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22 Things to Know Before Moving to Charlotte, NC

April 8, 2021

Feeling the call of the south? Charlotte is home to a robust job market, a thriving sports franchise, and a reasonable cost of living. Here's everything you need to know before moving to Charlotte, North Carolina,

1. What's it Like Living in Charlotte?

Charlotte is home to 872,506 people who call the most populous city in the state home. Nicknamed the Queen City or the Hornets Nest, Charlotte is continuously ranked as one of its fastest-growing metro areas. And although Charlotte has earned a reputation as a millennial hub, it's still welcoming to college students, families, and retirees.

Charlotte was settled by Europeans around 1755. It was nicknamed the "Queen City" in honor of German princess Charlotte Mecklenburg-Strelitz. California is primarily thought of as home to the US gold rush. However, the Charlotte area was the chief producer of gold in the US until the Sierra Nevada fund in 1848.

Today, living in Charlotte comes with a healthy job market and business headquarters, fabulous food, varied entertainment, and perhaps best of all, affordable apartments and real estate. Before packing your bags and heading to the Southeast, here's everything you need to know before moving to Charlotte.

2. Cost of Living in Charlotte, North Carolina

According to Payscale, the cost of living in Charlotte is 5% lower, and housing is also 14% lower than the national average.

Here's an idea of how much things cost when moving to Charlotte, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $153.91
  • Loaf of bread: $3.12
  • Doctor's visit: $114.14
  • $2.53 for a gallon of gas

Recently, the average rent in Charlotte dipped to $1,088 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,215 for a two-bedroom apartment. To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte, you should shoot for an income of at least $32,640 a year or $16.74 an hour. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $36,450 a year or $18.23 an hour.

The median income in Charlotte is $62,816, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $54,602 in the rest of North Carolina.

Keep in mind that those figures are different from the basic living wage. Living above the poverty threshold in Charlotte requires $14.72 an hour for a full-time employed single individual. You'll need to aim higher to afford nightlife, vacations, and restaurants.

3. Flat Income Tax Rate

One of the upsides to living in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the flat income tax rate of 5.25%. No matter what you earn, all taxpayers in the state pay this rate regardless of their filing status. North Carolina also boasts low property taxes and sales taxes near the national average.

North Carolina also has a few tax-exempt purchases, like prescription medications and some types of groceries. Property taxes are low and sales taxes are average. There’s also no tax on Social Security Retirement benefits.

4. Who's Moving to Charlotte?

Charlotte is attracting new renters from across the East Coast and South! People from Columbia, New York, and Greensboro are all considering moving to Charlotte, NC. On the other hand, renters in Charlotte are searching for apartments in Atlanta, Raleigh, and Columbia.

For more information, read our Renter Migration Report..

If you're interested in moving to a new state, read our Step-by-Step Guide.

5. Charlotte's Job Market

Charlotte enjoys a robust job market with a strong presence in the financial services industry. Insurance, health care, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and retail are also strong markets in the city.

The varied industries in Charlotte aren't the only thing attractive to newcomers. Charlotte's low employment rate means it's a job hunter's paradise. Local businesses compete for qualified, skilled workers. According to reports, Charlotte leads the country with an impressive 37% of employers planning to hire.

6. Transportation

Charlotte is a driving town. However, you can get around pretty quickly with public transportation options.

The least expensive option is a ride on Charlotte's public transportation run by CATS. That’s the Charlotte Area Transit System. CATS operates both bus and rail transit in Mecklenburg County and the surrounding metro area.

CATS also runs the local LYNX light rail system. Fares run $88 for an unlimited adult monthly pass for local buses and LYNX. The express bus option will bump your fare up to $121 a month for unlimited rides.

Bicycle enthusiasts can ditch the car and take advantage of Charlotte B-Cycle bike share. Monthly memberships run $50 a month for unlimited, one-hour rides. After an hour, members pay $1 per half-hour.

Uber and Lyft can help make forgoing car ownership a reality. Taxis are also available around Charlotte, although they’ll be the priciest options.

If you're a single adult with no children, you'll spend about $5,133 for transportation in Charlotte each year. If you live in a household with two adults with one child, you'll pay an additional $11,672 for transportation.

7. Charlotte's Downtown is called "Uptown"

Locals shrug when you ask them why most cities call their thriving business centers "Downtown," yet Charlotte refers to theirs as "Uptown." Some say that in the 1970s, a city council declared the shopping and business district would be called "Uptown Charlotte."

8. Charlotte is the Country's Second-Largest Banking Center

New York takes the lead as a long-time banking leader in the United States (and the world). However, Charlotte isn't far behind.

