Living in Charlotte, NC: Pros and Cons To Consider

My wife and I moved to Charlotte in 2013, and both of our children were born in Charlotte. I grew up in central Florida, while she grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and we wanted to find a place of our own. Living in Charlotte, NC, comes with both pros and cons, but on the whole, we love living in the area.

We will explore many of the pros of living in Charlotte and further explain some cons. And I hope to provide insight regarding why I think Charlotte is a special place to live. Buckle up, and we will explore everything inside I-485.

Pros and Cons of Living in Charlotte, NC

In my view, the pros of living in Charlotte, NC, far outweigh the cons, but we would be naive to ignore some downsides. After all, you don’t want to be stuck on I-77 during rush hour. Even so, the vibrant economy, walkable urban core, and many cultural and entertainment opportunities make Charlotte a fantastic place to live.

Living in Charlotte, NC: Pros and Cons of the Queen City.

Overview of Charlotte, NC: The Queen City

Charlotte, NC, is the largest city in either of the Carolinas. It also serves as the geographic and economic center for the two states. We love living in Charlotte, NC, partly because it is only 2 hours to the mountains and 3.5 hours to the beach. And still, Charlotte itself has almost everything you might ever need.

The airport serves as a hub for American Airlines, making it one of the biggest airports in the country. This is both attractive for big businesses and convenient for locals. Not far from the airport, you will find Uptown Charlotte, which has one of the densest and tallest skylines in the entire southeastern United States.

And while the center city is very urban, drive 20 minutes, and you will find an amusement park (Carowinds) and the Whitewater Center. Charlotte offers something for everyone and every scene.

Pros of Living in Charlotte, NC

We initially moved to Charlotte because of the many Fortune 500 companies, diverse economy, professional sports, and entertainment options. Charlotte has lived up to our expectations, and we are proud that our kids get to call Charlotte home.

Based on our experience, here are just a few of the pros of living in Charlotte, NC:

  • Vibrant Economy and Job Market
  • Light Rail & Walkable Urban Core
  • Outdoor Activities & Natural Beauty
  • Favorable Cost of Living
  • Fun Foodie & Culinary Scene
  • Cultural, Sports & Entertainment Options
Living in Charlotte, NC means you constantly have awesome views of the skyline.

Vibrant Economy and Job Market in Charlotte

We lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, before moving to Charlotte. It was a cool city, but we quickly realized there weren’t many big companies. As a result, there were limited career opportunities.

In many ways, Charlotte is a land of opportunity. As many as ten local companies land on the Fortune 500 list in any given year, including Bank of America, Lowe’s, Honeywell, and Duke Energy. Nearly 20 local companies have landed on the Fortune 1000 list.

Big corporate headquarters are often home to thousands of jobs but offer a trickle-down effect. Big companies need lawyers and accounting firms. Those lawyers and accounting firms need dentists and doctors. Those dentists and doctors need childcare, lawn care, and so on.

There are also many companies with major presences in Charlotte that don’t consider the city its headquarters. For instance, Charlotte is home to over 90,000 financial services jobs and is the second-largest banking center in the country. Banks like Wells Fargo and Ally have tens of thousands of combined employees in Charlotte.

Diverse Employer Base

While Wells Fargo has more than 25,000 employees in Charlotte, contributing to the city’s 90,000 financial service jobs, the city is well diversified.

For instance, Honeywell calls Charlotte home, and they are involved in everything from home thermostats to aerospace. And Duke Energy provides electric utilities to 8.2 million customers across the country. Yet another Fortune 500 company, Nucor, is one of North America’s biggest steel makers.

Charlotte might be home to a major financial center and burgeoning Fintech scene, but the city has much more to offer. And while we highlighted some of the area’s largest companies, remember the trickle-down effect of job creation.

This is a big reason that more than 100 people move to the Charlotte region daily.

Romare Bearden Park in Uptown Charlotte is an awesome place to hang out.

Quality Educational Opportunities

In North Carolina, the Research Triangle is known as an educational powerhouse. And there is good reason for this since Duke, NC State, and UNC Chapel Hill are all top-tier schools. Moreover, Charlotte is one of the largest cities in the South Atlantic region, so it draws new residents from other schools such as Clemson, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.

Even so, Charlotte’s education scene packs a strong punch, even if it is oft overlooked. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (now shortened to ‘Charlotte’) has an enrollment topping 30,000 students. As such, it is one of the three largest universities in North Carolina. Surprised? I was, too, when I first moved here.

