Moving to Charlotte
Charlotte is one of the biggest cities in North Carolina and is quickly becoming one of the most popular. From its booming foodie scene to the variety of activities to the gorgeous weather, Charlotte is a great place to work and play. Currently, Charlotte is sitting at a population of just under 900,000 people, which puts it within the top five biggest cities in the southeastern United States. Thanks to its size, it has a healthy business center as well as a thriving art scene.
Located in southern North Carolina, it's just a quick trip to the South Carolina and Georgia borders. Charlotte exemplifies urban southern living with easy access to stunning nature, mountain ranges, and national parks. If you're thinking about moving to Charlotte, here's a guide to everything you need to know about the Queen City.
Charlotte, NC, is one of the fastest growing cities in the region with approximately 100 people moving there every day. With such a varied population, it's a veritable melting pot of cultures. Charlotte's natives pride themselves on their southern hospitality and newcomers are quick to pick up on the generous, welcoming nature of Charlotte's culture. While it's certainly a big city, it still maintains a small town feel with a strong sense of community and city pride.
Chances are, you'll get to know and be friends with your neighbors — so don't be surprised if people regularly greet you on the street. Friendliness is a way of life in Charlotte, so you may find it easier to make friends here than many other big cities. Politeness is also a regular trait you'll find in Charlotte's population, so don't be afraid to take part in these pleasant interactions yourself!
If you're from cities that tend to be more reserved, don't be weirded out by getting greeted regularly by your fellow residents: it's just a friendly state! After all, Charlotte is a busy place with a lot of busy people. Just being polite and warm in passing is a great way to make connections.
Even with its small-town feel, Charlotte certainly isn't a homogenous city. Charlotte has a diverse population, both ethnically and religiously. According to the 2010 United States Census, Charlotte is:
- 45.1% White or Caucasian.
- 35.0% Black or African American.
- 13.1% Hispanic or Latin American.
- 0.5% Native American.
- 0.1% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
- 6.8% other race.
- 2.7% two or more races.
The religious majority of Charlotte is Protestant, but it's also home to the largest Jewish population in the Carolinas. Overall, Charlotte has approximately 700 places of worship from a huge range of followings, a great indication of its cultural diversity.
Overview of Charlotte Neighborhoods
Charlotte's neighborhoods have a strong sense of community. Each is diverse and unique, offering residents different lifestyles depending on what neighborhood you pick. Here's a quick breakdown of some of the different areas and some of their strong points. This list isn't exhaustive, but will give you a good idea of some of the more popular places people are moving to.
Dilworth: As one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, Dilworth is a charming suburb that regularly hosts block parties and festivals for it's small-family-centered population. Adorable bungalows (many complete with white picket fencing) are the main architectural style. There's a strong emphasis on local businesses and the area is one of the most pedestrian-friendly in Charlotte.
Myers Park: Meyers Park is a gorgeous historic neighborhood with 100-year-old oak canopies and stunning mansions. It's definitely a higher pay bracket neighborhood and it shows with the picturesque green spaces and gardens along with the 1920s era homes, mainly in the Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles. Another family-centered neighborhood, Myers Park is also home to several museums and lots of restaurants, delis, galleries, and specialty shops.
Ballantyne: A dream spot for residents looking for all the perks of an urban center but without the manic pace of the inner city, Ballantyne combines suburb-style living with upscale retail, recreation, and a generous food scene. There's a stunning resort with a PGA golf course plus plenty of local and national-level businesses.
Uptown: Uptown is Charlotte's Downtown, a booming city center home for much of Charlotte's commerce. It's a must-visit for residents and visitors alike, with staggering skyscrapers punctuating the skyline and a near un-ending supply of architectural interest that ranges from ultra-modern to colonial-era. Most major businesses are housed here as well as many sports-related destinations. Plus, be sure to check out the creative food and drink scene!
