Reflections from 14 months in Charlotte + what it’s like to move from California to North Carolina

This is going to be a big one! We’re talking about what it’s been like during our first 14 months in Charlotte, and what it’s like to move from California to North Carolina.

We’ve officially been living in Charlotte, North Carolina for 14 months. We moved in January 2021 from the San Francisco Bay Area, and we have no regrets about that big cross-country move. 

A little history before we get going: I’m from Florida, and I was born and raised there — spending all of my life there until California. I left Florida shortly after getting married to Dave, and we went straight to San Francisco. We spent eight years in the Bay Area, living all over the City and in the East Bay too. We had an amazing time, especially living in our tiny Nob Hill apartment above the cable cars. It was a true life experience, and we are so grateful we decided to take that leap and have a California adventure (even if some people in our lives doubted the choice, and even if there were some majorly tough parts to living so far away from family). But, when it felt like it was time to move, we knew we should head back to the East Coast, and this is now our home for the long haul.

For my regular readers (because I know this is the type of post that will draw in some of my irregular readers, and welcome to the blog, I’m so happy to have you here), I’ve been keeping you mostly up to date with how we’re doing, so you are mostly in the know. But I’m still going to share some new stuff in this one. And for everyone else, you’re in for it. Here we go …

Reflections from 14 months in Charlotte + what it’s like to move from California to North Carolina

Time has been flying in Charlotte, and we’re pretty sure we want to stay here for a very long time. Mostly everything in our life is an upgrade (but not every single thing), based on our move from California to North Carolina. 

But I need to mention this very important point: Even though things are going really well in our lives right now, our lives are not perfect, and I bet your life is not perfect either, and that’s okay. While we have it really good, we’ve also been dealing with some things behind-the-scenes that are hard. I say this to remind you that we all deal with tough stuff. We have to handle that stuff and do our best to enjoy all the other parts of our lives that are good. You know?

Also, I’m going to get into major specifics in this one, so I hope you enjoy. And I have to say this: I’m NOT here to offend anyone. I LOVED living in the Bay Area, and I LOVE living here. What I’m sharing are my reflections, and they are not a judgment on anyone or anything. Got it? You do you in your chosen region to live, and the only thing that matters is that you like where you choose to live. Here we go …

Our house and neighborhood in Charlotte.

Our house and neighborhood in Charlotte are perfect for us, and we found this house just five days after stepping off our flight with our bags in tow.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we were lucky to live in a nice house in the pricey East Bay of San Francisco. Our old house was on the border of Pleasant Hill, Lafayette and Walnut Creek (my East Bay folks know where that is), and we had a big backyard area all fenced in, and we could walk across the street to a grocery store and to Starbucks. That was awesome. We loved our house. It was plenty for us. But it was overpriced. And we would have grown out of it for sure.

Our house in Charlotte is twice the size, much nicer, more comfortable, and the neighborhood is so much better, and it only cost about 70 percent of what we bought our California house for. Our Charlotte neighborhood (in south Charlotte) is so pretty, that when I drive into it every day, I truly think … yay, I’m so happy to live here. It’s walkable, all the houses are well kept (that wasn’t the case in our last neighborhood), and it just looks welcoming.

The thing is, in the Bay Area, there aren’t as many nice neighborhoods as there are here, and the ones that are really, really nice are completely unaffordable for the average family. While we can’t walk to a Starbucks or a grocery store now, we can drive to one in less than five minutes, so we still have the convenience factor.

Also, this house is so quiet, whereas we were used to having street sounds from all the places we lived during all eight years in California. However, I will say that we knew what we were getting into in the Bay Area, and everyone knows that housing is ridiculous, and you deal with it, because the Bay Area has so much else to offer — that remains true. But we’ve found that Charlotte has a lot to offer in its own way too.

Family in front of Ballantyne house by A Lady Goes West

I will always have amazing memories from our house in Pleasant Hill that we spent just under three years in, because Brady was only 12-weeks-old when we moved in, so he spent his early years there. We had some great times there. And that house was good to us. We would have stayed in it a long time. There was nothing wrong with it. But dang, do I love where we are now so much more, and I had no idea we could have this — because we could not have had it in California, and it would have been out of reach for us, or it just didn’t exist where we were.

