EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Union County, NC

Photos taken from Union County, NC

EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Union County, NC  

Do you love horses? Union County, North Carolina, might be the ideal place for you to live. It has the highest horse population in North Carolina. How about a preference for wide-open spaces and a rural lifestyle? This county was built on abundant natural resources with large areas untouched by urban development. At the same time, residents live near a major metropolitan area, the financial hub of Charlotte. 

What you'll find in Union County is a unique blend of a rural lifestyle with modern amenities. Explore the Union County profile to get a glimpse of what life is like here.

About Union County

Located in the North Carolina Piedmont region, Union County's claim to fame is its rural lifestyle. Around 46% of the land here has a farm designation. This means vast land tracts are virtually untouched by urban development. In 2019, the county was the number one producer in the state for wheat and soybeans, and third overall in grain crops. Drive around, and you'll see many horse barns and pastureland. 

Union County borders Mecklenburg County and the metropolitan destination Charlotte, a large city with over 850,000 residents. Access to Mecklenburg and Charlotte is provided along the I-485 beltway, which touches the Union County line and is accessible from the Monroe Expressway. Residents can quickly reach the city's urban amenities while enjoying the more relaxed pace of life available in Union's suburban areas and small towns.   

Rolling hills dotted with lakes and agricultural fields make up the landscape. The Rocky River on the north and Six Mile Creek to the west wind along the border. Other counties surrounding Union County are Anson, Cabarrus, and Stanly Counties in North Carolina and Chesterfield and Lancaster Counties in South Carolina. 

Based on the cost of living index, which places the United States average at 100, the overall cost of living in Union County is 101.5. The lowest cost of living index category was groceries, while the most expensive was health care. However, all these categories were relatively balanced, scoring within a 4-point spread and close to the national measure of 100.

Union County History

The Waxhaw and Catawba Native Americans were the first to live in modern Union County. Early surveyors noted the presence of the tribes and their lifestyle practices. An epidemic had reduced their numbers by the time European settlers immigrated into the area.

Union County was formed in 1842 from Anson and Mecklenburg counties. The name originated as a compromise from a political dispute between local Whigs and Democrats. Centrally located Monroe was established as its county seat.

US President Andrew Jackson was born in Waxhaws near the North Carolina and South Carolina border. Both states lay claim to his birthplace, but Union County has the Museum of the Waxhaws and Andrew Jackson Memorial.

The closest involvement to a skirmish in Union soil was the Battle of Waxhaws during the American Revolution in 1780. No reported battles or skirmishes took place here during the American Civil War.

The US Army set up a temporary training camp during World War II near Monroe. Camp Sutton was the training facility for the 1st Tank Destroyer Group and served as a staging area for the 1942 Carolina Maneuvers. The camp closed in 1945 but left behind important infrastructure for Monroe's development.

Since its founding, agriculture has been essential to the area's economy. At the same time, it has benefited from its proximity to Charlotte through the 20th century. Union has a strong business and industrial economy. 

Union County was the birthplace of country music star Randy Travis.

Union County Cities and Areas

Union County is primarily agricultural, but it still offers many metropolitan conveniences like a commuter airport, shopping malls, and access to Charlotte. The unincorporated towns and villages sprinkled around the county offer a small-town feel. Many of these towns are continuing to grow and develop. 

Monroe is the county seat and the hub of local government, culture, and industry. Monroe's large historic district is spearheaded by a revitalized downtown that is increasing business growth and visitor traffic. The town hosts several events throughout the year. It also has served as the backdrop for film crews using the historic Union County courthouse and its charming Main Street in major motion pictures, such as the web series "Funny for the Life of Me" and the adaption of Judy Blume's "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

Indian Trail is the largest municipality in Union County. Family Circle Magazine named it a "Top 10 Best Place For Families," "The Most Affordable Place in North Carolina," and a "Great Place For Healthy Living." Indian Trail is a planned and developing community centered around neighborhoods, substantial green spaces, quality education, and affordable living. The town hosts activities throughout the year. It's the closest town to Mecklenburg County.  

