It takes a little homework, check out the area you would like to live, what is important in your search for your own home. What kind of activities do you require? In town you would not find a large apartment, condos, much less a single family home as you normally would further away from the city. How far do you want to commute? Ask your friends , what is their opinion and do like to live close by? How big of a mortgage do you want?
If you rent then you do not get the benefits of a homeownership, if you rent to buy the deal could cost you more money. If you are planning to buy before December 1st 2009, you can take advantage of the 1st time homebuyer program of $8000.
If you are ready to buy, but have lot's of questions it's best to sit down with a Realtor. On the other hand if buying is still some time off in the future, then I would check out the areas that appeal to you.
If you would like to check out these neighborhoods take a look at them on our neighborhood blog, http://www.HipHoods.com. There are videos and lots of info on prices, and neighborhood events.
To be in the center of everything it will depend on what "Everything" is. However, if it were me, I would be looking in south Charlotte close to Uptown Charlotte. Whether it is great restaurants, shopping, health food stores, entertainment including arts and sports - you can find it either Uptown or in South Charlotte.
Again, if it were me, I would buy vs. rent because prices are great, there are a lot of motivated sellers who might be willing to pay for some or all of your closing costs. Combine that with low interest rates and great loan programs, it would be better to buy than rent.
A Realtor can help you find the area that is either in or near the "Everything" you want to enjoy. Plus their expertise is important in helping you not only buy a house but getting through the buying process. Let me know if I can help!