Charlotte and San Francisco are usually in heavy competition for second place. However, Charlotte holds the title with the extra nudge from Bank of America. It’s the largest bank by assets in the area.

9. The BBQ Roots Run Deep

Some of barbecue's earliest roots are traced to the 16th century to North Carolina's coast. Some believe Charlotte was even home to the first barbecue restaurant, with a classified ad dating back to 1899 in the Charlotte Observer promoting the "only barbecuer in Charlotte." Charlotte is home to some of the finest barbecues in the country, whether it's true or not.

10. The Pimento Cheese Capital of the World

Charlotte is home to some of the most tantalizing and voluminous pimento cheese production in the Southeast. The local Ruth's Salads produces over 45,000 pounds of pimento cheese every week. That places Charlotte as a distinguished leader in the pimento cheese-selling market.

11. The Country's First Gold Rush Started in Charlotte

Although California enjoyed the biggest gold rush in US history, Charlotte was home to the country's first. And it wasn't a prospector or business giant who discovered the gold, either. Twelve-year-old Conrad Reed spotted a gold nugget while playing along Meadow Creek on his family's farm that eventually became Reed's Gold Mine.

12. One of the City's Historic Landmarks is a Dairy Queen

Did you know Charlotte is home to one of the oldest Dairy Queens featuring a two-sided Eskimo girl sign? Cool off during Charlotte's hot, humid summers with a tasty treat and admire the vintage sign that's been standing since 1947.

13. The Nickname, "Hornet's Nest," Dates Back to 1780

When the British army arrived in Charlotte, they were in for an unwelcome surprise. The spirited local patriots pushed back until the British fled. The General called Charlotte a "Hornet's Nest of the Rebellion."

By 1892, the local baseball team picked up the nickname. The Charlotte Hornets took the moniker when they became the city's first NBA team in 1988.

14. Charlotte is home to the First Family Dollar

Charlotte is known for a reasonable cost of living in comparison to similar-sized metropolitan areas. It's only fitting that the very first Family Dollar Stores opened its doors in Charlotte. In 1959, retail entrepreneur Leon Levine launched the retail legend.

15. Charlotte is a NASCAR Hub

Locals fuel their need for speed at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. You’ll find events like the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series, Gander Outdoors Truck Race Series, and car shows.

If you can't get enough in between races, you can also head to uptown's NASCAR Hall of Fame and enjoy its $190-million entertainment center and museum.

16. The World's Largest Manmade Whitewater River

Situated on the outskirts of the city, the U.S. National Whitewater Center set up shop to provide endless recreation, adrenaline rushes, and fun to the public. And as if that wasn't enough to add to Charlotte's bragging rights, the pumps can also fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in less than 10 seconds.

17. Home to Multiple Sports Teams

Charlotte locals are loyal to their home teams, and have plenty of teams to root for. Football fans cheer for the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium while the Charlotte Hornets stir up basketball lovers at Spectrum Center. Both stadiums are conveniently located in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, making it a convenient stop after work.

And although Charlotte doesn't currently have its own MLB team, they are home to the professional Minor League Baseball team the Charlotte Knights at BB&T Ballpark. Watching college ball is also a popular pastime as the UNC Tar Heels are consistently one of the top teams in the country. 

Don't forget to root for your favorite NASCAR driver at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Catch the Bank of America Royal 400, or attend one of the speedway's racing schools like the NASCAR Racing Experience or Richard Petty Driving Experience.

18. Great Place for Day Trips

Take a trip to historic downtown Salisbury for a picture-perfect downtown stroll. This national historic district features buildings like the former Rowan County Courthouse and the tower of the former First Presbyterian Church dating back to 1891. Stay for the day for shopping, dining, and enjoy the arts and culture scene including independent galleries and theatres.

Get to know Charlotte’s gold rush roots with a trip to Reed Gold Mine. The discovery of gold led to nearly one million dollars a year in estimated value, ushering in North Carolina's foothold as the leader in gold production until 1848. Admission to tour the mine is free, but come April 1 through October 31, you can spend a few dollars to pan for gold as weather permits. Who knows, you might find your own piece of gold.

Charlotte holds the unique distinction of being the largest metropolitan area in the United States without a zoo. But locals don’t seem to mind. Instead, they head to the world’s largest natural habitat zoo located in nearby Asheboro with 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants. The North Carolina Zoo is nestled on 2,600 wooded acres focuses on conservation and encounters with wild animals in natural settings. 

If you want to get out on the water, head about 30 miles north to Lake Norman. This massive lake offers boat, jet ski, paddleboard and kayak rentals. You’ll also find scenic hiking trails, and awesome shopping and dining at the nearby Birkdale Village. It’s the perfect spot for a day trip on a hot summer day. 