Mineral Springs is a more recently incorporated town located between Waxhaw and Monroe. While its history dates back to the 18th century, it remains mostly a rural community where residents maintain their farms and provide pasture land for horses. The Queen's Cup, a nationally recognized steeplechase event, takes place in Mineral Springs on the last Saturday of every April. 

Unionville is another notable small town with around 6,000 residents, and it's located just north of county seat Monroe.

Waxhaw is just 20 minutes from south Charlotte and three miles from the South Carolina state line. It is one of Union County's oldest towns and takes its name from the Native American tribes that once inhabited the area. Its Waxhaw Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 17,000 people call Waxhaw home, but it is still dedicated to maintaining its small-town charm.

Weddington is in the northeastern corner of Union County, about 15 miles southeast of Charlotte. It has around 10,000 residents, and it is primarily residential and suburban. A small percentage of the acres in Weddington is allocated for commercial zoning.

Other towns and unincorporated communities include Fairview, Matthews, Wingate, Stallings, Mint Hill, Marshville, and Hemby bridge. Many date back to the late 1700s or early 1800s.

Union County Population Growth

Union County is a fast-growing area in North Carolina. From 2000 to 2010, the Census Bureau ranked Union County the 16th fastest growing county in the country by the percentage of population increase. For the 2020 census, there were 238,267 residents, a 15.5% increase from 2010.

The average age of a resident has reached 38. The county's average age has been slowly increasing. A large number of residents are aged between 0-17 and 45-64. Around 71% of residents identify as white alone, 12% identify as African American, and 12% identify as Hispanic or Latino. Of the people 25 years and older, 35% hold a bachelor's degree or higher. About 90% have graduated high school. The median household income from 2015 to 2019 was $80,033.

Indian Trail had the most residents in 2019, a reported 38,177. Monroe was next with 34,725. The third most populated area was part of Stallings (shared border), with 15,286 residents.

Union County Education

The Union County Public Schools is North Carolina's sixth-largest public school system, serving over 41,000 students. It employs 5,000 people, making it one of the largest employers. The UCPS has a 93% graduation rate. 

Across its 53 schools, it offers specialized programs such as dual language, STEM, and specialized academies in career and technical education. Some specialized options available include the Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts, the Marvin Ridge High International Baccalaureate program, Union County Early College, Central Academy Of Technology and Arts, Monroe Middle Schools Health Sciences Academy, and East Union Middle AgTech Academy. In total, Union County has 30 elementary, ten middle, 12 high, and three special-purpose schools.

Union County also has 14 private schools for K12 education. Top-ranked private schools include Thales Academy Waxhaw for K-7, Weddington Christian Academy, and Metrolina Christian Academy. About 57% of the private schools are religiously affiliated.

For higher education, one option is South Piedmont Community College. It enrolls around 10,000 students annually and offers 12 areas of study. These programs include associate's degrees, transfer programs, and certificates.  

Wingate University is a small independent university that enrolls around 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. US News and World Report has ranked it a Top 20 Best Value University in the South. It has 35 undergraduate programs, ten pre-professional programs, and 11 graduate degrees, both masters and doctoral. Popular undergraduate majors are nursing, biology, psychology, sport management, human services, management, and criminal justice. Four doctoral degrees are in education, pharmacy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

Union County Health Care

In Monroe, residents have the Carolinas Medical Center-Union, Novant Health Medical Plaza, and several medical offices and specialists to provide high-end medical care. 

CHS-Union is a 175-bed facility that offers outpatient surgery, cancer treatment, long-term care, obstetric care, and specialty clinics. 

Just over the Union County border near Stallings and Indian Trail is the Novant Health Matthews Medical Center. This facility offers a wide range of health services such as maternity, cardiovascular, cancer care, surgery, intensive care, and an emergency department.

Charlotte's highly ranked facilities are a 20-30 drive away for further specialized care and medical choices.

Union County Things To Do

In Union County, you'll find lots of outdoor recreation opportunities, festivals, and events to keep you busy all year. The towns here work hard to provide a sense of community. For example, Indian Trail hosts "Hits After Six," a free concert series at Crossing Paths Park. 

