Best Charlotte Suburbs for Families
What you need to to know about living north, south, east and west of Charlotte’s city center.
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On the East Side
Photo courtesy of Visit Cabarrus
The Old Courthouse Theatre in historic downtown Concord hosts performances throughout the year.
Some of Charlotte’s most popular neighborhoods, including NoDa and Plaza Midwood, sit on the east side of the city. Travel a bit further from center city, and you’ll find that the east-of-Charlotte suburbs are growing in popularity and for good reason. If you’re looking to put down new roots, here’s why you shouldn’t overlook these east-side suburbs.
Although technically within city limits, University City has the feel of a suburb, anchored by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Its busy, young vibe — the average median age of University City residents is 29.5, according to University City Partners — is fueled by the more than 25 research, technology and energy-related companies that are based here.
University City homes are still affordable, especially relative to some other nearby suburbs, with a median listing price hovering around $200,000, according to recent data from realtor.com. It’s easily accessible via Interstate 85 and Interstate 485, and less than half an hour from Charlotte’s center city. Bonus: A new, easy commute option for uptown workers opened in mid-March 2018 with the extension of the Lynx Blue Line, making this “suburb” likely to become even more popular with young professionals and young families.
Not that you would need to head to uptown, though. There’s plenty to do right here, including more than 12 miles of stroller-friendly paths for walking, biking and jogging; and 850 acres to explore at Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve, with playgrounds, fishing ponds, disc golf, a nature center and trails. The University City library is the busiest branch in Mecklenburg County’s award-winning library system. University City also is where you’ll find PNC Music Pavilion, which hosts big-name performers, including Jimmy Buffett, Chris Brown, Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows in 2018.
With roots dating back to the mid-1700s, Harrisburg is a fast-growing community that has managed to preserve its tight-knit, small-town feel. Sitting between Concord and Charlotte along I-85, about 10 minutes north of UNC Charlotte, the town has about 14,000 residents — and counting.
New-construction homes are popping up at a fast pace, and residents enjoy a lot of green space for a town that makes up nine square miles. The two largest parks are 33-acre Harrisburg Park and 37-acre Pharr Mill Park. Harris Depot Park hosts the Harrisburg Farmers Market (April through October) and Stallings Park includes a grove of more than 50 Yoshino cherry trees. The money to purchase and plant the trees was raised by a local Boy Scout as an Eagle Scout project. Visitors or potential new residents get the best glimpse at the town’s wholesome, Americana atmosphere during the town’s Fourth of July festival that includes a parade, rides, food, entertainment, a beauty pageant and — of course — a fireworks show.
Photo courtesy of Cabarrus County CVB
Enjoy paddle-boating at the lake at Frank Liske Park near Harrisburg.
With its quaint downtown and easy proximity to Charlotte (it’s about 25 miles northeast of center city on I-85), Concord, located in Cabarrus County, is the second-largest city in the greater metropolitan area, with more than 85,000 residents. Although it may have built a reputation as the home to two of the state’s most-visited tourist destinations — Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills — its charming historic downtown is also a draw, filled with art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants. There’s plenty to explore outdoors. Don’t miss the sprawling Frank Liske Park, which covers almost 240 acres, including ball fields, picnic shelters, nature trails, 18 holes of miniature golf, and a 10-acre lake for fishing and paddle boating.
Kannapolis straddles the Cabarrus-Rowan county line. The North Carolina Research Campus, located on the fringe of downtown Kannapolis, is a public-private partnership focusing on food, nutrition and biotech research, with contributions from eight universities, health care organizations and corporations. The benefits of having such a research hub often spills over into the surrounding community. A 2017 collaboration at the facility funded the creation of learning gardens for 11 Cabarrus County schools. Popular neighborhoods include Pickwick and Windsor, both of which include new construction and homes built in the past 30 years. Kannapolis is also the home of the Kannapolis Intimidators, a Class A affiliate team of the Chicago White Sox — a popular activity for local families.
Where to Explore
- With more than 10 acres of outdoor garden “rooms” (some shaded, some full sun) are open daily during daylight hours, plus an eight-room greenhouse complex with more limited availability, UNCC Botanical Gardens on the UNCC campus is an excellent — and free — destination year-round.
- Cabarrus Creamery is family-run ice cream shop that scoops up house-made ice cream in a multitude of flavors including southern favorites like banana pudding and Moon Pie.
- Old Courthouse Theatre. Concord is an arts-minded community, and they’ve worked hard to maintain their thriving community theatre. The group’s original home was inside an historic courthouse, which residents saved from demolition in the 1970s. It now draws crowds to a renovated 1920s church.
Aleigh Acerni lives and writes from a tiny bungalow in Plaza Midwood, but often daydreams about the suburban life.