Where we lay our heads at night and spend a lot of time is a HUGE deal to me and to us, and it’s one of the greatest parts about our move to Charlotte, and our overall move from California to North Carolina. And that is also because of our stage of life, which includes working from home and having a young son. Back in our City days, we didn’t care about our tiny apartment, because we weren’t there that much, but we definitely care now. I love our house and neighborhood, and it’s a big blessing.

Pink wall primary bedroom by A Lady Goes West

Also, the fact that we are located back on the East Coast and are closer to family and friends is huge. I’ve talked about that a thousand times, so I’ll leave it out of this. But it had to at least be mentioned. Major, major, major upgrade.

Our friends, our community and the people of Charlotte.

This is where it gets sticky, because we had some people we really cared about and loved in the Bay Area, and we’ve stayed in touch with most of them, and this post is not about them. I am not saying the people “are better” in Charlotte, but I am telling you how things have worked out for us.

Here, in just one year, we’ve met some awesome folks — and we have way more of a community just one year into being in Charlotte than we had one year living in San Francisco, where we never even knew our neighbors in either of the two apartments we lived before heading to the East Bay. 

There’s definitely a touch of Southern hospitality, because you do get a little bit of a Southern element throughout Charlotte at times. People hold doors. People say hello to strangers. I like all of this, because it’s what I was used to in Florida, but made myself forget about during eight years in California, when every single door was slammed in my face from a man or a woman going into a place in front of me for the entire time I lived there (this is an exaggeration, because there are some polite people, but you get the point).

I don’t think San Francisco people are rude, but I think they have a City demeanor, which means you keep to yourself more and you worry only about yourself. That’s just how it is there. I like it better here, where more people are outwardly friendly and go out of their way to be polite and nice. That’s more my style. This is nice. 

BCC ladies at the gala by A Lady Goes West

As far as friends, I wrote a whole post about how we made a great group of friends in just a few months, and you can read that here. We have social activities all the time, and some of them are family friendly and some are just for adults, so it’s a nice mix. And most of our friends live in our neighborhood too, so we are very close. We also joined our local country club as social members, so that’s been a fun element too.

Girls in Uptown by A Lady Goes West

I couldn’t be happier about my group of girlfriends, and I’ve also met some nice friends outside the neighborhood too. I feel like I have a community at my gym as well. Basically, we have a lot of good people in our lives here, and so I have to call this one an upgrade, especially based on how quickly it happened. But, of course, we do miss some wonderful Bay Area people and wish we could have them here too, so we will continue our petition to get them (especially one particular family) to move to the East Coast. Major upgrade.

Our jobs. And the addition of Life Time for our family.

I will speak for myself here mostly, and just touch a bit on Dave …

But let’s start with Dave. His job situation is totally different because he is working from home primarily (although his company just opened a local office, so he has recently been going in a few times a week), and he is no longer working directly for a sports team, so he doesn’t have game nights. This is a big deal to our little family, because we get to see so much more of him, and he gets to be around more to help with things and spend more time with Brady. This is absolutely wonderful, and something we all enjoy and call an upgrade. But of course, working for a younger company has had some challenges, but he is very happy to be doing it. Dave does miss some of his former coworkers he spent many years with, but he does a good job of keeping in touch with them, and he even has a golf trip planned with some of his favorite Bay Area friends coming up soon. While Dave’s job is not necessarily related to living in Charlotte, I would say that the situation he is in is an upgrade, even if it’s not at all easy.

Birthday cake for Dave by A Lady Goes WestBirthday cake for Dave by A Lady Goes WestBirthday cake for Dave by A Lady Goes West

Now on to me. So many things to say here! Of course, my primary job is to take care of Brady, and my secondary job is this blog. I could do this blog from anywhere, so that hasn’t changed. But I will say when I tell people here that I’m a blogger, they are not sure what I’m talking about. Whereas, in San Francisco, people seemed to have a better understanding of the blogging thing. So now, mostly, I just tell people I’m a writer, which is what blogging really is in my heart anyhow. But my blogging has remained the same, so that doesn’t change based on where we live. 

