Article Table Of Contents
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.
The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020:
- Davidson (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Cary (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Apex (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Pinehurst (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Holly Springs (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Winterville (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Wake Forest (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Fletcher (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Huntersville (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Carolina Beach (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 2020? Well according to the US Census and FBI data we crunched, Davidson 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 Davidson takes the cake. What Davidson 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:
- Best Counties To Live In North Carolina
- Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
- Best Places To Raise A Family In North Carolina
The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020
With the unemployment rate being the 11th lowest in North Carolina and very stable household median incomes, it's easy to see why someone would want to live in Davidson.
Plus, the crime rate is the 5th lowest in the state!
When you're looking at the best places you could live in North Carolina, Cary came in 2nd. Let's see why.
It has a low unemployment rate and high incomes.
Plus, Cary has an impressive history for a place of just over 163,266 people. The median home costs a cool $337,700 and households make $101,079 which is good for 12th in North Carolina.
Apex takes 3rd place on our list of best places in North Carolina for 2020 thanks to a strong showing in unemployment rate (20th overall) and things to do.
Apex is no stranger to top ten lists, being named one of the best places to live in the country by multiple outlets over the past ten years. And that tends to happen when home prices hit $307,800 at the median.
Crime is something that doesn't happen very often in Pinehurst. Statistically the 1st safest place in the state, there were only 15 violent crimes in the entire city last year.
It's really beautiful in Pinehurst, and new homes continue to replace older homes. Resident earn $80,128 a year, and homes are valued at more than $297,100.
What else could you possibly want if you're someone who likes the good things in life?
You might be surprised to see the Town of Holly Springs so high on the list. Unless you live in Holly Springs.
The unemployment rate here is really low, and at 3.8%, Holly Springs 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, Holly Springs is doing quite well.
Let's be honest -- Holly Springs is the kind of place you brag to your friends on Facebook about.
Taking its place as the 6th best place in North Carolina is Winterville. Residents here earn a really high salary each year, and crime is fairly low, in comparison to the rest of North Carolina.
It's considered a cultural community, as it boasts an arts scene, and many ethnic restaurants, too. Which means you can't be bored here.
An unemployment rate of only 3.1% helps thing too.
The Wake Forest has the 44th lowest unemployment rate in North Carolina. The population growth here has been 8% over the last 15 years, meaning a lot of people want to live here. If they can afford it; the cost of living in Wake Forest is higher than the national average and households make $88,394 per year.
We'd move to Wake Forest if we could in a heart beat.
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there's A LOT of demand to live in Fletcher.
Fletcher ranked impressively high for its crime rate (15th overall) and its short commute times (19th).
We think that's worth the price of admission.
Huntersville ranks as the 9th best place in North Carolina for 2020. Let's take a look at why.
Huntersville has a lower crime rate than the cities mentioned above. Huntersville's cost of living is a tick higher, but families also earn much higher salaries - to the tune of $97,320 a year.
The knock? We can't really find one 🙂
It's obvious why Carolina Beach ranks 10th in the state for best places to live: they have the lowest unemployment rate and the 11th highest home values.
Plus, they're known for their quality education and relatively low crime, making Carolina Beach a great place to live.
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 457,159 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 130 cities, 295 towns, and 250 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in North Carolina 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 130, 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 Davidson.
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 Davidson 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.
Davidson made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in North Carolina for 2020.
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:
- Selma (Pop. 6,577)
- Wadesboro (Pop. 5,351)
- Roxboro (Pop. 8,283)
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In North Carolina
- Richest Cities In North Carolina
- Safest Cities in North Carolina
- Worst Places To Live In North Carolina