Moving to Charlotte, NC: A Bellhops City Guide

Moving from one city to another is stressful. There's no way around it—even if the city you're moving to is awesome as Charlotte, NC. It’s not just the packing and the actual move that’s makes this such a tough process— it’s the research you need to do to get acquainted with your new city.

Whether you're already committed to moving to Charlotte, you're still on the fence, or you're only doing some exploratory reading, our Bellhops city guide is exactly what you need. Keep reading, and you'll find info on where to live in Charlotte, the cost of living, the job market, pros and cons, and more. Let's dive in.

The Basics

1. An Overview of Charlotte

Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. In fact, it had the 10th highest population growth amongst US cities in 2015. Last year, it was estimated that there were 109 people relocating to Charlotte every day. That might explain Samuel DeForest Browns’ answer to our question on Quora about what people love and hate about Charlotte. Out of the things that rub him the wrong way about his hometown, it’s the "sheer amount of transplants" that he seems to dislike the most. Samuel may not like it, but it’s a good thing for you, right?

Economics: The Cost of Living and the Job Market

2. The Cost of Living

Because so many people are moving to Charlotte, the increased demand for housing, especially in the bursting Uptown, Dilworth, and NoDa neighborhoods has resulted in steep increases in rent and house pricing. That being said, the cost of living in Charlotte is still 5% lower than the national average.

For more information on the cost of living, check out Expatistan. There you'll find a wealth of information on the cost of living in Charlotte, with a breakdown of individual costs, like rent, healthcare, groceries, gasoline, and more.

3. The Job Market

Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the U.S. after New York City, thanks to the presence of Bank of America’s headquarters and Wells Fargo. But there’s plenty more job potential there than just finance (even if finance is the largest sector of the Charlotte economy).

From 2006 to 2016, Charlotte saw an explosion in the number of tech jobs to the tune of a 62% increase. From 2014-2016, Charlotte boasted 18% job growth in the tech sector, making it the fastest growing market in the nation (at that time). And that trend doesn't seem to be slowing down. Forbe's magazine ranked Charlotte #2 on their list of "The Cities Creating the Most Tech Jobs in 2017."

Other popular employers include healthcare (another reason for the tech boom) and air travel (thanks to the airport). Also, a number of universities and colleges are based in Charlotte such as Johnson & Wales, Queens University of Charlotte, Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte School of Law, York Technical College, Clinton Junior College, Winthrop University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Charlotte’s job market is in line with other similarly-sized cities. Payscale puts the average salary in Charlotte at $54.5K. And the unemployment rate is at 4.9%, which is on par with the national average.

Where to Live: The Best Charlotte Neighborhoods

Next, we'll look at some popular Charlotte neighborhoods for you. If you're still on the fence about moving to Charlotte, this section might not be of much interest to you. In which, case, feel free to skip ahead. You won't hurt our feelings.

4. Charlotte City Center: Uptown Funk in the Heart of CLT

The downtown area of Charlotte is, ironically, often referred to as Uptown. If you want to understand Uptown, you have to understand “the wards.” Uptown consists of four wards designated by the intersections of Tyron Street and Trade Street.

Let’s break this down, ward by ward.

The first ward used to be a part of Charlotte that you wanted to avoid. Not anymore. In the past few years, this first ward has undergone extensive urban revitalization. What was once considered a “shady” area is now a great spot for city living.

The second ward consists of the convention center, Harvey B. Gantt Center for arts and culture.

The third ward is located directly west of the Tyron and Trade St. intersection. This ward is home to Bank of America Stadium and Gateway Village—a development consisting of entertainment, housing, restaurants, and shopping.

The fourth ward, a designated historic Charlotte neighborhood, consists of Victorian style homes. As with most downtown regions of major cities, there are a few drawbacks here. Housing prices are higher, parking is limited, and traffic can get congested-- particularly near Bank of America Stadium after a Panthers games.

5. Central North End: Historic Meets Hip

Most of the central north end of Charlotte once served as housing villages for mill workers. The Belmont neighborhood sits just northeast of I-277 to North Davidson Street. Lovers of botany, art, music, and historic buildings will feel at home here.

If you have a green thumb, the well-known community garden offers tools (for a small fee) to help you tend your garden with your neighbors. The Cross-Charlotte Trail also passes by Belmont, creating easy access for residents to get outdoors. Just to the northeast of Belmont, the growing NoDa neighborhood spans the area of North Davidson Street and 36th Street. NoDa is a hot spot for art gallery crawls, live music, and unique, old mill houses.

6. East End: Something for Everyone

Plaza-Midwood in the East End has grown steadily for years and is filled with young professionals and families alike. Easy access to US-74 and I-277 make this community a prime spot for those commuting to the city center. Apartment hunting can be a little tough here, so check out either or Both are excellent apartment aggregators with impressive databases.

