Where are the best places to live in the state of North Carolina?
Some might say wherever there is 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 is 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 are 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 back yard, 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 extensive 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. According to Forbes Magazine, North Carolina was chosen as the third best state for business.
Major metropolitan cities like Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte are crushing the tech industry and local business is booming.
So grab a BBQ sammie and 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 Tarheel city could be in the top ten: they are 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 is 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
There’s two types of people who live in Cary. Either the old hold outs who have lived there forever and are watching their home values skyrocket, or those d who can afford to buy a $309,800 home there.
Either way, you’re set. Your kids go to great schools, there’s a ton of things to do, and you earn a great salary. Cary is exactly what you hoped for when you played that board game, LIFE as a kid.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see CNN call Davidson one of the best places to live in the United States. Not only do the residents all make great livings, there’s essentially no crime in the entire city. And the residents are very involved in the community.
They can’t build homes fast enough here as it seems everyone wants a piece of Davidson.
In Apex, everyone loves to call Apex home! The median home value is the 14th highest in North Carolina.
Additionally, the unemployment rate is the 19th lowest in the state. and the crime rates are some of the lowest in Tar Heel State.
Holly Springs is a short drive from everything, but who would want to leave the 4th best place in North Carolina?
Homes are priced around $249,500 and residents have the 109th shortest commute in North Carolina.
Pinehurst takes 5th place on our list of best places in North Carolina for 2019 thanks to a strong showing in unemployment rate (10th overall) and things to do.
Pinehurst 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 $287,400 at the median.
The crime rate is much lower here than in the rest of North Carolina, as there were only 43 violent crimes in the city limits last year. The unemployment rate is the 8th lowest in North Carolina (3.9%), and the public schools are ranked 3rd in the state in terms of spending per student.
Additionally, homes are the 10th most expensive in Morrisville ($291,400), meaning a lot of people want to live there.
Plus, the residents earn a really great salary: $92,769 a year.
When you’re looking at the best places you could live in North Carolina, Chapel Hill came in 7th. Let’s see why.
It has a low unemployment rate and high incomes.
Plus, Chapel Hill has an impressive history for a place of just over 59,005 people. The median home costs a cool $390,300 and households make $65,373 which is good for 27th in North Carolina.
Elon has a long and illustrious history and its ranking in the top ten of our best places to live is just another notch in its belt.\n\Elon had the 6highest household median income adjusted for cost of living at $45,767.
Not to mention that its residents have plenty to do on the weekends.
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.
We think the motto in Fletcher should be “Everything is greater in Fletcher,” and that seems to be pretty close to the truth.
Fletcher has some of the highest home values in North Carolina, and they’re going up fast. Additionally, Fletcher only has 720.0% of its residents living in poverty.
Crime is also well below the state average, making Fletcher a solid option for people who value safety. At least those who can afford it.
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