Home Sweet Charlotte
February 22, 2010 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Show us around Charlotte. My wife and I are going to Charlotte from Thursday - Sunday. Our mission is to determine if Charlotte is a place we want to live. I am a I.T. project manager. My wife is a corporate accountant. We both work in banking. We have one young daughter and another on the way. You could consider us yuppies with a hippie / island twist. We love food, books, and shopping. We want to get a feel for what family life would be like in Charlotte.

Answering this question does not involve 'Asheville', pros and cons of Nascar, or going further north. We want to know what neighborhoods, schools, parks, and retail areas we should check out while we are there. If we bought a house, it could be anywhere from 250 - 450k. We don't mind sprawling sub divisions but prefer to have some character. We like lakes and trees, but also like being close to Whole Foods.
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation around Charlotte, NC (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
not sure what you mean by not "going further north," but if you are not averse to the burbs, Davidson is a great place to live, and will certainly jive with some of your "hippie" sensibilities.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2010

Starting at the end of your questions and working up:

We don't have a Whole Foods yet, but we have Earth Fare (small regional chain, similar philosophy), Fresh Market, Dean & Deluca and a surprisingly fancy hometown grocery chain, Harris Teeter.

Where are you moving from? What kind of environment are you used to (suburban, new urban, exurbs)? We have all of those.

A lot of transplants get scared out of the city by what they hear about the public school system. It is very different than Northern cities, where every suburb has their own district and only the poor kids are in the city system. Our system incorporates both city and county, rich and poor, white and black and Hispanic and everything else. CMS is very large and has many of the requisites bumbles that come with a large bureaucracy, limited resources and socio-economic-racial politics, but my kids are in public school and (soapbox) I prefer to be part of the solution (/soapbox). YMMV.

Where specifically will you both be working? Charlotte's major banking employers (Wells/Wachovia and B of A) have campuses from one end of the city to the other.

Family life in Charlotte is GREAT. This is a wonderful city to live in. I've been here for 21 years and plan to be here forever.

More once you've answered those questions above, and feel free to Me-mail me too.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:22 PM on February 22, 2010

I grew up there, and my brother and mom are still there. I discovered I'm a big-city guy, and Charlotte definitely does not have the big-city feel. But it does have its charms, and I know a lot of fine folks who would live nowhere else.

It's been 25 years since I lived there, so I don't know a lot about now-trendy neighborhoods and such. I always liked the Dilworth and Elizabeth areas, but, again, I'm a bit out of touch these days.

The schools were great for me, a band-geek type, since they were large and diverse enough to have a niche for everyone. At least when I was growing up, only the super rich kids went to private school. Nowadays, there are all sorts of magnet schools, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:01 PM on February 22, 2010

Seconding Medieval Maven on the suburbs and outlying cities. Head north on I-77 and take any exits that look appealing. I lived in Mooresville for awhile, which is about 30-45 minutes north, and I wouldn't recommend it as a viable option due to the commute (77 is notorious for its road construction and traffic conditions), but Huntersville, Davidson and Lake Norman are all really great places to live and the houses are in your price range.

For shopping and food, check out Birkdale Village in Huntersville. It's an urbanish shopping center/residential area, where the street level is retail with apartments above. (I was going to recommend Café Mia in Birkdale Village as a don't-miss, but it looks like they closed down about a month ago, unfortunately. Best paninis AND best gelato I've ever had.)
posted by relucent at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2010

We live just over the county line in Marvin, Union County. It is an exurban environment and a fairly substantial drive (30 minutes during non-rush hour) to the cultural resources in the center of town. That said, we are 5 minutes from a large shopping center that gets us groceries, Target, and lots of restaurants and mall-type shopping; 10 minutes from two others with shopping, restaurants and movie theaters; and 20 minutes from the big mall.

Nice things about living in this part of town: we are across the street from our neighborhood elementary school, it's possible to get a big yard if you want one, there is still lots of nature, you can generally get more house for your money out here.

Less nice things about living here: it is not walking distance from anything, the culture is extremely suburban-homogenous and conservative, commuting during rush hour is a serious pain.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2010

2 p.m. Sunday, see the UNC-Charlotte 49ers women's basketball team take on Massachusetts. Inexpensive tickets, family atmosphere, good role models for your kid.
posted by Carol Anne at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2010

Well, if you're willing to go a few miles north, consider the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. We have 4 Whole Food stores (and 3 Trader Joe's). Lots and lots of IT in the area, plus banks. We're more diversified, too. If BofA moves out, what's Charlotte going to do?

Seriously, unless you are committed to Charlotte for other reasons, you owe it to yourself to check out this part of the state.
posted by justcorbly at 3:51 PM on February 22, 2010

Another vote for Dilworth and Elizabeth neighborhoods. These are nice intown neighborhoods with older homes and lots of mature trees and character. Thomas Street Tavern and Mama Ricotta's are two local favorites.