There are several attractions in the East End that are, in our opinion, worthy of your attention:

Central Avenue nearby is filled with antique shops, eccentric restaurants, and beautiful. Beautiful green spaces and landscaping along The Plaza provide a scenic drive and cozy residential area. Finally, the 19-acre Veterans Park provides ample green space for a picnic, a frisbee, or maybe a little of both.

If you want to get your hands on some authentic North Carolina BBQ, look no further than Midwood Smokehouse. Featured in the book 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America, the Midwood Smokehouse is a Charlotte classic. There’s a reason why former President Obama chose Midwood as his lunch spot the last time he was in Charlotte. You don’t want to miss this place.

7. South End: Dilworth, South Park, and Myers Park

We can understand the South End by breaking it down into three main suburbs: Dilworth, South Park, and Myers Park.

Dilworth is best known as the first streetcar suburb of Charlotte, and today most of the neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. East Boulevard, a main route through this neighborhood, provides lovely scenery and a wide variety of cuisines. For those with a sweet tooth, 300 East in Dilworth was voted best dessert in Charlotte Magazine's 2017 Best of the Best Awards.

Moving further south, Myers Park is one of the more prestigious (and pricey) neighborhoods in Charlotte. It's home to the Historic Duke Mansion Bed and Breakfast, which is worth checking out at least once.

South Park offers convenience to residents, as shopping malls, theaters, restaurants are all within a few miles of one another on Fairview Road. All in all, The South End of Charlotte is on the rise. More unique restaurants, more unique businesses, and higher real-estate prices all attest to it.

The People of Charlotte, Crime, and Getting Around the City

8. The People of Charlotte

Charlotte is home to approximately 840,000 people with a median age of about 34 years old. If you’re single, have no fear, as the gender breakdown is about 50/50 male to female.

Our Charlotte Melissa Chiou on says on Quora, "Most of the people are pretty open-minded. You might get questions from the locals about 'where you're from' if they can't figure it out. It is still the South, after all."

9. Crime in the City

Like any major city, Charlotte has its share of crime. But, violent crime, you’ll be glad to know, is on the decline. Best Places offers a breakdown of violent crime statistics in Charlotte, complete with comments from people who live there.

If you’re curious about the safety of potential neighborhoods you’re looking to move to, Neighborhood Scout is your friend. There you'll find all sorts of visualizations of crime data, a breakdown of the safest neighborhoods in Charlotte, and more.

10. Getting Around the City

As with most major cities, traffic congestion haunts key access points in and out of the downtown area, especially during rush hour. While Charlotte has public transportation, including a light rail, it’s not the only option. Cars are still the most popular mode of transportation because many of the largest employers are located in the heart of the city. It’s a good idea to test-drive your commute time between your desired neighborhood and workplace before landing on a specific spot. The average commute time in Charlotte is 26 minutes.

If you want to get around the city without a car, Charlotte has several options. Charlotte Area Transportation Service (CATS) provides both bus routes throughout the city and a shuttle to the airport. Commuters can also take the Lynx Light Rail, the city’s high-speed rail system.

Charlotte also has bicycles available for rent all through the city. Depending on your need, you can either rent them daily or buy an annual pass through B-Cycle, one of the largest urban bike sharing systems in the Southeast.

For the Sports Fan, Charlotte is Pretty Close to Paradise

11. The Carolina Panthers

NFL fans have much to enjoy in Charlotte--it’s the home of the Carolina Panthers! The Panthers are the five-time NFC South champions, so even if you’re not a Panthers fan now, you may just become one. Catch a Panthers game at the Bank of America Stadium, situated comfortably on 33 acres and located right off I-277.

12. Charlotte: The NASCAR Legend

If it’s not football season, then it must be time for NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame appropriately resides in the heart of the Queen City, as NASCAR roots were first planted on the Charlotte Speedway in 1949. Today, the Charlotte Motor Speedway sits outside Charlotte and hosts a few races each year (including the Coca-Cola 500 on Memorial Day Weekend!)

13. The Charlotte Hornets

NBA fans can catch the Charlotte Hornets in action at the Spectrum Center, located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. Starting in the 2014-2015 season, the franchise returned Charlotte after their stint in New Orleans and the Hornets returned to their home basketball court. Catch them in action, even in the off-season.

14. NCAA College Athletics

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the "Charlotte 49ers," compete in Division I NCAA athletics and are a part of Conference USA. As you may know, North Carolina is a hotbed of college basketball dynasties. Fans can make the two-hour drive north from Charlotte for the famous Tobacco Road rivalry between Duke University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Easy Access to the Outdoors

One pro of living in Charlotte that residents mention over and over again is the location. Outdoor adventures are no exception here. Charlotte is just a few hours from both the beach and the mountains. However, there are also a few outdoor sites even closer to the city that are worth noting.