A Lady Goes West advice column number three by A Lady Goes West

But the thing that has changed significantly is my work in the gym. Most of you know this story, but once we decided we were moving to Charlotte, I set my sights on getting a job at Life Time. When I first reached out to the group fitness manager, she let me know they weren’t really hiring, but she would meet with me anyhow just to see. Well, she met with me, and she hired me. And then she told me it would be hard for me to get a class on the schedule. But a few days later, she gave me a class right away (oh how the stars aligned for me!). And then she gave me another. And another. And now I’m teaching five regular classes a week, usually subbing one or two extra a month as well. I can’t say enough good things about Life Time. It’s an amazing place to work, because I feel like they really care about me, and I matter to them and to the team (and I didn’t get that from my previous gym at all). I put so much time into creating the workouts that I share in my classes (way more than I ever did before), and I feel like it’s worth every minute I spend. I literally LOVE what I do.

Ashley after teaching Barbell by A Lady Goes West

While I will always love Les Mills workouts, I have to admit that I don’t miss teaching them as much as I thought I would. But I will always try to make time for them on Les Mills+ (formerly Les Mills On Demand), because they are so good. But I’m so proud of myself to have evolved to where I’m creating my workouts from scratch, and I’ve learned so much and improved so much as an instructor over the last year.

And that’s just the teaching part. I also do a lot of other stuff at Life Time. I’ve been taking my tennis lessons there, which is something I’ve wanted to start up for forever, and I’ve now been doing it weekly for two months. I also work there most mornings after I shower up from teaching, so it’s like my satellite office.

Barre and Bubbles event by A Lady Goes West

And also, I bring Brady with me to the gym a lot of times, and he takes yoga, ballet, tumbling, art and soccer regularly, and he has also been taking small-group swimming lessons weekly for several months. We are at Life Time all the time, and it’s absolutely a huge part of our lives. I couldn’t be more grateful that it worked out that I got a job there and we have it as a place to spend time doing really good activities for us.

This portion is one of the biggest upgrades for us. Also, Dave will be becoming a Life Time member in the next few weeks, so we expect him to start joining us a lot more too.

(Finally, for my East Bay folks, rumor has it that a Life Time may be developed in Walnut Creek, so look out for that and jump on it right away.) Major, major, major upgrade.

The weather in Charlotte and all four seasons.

Depending on the season, I will tell you I love the weather in Charlotte or I hate it. We do get all four seasons here, and I like the variety of that. However, the summer is a little hot and sticky. Okay, the summer is really hot and sticky.

Even though I grew up in Florida with hot, humid weather much of the year, I don’t like humidity or really hot days. The spring, fall and winter in Charlotte are great. You would not believe the beauty of spring and fall in our area — the moderate weather, the beautiful flowers or colorful leaves — it’s completely gorgeous. And we even got some snow in the winter, so that was fun. 

But summer gets rough, and when you step outside at 8:30 a.m. you can cut through the thick steamy air with a knife. That’s not good for my frizzy hair, I’ll tell you that. But, it’s only a few months, and it also means we get to hang outside at the pool and get long days, so I guess it’s fine. 

Family at pool by A Lady Goes West

The weather in the Bay Area was okay, and it was totally different depending on exactly where you lived. You would never believe the temperature change from driving just five miles away. I didn’t mind much of the year, but the summer got really hot and dry. We had some days of 110 degrees in Pleasant Hill, and it was incredibly dry. I would probably take the dry over the humidity, but I would prefer the rest of the year in Charlotte with true seasons.

One more thing to mention here is air quality. Our last three years of living in the Bay Area had many days of poor air quality from smoke and other environmental issues, and a lot of days, you weren’t supposed to go outside. Not fun. That’s not at all the case here, and we breathe beautifully fresh air every single day. And that’s something I like not having to worry about, you know?

16 Family holiday photos 2021 by A Lady Goes West

This is the first place I’ve ever lived that gets a real spring and a real fall, and I’m so into the seasons. Concluding thoughts on the weather: I’m not a huge fan of heat in any place, and the Charlotte summers are rough, but the rest of the year makes it totally worth it. Did I mention it snowed? Major upgrade.

All about Brady.

