Charlotte and Greensboro are both located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and are two of the most popular cities in the state. Each has its unique charm. In this article, we spend some time comparing Charlotte vs. Greensboro to help you understand the differences between the two cities.
Comparing Charlotte vs. Greensboro
Charlotte is the largest city in the Carolinas and has more attractions than Greensboro, a much larger international airport, and a walkable and urban center city that is home to multiple Fortune 500 companies. Still, in comparing Charlotte vs. Greensboro, it is worth noting that Greensboro is closer to the universities in the Research Triangle.
If you are curious about the rivalry between the two cities, look no further than the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). For many years, the ACC was headquartered in Greensboro, and the conference held its annual basketball tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum. But in recent years, the ACC announced a move to Charlotte.
The ACC made the move because Charlotte is a thriving city with a major hub airport, access to major sporting venues, and is full of potential corporate sponsors.
Still, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in comparing the two cities, so let’s dive in to compare further.
1. Location and Geography – The Carolina Piedmont Region
Three major regions define North Carolina. You will find the mountains west along the Tennessee border and coastal plains east along the Atlantic Ocean. The middle region of the state, between the mountains and the coastal plains, is known as the Piedmont region.
Charlotte and Greensboro are both located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Since Charlotte is located near the southern border of North Carolina, its metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes a few counties in South Carolina.
Multiple major interstates run through Charlotte, including I-77 and I-85. When you travel northeast along I-85 for about 90 miles, you will find Greensboro.
The city of Greensboro is conveniently situated in the middle of the state. If you continue another 45 minutes along I-85, which bends to the east, you will find Durham (and the greater Raleigh-Durham area).
2. Economy and Job Market – Two Different Tiers
The Charlotte and Greensboro economies are very different from each other. While Greensboro is much smaller than Charlotte, it still has a nice mix of companies located in the region. Brands like The Fresh Market (a Whole Foods competitor) and Kontoor (Wrangler and Lee jeans) are located in Greensboro.
Notably, Greensboro is also home to a small aviation hub. The Honda Aircraft Company (that makes Honda jets) is headquartered in Greensboro at the Piedmont Triad International Airport. In January 2022, Boom Supersonic (a startup aircraft maker) announced they would build a manufacturing facility at the Piedmont airport.
While the Greensboro economy is much more manufacturing-focused, the Charlotte economy is much more driven by corporate headquarters. More than 15 Fortune 1000 headquarters are located in Charlotte, and nine Fortune 500 companies.
These Fortune 500 companies include the likes of Bank of America, Truist Bank, Honeywell, Lowe’s, Nucor, Duke Energy, Sonic Automotive, and more. And while this is a fun statistic for bragging rights, it is much more important than that.
Charlotte’s diverse economy and cluster of major companies foster a deep talent pool that draws even more companies to the region. And other companies, including major accounting and law firms, cluster in the region to support these big-time companies.
In short, Charlotte and Greensboro both have dynamic economies, but Charlotte offers a wider range of opportunities. This includes opportunities at some of the biggest companies in the world.
3. Demographics & Population – Charlotte vs. Greensboro by the Numbers
We always warn that comparing populations can be misleading. Why? Well, let’s briefly compare Atlanta vs. Charlotte as an example. The metropolitan area of Atlanta is much larger than that of Charlotte; however, Charlotte’s city population is larger than that of Atlanta.
The main reason for this is that Charlotte’s city limits cover significantly more land than that Atlanta’s. So with that understanding, let’s compare Charlotte vs. Greensboro.
Charlotte’s population is 900,000+ people covering more than 300 square miles. Comparatively, Greensboro’s population is a little more than 300,000, covering 130 square miles.
You can see that Charlotte’s land size is much larger than Greensboro, so the more direct comparison might be to consider the metropolitan statistical areas. Charlotte’s MSA is north of 2.5 million people, compared to that of Greensboro, which has less than 800,000 people.
Charlotte’s population is approximately 45% White, 35% African-American, and 15% Hispanic. Comparatively, Greensboro’s population is approximately 44% white, 43% African-American, and 8% Hispanic.
