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Moving to Charlotte, NC: Everything You Need to Know

By: Justin Chaplin
August 7, 2019

Living in Charlotte, North Carolina - Is it for me?

Feeling the call of the south? Consider moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, where 859,035 people call the most populous city in the state home. Nicknamed the Queen City or the Hornets Nest; Charlotte is continuously ranked as one of the country's 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 alike.

Living in Charlotte comes with a healthy job market, 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.

Charlotte Quick Facts

Charlotte enjoys a comfortable cost of living that is slightly higher than the national average. However, compared to other similar-sized cities, it’s definitely on the affordable side. Charlotte newcomers can live well without the high costs that usually come with upscale urban living.

  • Cost of Living Index - According to Best Places Cost of Living Index, Charlotte ranks of 106.7 based on a U.S. average of 100. This means that Charlotte’s cost of living is slightly above the national average.
  • Median Rent Prices - Charlotte’s median rents run $980 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,150 for a two-bedroom.
  • Median Annual Salary - The median annual salary in Charlotte is $54,937.
  • Average Grocery Trip - Stocking up your fridge and pantry doesn't cost a bundle in Charlotte. The city's grocery prices are 6% lower than the national average. Grocery prices for an adult with no children spend an average of $249.50 per month, while a family with two adults and two children would need to pay roughly $735 a month.
  • Utilities - Charlotte renters can expect to pay $150.44 for electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 square ft. apartment in Charlotte.
  • Weather - Charlotte summers are hot and humid with cold and wet winters and partial cloud-coverage year-round. Protected by mountains in the west, Charlotte sees scant snowfall with just a few inches per year that usually melts quickly. 
  • Safety - Although the crime rate is higher in Charlotte than the national average, the crime rate is also lower than similarly-sized metro areas. 

10 Things to Know Before Moving to Charlotte

Charlotte has plenty to offer everyone, but there are some important things to know before packing your bags. Here’s what to know before moving to Charlotte.

1. 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." 

2. Charlotte is the Country’s Second-Largest Banking Center

New York takes the lead as long-time banking leader in the United States (and the world), but Charlotte isn’t far behind. Charlotte and San Francisco are usually in heavy competition for second place. However, right now Charlotte holds the title with the extra nudge from Bank of America, the largest bank by assets in the area.

3. 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." Whether it’s true or not, Charlotte is home to some of the finest barbecue in the country.

4. 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, placing Charlotte as a distinguished leader in the pimento cheese selling market. 

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

Although California enjoyed the biggest gold rush in U.S. 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.

6. 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.  

7. 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, with the General calling the 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.

8. 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.

9. Charlotte is a NASCAR Hub

Locals fuel their need for speed at the Charlotte Motor Speedway with events like the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series, and 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 it’s $190-million entertainment center and museum. 

10. 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.

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 with local businesses competing for qualified, skilled workers. According to reports, Charlotte leads the country with an impressive 37% of employers planning to hire. 

By Patriarca12

Getting Around Charlotte

Despite having a relatively low WalkScore of 26, Charlotte is still the 50th most walkable large city in the country. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) has over 70 buses and rail routes that connect the city’s neighborhoods, business districts, and Uptown. 

Opened since 2015, the CityLYNX Gold Line features a 10-mile streetcar system that's part of Charlotte's expansive 2030 Transit Plan. As the city works to open the streetcar lines in phases, Phase 2 will eventually complete an interim system of 4 miles and multiple stops with a fleet of hybrid streetcar vehicles. 

Ride-sharing and bike-sharing are also popular options for getting around Charlotte. Try B-Cycle where locals can swipe out a bike in 30-minute increments at docks around the city. Other options include LimeBike, Mobike, and Spin offering riders the option to pick up or leave their bikes in any legal spot they want.

But just a heads up, even though there are several reliable ways to get around Charlotte, it’s still a city known for its car culture. You’ll have a much easier time getting around the city and staying connected with a vehicle to get you where you need to go. Plus, a car puts you in touch with those fabulous day trips that are within easy reach from Charlotte. 

World-class museums, independent boutiques, lush green space, and lively entertainment can be found in Charlotte's diverse mix of neighborhoods. Can't decide which area to call home? Here’s what you need to know about Charlotte’s most popular neighborhoods.

Uptown

As the heart of Charlotte, Uptown features skyscrapers, businesses, and restaurants with endless entertainment options. Uptown features much of the amenities you would expect from a world-class city with shopping, restaurants, and attractions like the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Young professionals and urban aficionados who love a diverse city center flock to Uptown to live in the center of the city's heartbeat.

