By Jen McGivney
Math brought Madison Currie and his wife Raquel to Charlotte from Los Angeles in 2017. There was the math of time: trading 90-minute L.A. commutes for ten-minute Charlotte commutes. There was the math of money: house-hunting in L.A. led them to 900-square-foot fixer-uppers for $700,000; half that could get a nice house and yard in Charlotte. Then there was one critical calculation: the couple was about to become a family of three. The math of L.A. no longer added up.
The Curries planned a two-year Charlotte relocation—an effort to enjoy time near family with their baby before returning to L.A. Four years later, they’re still there, now with a house, two daughters, and no desire to leave.
“It’s really cool to be a transplant here because everyone else is, as well. It’s a melting pot of all kinds of people from throughout the United States who came here for similar reasons,” Currie says. “We’ve found incredible friendships really quickly here. It’s a social and warm city.”
It’s a familiar story by now: People are trading big cities for easier lives in mid-sized ones. To track the moves, Bloomberg Wealth studied zip code changes in 2020 among 174 million LinkedIn members. It found an exodus of workers from cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Those members largely shifted to mid-sized cities, and Charlotte was among the top destinations on the list.
For Abbigail Glen, Charlotte began as a stop on a road trip. But when the Philadelphia native explored the NoDa neighborhood, she could envision her life there. Without a job, friends, or family in Charlotte, she made the leap—expecting it to be a fun stop on the way to somewhere else.
Now, five years later, Glen is the owner of a successful Charlotte business: Shelves Bookstore, a pop-up that partners with independent stores to create gathering spaces for book lovers to shop, meet, and exchange ideas. Glen has settled into a community of local businesses, like Sunflower Family Restaurant, where the owners welcome her by name and save her favorite table, and Enderly Coffee (roasted in the region), where she works remotely.
“I was going for an adventure, but I found a hominess to [Charlotte] that I’ve gotten very attached to,” she says. “I’m always searching for fulfillment and freedom, and I’ve found that here. It’s been a great ground for me to evolve and start something new.”
Crystal Marie is another California transplant. Researching childcare and home costs in L.A. sent her and her husband seeking more affordable options elsewhere. In Charlotte, they discovered something even more valuable: more time. The couple—now expecting their second child—has time to balance careers they love with more time together. Weekends are spent at Freedom Park or at a museum they belong to, like Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture or Discovery Place.
“When I lived in L.A., I realized that very few people have more than one child. It’s difficult to have more [kids] and also have a career,” Crystal Marie says. “Here, my boss has two kids. Her boss has three kids. I know everyone’s kids and everyone’s dogs. It’s conducive to raising a family, and there’s a lot of stuff to do.”
“It’s fascinating how many people have reached out to us—the same people who thought we were crazy in 2017 for moving to North Carolina. But now they’re asking for our thoughts on living here,” Currie says. “I tell them that we love it.”
Curious to take Charlotte for a test drive? Currie, Glen, and Crystal Marie recommend their favorite places to explore during a visit:
The Optimist Hall food hall has more than 20 restaurants—serving everything from empanadas, dumplings, to upscale grilled cheese—in a restored 19th century textile mill.
Two-time James Beard award semifinalist Chef Greg Collier’s modern twists on classic Southern dishes have drawn critical acclaim and solidly booked tables.
Enjoy drinks or brunch on the patio, then wander up the Rail Trail to explore more of the lively South End district.
This shop is a local favorite, and it’s known as the ideal place to find a special gift, from home décor to books to stationery.
Abbigail Glen, owner of Shelves Bookstore, creates pop-up book events in coffeeshops and other small businesses around Charlotte.
Charlotte is a dog-loving city. Spoil your furry friend at this South End shop — and don't forget dog-friendly pastries at the on-site bakery.
The Whitewater Center, about 20 minutes from uptown, offers zip lines, rapids, climbing walls, and mountain biking trails for both adults and children.
This picturesque neighborhood park is a fun place for kids to let off steam on the playground or to set up a romantic lakeside picnic.
The museum offers a look back at the people and events that shaped Charlotte—and continue to shape it today.
Named for the prominent architect and first Black mayor of Charlotte, Gantt hosts art exhibits, family programming, and even jazz workshops.
A science museum that offers exhibits and hands-on fun for kids (and, often, adults, too).