Brady loves it here. He likes our house. He likes his school. He likes going to Life Time. He likes our neighborhood park and pool. He’s a happy guy. I’m sure he would have been happy in California, but he’s a big fan of having family and friends visit us, and we’ve had a lot more of that going on here regularly. And based on how family friendly everything is here in Charlotte and everything we get to do with him, I’d say it’s better for him. Major upgrade.

Move from California to North Carolina by A Lady Goes West

Let’s get to some other comparisons that are worth sharing about when you move from California to North Carolina …

A few other reflections on things you notice when you move from California to North Carolina:

This is actually a list comparing the San Francisco Bay Area to the Charlotte area specifically, but from what I know about the state, I think there can be some generalizations state-wide like you’d see with a move from California to North Carolina.

(CON) There are a lot of bugs here in Charlotte. Strangely enough, California doesn’t have a lot of bugs, certainly not the annoying kind that bother you when you are outside. But here, there are mosquitoes and other pests. When we sit outside at night, we stay in our screened-in porch here, which we didn’t need to do in California. I don’t think I got a single bug bite during eight years in California, but here, whenever I’m outside (especially at night) for a long amount of time, I get little bites and so does Brady. It’s a little bit of a downer to have bugs, but it’s manageable. 

Charlotte patio by A Lady Goes West

(CON) The produce is not as good year-round in Charlotte. We had the best produce in California. All the fruits and veggies were delicious for much of the year. We’ve found that during the winter here in Charlotte, it was hard to find good avocados, and we eat those a lot, so it really stuck out in our minds. Also, the bananas and blueberries don’t always taste as good here. I’m still shopping at the same stores (mostly Whole Foods and Sprouts), but the produce has not been as good for the full year. We’re already noticing some things are improving now that we’re in spring. Once again, not the end of the world, but I’m here to report the real stuff, whether it’s significant or not.

(PRO) The taxes are better in Charlotte. Not much to say on this point, but as someone who makes most of their income working for themself, taxes are a big pain. We pay a little bit less now that we live here in Charlotte, because the North Carolina state taxes are lower. Love that.

(NEUTRAL) Generally speaking, it seems like people have more kids and bigger families here in Charlotte. This is a huge generalization, so don’t shoot me. But it was rare to find a lot of families in the Bay Area with more than two kids. Sure, there were some, but it wasn’t the norm to have a larger family. I think a lot of that is because of the cost of living, but here, a lot of people have multiple children. This is totally cool and fine and not a big deal, nor something that affects us at all, even though we are a single-child household. But at first, it was surprising to me how so many people I met had three kids or more. Also, it seems like the most popular cars are the Tahoe, Denali and Escalade, because all these big families need big cars. Silly point, but as always, I’m here to report it like I see it.

January 2022 snow day in Charlotte by A Lady Goes West

(PRO) The traffic here is different, and overall, it’s better, but there are some quirks. The highways and interstates here are not as big as they are in California. And even when things get backed up in Charlotte during rush hour, it just moves faster. I don’t think the traffic is bad here, although there are always a lot of cars on the road. But there’s constant construction on the major highways, and that’s a big pain. One thing that’s really strange about Charlotte is that there are so many really bad left-hand turns without turn signals. I often find myself at a busy intersection needing to make a left turn, and there’s no light for the turn, and so I just have to wait for the right time, and wait, and wait. It’s so bizarre, and I wonder if anyone else ever notices this? I think we need more lights. Overall, we don’t spend as much time in traffic here as we did in the Bay Area, and that’s a major plus. Dave’s drive to his new office is 20 minutes, whereas his drive to his San Francisco office sometimes took 90 minutes. Yuck.

(CON) The food, in general, is not as good. Whenever I meet someone else who moved from California to Charlotte, we always end up talking about the food. I’ve already mentioned the produce, but the food at restaurants is also not as good either. We have found a handful of good spots that we like and frequent, but overall, you can’t count on a restaurant having really good food. I wouldn’t call myself a food snob, and I really only eat out maybe once a week, but this had to be mentioned. If you move from a foodie area, you will be disappointed often, satisfied sometimes and wowed rarely. Real talk. Also, the food item I miss the most from the Bay Area is the avocado and quinoa salad from Mendocino Farms. I dream about it. I’ve thought about contacting Mendocino Farms directly to beg them to open in south Charlotte, but I haven’t taken that step yet.