NoDa (North Davidson)

NoDa is Charlotte's spirited art district which features quirky boutiques, galleries, and lively bars. Once a textile mill town, NoDa transformed its abandoned warehouses into galleries and music venues, attracting a mix of creative spirits and young professionals. 

Prosperity Church Road

Prosperity Church Road attracts families and young professionals looking for a diverse and growing community. With easy access to I-485 and UNC Charlotte, Property Church Road features parks, shopping, and playgrounds for a pleasant way of life. Locals from nearby neighborhoods enjoy outdoor concerts, festivals, and big name acts attracting locals to gather on a warm summer night.

Ballantyne West

For a family-friendly environment with good schools, Ballantyne West is close to great restaurants and shops for convenient urban living. Locals walk, jog, or bike on sunny days in neighborhood parks like Cullman Park. Fish off the dock for bluegill fish or watch for turtles at Kid Pond for a break from Charlotte’s bustle.

East Forest

For a quick drive into Uptown, locals choose East Forest for its convenience and growing amenities. East Forest is known for its relatively quiet atmosphere, wooded areas, and greenspace attracting a mix of families, professionals, and retirees. Soak up the fresh air at the 114-acre McAlpine Creek Park and walk the dog, go on a 5k run, enjoy a bike ride, and feed the local ducks in the pond.

University City North

Nestled on the city limits of Charlotte, University City is home to University Research Park. The popular neighborhood is also home to the esteemed University of North Carolina at Charlotte and multiple Fortune 500 company offices. Students and young professionals call the neighborhood home for its abundance of job opportunities. University City North also quickly connects to Uptown via a convenient LYNX Blue Line connection.  

Eastover

Look to Eastover for a home in a historic, upscale neighborhood just two miles from the bustle of Charlotte. Locals walk to restaurants and shops and stroll along sidewalks with sprawling lawns lined with Georgian and Tudor style architecture. The neighborhood is just a stone's throw away from awesome attractions. Swing by the Bojangles Coliseum for concerts and stand-up comedy. Or practice your short game at the 18-hole golf course at Myers Park Country Club.

Barclay Downs

Once part of a 3,000-acre farm, Barclay Downs features one of the city's most popular live/work communities. Some locals refer to much of the area as SouthPark encompassing the SouthPark mall, Piedmont Row, Colony, and other businesses. The neighborhood is a popular choice for walkers looking to stroll their kids to school, head to retail destinations, and enjoy the restaurants and nightlife. The area is also home to the city's first open-air shopping center in Charlotte, Park Road Shopping Center.

Plaza Midwood

Plaza Midwood and its Central Avenue thoroughfare bring together a quirky neighborhood that's big on nightlife. Known for its music venues and dive bars, locals head to Plaza Midwood to sample their way through barbecue joints and gastropubs. Take a walk through the neighborhood on the weekend and admire the graffiti-clad buildings and a melting pot of lifestyles in this inclusive LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood. 

Things to do in Charlotte

You can go out every night of the week in Charlotte and never run out of things to do. From sports to live music to amazing food, discover the best of what Charlotte has to offer.

Root for the Home 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.

Take a Day Trip

Charlotte is big on entertainment, but everyone needs an occasional escape from the action for a nice day trip. 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. 

Choose Your Outdoor Adventure

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.

Brush Up on Your Bowling Skills

For anyone who has ever grappled with going bowling or a night out at a fantastic restaurant, 10 Park Lanes is for you. Choose from indoor or outdoor seating, with the latter offering live music, game courts, and a 24-tap outdoor bar. Sure, you can bowl, but that just scratches the surface. Locals choose from 32 craft beers and sip while playing cornhole, ping pong, bocce ball, and more. 10 Park Lanes also houses a full-service kitchen with some of the city's best barbecue and a chilled moonshine bar.

Listen to Live Music

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.

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

Devour Charlotte’s 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.

Final Thoughts: Moving to Charlotte

To many locals, Charlotte feels like a big city with small-town sensibilities like cozy neighborhoods and a friendly, welcoming community. Of course, Charlotte also boasts world-class amenities, restaurants, pubs, and entertainment options to choose from. It’s no wonder the city is growing with newcomers relocating from major cities like New York and San Francisco. Ready to move and call this rapidly growing metropolis with welcoming neighborhoods home?

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