The best city to live in North Carolina is Raleigh, as it provides residents with a high quality of life and boasts a healthy job market and bustling downtown. Part of the Research Triangle Park area, Raleigh is home to many high-paying tech and medical jobs with employers such as MetLife, Citrix, and RedHat employing thousands of people in the area. Being the State Capital, Raleigh has a lot of history and museums. Raleigh is also home to the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team. Raleigh’s population is 469,124 people, and the median home price is $486,500.
Located just outside of Raleigh, Cary is one of the best suburbs in North Carolina. Cary has a population of 176,987 and is one of the more expensive areas in the state with a median home price of $575,000. Cary is also one of the safest cities in North Carolina and the US, consistently ranking among the top ten safest places nationwide.
Cary is one of the best places to live in NC for families and is considered to be a commuter city, with most residents working in nearby Raleigh or Durham. Cary has taken steps in recent years to revitalize its downtown by adding numerous bars and restaurants.
Wilmington is one of the best places to live on the NC coast. It has a population of 117,643 and is known as an affordable and bustling coastal city. It offers a more cost-effective living option compared to many other communities in the Outer Banks and provides a broader range of job opportunities. The nearby coastal towns of Wrightsville and Oak Island are also considered to be among the best beach towns in North Carolina.
As a thriving seaport city, Wilmington boasts a robust industrial sector, providing ample employment opportunities for permanent residents beyond the tourism industry. The city also has a charming historic district and is conveniently located near Raleigh. Some of Wilmington’s most well-known attractions include the USS North Carolina, a decommissioned historic battleship that has been preserved as a museum.
Durham is another fantastic North Carolina city. It’s home to the renowned Ivy League institution Duke University and consistently ranks as a highly desirable place to live in North Carolina. It competes with nearby Raleigh for top jobs in the technology sector and is a hub for the healthcare industry. The city is often referred to as the “City of Medicine” because it has over 300 medical-related companies, including the highly regarded Duke University. These factors make healthcare a vital source of employment and a valuable amenity for residents.
Charlotte is the financial headquarters for several banks and with a population of 879,709. It is also North Carolina’s largest city. Aside from banking, healthcare, and technology are booming employment sectors. Charlotte is one of the best North Carolina cities to live in for young professionals and families. It's also a great place to retire due to the excellent local healthcare.
Charlotte is home to several professional sports teams, such as the Panthers and the Hornets. Due to Charlotte’s large size, a long commute may be necessary for suburban living. Just outside of Charlotte is the Busch Gardens amusement park, and the Appalachian mountains are a short drive away.
Winston-Salem is one of the best North Carolina cities for families thanks to its affordable housing options and relatively low cost of living. The city also has a strong economy, bolstered by the successful Innovation Quarter business development initiative, which offers a robust job market. In addition to these advantages, Winston-Salem boasts many parks and green spaces for outdoor exercise, as well as numerous opportunities for relaxation, such as Bailey Park.
Greenville is a dynamic college town that boasts East Carolina University and a renowned medical center with state-of-the-art facilities and renowned medical research. This thriving community offers an array of social and cultural activities, including the highly anticipated PirateFest, which takes over multiple city blocks and offers a range of pirate-themed festivities. In addition, Greenville is home to a diverse range of cultural attractions and is just a two-hour drive away from the popular Outer Banks beaches.
Hickory is one of the best places to live in North Carolina on a budget. It’s a cost-effective city located approximately an hour’s drive from both Asheville and Charlotte. The city’s name originates from the Hickory Tavern, an inn established in the 1850s beneath a hickory tree, which eventually gave rise to a thriving community.
In addition to its central location, Hickory offers a family-friendly atmosphere with its modest population, low crime rate, and charming small-town feel. These factors make Hickory an ideal choice for those seeking a more peaceful and secure environment.
Asheville is another one of the best places to live in North Carolina. It’s the premier city in western North Carolina, and it seamlessly blends its rich Appalachian heritage with a vibrant, modern atmosphere and a thriving arts culture. Outdoor enthusiasts will be drawn to the city’s scenic mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, and the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway, especially during the peak fall season. Asheville is also home to the magnificent Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Arboretum.
It is worth noting that Asheville is relatively expensive compared to other North Carolina cities. It boasts some of the state’s highest home prices. However, the relatively low North Carolina state taxes help to mitigate the higher cost of living.
Apex is a charming suburban town located just outside Cary, North Carolina. The downtown part of Apex was designated as a historic district in 1994. It showcases the town’s rich history and heritage, exemplified by the Apex train depot, built in 1867 and designated as a Wake County historic landmark. The town’s name, Apex, is derived from its location as the highest point on the old Chatham Railroad. The establishment of the Research Triangle Park in the 1960s attracted many technology workers, many of whom have made Apex their home.
North Carolina is a diverse state with a variety of geography. Depending on your profession, budget, and interests, there is likely something for everyone in the state. Certain areas like Cary, Charlotte, and Asheville will tend to be more expensive, but other areas like Hickory and Winston Salem may be more affordable. North Carolina doesn’t show any signs of its growth slowing, and people will continue to be attracted to its low cost of living, quality of life, and scenery.