19. There are Plenty of Options for Outdoor Adventures

Ever wanted to get your heart pumping with some whitewater rafting, hit the trails for mountain biking, sail on zip lines, and spend an hour stand-up paddleboarding? Charlotte has it all. The U.S. National White Water Center (USNWC) offers 1,300 acres of outdoor activities for all skill levels from amateur to competitive. The backdrop is also home to live music, outdoor festivals, and concerts like the River Jam concert series.

20. City for Music-Enthusiasts

Charlotte has no shortage of independent or oversized venues like the historic Bojangles Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium both welcoming major acts and Broadway shows. Together, the two make up BOplex entertainment center for a multi-purpose arena experience. When the Charlotte Hornets aren't playing, "the Hive" comes alive with major musical acts. For something a little lower-key, try the classic Smokey Joe's Cafe welcoming local and regional rockers. 

Try the PNC Music Pavilion for national and international musical tours, or embrace the arts at Belk Theatre to hear the Charlotte Symphony play. Jazz lovers lounge at The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater while sipping signature drinks in an intimate setting. And over at Apostrophe Lounge, locals dress up and embrace the nightlife with open mic nights, and hip-hop music. There’s a long list of places to hear music around Charlotte, so take your pick from indie to rock and anything in between and discover your new favorite venues.

21. Charlotte is Filled with Family-Friendly Activities

Charlotte is renown for its family-friendly neighborhoods and quality schools. You don’t have to look far for recreation designed with kids in mind. Explore the Discovery Place with your kids for a STEM education. Appropriate for all ages, Discovery Place offers special programs, exhibits, and special events. Families can learn more about how astronauts figured out the spacewalk, meet the on-site lab animals, and get answers to fascinating questions like why Mars is red. 

Situated in the heart of Charlotte's cultural arts district, ImaginOn features a 102,000-square-foot facility that Livability ranked as the #1 children's library in the country. Over 300,000 people visit the facility boasting two state-of-the-art theatres and library space for kids 11 and under. Visitors also come to check out the teen-only library, multimedia studio, and exhibit space.

Charlotte’s thrill-seekers love Carowinds, a 407-acre amusement park. Enjoy tidal wave fun during summer months, the Carolinas' first double-launch roller coaster, and 14 other world-class roller coasters. For a less ambitious day at the park, Camp Snoopy features over 60 rides, shows, and attractions.

For a mini day trip with kids, head 30 minutes outside Charlotte to the Gem Theatre, one of the oldest single-screen movie theatres in operation today. The theatre also features a gorgeous lobby and 916 seats along with a balcony section delighting crowds gathering for kid-favorites like The Lion King and Dora and the Lost City of God.

Haberdish via Instagram

22. Charlotte’s Growing Food Scene

Charlotte boasts a food scene that’s been heating up over the last decade. Locals choose from upscale pimento cheese to Carolina barbecue, farm to table fare, and everything in between. Eat brunch at Haberdish, savor Low Country at Gullah Merts Charlotte for salmon cakes at lunch, and dig into roasted duck breast at Haymaker. 

For sophisticated dining, try BLT Steakhouse inside the Ritz-Carlton in Uptown for premium steaks and live jazz. Looking to celebrate? Hit the local gem Barrington's Restaurant for bacon-wrapped quail, hickory nut gap pork chop, and spring mountain farms chicken. Locals looking for a hip atmosphere with a DJ booth and funky artwork dine at Soul Gastrolounge. Here you can sip on bespoke cocktails while feasting on lamb lollipops, flatbreads, sushi, ramen bowls, and anchovy fries.

Like any metropolitan city worth its weight in gastropubs, Charlotte delivers on world-class beers, cocktails, and food. Go to the local-favorite Cellar at Duckworth's in the Fourth Ward for a speakeasy-inspired gastropub. Browse a menu filled with grouper, steaks, chargrilled oysters, and pappardelle duck ragu. Wash it all down with signature cocktails and draft beer. 

Other options include the highly regarded Crêpe Cellar, serving specialized European fare like ham and gruyere crepes, steak frites, and duck confit. But don't leave without tasting the dessert crêpes like butter sugar or bananas foster. For a blend of creativity and delicious food, try the Suffolk Punch featuring seasonal ingredients infused into made from scratch sauces and stocks. Choose from flash-fried Joyce Farms chicken, pulled pork shoulder, shrimp curry, and more.

Finding Your Charlotte Apartment

Ready to move to Charlotte? Start apartment hunting with Apartment List and learn which Charlotte neighborhood is best for you!

If Charlotte doesn't seem like the right place for you, consider other places to live in NC:




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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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