NoDa: One of the hippest spots in Charlotte, NoDa used to be a blue-collar community centering around Charlotte's now-defunct textile and mill district. Now, it's home to some of the city's best mixologists, musicians, artists, and chefs, making it the ideal spot to grab something to eat, check out some art, or grab a handcrafted brew. Plus, it's super dog friendly!
East End: A great place for young professionals, East End is a hopping area that's within commuting distance to many of the biggest business areas in Charlotte. A 19-acre park gives it plenty of green space, and this area houses some of the best antique stores in the area. Most of the housing here is apartments and it can be a competitive market thanks to its attractive position and excellent amenities.
Midtown: Midtown is at once sleek and welcoming, with lots of shopping opportunities as well as large green spaces and an emphasis on an active, healthy lifestyle. Browse any number of the multitude of retail offerings, ranging from independent boutiques to big box stores, or simply wander along the scenic greenway. Many of the housing opportunities here are condos and often feature beautiful skyline views.
Elizabeth: Just outside of Charlotte's main business areas, Elizabeth is a community-centered neighborhood with plenty of green spaces and charming historic homes. It is one of the last neighborhoods that still has a streetcar connecting the neighborhood together. Craftsman-style homes are the norm here and the oak-shaded streets are home to locally-owned businesses as well as music halls and bars.
South End: Like NoDa, this trendy neighborhood has historic mill town roots, but is now one of the trendiest and youngest areas in Charlotte. Connected to Uptown by the LYNX Blue Line, South End gets a lot of traffic to its many craft beer bars, galleries, and eateries. One of the best places to shop for indie designed furniture, South End is also the perfect place for a bar crawl as it's home to some of the best breweries in Charlotte, many within walking distance of each other.
Mint Hill: Technically part of the Charlotte metropolitan areas, Mint Hill is a laid back, super friendly area with multiple social events year round plus a large emphasis on local business. Enjoy one of their craft brew bars or any of the locally-owned-and-operated restaurants. There is a great mix of historic and modern homes in Mint Hill with many family-friendly amenities.
Central North End: Central North End is another blend of historic roots and modern sensibility. A beautiful area, Central North End has a renowned community garden with a tool rental service. Plus, they have lots of art and music destinations and its a great place to head outside and meet your neighbors.
As a general rule in Charlotte, the further interior you move, the more likely you are to be looking for a condo or apartment than you are a home. However, many of the neighborhoods do offer residential neighborhoods, offering new residents a spread of options. Crime in Charlotte, particularly violent crime, is on the decline, an excellent sign for such a rapidly-growing city. Most of the neighborhoods are safe and pleasant places to raise families or start out your career.
Cost of living in Charlotte is low compared to many other major cities but it also comes down to where you want to live. Rental and real estate costs in the more desirable or wealthy neighborhoods, like Myers Park, is often on-par if not more than other cities. However, it is very easy to find affordable rentals and homes in Charlotte if you're willing to be flexible with where you live. Compared to big cities, you'll save a lot in Charlotte, just know that the market can be competitive especially with so many newcomers. In addition, if you're basing your decision off school districts, that competition can be even more fierce as Charlotte is home to many young families.
Charlotte's Job Market
The job market in Charlotte is booming. With an unemployment level significantly lower than the national average and a higher median salary, Charlotte has one of the fastest growing economies in the southeast. Bank of America has its headquarters there, as well as Lowe's and American Airlines. Tech is up and coming, taking more of a foothold in the job marketplace. The main areas are social work and healthcare are the main employment fields but that doesn't mean the job market is limited to these areas.
Besides the more traditional employment industries, there are lots of graphic design and arts jobs. Overall, it's one of the easier cities to find employment in, especially when coupled with the city's affordable housing rates.
Charlotte's Food and Bar Scene
Charlotte has an exploding food and bar scene, with new restaurants opening every month, if not every week. With a strong group of local businesses, it's easy to find fantastic food prepared with fresh ingredients from a locally-owned-and-operated business.