4. Attractions & Entertainment – More To Do in Charlotte or Greensboro?
Greensboro might be smaller than Charlotte, but it still has things to do. The Greensboro Science Center is a popular place to take kids. And The Greensboro Arboretum and Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden offer excellent spots to enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
Plus, one of Greensboro’s biggest selling points is that it is within easy driving distance of Charlotte, Durham, and Raleigh. That means that Greensboro residents can easily access many more things to do in the bigger cities.
Even so, Charlotte wins in a landslide when it comes to attractions and entertainment. Charlotte is home to Carowinds (a theme park with roller coasters), the Whitewater Center (an outdoor recreation mecca), and multiple professional sports teams.
The are so many things to do in Charlotte that you can live there for years without running out of new entertainment options. You will also find art museums, like the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum for Modern Art, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
And if you are looking for a romantic night on the town in Charlotte, you might consider seeing a Broadway musical at the Belk Theater. You can also catch Opera Carolina and the Charlotte Symphony at the Belk Theater.
When comparing Charlotte vs. Greensboro, both offer plenty of entertainment options. Still, the combination of attractions like Carowinds, the Whitewater Center, and modern art museums is something that Greensboro can’t compete with. Advantage Charlotte.
5. Education and Healthcare – Quality of Life
Regarding healthcare, Atrium Health and Novant are the largest hospitals in the Charlotte region. Atrium is the larger of the two and is building a medical school in association with Wake Forest.
In Greensboro, Cone Memorial Hospital is the largest hospital in the region, and the Cone Health system dominates the region.
Atrium’s main hospital has a Level 1 Trauma Center Designation, while the Moses Cone Hospital is a Level 2 Trauma designation. Of course, Greensboro is close by to Level 1 hospitals at Wake Forest, Duke, and UNC.
Greensboro and Charlotte have outstanding educational institutions, but some differences exist. The biggest difference that stands out is Greensboro’s close access to the universities near the research triangle.
In comparing Charlotte vs. Raleigh, one major difference is that the Raleigh-Durham area is home to top-tier universities, including Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, and Wake Forest.
Beyond this, Greensboro is also home to UNC Greensboro, which is a large institution with nearly 20,000 students.
UNC Charlotte is younger than many of these universities but building a strong reputation. Charlotte now has the third-largest enrollment in the state! Still, it clearly doesn’t have the same reputation as the institutions forming the Research Triangle.
Since Greensboro is only about 45 minutes from the Raleigh-Durham area, it benefits from access and a close by talent pipeline.
Even so, Charlotte also benefits from its proximity to the Raleigh-Durham area, as well as its proximity to South Carolina and Clemson. And UNC Charlotte also churns out top-level talent for the area.
Charlotte vs. Greensboro Summarized
There are clear reasons to love both cities in comparing Charlotte vs. Greensboro. Greensboro is affordable and maintains small-town charm while still providing access to big employers. Still, Charlotte has a more diverse economy than Greensboro and more things to do and explore.
Charlotte vs. Greensboro Cost of Living
As is common with major urban cities, the cost of living in Charlotte is 5% higher than in Greensboro, which could result in a real-world impact on your wallet. Salaries in Charlotte also outpace those in Greensboro but by less than the cost of living.
Charlotte Offers a More Urban Experience
Charlotte offers more attractions and entertainment options than Greensboro, but there are other advantages to living in a larger city. For instance, Charlotte has a light rail system. The LYNX Blue Line and parallel Rail Trail in Charlotte have transformed the city.
Neighborhoods that were previously full of warehouses now offer walkable communities. Charlotte is a big city. In fact, you might not need a car to live in Charlotte. The dense population, and concentration of young professionals, also make adaptive reuses like Optimist Hall and Camp North End possible.
These are just some of the reasons that Charlotte is so popular and why my family lives in the Charlotte region. If you are interested in reading more about similar peer cities to Charlotte, you might also consider reading our article comparing Charlotte vs. Nashville.
Which Is Better? Charlotte or Greensboro?
When comparing Charlotte vs. Greensboro, Charlotte is much more urban, while Greensboro still offers a more small-town feel. Charlotte offers more entertainment, including professional sports, a theme park, and the Whitewater Center. Still, we recognize some people may prefer the slower pace in Greensboro.
Why is Charlotte called the Queen City? Well, the city is named after Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Still, Charlotteans might make the case that the city is the crown jewel of the Carolinas.