And UNC Charlotte is just the start. Charlotte is home to a big Johnson & Wales campus, including a very popular culinary program. Charlotte also has an HBCU, Johnson C. Smith University, and a Division 1 private school, Queens University. Plus, Davidson College, where Steph Curry played college basketball, is just north of town.

Charlotte has never had a full medical school. That is until now. Wake Forest is partnering with Atrium Health to open the Wake Forest University School of Medicine – Charlotte. The medical school will occupy a 20-acre campus in midtown Charlotte. Together, Wake Forest and Atrium plan to create a center for innovation and entrepreneurship on an international scale.

Light Rail & Walkable Urban Core

It is a little chicken and the egg to determine whether young people move to Charlotte because of job opportunities or if companies move to Charlotte because of the high population of young professionals. Regardless, the neighborhoods along the light rail seem to attract both.

Charlotte is one of the few cities in the South East with a light rail system. It stretches over 18 miles and runs through Uptown and the central business district. Developers have built thousands upon thousands of new apartments along the light rail in recent decades. That then attracted new mixed uses, including retail and office.

Charlotte’s Rail Trail is particularly popular in the South End community, where you can grab a burger or ice cream before strolling up the Rail Trail toward the city lights. Charlotte neighborhoods such as South End, Uptown, and NODA are among the few neighborhoods in the South East where you can live without a car.

The Light Rail in Charlotte.

Outdoor Activities and Natural Beauty

While Charlotte’s fast pace of growth results in a diminished tree canopy, the city still has about 45% tree canopy coverage. For a top 25 MSA, this is striking and duly noted by visitors from Texas or out west. You can drive for miles around Charlotte’s outer ring (I-485) and feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.

In reality, the tree canopy does a nice job of masking the surrounding development. Lake Norman and Lake Wylie are beautiful recreational hotspots that add to the area’s beauty. Lake Norman, in particular, stretches for 30 miles and offers scenic views for I-77 passengers as they run parallel to the lake.

It is also worth offering a reminder here that one big benefit to living in Charlotte is that you are within a short drive of both the beach and mountains. And there are hiking options even closer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hiked to the top of Crowder’s Mountain with my family, and it is only about 40 minutes from Charlotte.

Still, living in Charlotte, NC, the U.S. National. Whitewater Center continually proves to be one of the area’s greatest treasures. The Whitewater Center offers outdoor activities, including whitewater rafting, flatwater kayaking/SUP, rock climbing, mountain biking, and more.

Visiting the Whitewater Center is one big benefit to living in Charlotte, NC. Among the pros and cons, this is one of the biggest pros.

Charlotte’s Cost of Living

In part, Charlotte is attractive as a relocation destination because the cost of living is lower than the national average. Like most popular cities, housing has skyrocketed over the last decade, but Charlott is still more affordable than many of its peer cities.

Plus, Charlotte offers plenty of options to appeal to this affordability. Want an urban apartment where you can walk to work? You can find it. Prefer a suburban space with a large yard for the kids? You can find that too.

Heck, even attending a Panthers game is cheaper than attending most NFL games across the country. And this is a particularly good representation of our point because we aren’t saying Charlotte is cheap. Still, it is more affordable than most other popular cities.

According to Pickwise, the Carolina Panthers are No. 10 for most affordable teams in the NFL, but it will still run you over $500 for a family of four to go to an NFL game. This is a good way to think about affordability in Charlotte.

Fun Foodie and Culinary Scene

Whether food halls, food trucks, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, Charlotte has plenty of fantastic eating options.

Take Beef ‘n Bottle, for instance. The restaurant, which opened in 1958, sits in a nondescript building along South Boulevard. You could easily drive past it without a thought, and you might think twice before going in. Nonetheless, Southern Living named Beef ‘n Bottle one of the most legendary Southern steakhouses.

On a personal note, Beef ‘n Bottle is our family’s go-to steakhouse for celebrations. Still, there are days when pizza or a good burger are more appropriate. And there are great pizza options in Charlotte. But Charlotte is probably better known for its BBQ options.

The best BBQ spots in Charlotte feature a mix of traditional Texas-style BBQ and North Carolina-style BBQ. In fact, North Carolina is known for two different styles of BBQ, known as Eastern and Western Carolina BBQ. Both styles are vinegar-based, so I appreciate that the best Charlotte BBQ spots mix in Texas and other BBQ styles.