Eating at Yafo by A Lady Goes West

(CON with a small PRO) It’s not as easy to get an Uber whenever you want. Okay, so this may not be a big deal to most people, but we used to use Ubers all the time to get places, especially at night, just for safety purposes and for convenience of not having to find parking wherever we went. Well, we found out the hard way that you can’t get an Uber anytime you want here in Charlotte, especially in south Charlotte, where we are. You have to wait a while or you have to pre-schedule (which costs a lot more). However, as far as proximity, it sure is nice to be able to drive to downtown Charlotte, which is called Uptown, in a bit more than 20 minutes most days. We always encountered traffic getting into San Francisco, and we can often get to Uptown with no slowdowns. Once again, some good and some bad.

(CON) In Charlotte, you have to drive a bit further to get to elevation or scenic places. Something that I totally took for granted about living in the Bay Area is that you can get to some incredibly scenic places in just a short amount of time. And I mean incredibly scenic. We could go to the redwoods, we could go to the rocky Pacific coast, and we could go to the Golden Gate Bridge at any time. Here, we don’t have as many scenic spots nearby at all. I do miss popping out for a quick hike just five minutes from our house, and that’s not possible here. Overall, Charlotte is not as scenic as many of the places in the Bay Area. We don’t have mountains in view in our backyard, and we can’t hike beautiful hills whenever we want, but … quite frankly, we don’t need these things in our everyday life now, so we make do. We’ve only just scratched the surface of exploring the Charlotte area and the mountains around us too, so we may find that they are actually quite lovely, even if it takes a bit longer to get to them. We did go to one mountain area (Chimney Rock), and it was cool, but the view from the top truly paled in comparison to what you’d get in California. No big deal though.

Ashley at Chimney Rock by A Lady Goes West

That concludes my list. We’re almost there …

Overall thoughts on living in Charlotte and making a big move from California to North Carolina 

Someone told us when we first moved here that “Charlotte is not the best at anything, but it’s really good at almost everything.” I can’t think of a better way to put it. While we’re not in the coolest part of the nation any longer, we’re in a place that has everything we need to have a great quality of life. The things that we miss about Bay Area living were perks, but they are not things that affect us in our everyday existence, and I don’t miss nearly as much as I thought I would about California living. I truly love it here, and I’ve become one of Charlotte’s biggest fans. For real.

While I wasn’t sure if we would regret this move, I can say with 100 percent certainty that all four of us (Brady and Rudy included) are incredibly happy with our new life back on the East Coast and here in Charlotte. Once again, it was worth the big cross-country trek, and had we never made it, we would not have known how good it could get for us and our family life.

We will continue to build our lives here, and we will continue to be grateful for you sharing in that with us. And congratulations, because you made it through this super-long post.

I would so appreciate if you’d follow me on Instagram and engage with my posts over there too.

Thank YOU for being here to read about our first 14 months in Charlotte and what it’s like to move from California to North Carolina. Have a great day! 🙂

P.S. If you made it this far and want an even more updated post, check out this one about our first two years of living in Charlotte.

Other posts you may like …

Questions of the day

When was the last time you moved?

Have you ever thought about moving?

What’s the best place you’ve ever lived?

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  1. Loved reading this post! As someone who also lived in SF and then moved (first to Portland and now to MD), I feel a lot of these things. I miss a lot of the “cool” things about the west coast but also there are so many pros to living on the east coast and closer to family. I sometimes feel conflicted about the move but know it was the right thing for us at this season of our lives. Also this post definitely has me wanting to join (or teach at) Lifetime and I’m going for a tour next week!

    1. Amanda! You will LOVEEEE Life Time, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. I wish we had been friends when we were both in SF — so funny that we only ended up meeting in person once, right before you left. 🙂 Happy you guys are enjoying your life back on the East Coast, friend!

  2. This was a fun read! Just out of interest, was Charlotte the only place you considered moving or were there others? I think it’s awesome your family made such a big move – it couldn’t have been easy but just so happy it worked out! Also love the new design!