Horse culture is prevalent here, with Mineral Springs hosting the Queen's Cup Steeplechase, one of steeplechase horse racing's major annual events. It is always held on the last Saturday of April. Drive around, and you'll see plenty of horse farms and facilities offering boarding and training.

Marshville hosts the Boll Weevil Festival, an annual street carnival that happens in the fall.

A popular annual event is Warbirds over Monroe, hosted at the Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport. Historical and military planes take to the skies in one of the southeast's largest aviation events. It typically occurs at the beginning of November and is a highlight of the year.  

Beach, Blues, and Barbecue is a May weekend event featuring the best North Carolina barbecue. The BBQ competition is fierce, but the festival is complemented by events such as a 5K run. Run, enjoy live music and fill up on delicious North Carolina-que.

Union County Local Attractions

The Extreme Ice Center is a popular indoor multipurpose winter sports facility in Indian Trail. Hit the ice for skating, hockey, curling, and ballet, or sign the family up for its various camps.

Several museums and monuments are scattered around Union County. For example, the Museum of the Alphabet traces the history of the world's alphabet from cuneiform to tonal languages to Native American language syllabaries. Learn about all kinds of writing systems.

At the Museum of the Waxhaws, get a taste of 19th-century life. The museum has a homestead, garden, and exhibits, and it offers demonstrations of techniques used in the past. Waxhaw also has walking or cycling tours through its historic downtown area.

Try the recently renovated Dowd Center Theater on South Main Street in historic downtown Monroe if you're looking for cultural entertainment. It first opened in the 1940s. Today, the 560-seat theater will be a focal point for classic and art-house cinema, live shows, and community events. 

A popular park is Cane Creek Park, a family-oriented recreation space with a 300-acre lake. It has a forested area right on the lakefront and a lifeguarded beach. You can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, or hiking at the park. 

Golfing enthusiasts will appreciate the Stonebridge Golf Club and its 18-hole championship golf course. It was designed by architect Richard B. Osborne, known for his naturalist style that incorporates the environment into his courses.

Agritourism is a big attractor in the Union County area. Several vineyards offer tours or tastings throughout the year. Hilton Vineyard, a family-run business in Mineral Springs, has received the Charlotte Observer's People's Choice award for best tasting wine. Treehouse Vineyards is another family-owned and operated vineyard on a former 200-year-old farm. 

For the family, try Aw Shucks Farms. They frequently host concerts on their outdoor stage, plus run bonfires, a haunted trail, corn maze, and an animal barn. Why Not An American Ark is a 125-acre farm that combines a horse-riding school with a petting zoo. They also have a five-level cross-country course for all levels of riders. 

Union County Dining

Throughout Union County, you will find local restaurants that embrace the bounty of the local farms. Many chefs draw from the area's southern roots and heritage. Try the local breweries, vineyards, and farm-to-table restaurants. Here's a taste of what you can find in Union County:

  • Nellie's Southern Kitchen has a unique atmosphere featuring live music on weekends and locally sourced fresh prepared food
  • Cork And Ale on Monroe's Main Street serves craft beers and wines
  • The Franklin Court Grill is a family-owned and operated restaurant in the historic downtown area that makes everything from scratch
  • The Smoke Pit is a local favorite for BBQ, sides, and service
  • The Trail House offers American comfort cuisine with outdoor seating
  • Hilltop Fish Fair And Steakhouse is a more upscale place with fresh fish and steaks

Union County Shopping

When it comes to finding antiques and vintage items, Union County has you covered. Monroe is known for its several large and popular antique markets, such as Ian Henderson's Antique Market and the Sweet Union Flea Market. The latter has over 300 vendors in outdoor and indoor climate-controlled spaces.

Visit the Union County's Farmer Market to get fresh seasonal produce and other locally made goods. It runs every Saturday in Monroe.

In Indian Trail, residents have many modern retail chains and boutique stores. The Sun Valley Entertainment District includes a range of dining and shopping options within walking distance of each other.

Living in Union County

Set up your home in Union County and enjoy a place where you can still be in touch with nature yet have access to all of our modern conveniences. You will enjoy the area's abundant natural resources and access to some of the freshest produce. The lifestyle here is in line with the national average, and your family has access to quality education opportunities. Overall, Union County is a great place to live.

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