildings to breweries to town homes to high rise hotels to retail developments and more, there is new development everywhere you look in Charlotte. It is unbelievable the number of huge apartment complexes that have been built in the last couple of years and there is no sign of that slowing down.
People are also tearing down houses and rebuilding and also doing major renovations in many of the neighborhoods within the Charlotte city limits that are in close proximity to downtown.
This is all relative. I’m from a small town in Georgia so the home prices in Charlotte compared to where I grew up are astronomical. But if you compare Charlotte to some other major metros, housing prices are a steal. I do think that there is something for every budget, you just have to be flexible about location and/or amenities/upgrades.
Many Options for Social Outings
Charlotte has plenty to do from a social standpoint…restaurants, breweries, concerts, coffee shops, festivals, etc. I used to be somewhat underwhelmed by Charlotte’s food scene but it’s getting better and better every year. In general, it seems like there are always things planned and cool things to check out.
About Those Breweries
Holy crap. If you like social activities around craft beer, move to Charlotte. When I moved here we had ONE brewery. I can’t find an official number but best I can count we now have 30+ in the metro area with more planned. Any many of these breweries have become huge hangout spots for everyone from millennials to empty nesters and everyone in between.
Professional Sports Teams
If sports are your thing, we do have quite a few professional teams that you can rally behind. Most well known are the Carolina Panthers, our NFL franchise, and the Charlotte Hornets, our NBA franchise. There is also a major league lacrosse team, the Charlotte Hounds. When it comes to minor leagues, we have baseball (Knights) and hockey (Checkers).
Strong Fitness Community
I have found Charlotte to be a relatively fitness-minded city that loves everything from the traditional YMCA style gym/workouts to run clubs to more boutique-style fitness like spin, barre and yoga studios. There is also a lot of community around gyms/studios/runners here in town so that’s a great way to make friends and meet people. For my fit professionals, I have never had a problem finding employment in the fitness industry here in Charlotte. There are abundant teaching opportunities at a variety of different venues.
It’s a Pretty City
Charlotte did something right when it came to city planning and zoning. For the most part, the zoning between commercial and residential is just right and makes sense. Our tree canopy is amazing. Charlotte is known for its tree canopy and all the green adds so much beauty and charm to the city, making it feel a bit less big city and more small town. Overall, it’s also very clean and well-maintained.
Great Food Shopping
Again, I say this relative to growing up in a small town. Charlotte has great options for food shopping between our grocery stores, farmers markets and specialty stores. I feel like you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for somewhere in town. We have everything from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to ALDI to Harris Teeter and Publix to Costco to Mexican and Asian supermarkets to farmers markets to specialty cheese shops and much, much more.
“Neighborly” Neighborhoods with Unique Feels
Charlotte has so many neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality and vibe. Even though Charlotte is full of transplants, I do feel that it still maintains that southern charm where neighbors know each other’s names, kids play together and everyone looks out for each other.
Close to the NC Mountains and Not Too Far From the Beach
I wrote this in my initial post two years ago but this one bears repeating. I love Charlotte’s proximity to the North Carolina mountains as well as NC and SC beaches. You can be in the mountains in under two hours and at the beach in about 3.5. For those of you who are outdoor enthusiasts, there is so much amazing hiking in the Western NC mountains. This also seems like a good place to insert that we have two big lakes to our north and south, Lake Wylie and Lake Norman.
Way Better Than Atlanta
*This is my opinion only and nothing against anyone who lives in and loves Atlanta!* As someone born and raised in the state of Georgia and who lived there the first 22 years of her life, I’m allowed to say this. I love Georgia, I like Atlanta…but I could never live there. I spent a lot of time in Atlanta when I was in high school/college and my parents lived in Atlanta for a few years in my 20s. I can confidently say that I LOVE CHARLOTTE SO MUCH MORE. In my opinion, the two cities couldn’t feel more different. While Charlotte’s traffic can be a challenge if you have a commute that requires the interstate or long trips around town, it’s NOTHING compared to the gridlock that is Atlanta 24/7. Also, I think Charlotte has more charm than Atlanta. It feels like such a smaller and more manageable city.
Here are some considerations…
- As I have stated before, I love my pocket of Charlotte because I truly feel like I work and live alongside a very diverse group of amazing people with absolutely no judgements and nothing but love. So that does exist in Charlotte. That said, the state of North Carolina can sometimes make me want to pull my hair out with some of the conservative social issues. Case in point: the whole HB2 fiasco. You just have to remember that you are still very much in the south and very much in the bible belt. (And this is nothing against the church-going crowd, I just mean the over the top conservatism.)
- North Carolina has the 7th highest state personal income tax in the country. Many people choose to live right over the boarder in South Carolina for this reason.
- The Charlotte Mecklenburg School system can be hit or miss. It’s a huge school system with over 135,000 students. It’s the 18th largest in the country. There are some really great schools in our system but many, many in need of improvement. Depending on your zoning, you might be faced with a less than stellar school choice. And then you pay dearly to get into neighborhood with good school zoning. Many people in Charlotte choose to send their children to private school but the tuition is steep, to say the least.
- Lack of public transportation. We have a light rail system and city buses but I think it would be very, very difficult to depend on these two means of transportation to get where you are going. Everyone I know owns a car.
- Charlotte is known for being a banking city and sometimes it feels like one too. Charlotte has cool things about it but it’s lacking the “hip” vibe of cities like Austin, San Diego, Seattle or Denver.
- I think the restaurant scene is just okay. Don’t get me wrong, it has improved by leaps and bounds since I moved here 8 years ago but it’s lacking in creativity what you can find in cities like Charleston, Asheville, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, etc. Again, it’s getting better and better every year.
Resources for more reading and information…
I would suggest signing up for the Charlotte Agenda and Charlotte Five newsletters. Read them for a couple of months and I think you can get a great feel for the city and what is going on here. Note, these outlets are much more focused on social/cultural than hard hitting news but I think that’s what you guys are looking most for as you consider a move here.
Gosh, there is so much more that I can say but I’m approaching the 2,000 word mark so it’s time to wrap this one up. I’ll plan to write some follow up posts soon with more details on my favorite shops, restaurants, coffeehouses, etc. Also, let me know if you have any specific questions you’d like for me to address.
I have often thought about leaving Charlotte but I can’t deny that this city has been good to me and has many, many good qualities about it. I think you can be happy or miserable anywhere you are depending on how happy you are with yourself and your life overall. I think Charlotte is a great place to call home and I’m really glad that I landed here 8 years ago.
Local readers…help me out! What is your favorite and least favorite thing about living in Charlotte?
Everyone…do you like where you live? If you could live anywhere, where would you choose?