My primary impression of Charlotte is how sterile it is. It seems to lack a clear identity or character. This might be due to the relative newness of much of the city.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2010

It's going to be hard for them to find something in the $250-$450K range in Dilworth or Elizabeth, though, unless they can fit four people in 1500 square feet.

If being in town - close to but not necessarily in the historic neighborhoods - is desirable, the SouthPark area was the "next ring out" of development (built in '50s - '80s, 2000+ SF). You'd want primarily areas 4 and 5 in the MLS, staying north of Highway 51. Randolph, Sharon, Providence, Carmel roads.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:31 PM on February 22, 2010

I grew up in the northern burbs (Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and the Lake Norman area). Huntersville has become a massive sprawl and Davidson is quaint and very very expensive and the "Lake People" have taken over what used to be mostly cow farms and turned it into a very ritzy area in places. But it was, and remains, a very nice area to grow up in.

Random Charlotte things to check out: Discovery Place is the children's science museum and is great fun. The Blumenthal is a really nice concert hall where the Symphony and operas are, and also lots of other concerts. Also uptown (downtown) is the main branch of the public library, which is a pretty amazing place. Farther afield, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens is very nice and I have a strong affection for visiting the large, intimidating birds at the Carolina Raptor Center.

I went to my local public schools all the way through and got a perfectly good education, good extracurriculars, etc, while learning to relate to people of all different backgrounds. You should know that a terrible legal case has led to the re-segregation of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Those of us who are natives and products of the schools view this as a great tragedy, since the CMS busing and integration program was a huge success. I don't know what this means for your kids, but at the very least please being educated about the history and what you're going into is worthwhile. If a few more people who moved in from outside had understood the history of our school system, maybe the outcome would have been different.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:30 PM on February 22, 2010

You don't mention music as an interest (certainly as "yuppies with an island/hippie twist", you enjoy music?), but if you want a break from house hunting and such you picked the perfect weekend to visit and catch Dave Alvin and (some) Guilty Women at The Stage Door downtown. Mpre hippie (Rockabilly) than island music, but still entertaining.

There are quite a few good music venues in Charlotte and most national acts, big and small, find their way to most of them. Regional and local acts are plentiful. I say that as an envious South Carolinian who often drives an hour and a half to Charlotte to see good music (Dave Alvin being a favorite).
posted by ourroute at 7:39 PM on February 22, 2010

Be prepared for lots of religion and lots of conservativism. If that isn't your thing, you may want to look elsewhere. I'm a liberal atheist who grew up in Charlotte, and it was quite difficult to be different in those respects. The city definitely has a "small town" feel, and what church you go to is a big deal in the suburbs.

The closer you live to uptown, the better; there are lots more hip, interesting to do in the older neighbourhoods like Dilworth, East Blvd, Elizabeth, and even Myers Park (where I'm from).

There are quite a few good music venues in Charlotte and most national acts, big and small, find their way to most of them. Regional and local acts are plentiful. I say that as an envious South Carolinian who often drives an hour and a half to Charlotte to see good music (Dave Alvin being a favorite).

IMO Charlotte doesn't have a good music scene. Most Charlotte natives go to the Chapel Hill/Raleigh area.
posted by canadia at 9:18 PM on February 22, 2010

Just a note on Davidson- it's sort of an island of liberalism in the middle of everything else up there because of the college, which also supplies an endless list of neat things to do - for example, when I was in school there, the Royal Shakespeare Company did a residency. So even if you *don't* end up in Davidson - and it can be expensive, but 250K is expensive to me, so what do I know - at least keep it in mind for stuff that you can't or won't get in Charlotte proper.

Lake Norman, IMHO, is painfully burbsy, but I do love Harris Teeter.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:12 AM on February 23, 2010

Huntersville, Davidson and the Lake Norman area are all lovely. The Concord/Harrisburg/University areas have an older feel and are probably not what you are looking for (not to mention horrible race weekend traffic), but the areas in between the interstates and to the north of Charlotte are full of very nice subdivisions and little communities. I also lived in Union County for a while. Avoid Monroe, but to the north along 485, there are lovely pockets of homes here and there with grocery stores and necessities nestled in among them. The Matthews area is hit and miss. I liked the looks of the Pineville area when I drove through.

My advice? Grab a real estate guide and get a car and drive, drive, drive. Charlotte is pretty straightforward - either an area is nice/what you are looking for, or not.

While Charlotte itself may not have a "personality," per se, it is very convenient in that it is three hours from the mountains and four hours from the beach. I had a blast making little mini trips every other weekend. Even wandering around Charlotte and exploring used bookstores, antique stores and museums made for a good time. I miss it.
posted by bristolcat at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2010

Another vote for Dilworth -- friends live there, and if I wanted a great suburban lifestyle that's the kind of place I'd choose -- quiet, wide streets, big trees; but to go anywhere for shopping, culture & etc you must drive.
posted by Rash at 10:18 AM on February 23, 2010

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