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Living In Charlotte: The Good, Some Considerations and Additional Resources

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!

7 Things I Love About Living In Charlotte

7 Favorite Foodie Spots in Charlotte

7 Favorite Ways to Sweat in Charlotte

Living In Charlotte: The Good, Some Considerations and Additional Resources

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?”

Living In Charlotte: The Good, Some Considerations and Additional Resources

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.

Semi-Affordable Housing

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.

Living In Charlotte: The Good, Some Considerations and Additional Resources

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.

Living In Charlotte: The Good, Some Considerations and Additional Resources

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.

In conclusion…

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? 

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Juliette | Namastay Traveling August 30, 2017, 3:22 pm

    This couldn’t be MORE perfect timing! My bf and I live in D.C. and think that Lake Norman near Charlotte will be the place we settle down. This was so helpful and gave such a good overview of the city. Hope to see more Charlotte-centered posts 😀

    • Jen August 30, 2017, 3:34 pm

      So glad you found it helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions. 🙂

    • Brittany August 30, 2017, 4:19 pm

      I’m in the Lake Norman area so feel free to send me some questions if you have them!

  • Brittany August 30, 2017, 4:21 pm

    Loved your breakdown on this post! Great idea too since I get so many emails about Charlotte. Now I’m just going to send them your post 🙂

    I agree, I grew up in Atlanta and could never live there now. Charlotte has much more charm, but I do think it needs to plan ahead because at the rate it’s going it could totally become Atlanta!

    So fun to read this- thanks Jen!

  • Katie August 30, 2017, 9:51 pm

    Love this post! My two cents from living in CLT:

    1.) DOG FRIENDLY. I have lived in a couple different cities, and Charlotte is by far the most dog friendly. People bring them everywhere! Not to mention doggie day care, dog meet up groups, dog washes, etc!
    2.) CLT airport. While it is a pain due to construction and renovations, they do have decent flights in and out of the airport. Plus it is an easy 10-15 minute drive from Uptown (downtown).
    3.) While it is the South, there are so many transplants (myself included!) that the city doesn’t feel overly southern. Southern accents are few and far between 🙂

    • Jen August 31, 2017, 8:22 am

      Thank you so much for your comment Katie. GREAT point on the dog friendly piece and yes! The airport was one of my top things in my original post 2 years ago. I love our airport!

  • Sara August 30, 2017, 10:53 pm

    Ah, as a young, conservative, single mom living amongst the bluest of the blue, WHAT a breath of fresh air living in a conservative area must be! To be able to raise my child up in true conservative values rather than constantly swimming upstream… your main drawback would be a huge plus for me. Perhaps I should consider a move to Charlotte!

    • Jen August 31, 2017, 8:21 am

      Thanks for your comment Sara. Definitely come check Charlotte out if it sounds like a place you’d like to raise your child. Like I said, many, many people move here to do just that.

      I’m just sharing opinions from my point of view. Of course what I view as a potential negative could totally be perceived as a positive to someone else…and that’s totally cool! I just answered these reader’s questions honestly because I think that they were looking for guidance on living in Charlotte from my vantage point since they are familiar with the lifestyle that I live.

      • Amy September 14, 2017, 8:53 pm

        Note than Jen was referencing NC when she mentioned it being very conservative. 2/3 of
        Charlotte itself voted for Hillary, so I’m not sure you’d find what you’re looking for here. 🙂

        • Jen September 18, 2017, 9:50 am

          Great point Amy. 🙂

  • Caroline August 31, 2017, 7:33 am

    I appreciate your post and hope to visit Charlotte some day. Did you have get negative about Atlanta? It is a great city and not gridlock 24/7 you just have to know how to negotiate it.

    • Jen August 31, 2017, 8:17 am

      Hey Caroline, thanks for your comment. Just my personal experience with Atlanta, nothing personal to anyone else! Even when my parents lived there and we were taking surface streets around town it would take us an hour to get somewhere less than 10 miles away. I’m sure there are tons of hacks depending on where you live. I hope you do visit Charlotte one day. 🙂

  • Lauren c August 31, 2017, 10:09 am

    Thanks so much for this post! As a New England transplant who’s lived here since 2004, it’s incredible to me how much the city has changed since I first moved here a year after college. There’s so much more to do in terms of restaurants, bars, and other great activities. My husband and I joke a lot how much more fun our 20s would’ve been if all of tut breweries and had been around then vs. The small selection of bars in uptown at the time, lol.

    We also talk about whether or not we’d ever move, because just like you, we think we could be happy elsewhere (not happier, either, but happy). At the end of the day, it’s hard to beat the weather (even though I still hate the humidity in the summer), the proximity to the beach and mountains, the ease of travel with a great hub airport, the relatively low cost of living, the interestingly interesting bar, restaurant, and social scene, the activity/ fitness level of the residents, and how generally family friendly and just plain friendly (for the most part) the city is. It’s not a perfect city or state by a longshot (e.g, HB2, our gerrymandered state legislature), but it’s a pretty great place for us. So we stay. 🙂

  • Shari August 31, 2017, 10:19 am

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you so much for this and all of your posts! My husband and I are considering moving to North Carolina. We currently live in Los Angeles and are pretty spoiled by the lack of smoking. It’s not allowed in restaurants, indoors at all, outdoors where people gather (concerts, etc.) or within 10 feet of the front of a building. We love that about LA! What is it like there? Thanks in advance for your insight.

    • Lauren c August 31, 2017, 12:06 pm

      Charlotte and I believe all of Mecklenburg County don’t allow smoking indoors in bars, restaurants, etc. Anymore. They did when I first moved here in 2004 and it was awful after growing up in MA where it’d been illegal for many years. It’s so much better now!