Here are some of our favorite food spots:
O-Ku: Sushi requires high levels of skill, from finding and selecting the freshest fish to the art of assembling. The staff at O-Ku have this delicate art down to a science, with some of the best and freshest sushi, nigiri, and sashimi, plus a slew of cooked, non-seafood dishes. The space is warm and welcoming, and the experienced waiters are more than happy to guide you through the expansive food and drink menus.
Price's Kitchen Coop: Opened in 1962, this staple of the Charlotte food scene has been dishing up some of the best fried chicken you'll ever have. Served in white take out boxes, it's a simple yet fantastic meal that's hard to beat, especially when coupled with a glass of their sweet tea.
Haberdish: Haberdish's menu is loaded with Southern favorites, ranging from their melt-in-your-mouth butterbeans to smoked deviled eggs to hushpuppies with sweet tea butter. And that's not even their main menu, which includes mouthwatering dishes like cauliflower steak and fried chicken.
Heirloom: If you don't like mushrooms, Heirloom probably isn't for you. Offering a six course menu, Heirloom uses mushrooms in an incredible range of ways and in almost every dish. They do offer non-mushroom based dishes as well and we're a particular fan of the sturgeon BLT. With the menu based entirely on local availability and seasonal offering, it's one of the most inventive farm-to-table restaurants in a city filled with farm-to-table.
Fin & Fino: Despite Charlotte not being a coastal town, Fin & Fino still manages to be one of the finest and freshest seafood restaurants in the state. Their menu features no less than a dozen different types of oysters, based on seasonal availability, as well as plenty of fish and shellfish choices.
The Fig Tree: The Fig Tree has made its way onto almost every top restaurant list in Charlotte and it's well deserved. Beautifully intimate and upscale, The Fig Tree is one of the most romantic spots in Charlotte and is a great place for a date or celebration. While the menu may appear standard at first glance, everything is cooked to perfection, from their seafood to their steak.
Same goes for beer and cocktails. Charlotte has perhaps one of the fastest growing brewery and bar scenes in the southeast, with craft destinations taking the forefront. Charlotte is, after all, home to the largest beer crawl in the world. Here are some of our favorite bars, in no particular order:
Essex Bar and Bistro: Essex Bar and Bistro is located on the first floor of the Omni Hotel and serves up not only unique, delicious cocktails but also small plates designed for sharing. Enjoy one of their seasonal drinks while snacking on fatoush or a cheese and charcuteries platter.
Smokey Joe's Cafe: One of the best dive bars in Charlotte, Smokey Joe's Cafe is a great place to people watch and enjoy a cold beer. Their ping pong tables are always popular and there are fire pits during the winter to keep you and your friends cozy. This bar may have the most character in the whole of Charlotte and its low-key vibes are perfect for Friday night hangouts.
Growlers Pourhouse: This bar is a favorite NoDa neighborhood spot thanks to its inventive cocktails and trendy vibe. Their rotating beer selection typically offers at least a few local picks plus some national favorites. Enjoy some of their upscale bar food offerings that range from fresh oysters to their award-winning Reuben sandwiches.
The Broken Spoke: The Broken Spoke is the sister bar to the Great Wagon Road Distilling Company and their drink menu emphasizes simply created yet deeply delicious cocktails, many of which feature their locally distilled spirits. Comfortable and laid back, this bar is quiet and cozy.
The Punch Room: The Punch Room is home to the infamous $400 Cocktails which costs, you guessed it, $400. Not everything on the menu is that expensive, however, and this speakeasy-inspired spot is renowned for its tasty craft cocktails. Headed up by mixologist Bob Peters, this bar is a must-visit for cocktail enthusiasts.
Hattie's Tap and Tavern: A beloved fixture in Charlotte's beer scene, Hattie's Tap and Tavern offers approximately 75 different beers to its patrons, making it super easy to find something you like. Bartenders are happy to make recommendations based on your favorites! There's also karaoke and an expansive patio.
These lists are by no means exhaustive and there are new restaurants starting almost every day. One thing's for sure: there's a restaurant for everyone.
