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Where are the best places to live in the state of North Carolina?
Some might say wherever there's a college basketball team, a NASCAR track, a sunny beach, a snowy mountain, great BBQ, or a hoppy crafted beer. When you stumble upon all, you might feel like you've won the North Carolina Lottery.
And, yes, it's possible.
The Tar Heel state takes eight hours to drive from the Outer Banks on its East Coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains on its Western border. You'll never hear a North Carolinian say that they're bored. The eight hour trek unravels the state's rich history around every Tar Heel corner. The Outer Banks has pirate lore and shipwrecks, battles were lost and won in the Piedmont's backyard, and ancient Cherokee stories continue to be told around ceremonial fires in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Craft beer, BBQ, and NASCAR aside, North Carolina has a lot to offer and it is no surprise that the Tar Heel State is the 28th most expensive and the 9th most populous in the U.S. Currently 38% of North Carolinians are college-educated and with top colleges and universities like Duke and UNC, that percentage is sure to increase. Major metropolitan cities like Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte are crushing the tech industry and local business is booming.
So, grab a BBQ sammie, a pint of your favorite craft beer and read on to discover how we determined the best cities in North Carolina.
Here are the 10 best places to live in North Carolina for 2019:
- Cary (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Davidson (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Apex (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Holly Springs (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Pinehurst (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Morrisville (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Chapel Hill (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Elon (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Wake Forest (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Fletcher (Photos | Homes For Sale)
We wish every Tar Heel city could be in the top ten: they're all deserving.
But what city is the best place to live in North Carolina for 2019? Well according to the US Census and FBI data we crunched, Cary is the best place to live in North Carolina if you care about home values, low crime, and a high quality of life.
It's not a surprise that Cary takes the cake. What Cary does not have by way of mountains and beaches, it does make up for with its beautiful neighborhoods, gold star schools, and sweet Carolina BBQ.
Read on to see where to live in North Carolina that will make you feel like you have won the lottery.
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In North Carolina
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
- 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In North Carolina
The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina For 2019
If you don't have a job in Cary, you're most likely not trying very hard. The unemployment rate here is almost as low as you can get -- 4.0%. In fact, there are probably enough butler and landscaping jobs available here to put every single unemployed resident to work, what with a median income of $94,617.
That's actually not a bad idea...
When you're looking at the best places you could live in North Carolina, Davidson came in 2nd. Let's see why.
It has a low unemployment rate and high incomes.
Plus, Davidson has an impressive history for a place of just over 12,076 people. The median home costs a cool $393,300 and households make $109,907 which is good for 3rd in North Carolina.
You might be surprised to see the Town of Apex so high on the list. Unless you live in Apex.
The unemployment rate here is really low, and at 4.7%, Apex residents are some of the hardest working in the state of North Carolina. When you factor in high home prices, high incomes and low crime, Apex is doing quite well.
Let's be honest -- Apex is the kind of place you brag to your friends on Facebook about.
Holly Springs is feeling the love as it ranks as the 4th best city to live in North Carolina for 2019.
It ranked highly because of its high incomes (7th overall) and low crime (3rd overall and one of the best in the top ten).
We think the city should probably change its motto at this point to something like "The Place To Be In North Carolina".
If you live in Pinehurst, you probably know how great it is already.
Pinehurst has a stable economy where residents earn a large salary ($78,338). And the crime is really, really low (1st lowest in North Carolina).
If we could afford to move here, we probably would.
The Town of Morrisville might be a bit of a surprise to some in terms of how well it ranks according to science.
The crime rate in Morrisville isn't amazing, but it's far below the state average. The homes are valued at $291,400 here, and the schools get some of the most funding in North Carolina.
If Morrisville can get some more of their residents to work, things will look even rosier here. The unemployment rate (3.9% is the 8th highest in the state.
The crime is the 26th lowest in the state in Chapel Hill, and there were only 113 violent crimes in the entire city last year. We think it's even safer here than the numbers indicate.
The schools are some of the best in North Carolina, and residents live in very expensive homes. They also earn more than most every other city in the state. Residents in Chapel Hill earn $65,373 a year.
Elon broke into the top ten best places to live in North Carolina on the back of a low unemployment and a quality schools system.
It placed 29th overall for its low unemployment rate and the 6highest median income of any place in our analysis.
However, it only has the 24th shortest average commute time of any place in North Carolina.
Wake Forest had the 31st lowest unemployment of any place in our research (5.7%) and the 33rd lowest crime rate. However, the relative lack of population density and long commute times held it back from being higher on our list.
Wake Forest is home to an exceptional Volunteer Fire Department that represents so much about what it's like to live there.
Fletcher is just about as close to a perfect area as you can get. Residents here are gainfully employed, and the schools are some of the best in the state. It's safe, and residents get to enjoy the benefits of quality at home living.
It's quite a gem tucked away in North Carolina.
Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in North Carolina
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Raleigh with a population of 441,326 against places with a population of 18?
We firmly decided no, that just isn't fair.
So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:
- Cities -- Populations over 5,000
- Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
- Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000
This left us with 129 cities, 295 towns, and 250 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best places have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be 'the best'.
You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.
How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In North Carolina
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in North Carolina across a number of criteria from one to 129, with one being the best.
We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best Place To Live In North Carolina".
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in North Carolina? That would be Cary.
If your city or town isn't among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in North Carolina.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Cary at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In North Carolina
If you're looking at areas in North Carolina with the best economic situations, where there's lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Cary made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in North Carolina for 2019.
Best Towns To Live In North Carolina
- Wrightsville Beach (Pop. 2,546)
- Royal Pines (Pop. 4,751)
- Biltmore Forest (Pop. 1,516)
- Trent Woods (Pop. 4,194)
- Avery Creek (Pop. 2,716)
- Fearrington Village (Pop. 2,984)
- Weaverville (Pop. 3,886)
- Bermuda Run (Pop. 2,556)
- St. James (Pop. 4,438)
- Lake Park (Pop. 3,678)
Best Small Towns To Live In North Carolina
- Walnut Creek (Pop. 936)
- Bald Head Island (Pop. 284)
- Hatteras (Pop. 481)
- Washington Park (Pop. 577)
- Barker Ten Mile (Pop. 834)
- Deercroft (Pop. 476)
- Cedar Rock (Pop. 324)
- JAARS (Pop. 508)
- Alamance (Pop. 902)
- Montreat (Pop. 521)
If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in North Carolina according to the data:
- Henderson (Pop. 15,258)
- Selma (Pop. 6,325)
- Wadesboro (Pop. 5,577)
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In North Carolina
- 10 Safest Cities in North Carolina
- 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina