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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A Guide to Charlotte’s Southside Towns and ’Burbs
Charm and wide-open spaces are a draw for living down south.
By Meagan Church
Photo by David Johnson
Grab a cup of coffee and sweet treat from Brakeman's in downtown Matthews.
Located 30 to 40 minutes from uptown Charlotte, the southside communities of Ballantyne, Matthews, Pineville and Waxhaw combine big-city amenities with small-town appeal. Ripe with history and rich with outdoor adventures, these areas continue to develop and attract families moving to the area.
A historic, family-friendly town, Matthews blends charms of the past with trends of today. Located near Interstate 485 and US Highway 74, 30,000 residents live here. Homes range from historic to new-builds, with many well established, tree-filled neighborhoods.
Downtown Matthews is located at the intersection of Trade and East John streets. It offers a farmers market each Saturday and boasts historic buildings, including Renfrow’s Hardware and General, which was established by 1900 and provides the community with home essentials. With recent development, Matthews continues to add locally owned eateries and craft-beer bars, along with typical chain offerings.
The town hosts Matthew’s Alive Festival each Labor Day Weekend. Visitors can also enjoy live music at Food Truck Fridays on the second and fourth Fridays from April to September. For outdoor lovers, the Four Mile Creek Greenway and Colonel Francis Beatty Park are popular destinations. Matthew’s Playhouse of Performing Arts provides theater for residents of all ages and is housed in the Matthews Community Center, which was the town’s first public school when it opened in 1907.
Located between I-485 and the South Carolina border, Ballantyne is inside the Charlotte city limits and home to nearly 25,000 residents, newer construction homes and apartments, as well as office complexes, shopping centers, chain and upscale restaurants.
Ballantyne is a popular golf destination. The Golf Club at Ballantyne is an 18-hole championship PGA golf course that is open to the public. Family-friendly amenities include Small Hands Big Art children’s art studio, Sports Connection, greenways, Big Rock Nature Preserve, and Ballantyne District Park that features over two miles of mountain bike trails.
Named for the large and abundant pine trees in the area, Pineville offers small-town charm with close proximity to Charlotte. The historic downtown has quaint antique and home décor shops, a board-game hangout, craft-beer pubs and hosts a year-round Saturday morning farmers market.
Pineville is also home to Carolina Place Mall — a 1.2 million-square-foot mall with four anchor stores. Favorite spots for kids to hang out around town include Pineville Ice House, Skyzone, Monkey Joe’s and Funtasticks Charlotte.
Waxhaw combines quintessential historic-town elements with typical suburban amenities. The downtown mixes historic elements with modern additions. An iconic pedestrian walking bridge crosses the railroad tracks that run alongside Main Street. The downtown features antique shops, fine dining, a military wall of honor, and a farmers market that is open each Saturday mornings throughout the year.
Home to nearly 12,500 residents, the town hosts annual events such as the Kaleidoscope Fest arts fair in the spring, concerts by the tracks in the summer, an Independence Day parade and fireworks, an autumn festival, and a Christmas parade. Waxhaw is located about 40 minutes outside Charlotte’s city center at the intersection of US-16 and US-75. Home buyers can find a selection of properties, ranging from charming bungalows to new construction, upscale homes, in new neighborhoods or on sprawling multi-acre lots.
Photo courtesy of Union County Parks and Recreation
Rent a canoe, fish or swim at Cane Creek Park in Waxhaw.
Where to Explore
- Brakeman’s Coffee and Supply. In the heart of downtown Matthews, Brakeman’s Coffee Shop has alaid back, home-like atmosphere. Brakeman’s features sustainably sourced coffee, and menu items include coffee, tea, milkshakes, smoothies and pastries.
- Sugar Handmade Gourmet Donuts. Made the old-fashion way with a modern flair, Sugar Handmade Gourmet Donuts is sure to delight the sweet tooth. No mixes or synthetic ingredients are used in crafting these artisan doughnuts with flavors that include maple bacon and Southern banana pudding, plus gluten-free and vegan options.
- James K. Polk Historic Site. Learn more about the 11th president of the United States through a film, exhibits and touring reconstructed buildings on what used to be his family’s 450-acre homestead. The site is open Tuesday through Saturday and is free to visit.
- Cane Creek Park. Cane Creek Park park’s 350-acre lake is ideal for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Perfect for a day trip or an overnight stay, the park has hiking, horse and mountain biking trails, boat rentals, disk golf, a playground, baseball field and miniature golf.
Meagan Church is a writer, children’s book author and the brainpower behind unexpectant.com, which explores the story of modern motherhood. She lives in Charlotte with her high school sweetheart, three children and a plethora of pets.