Having worked in Contra Costa Co., Berkeley and Marin for several years, I know the feel you are describing. Charlotte's uptown is vibrant and definitely active at night. This is where I would start. it is a relatively small size and will remain so since it is bounded by the 277 inner loop. There are some very upscale residences and a lot of diversity of activity uptown. Almost no charlotte zoning allows for mixed use businesses and most of this is uptown or in older sections of town. Each of the four uptown quadrants or wards has a different feel. Although there are some single family residences, and large townhomes suitable for families, there are probably more young professionals and some retirees than families. If you don't find what you want Uptown, the older residences and mix of walkable businesses, restaurants and parks that make Walnut Creek charming, are found in close-in neighborhoods like Dilworth, Myers Park, South Park or Elizabeth. Examples of homes in these areas follow: http://goo.gl/2WTPD
You will also find upscale at Lake Norman http://goo.gl/3Wp51 but more larger homes and fewer of the shops, bistros, , movie theatre etc? Where you go will ultimately depend on your budget. If it is not quite enough for these areas, you may be looking in Plaza-Midwood, Selwyn, possibly Ballantyne, Blakeney, Cotswold, NoDa, and a few other pockets, although these will have trade-offs. If you have a full time agent with a Masters degree in Planning with Finance and over two decades of experience, working for you, you will likely do better in negotiations. I'd be pleased to provide that service. If you appreciate this answer, please give it a thumbs up, or if this was the most helpful answer, please say thanks with a best answer click.
I would be happy to help you find that perfect community! It is much easier to talk about this over the phone or via email so please feel free to give me a call to discuss your options further. I would love to have the opportunity to help you!
Mary Beth Thomas
Keller Williams Realty
Email or call me directly so we can communicate that way! Depending on your home requirements (size, budget, style, etc), I will be able to help direct you to the areas that may best suit your needs!
It wouldn't cost you anything to use me as a buyer and I work with relocations regularly.
Though I am neither a broker nor agent, I completely understand the question you are asking and would be happy to offer some guidance as to where to look. I have just purchased a home in Charlotte (we currently live overseas but have family who have transplanted there in the not too distant past) and we were looking for the exact qualities you've mentioned in your post. Though it doesn't exist in abundance, it does exist.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you'd like to hear our opinions in regard to Charlotte, it's neighborhoods/districts and what to expect. And I'd be happy to put you in touch with a few locals who would be of similar mind.
You'll find that many of us are from the Bay Area. One sister lives in Walnut Creek, the other in Castro Valley and my parents live at Stanford. Are you committed to Charlotte? I've been living in Chapel Hill 19 years and if I were moving here when I was single, I'd move to Durham. It is the hot area in the Triangle that appeals to your professionals, people interested in the arts, and has a very vibrant restaurant scene. There are new local breweries that don't constitute a bar scene if that is something that interests you.
I'm going to say some things that other people might find snobby or offensive--I hope I don't put you or anyone else off. Charlotte is banking and fairly conservative. The Triangle is hi-tech, health care and education and far more liberal.
You might also look at Cary or downtown Raleigh, though I don't know those areas as well.
You've gotten a lot of great responses here for Charlotte. If you would want to explore living in the Triangle, I'd be delighted to talk with you...though not until I'm back from my vacation in Turkey. i am available by email. Whatever you decide to do, it is an exciting new venture--I hope you have fun.
Charlotte is a fun city with great people. You need to come for a visit and check us out!
Also, we are only a few hours to Asheville and a short trip to the beaches of NC. The area has a lot to offer.