Located in the subtropical southeastern United States, if there's anything to truly say about Charlotte's weather, it's that it's unpredictable. Humid during the summer months and relatively dry in the winter, Charlotte's location allows residents to experience all of the different seasons with larger temperature fluctuations throughout the year than many other states.
Spring in Charlotte brings temperatures in the 50s and 60s: residents enjoy the quintessential springtime experience. This includes flowering trees and pollen so if you have allergies, be sure to bring your medication along on the move. Interestingly, April tends to be one of the driest months in Charlotte so you may not have drizzling Spring rains every year. The city is transformed into a green haven that truly highlights all the green space Charlotte has worked hard to incorporate into its cityscape.
Summers are perhaps one of the more difficult seasons as it can get very hot. Peak temperatures can reach the 90s and the humidity sets in full force. Regular showers bring temporary relief but if you're from a northern state, it'll take some getting used to. Plan on bringing an umbrella with you when you head out for the day as the rain can happen suddenly with little warning, but often disappears just as fast.
Fall is an absolute stunner in Charlotte. The changing foliage once again transforms the city into a riot of color, with all the trees putting out their autumn best. The weather simmers down after the long, hot summer, dipping down into warm days and cool nights that are perfect for exploring the city.
Wintertime in Charlotte is far milder than many areas, with snow appearing only rarely and winter storms rarer still. It can get very cold though, with temperatures recorded in the single digits. Be prepared to deal with ice — but you shouldn't ever have to shovel your driveway!
It's important to note that Charlotte does have tornadoes. Though not a common occurrence, it's still a phenomenon to be aware of. Similarly, Charlotte has occasionally been in the path of a hurricane despite its distance from the coast.
Transportation Options in Charlotte
Transportation in Charlotte really depends on the area that you live in. The LYNX Light Rail connects several neighborhoods and is popular among intercity commuters. Its track is around 19.3 miles long. Round trip fares are $4.40 for adults but it's cheaper the more you buy and many of the local universities have pass programs that offer students cheaper tickets.
In addition to the train, there's also the Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) which is the bus and shuttle system that is a little further ranging. This includes a shuttle service to the airport, which is handy for frequent travelers looking to avoid the cost of parking at the airport.
Even though public transport is readily available in many areas, you really need a car. The average commute in Charlotte is around 26 minutes but you'll want to test drive how long it will take you before you settle on a neighborhood.
Charlotte is also home to the largest bike sharing program in the southeast: B-Cycle. Using a pass, you can rent a bicycle to get you around the city, which is a great way to explore an area without having to worry about parking and with extra time to take in the scenery.
Charlotte has a fantastic education system that includes over 20 higher education institutions and a huge range of educational options for kids, including both private and public school choices. As one of the biggest school districts in the southeast, parents in Charlotte have the luxury of choice. Options include both public and charter schools, plus private, Montessori, and Waldorf-style institutions. Most neighborhoods have a mix of options, a good thing to look into before you decide to move.
As the home of both Davidson College and a University of North Carolina campus, higher education in Charlotte is some of the best in the area. Other higher education choices include the Art Institute of Charlotte and the Charlotte School of Law. No matter what your career path, you're likely to find a university-level track.
If you're just looking to learn some new unique skills, Charlotte also has several adult education startups. These clever companies offer classes like coffee roasting, blogging, and hand lettering, keeping the learning spirit alive even after university. There are plenty of learning opportunities across the city, from classes hosted by art businesses to tech startups to breweries.
Things to Do in Charlotte
There is a ton of stuff to do in Charlotte. We've already touched on eating and drinking, but that isn't where the fun stops.
Charlotte is home to tons of different museums, ranging from ancient to contemporary exhibits. Here are some of the top museums in Charlotte:
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture: With an emphasis on Black excellence in the arts, the Gantt Center hosts a fantastic range of different exhibits, including both modern artists and past classics. They regularly host events and lectures and also celebrate other art forms including dance, theatre, photography, and literature.
