What do you do when you’re a young couple making the transition from Army life in rural Alaska to civilian life anywhere you want? You find a place where everything is within your reach. It didn’t take us long to find and fall in love with Charlotte, North Carolina. With just around 900,000 people, it’s the biggest city in the state, offering diversity, easy transport options, dining, shopping, ample career opportunities, and a great sense of community.
Moving to Charlotte, a Guide
Charlotte is a big sports and banking town (it’s actually the second-largest banking city in the United States, behind New York). Case in point: The Panthers’s home stadium is aptly named the Bank of America Stadium! But despite this (or even in some cases, because of it), Charlotte has a really fun vibe and offers something for everyone. From the Panthers to the millennials’ beloved Hornets, it’s not hard to find yourself pumped up. My husband and I live for a good baseball game with brews, and the Charlotte Knights minor league team delivers in a big way on this laidback night out.
But if sports aren’t your thing, you won’t feel completely shut out. The arts thrive here as well. On any given summer evening, you’ll find yourself being serenaded by buskers or jazz musicians on the street as you make your way to one of Charlotte’s countless museums (our favorites are Levine Museum of the New South and the Bechtler Museum for Modern Art). Charlotte’s music venues and other events are worth the while, too—every year, there’s the 600 Festival that features incredible musicians and showcases as part of the NASCAR empire also present in the Queen City.
Coming from delicious-but-scarce cuisine in Alaska (there were only two different restaurants, really), Charlotte’s foodie scene almost felt like culture shock—there were so many options to choose from! We hit up Manolo’s Bakery for all things dessert, Rai Lay Thai for a fun food date night, and Stewart Penick’s Terrace for a to-die-for brunch.
Another thing that was surprising about moving to Charlotte was how the state’s gorgeous weather produces some seriously abundant and delicious crops that people come from all around for. Sweet potatoes and apples are two notable mentions, while the festivals that celebrate such scrumptious fare happen just a few hours away in the mountains. Farmers markets and grocery store options abound here, with local North Carolina favorites that include Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Foods, Super G Mart, and more. Produce is usually rather cheap with some form of locally-grown produce always being available.
Charlotte Cost of Living
North Carolina has a notoriously low cost of living, but that isn’t always the case in the Queen City. Though you can find places to rent all over the city for a reasonable rate (Zumper found rent prices in Charlotte actually fell in August 2018), the median cost and size of a rental really depends on what neighborhood you’re after. For most areas, your must-haves might determine your overall cost of living, but you can spend between $850 and $1,250 and get a nice range of situations.
Compared to the biggest banking city (New York), you don’t save buckets of cash by moving further out of the city. But if you don’t mind a commute, the light rail is a convenient and cheap option with monthly unlimited rides clocking in at approximately $90—much cheaper than filling up a gas tank multiple times per month. For those living in the city proper, being able to walk or bike to work if you so choose is an increasingly popular option for many.
Moving to Charlotte and Where to Live
With an influx of people moving to work for banks, it can be difficult to snatch up housing before someone else does, so you do have to move swiftly. But an easy way to cut through the clutter of a competitive housing market is to decide what’s most important to you in terms of living arrangements: sounds like a no-brainer, right? Depending on your career location and other needs, the options are fairly open in this larger city. There are young and hip areas to explore in NoDa where breweries are aplenty, and shopping and luxury galore in Ballantyne. South End and Uptown have amazing dining and options for nights-out, and the University area is of course a bustling part of the city for the student set. My husband and I decided a family was on the horizon, so we were looking for a short commute, a family feel with great schools, and a somewhat slower pace. Belmont, a Charlotte suburb, felt like the perfect place to surround ourselves with good neighbors in a young-but-historic community.
Advice on Moving to Charlotte
Even if you’re not ultimately sold on Charlotte’s vibe, there are plenty of weekend escapes nearby. If it’s not in Charlotte, it’s within a few hours’ drive. It’s so close to both North and South Carolina beaches, as well as the beautiful North Carolina mountains in Asheville.
If you are totally excited about Charlotte’s community offerings, move here with an open mind and an idea of how you’d like to get involved in your community: As with anything else, you get what you give. Every niche group you can imagine has found their own corner to live and thrive in Charlotte: From pet lovers, to comic book enthusiasts, to cyclists and beyond. When my husband and I decided we wanted to find ourselves even busier than we already were, we decided to join an adult Frisbee golf league at an indoor athletics venue. The Queen City is also crowned among the most diverse and welcoming places to live in the United States.
Moving to Charlotte Alone
If you decide to pack up and move to Charlotte by yourself, you won’t be alone for long. With a large and ever-growing population, people often find their home away from home here. Places of employment always provide for great initial friendships, but that’s not all there is to do in this large city. Bars and restaurants here serve as local watering holes and offer pub crawls and trivia nights to meet those in your community. There are also frequently-held concerts and events downtown. One of our favorite nights out in Charlotte so far has been when we stumbled upon an incredible concert at The Thirsty Beaver where The Howlin’ Brothers were playing contemporary Southern music. The drinks were delicious and the atmosphere was just what we wanted—a fun but casual vibe.
The presence of UNC Charlotte, Queens University, Johnson C. Smith University, and other local colleges also means there is never a shortage of new people to meet and things to discover.
Moving to Charlotte Without a Job
Least worrisome of all is moving to Charlotte without a job: This growing urban center (and surrounding suburbs, too!) means someone is always hiring. We both landed jobs before even making our move, which reduced a lot of anxieties about making the trek from Alaska! Whether you’re interested in starting a career in one of the many corporate offices housed in Charlotte (like Lowe’s, LabCorp, Bank of America, or HanesBrands, to name a few) or you’re after something innovative and fun, Charlotte likely has an opening for you. The city is also a popular one for companies like Lyft and Uber if you’re interested in hopping into the gig economy.