    1. Hi Shelby! It’s so crazy how it worked out — we had always discussed Charlotte as a place that sounded right for us, being a somewhat larger city, being in the South, but not too south, and that’s really all that we knew. We had only visited once for like 36 hours before deciding to move here. We hadn’t considered anywhere else. It was not our most researched decision, but darn, did it work out! 🙂

  3. Great post! We were about a few months ahead of you when we moved to South Charlotte so I can relate to many of your points. The left hand turns haha, the lack of street lights yes! I drive further down a parking lot when I know there is a light and I won’t have to wait. Lol The bugs in the south can get pretty scary and I’ve seen things here that I never had before (we’re from Chicago). All in all we love it here and have made great friends in our short time. We love that we can drive to the mountains/beach, visit places like FL and still be a short flight away from our families. Glad you guys are happy here too!

    1. Yes, Joanna! It does seem like we are on similar paths here in our Charlotte journeys. I’m so glad you are happy, and glad you agree with most of my points, having moved from a larger city yourself. Have a wonderful week, friend! Steer clear of those tough left-hand turns!

  4. I agree with the Charlotte quote. It’s not amazing at any one thing and it doesn’t have a huge identity/culture as any one thing, but it is a nice place to live still. It has definitely grown on me. I love the blog redesign!

    1. Everyone who lives in Charlotte has approved of that quote — I can’t even remember who said it to us, but I think it was a neighbor, and it’s truly stood out to me since. I’m so happy you like living in Charlotte, and I’m happy you like the blog design. Thank you for reading, Sarah! 🙂

  5. I read this blog because as a life-long Californian, I decided to move to NC as a climate change refugee, escaping the wildfires. One thing you don’t mention is NC politics and being in the South. I was hoping for more in-depth observations about the different political climate in NC in contrast to a more progressive California. I love it here in NC, but I struggle with the conservatism and white Baptist take on things and lack of diversity, so it’s not perfect.

    1. Hello GL. I’m glad that you love it in NC. As far as your comment, I’m sorry you didn’t get what you were looking for out of this blog post. However, it is merely my reflections and experiences living in Charlotte, and of course, it won’t be the same for everyone — also, as I mentioned in the post, I’m not an expert on the area, and I couldn’t possibly cover everything. I do believe our immediate surroundings and predispositions make us assess things differently as well. I was born and raised in Southwest Florida, so to me, I don’t consider Charlotte as conservative as what I’ve experienced before. But yes — it’s a no brainer that North Carolina is NOT as progressive as California — that’s not a question at all and thus, I didn’t even mention it. I was prepared for that, and I wouldn’t call it a perk, and I also would rather not get into nitty gritty politics on this site, as it’s mostly about healthy living and lifting people up. You said that you struggle with the lack of diversity, but I haven’t really found that to be the case where I am, but it may be where you are. My street in South Charlotte is quite diverse and multicultural — more so than my street in the East Bay, actually. I certainly don’t have the same political views as many people around here (I’m not conservative), but I haven’t found that anyone is pushing their views on me (but I also haven’t lived here through a presidential election). In addition, my personal friendship group here in Charlotte is full of various religions and political views and it really wasn’t in California — so once again, all of our experiences are different depending on our unique circumstances. I’ve written an even more updated post on living in Charlotte after two years, and I believe I continue to give it a fair assessment, pointing out both the flaws and perks, just as I did in this post. You can find that most recent post here: Best of luck to you as you continue to navigate living in a new (and different) state.

  6. Welcome,
    Charlotte is my home town. Nice to receive a decent review.
    We once grew our own veggies . Not avocados., nor oranges. We grew I call typical , corn , okra , tomatoes, peas, squash, and pumpkins. I decided to again after moving to the mountains.
    I love the salads I create. Sumptuous straight from my garden. My husband had never done this. Town boy.
    He was amazed!

    Glad you enjoy the seasons. Fall and spring are the tops. I agree. Once the summers were not near this hot. Long ago, no such number as air conditioning. Things have changed. Why I’m in the mountains.
    No air conditioning needed.
    I love opening windows.

    Have a great week end !
    Boone , blowing rock and Jefferson are cool in the summer. Banner elk.
    Though no avocados except store bought.


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