Schiele Museum of National History & Planetarium: Covering the natural side of Charlotte, the Schiele Museum has exhibits dedicated to the different environments and ecosystems, habitats, and the animals who call them home. Their planetarium is a must-see for any guests interested in our solar system. Spend some time outside on their numerous trails or visit the authentic Stone Age heritage site.
Charlotte Museum of History: Charlotte is a city rich in history and the Charlotte Museum of History explores all of it in-depth. Explore housing replicas, maps, artifacts, and historic exhibits as you learn more about the region and its inhabitants, including the Catawba Nation, Africa-Americans and their enslaved ancestors, and European immigrants.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: NASCAR is huge in Charlotte and the Hall of Fame is a must-visit for any fan. With year-round entertainment like performances from internationally renowned musicians, the Hall of Fame is so much more than a museum. Their exhibits include historic vehicles from some of the biggest races in NASCAR's history. Hands-on exhibits and the racing simulator are always popular spots, as is the theater with movies that show NASCAR's rich past.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art: Housed in a gorgeous space designed by Mario Botta, the postmodern Swiss architecture, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has one of the foremost collections of 20th-century art in the world. Some of the noted artists included in their collections are Calder, Picasso, Miro, and Degas.
Carolinas Aviation Museum: North Carolina was the birthplace of flight so it makes sense that this museum is one of the best aviation museums in the country. Learn more about the history of human flight and see both replica and genuine artifacts from our search for the skies. The flight simulators are challenging and thrilling, offering a glimpse into the world of modern pilots.
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame: There is a rich musical history in North Carolina and this Hall of Fame pays tribute to the many fantastic musicians that call this state home. Look at instruments, costumes, record pressings, and other items attributed to the North Carolina greats like James Taylor, Charlie Daniels, and Shirley Caesar.
Museum of the Alphabet: One of the more unique museums in Charlotte, the Museum of the Alphabet looks at language from all angles. It has exhibits covering lost alphabets like cuneiform as well as an in-depth look at the evolution of our own alphabet. A must for linguaphiles of all ages, this museum is both interesting and educational.
This list is by no means comprehensive: there are well over 30 different museums in the city, not counting galleries and historic home museums.
Charlotte is also home to a lot of professional sports. From the Carolina Panthers to the Charlotte Hornets, there is no shortage of professional sports. Plus, Charlotte hosts the Coca-Cola 600, which is the longest NASCAR race in the country, and the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament. Charlotte has a lot of pride in their sports teams and you'll find bars packed with fans when it's Charlotte's time to shine.
Also within easy driving distance of the city are the beaches of both North and South Carolina. These coastline gems are the perfect weekend getaways during the hot summer months. Looking for something a little more rugged? The Smoky Mountains are just a quick trip away. Go camping at Standing Indian or explore the quaint towns tucked into this ancient mountain range.
Favorite Charlotte Events
Charlotte is a town that loves a celebration and the year-round events held there are always a good time. Whether you're looking for something family friendly or adult-oriented, there's an event for everyone. We already mentioned that Charlotte is home to the biggest beer crawl in the world, but that doesn't mean their other festivals aren't equally as awesome. Here are some of our favorite Charlotte events if you're looking to see just what this city offers:
- Charlotte Pride Festival.
- Charlotte Jazz Festival.
- 600 Festival.
- Yiasou Greek Festival.
- Moo & Brew Festival.
- South End Hopes Festival.
- Festival in the Park.
- NC Brewers and Music Fest.
- BOOM Festival.
- Queen City Brewers Festival.
- Charlotte Film Festival.
- Tuck Fest.
- South End Wine Festival.
Besides these annual festivals, one-off festivals are regular occurrences. In addition, neighborhoods hold frequent block parties and art shows for the community, which become popular gathering spots for neighbors and friends. There's always something going in on Charlotte.
The Queen City is a vibrant, cultured city nestled in the gorgeous North Carolina countryside. With plenty to do and see, plus an exploding job market to boot, there's a reason Charlotte is growing as fast as it is. Whether you already have a job offer there or just seeing what the city has to offer, Charlotte is a great place to live and work.