  • Shannon August 31, 2017, 11:54 am

    Just be careful. The south is not behind the times and the gender issue is not a social one–it’s moral. Peace to you, I just wanted to remind you that not all of your readers agree with your views.

    • Polly August 31, 2017, 3:16 pm

      I don’t see why Jen should be “careful” when sharing her own views on her own blog about her own town. I really appreciated her honesty here. And many of us who also live in North Carolina agree with her.

  • Julie @ Running in a Skirt August 31, 2017, 12:15 pm

    When my Brother decided to move to Charlotte a few years ago I remember cringing. As someone in Asheville I kind of thought Charlotte was lacking the soul that Asheville has. BUT since he has moved there and shown me more of the city including the quirky parts, I really like it. I don’t want to move at all and have no plans to… but I do feel like I could live in Charlotte and be happy. It’s a cool place!

  • tara August 31, 2017, 1:15 pm

    i visited Charlotte a few years ago as a possible place to move from NE Ohio. While i did really like the city overall i was just a bit afraid of its size and our abilities to have ample job opportunities at the right pay.
    I did feel it lacked a bit in food (I cant eat gluten and it was challenging for me in the city). I did think the vibe was a bit southern in the sense that people said hello to me and seemed to be moving at a bit of a slower pace and eating lunch outside, etc. In OH where i am we are much more east coast like eating lunch at our desks and in a hurry to get places so that change was nice ! We went to a few neighborhoods and yes, they do seem very unique from one another. I can totally see how to be in the area i would want it would be very costly. I also sense it was very fitness minded and outdoorsy which was a huge plus for me. And i really like the airport there for some reason!

    All in all we really liked the city and i agree for me Atlanta is a little to big. If more big companies move into CLT i think i might reconsider. Right now i am happy enough where i am, but would like to be in warmer weather in the future. I am just at a point that good/long term job opportunities are more important to me. Someday !!! And i’d like to point out i totally agree with you on some of the wacky things NC has been doing. It is a turn off. My state does some crazy things as well so i am not pointing fingers, but I did seriously consider when thinking of moving how i did not necessarily want to move to a place where people are not treated equally.

  • Rachel August 31, 2017, 1:25 pm

    I look at certain factors of being here and consider both the gifts and the challenges of it.

    1. Crowds: I consider Charlotte to be crowded, and it’s not going to change any time soon. Take a drive around South End and Dilworth and there’s new apartment construction EVERYWHERE. Now, with a growing population, that comes with more entertainment and more things to do, which is the upside, but sometimes you just want a little more peace and quiet and space. There are some days when you can’t escape the traffic, crowded parking lots, and you can’t even get decent personal space in a yoga class. I might be more highly sensitive to personal space than most, but I find myself frequently overwhelmed by the lack of it.

    2. Population: Charlotte is such a transient city and most of the people you meet did not grow up in Charlotte, myself included. The upside of that is that it’s easy to make friends, which can be a weird process depending on your age. It’s kind of bizarre being a 32 year old and essentially saying “Oh hey, wanna be friends?” especially when I don’t have children that would instantly tie me to other moms. Note that the downside of the diverse population is my opinion and may be perceived as ridiculous, but there are a ton of people here from the North and Ohio. I imagine that many are here because of the banks, but I’m not a huge fan.

    3. Housing: Like I mentioned above, there is new apartment construction everywhere so it is not difficult to find housing if you are a RENTER. If you want to buy, good luck. It is a seller’s market and the housing prices are insane, in my opinion. The market is due for an adjustment, but again there is no way I would consider buying right now. And the thing is, with so many people moving to Charlotte every day, the bubble isn’t going to burst here anytime soon because demand continues to be high.

    My comment is a little more negative than positive in nature, but it is also extremely honest. I echo what Jen said, I am happy living here, but I would be happy elsewhere too!

  • Christina September 1, 2017, 8:17 am

    Great post Jen! My husband and I love Charlotte and seriously considered a job opportunity for him there, that would have had us relocating this summer. We ultimately passed on it for a number of reasons, some of which were the schools, cost of housing in the better school districts, and the commute he would have to uptown from the areas we were considering. That being said – we still love Charlotte and plan to visit regularly!

  • Joy September 1, 2017, 9:26 am

    Thank you for your honest opinions, Jen! My husband and I are considering moving out of New York and and posts like this are so, so helpful. I love to hear the good along with the bad because no place is perfect.

  • Meg September 1, 2017, 12:45 pm

    Love this post, and I love that you actually express some opinions. It is so nice to hear some honest thoughts. Charlotte seems like a great city!

  • Kelly @ Kelly Runs For Food September 15, 2017, 8:19 am

    I travel to Charlotte for a week or two every year for my job and I always look forward to it! This is my 7th or 8th year going down there, so I have a few favorite spots I like to visit- freedom park, runs on sugar creek greenway, etc. Definitely going to check out your other posts for new ideas for next week!

  • Kath September 17, 2017, 7:10 am

    I didn’t love Charlotte – it was too big for me. I think where you live has a HUGE impact on how you feel about the city. When I lived in Ballantyne I loved it, but my commute was an hour. When we moved to the Quail Corners area my commute was better, but I just started to feel like I liked in the middle of a blah city.

    You know what the best thing about Charlotte is? Y2YOGA!!!

    • Jen September 18, 2017, 9:47 am

      Great perspective that Charlotte is too big for some. I totally get that having grown up in a small town myself! Sounds like Charlottesville is just the right size for you. 🙂 Thanks for the Y2 Yoga love!

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