Charlotte offers a great mix of restaurants, some of which have been featured on the Food Network (Pinky’s Westside Grill, JJ’s Red Hots, Cabo Fish Taco). Other restaurants have received nominations for the prestigious James Beard Awards (Leah & Louise, Salud, Counter-).

Still, places like Optimist Hall are fun go-to’s that you can visit repeatedly without ever having the same experience twice. Optimist Hall sits in a revitalized textile mill just north of Uptown Charlotte. It features many food stalls, including gourmet grilled cheese, dumplings, Indian street food, empanadas, pizza, and much more.

Optimist Hall in Charlotte, NC

Countless Cultural, Sports, and Entertainment Options

There will never be a shortage of things to do in Charlotte. For those that appreciate the arts, you will find the Belk Theater. The Uptown theater offers Broadway, Charlotte Ballet, the Charlotte Symphony (which is phenomenal), Opera Carolina, and more.

Across Uptown, you can visit the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Mint Museum. These two galleries are across the street from the Harvey B. Gant Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

If arts aren’t your thing, Uptown is home to the NFL, NBA, MLS, and minor league baseball. The Carolina Panthers (NFL) and Charlotte FC (MLS) both call Bank of America Stadium home, while the Hornets (NBA) play in the Spectrum Arena. Both venues host major concerts that tour through Charlotte, ranging from Beyonce to the Rolling Stones.

Combine all of these opportunities with the roller coaster rides at Carowinds and the whitewater rafting at the Whitewater Center, and there are nearly endless entertainment options.

Mint Museum in Uptown, Charlotte.

Cons of Living in Charlotte, NC

Living in Charlotte, NC, is fantastic, but I want to fairly represent both the pros and cons to the best that I can. And as much as I love Charlotte, there are a few things that land in the cons column.

Traffic and Transportation Challenges

It’s a running comparison in Charlotte to say that Charlotte is where Atlanta was 20 or 30 years ago. That statement is then almost always followed by someone adding that they don’t want to achieve Atlanta’s level of traffic congestion. Even so, traffic worsens when your city is so popular that 100+ people per day move to your city.

There is an extent to which this is inevitable, but the city hasn’t helped with poor governance over the transportation network, known as CATS. The light rail has done wonders for spurring development and providing options for Uptown workers. Still, there is only one (long) rail line and funding for future lines seems challenging.

The light rail is one big benefit of living in Charlotte, NC.

Seasonal Weather and Climate

Charlotte is wonderfully comfortable during the fall and spring and bearable during the winter. Even so, peak heat streaks during the summer get downright miserable. Charlotte gets muggy and hot, and there’s no other way around it.

That said, the mornings in Charlotte are usually pleasant, even during the hottest parts of the year. And this is very different than where my parents live in Florida. In central Florida, your glasses fog up when you walk outside at 7:00 am. In Charlotte, there are summer days when I walk outside and feel cool at 7:00 am.

Average temperature in Charlotte, NC

Rapid Growth and Rising Prices

While Charlotte is more affordable than many of its peer cities, living in Charlotte, NC, has become undeniably more expensive in recent years. The biggest reason for this is housing.

Per Zillow, the median price of a house in January 2018 was under $220,000. By January of 2023, the median price of a home was $382,000. This phenomenon isn’t unique to Charlotte, but it’s a reality nonetheless.

Charlotte will be more expensive than many smaller towns and rural areas. That’s a trade-off I will gladly take, but it has to be noted nonetheless.

First Ward Park in Charlotte, NC

Is it Worth Living In Charlotte, NC?

There are many reasons that Charlotte is so popular, but I love that it offers big-city vibes with a small-town feel. Living in Charlotte, NC, is a fantastic option for anyone interested in new opportunities and a vibrant lifestyle.

Balancing The Pros and Cons

In considering the pros and cons of living in Charlotte, NC, I’ve found that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. The job prospects are strong, new development constantly brings new businesses and restaurants, and there is always plenty to do.

My favorite way to spend a weekend is to run under the Uptown skyline before spending some time at the Whitewater Center. Then in the evening, you can walk on Charlotte’s Rail Trail or meet up with friends at Optimist Hall. Plus, you are within a few hours’ drive of the mountains and beaches.

Sure, the summers get hot, and the traffic gets heavy, but Charlotte is an awesome place to call home.

Jeremiah moved to the Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, back in 2013. The family has grown over the years, and they now call the Carolinas home. They enjoy hiking and adventures, road trips, backyard fire pits, and pizza night. Jeremiah loves to explore, and looks forward to sharing tips, tricks, and resources for your next trip.