Charlotte is the center of the nation’s 18th-largest urban area, with more than 7.1 million people residing within 100 miles of Uptown. As Charlotte has grown and prospered, so have nearby cities and counties. While in some respects they blend together as one metro area, in many ways each city and county retains its distinctive flavor.
More than 170,000 people live in Cabarrus, which is just 20 miles northeast of Uptown Charlotte and is easily accessible by I-85. Concord, the county seat, is one of the state’s fastest-growing cities, with a population of 71,000. Concord is a major tourist destination with Concord Mills and Lowe’s Motor Speedway located just a few miles apart off I-85 exit 49. Kannapolis, with a population of nearly 40,500, was built by Charles Cannon in 1887. Once home to the historic Cannon Mills, it is now a center of biotech research and development as home to the N.C. Research Campus. Cabarrus offers plenty for residents and visitors to enjoy. Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site in Stanfield commemorates the first gold discovery in North Carolina in 1799. Other attractions include Cannon Village, the Bost Grist Mill, Historic Downtown Concord’s Shopping District and Memorial Gardens.
Just west of Mecklenburg County is Gaston County, known for its history in the textile production and trucking industries. More than 206,000 people live in Gaston County, with 69,000 in its largest city, Gastonia. The county’s public school system is the seventhlargest in North Carolina. The county celebrates its heritage through a variety of museums, including the Gaston County Museum of Art and History in the original county seat of Dallas, the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia and the C. Grier Beam Truck Museum in Cherryville. The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont is becoming a major tourist attraction. Gaston County is also home to Belmont Abbey College and the popular holiday tradition of the McAdenville Christmas lights. Each December the village lines its main streets with thousands of colored lights. Visitors come from throughout the region to enjoy the extravaganza.
More than 151,000 people live in Iredell County. More than 26,000 of them live in Statesville, the county seat and largest town. The greater Statesville area, at the intersection of I-40 and I-77, is home to a diverse range of industries, including plastics, transportation equipment, metal working and distribution. Mooresville, 30 minutes north of Charlotte, is conveniently near Lake Norman on I-77. That location explains why the town’s population grew more than 56 percent since 2000, to more than 29,000 residents. Mooresville is home to several NASCAR race teams and related companies and calls itself “Race City, U.S.A.”
Lancaster County, S.C.
Covering 549 square miles, Lancaster County is 35 miles south of Charlotte. The county, which has an estimated population of more than 70,000, includes Lancaster, Kershaw, Heath Springs and eight townships. The fastest growing area is Indian Land, which is becoming a Charlotte bedroom community. Andrew Jackson State Park, nine miles north of Lancaster, offers 360 acres of camping, boating, fishing and hiking.
Northwest of Mecklenburg County, also on the shores of Lake Norman, is Lincoln County. Because of its location on the western side of the lake, Lincoln County is becoming a hot spot for those who prefer more secluded lakeside living. The county has a population of about 76,000, with Lincolnton, the county seat and largest town, accounting for 10,000 residents. The town has several industries and many historic structures. It also is home to the Lincoln Theatre Guild and the Lincolnton Apple Festival, which draws around 80,000 visitors each year. Denver, located in eastern Lincoln County, rests on the western shores of Lake Norman. Denver is a straight shot from Charlotte on N.C. Highway 16, making it easy for office workers to escape to the lake’s charms at day’s end.
Agriculture and manufacturing are important industries in the state’s fastestgrowing county, just southeast of Charlotte. Farms producing livestock, corn, soybeans and cotton exist in harmony with plants turning out textiles, electrical equipment and pharmaceutical capsules. Monroe, named for the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe, is home to more than 40,000 of the county’s 200,000 residents. Waxhaw, at N.C. 16 and N.C. 75, features numerous antique shops. Weddington, on the edge of Mecklenburg County, has become a prosperous suburb of Charlotte. Wingate University, nationally renowned for its international programs, is in Wingate and draws high-powered visitors thanks to the Jesse Helms Library located there.
York County, S.C.
With more than 220,000 people, York County continues to attract newcomers to its South Carolina suburbs. As a result, the city of Rock Hill, with more than 63,000 residents, is now South Carolina’s fourth-largest municipality. Just south of the N.C./S.C. border, Fort Mill is the home of Knights Stadium, the 10,000-seat headquarters for the Charlotte Knights, a Triple-A baseball team. With about 10,000 residents, Fort Mill is a high-growth area, particularly with the addition of Baxter Village, which includes singlefamily homes and condominiums as well as Baxter Town Center & Village Shops, a mixed-use development of parks, shops and restaurants. Opportunities for post-secondary education in York County include Winthrop University and York Technical College, which provides technical training and twoyear associate degrees. For a different look at education, visit the Museum of York County, which contains one of the largest displays of African animals and arts in the Southeast. Lake Wylie provides York County plenty of water recreation. Tega Cay, a residential community just west of Fort Mill, boasts 27 holes of championship golf and two waterfront parks.