15. US National Whitewater Center

Located just west of the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, the U.S. National Whitewater Center was originally built as part of the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The 1300 acres on the Catawba River have been developed to provide outdoor thrills to those of all skill levels. You can go white water rafting, then mountain bike over 30 miles of trails, and then enjoy the scenery on one of the many walking trails, all in the same day! Relax after a long day of activity with their River Jam concert series during the summer. Both day and seasonal passes are available.

16. Lake Norman

Located an hour north of Charlotte, Lake Norman is the perfect getaway for an afternoon or weekend. It’s also the ultimate haven for watersport enthusiasts. Bring your boat, jet skis, kayak, or paddleboards and enjoy this 34-mile-long body of water. Want to relax? Sunbathe on one of the many beaches or have a picnic in the nearby State Park. For a more thorough guide to Lake Norman, check out the excellent resources at Visit Lake Norman.

Charlotte's Arts and Culture

17. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Bask in the natural light that permeates this gorgeous building as you peruse the 1,400+ works housed in the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The Bechtler is a rare jewel of a museum, as it is only the second museum in the US designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta.

Until now, the Bechtler's collection was privately held by the Bechtler family of Switzerland. Since the Bechtler opened on January 2, 2010, their impressive collection has been enhancing the cultural and intellectual life of Charlotte.

The collection at the Bechtler includes works from some of the most important artists of the mid 20th century, including Miró, Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Hepworth, Nicholson, Warhol, Tinguely, Ernst, Le Corbusier, Chillida and many others.

18. Yiasou Greek Festival

The Yiasou Greek Festival is a family-friendly festival held each September in the Dilworth neighborhood. If you have a taste for Mediterranean flair, this festival is for you. Best of all, you can stuff your face with spanakopita. You can also take in traditional Greek music or learn traditional folklore dance of Greece. In no time at all, this festival will have you saying, “Opa!”

19. Summer Pops with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra

This isn’t your average orchestra performance. Each Sunday in June, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra performs an outdoor concert in Symphony Park with a different theme, such as jazz or Broadway tunes. You can either buy a ticket for a single performance or an annual pass from the Symphony Orchestra website. Concert-goers are welcome to bring in food and beverages, including alcohol--perfect for a date night.

20. The Food Scene

Whether you are a brewery buff or a cocktail devotee, we promise you that Charlotte will not disappoint.

Home to famous chef Rocco Whalen, Fahrenheit was featured in Gourmet magazine in its "Guide to America's Best Restaurants." That's just one of the many accolades chef Rocco has received on his work at the renowned Fahrenheit. Not only is the food at Fahrenheit excellent, though. Guests can also sip handcrafted cocktails and enjoy a beauitufl skyline view at this Charlotte classic.

For the beer lovers, try the Wooden Robot, just a few blocks from the light rail station in Dilworth. The Wooden Robot is a friendly, relaxed place to enjoy a wide range of brews and shareable dishes. Started by Josh Patton and Dan Wade, friends since their middle school days, the Wooden Robot is a leader in the South End beer community.

Last but not least, the famous North Carolina Barbecue is still king in this royal city. Queen City Q or Mac’s Speed Shop are just two of the many BBQ joints for savory smoked meats and delectable homemade sauces.

More Resources for Moving to Charlotte

Since we can't say everything here, here are even more resources to help you with your moving decision:

21. Helpful Links

  • The Charlotte Observer: One of the best ways to get to know a place is to read local.
  • Charlotte Living: The Lifestyle magazine of the Carolinas.
  • The Charlotte Five: A great website offering things to do, places to eat, and feature stories about what’s happening around Charlotte.
  • The Charlotte Agenda: Lots of great things about this site; job postings, places to eat, things to do, and more.

Like what you see?

We’ll let Charlotte resident Bob Eksten leave you with his opinion of Charlotte, "Charlotte has most of the features you'd expect to find in a major American city, and it's a remarkably clean city. It is exciting to see how fast it is growing. There are a couple of caveats, however, if one were to move to Charlotte: Try to live close to where you work. Commutes can be punitive. Living in the suburbs and working in the city limits to my way of thinking is a bad idea for Charlotte. Don't be surprised to find out that Charlotte is a Southern city and that its inhabitants are Southerners. Some may not take particularly kindly to hearing that Northerners do things better. I have lived in several large and large-ish cities. In many respects, Charlotte is the best of that list."

Header photo by James Willamor. Image has been cropped. Creative Commons License.