14 Best Places To Live in North Carolina in 2024

Last Updated on January 06, 2024 by Nikki Jain

Planning a move to North Carolina? Well, you'll be spoiled for choice in the Tar Heel state. The state is known for its beautiful scenery, low cost of living, and excellent employment opportunities.

Whether you love city life, beach life, or even life up there in the mountains, there are plenty of great places to live in the state. In fact, when it comes to the best places to live in North Carolina, there genuinely is something for everybody. 

Our goal here is to introduce you to the best cities to live in North Carolina. We have 14 different locations for you. We will tell you about the cost of living, the crime rates, and even some of the things to do. Hopefully, by the end of this page, you'll be able to work out exactly where you want to live in the state.

Best Places To Live in North Carolina

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1: Raleigh

Raleigh
Raleigh | Dreamstime/Konstantin Lobastov

The City of Oaks, Raleigh, is the capital of North Carolina, although it is only the second-largest city in the state. While Raleigh is a clearly developed urban area, it does retain a bit of that small-town charm. In fact, many people who have lived or visited Raleigh praise just how friendly the whole place is.

Despite the heavy urbanization, there are parts of Raleigh that feel as though they are out in the suburbs. This is thanks to the stunning oak trees that line almost every single street within the city. You’re almost in the heart of nature.

At $288,000, the average house price in Raleigh is a little bit higher than the national average. However, the higher-than-normal household income (average $72,000 in Raleigh) more than makes up for this. It ensures that even with the higher average house price, you shouldn't feel like living from paycheck to paycheck.

No matter who you are, you won't be short of things to do if you live in Raleigh. There are over 200 designated leisure sites within Raleigh (most of them run by the Parks Department), which includes Pullen Park, the oldest public park in North Carolina. You also have countless museums (including the North Carolina Museum of History), various music venues, and plenty of performing arts centers putting on shows throughout the week.

Things to do in Raleigh:

  • Pullen Park
  • North Carolina Museum of History
  • William B. Umstead State Park
  • North Carolina State Farmers Public Market 

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Raleigh

2: Charlotte

Charlotte
Charlotte | Dreamstime/Sean Pavone

Charlotte is the largest city in the state, and if you are craving city life, it may just be one of the best places to live in North Carolina. The average property price in Charlotte is $258,000. This means that it is marginally cheaper than Raleigh. However, do bear in mind that the properties are also slightly smaller, so you won't be getting as much bang for your buck. Remember - there are almost 900,000 people living in the Charlotte area, so properties do get snapped up rather quickly.

Charlotte is the second largest banking hub in the United States, with Wells Fargo and the Bank of America calling the city their home. This does mean that many of the major jobs available in Charlotte will be in the banking industry, with the median household income being a touch over $68,000.

If you live in Charlotte, you'll be pleased to know that there is plenty to see and do. During October and November, you'll get to enjoy The Carolina Rennaissance Festival every weekend and the Greek Festival, which is the largest Greek culture festival in the US.

Things to do in Charlotte:

  • NASCAR Hall of Fame
  • Yearly Carolina Rennaissance Festival
  • Carowinds Amusement Park
  • Freedom Park

Also Read: Best Charlotte Attractions and Things To Do

3: Asheville

Asheville
Asheville | Dreamstime/Sean Pavone

With a population of under 100,000, Asheville is considerably smaller than both Raleigh and Charlotte; however, it isn't so small that it will lack amenities. Asheville is perfect for those looking for a dense, suburban area to live in.

Asheville is a visually stunning area. In the background, you have a beautiful mountain range, and scattered between the trees is plenty of greenery. As you can probably imagine, if you want to live in a place as beautiful as this, you will need to pay a premium. The average house price in Asheville is $319,000, well above the US average. However, move to Asheville, and you'll be living in one of the best places to raise a family.

Jobs are mostly in healthcare and education, with most people living in Asheville traveling to nearby areas for employment. Moog Music (a synthesizer company) and several breweries provide major employment opportunities within Asheville. This has resulted in the median household income being $58,000 per year.

There are plenty of things to do for those living in Asheville, but the main highlight will be the whitewater kayaking. In fact, tourists come from all over the US to enjoy it. However, if you're not a fan of white-knuckle rides on the water, there are also some disc golf courses.

Things to Do in Asheville:

  • Hiking in the surrounding mountains and forests.
  • Whitewater kayaking
  • Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Biltmore Museum

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Asheville

4: Durham

Durham
Duke University in Durham | Dreamstime/Bryan Pollard

Despite going through a bit of a downturn a few decades ago, Durham is a completely revitalized city. Owing to it being at the center of the research triangle (major research happens in Durham) and being a location of a major college, Durham has rapidly become one of the best places to live in North Carolina for young adults.

The population of Durham is 280,000. The average home price in Durham is $254,000. It is slightly above the US average, but not by too much. The median household income for Durham is $66,000, which more than makes up for the somewhat higher house price.

Education in Durham is sublime and not just for children. As Durham is home to Duke University, the city is able to attract some of the most educated people in the US. Many stick around in the city once they have graduated, which is why the area has become such a hotbed for research.

In terms of activities in Durham, a lot is going on throughout the year. This includes an annual Blues festival, as well as the second-largest LGBTQ film festival in this part of the US. You'll also find countless small art galleries around the city. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the nearby golf courses, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens (botanical gardens), or even a walk through the Eno River State Park.

Things to Do in Durham:

  • Duke Lemur Center
  • Emo River State Park
  • American Tobacco Historic District (reformed ex-tobacco factory)
  • Museum of Life+Science

5: Outer Banks

Outer Banks
Outer Banks | Dreamstime/Cvandyke

Outer Banks isn't strictly a city in North Carolina. Instead, it is a region - probably the most expensive region to live in North Carolina. The average house price here is over $550,000, but you'll be in an absolutely stunning location.

The Outer Banks are a stretch of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina. Almost all of the Outer Banks will be natural scenery (including plenty of beaches); every so often, you'll find a small settlement. The most popular of these is Nags Head.

As you can probably guess, the bulk of the Outer Banks economy is tourism, especially during the summer months. Many of those who live here have high-paid professional jobs in one of the major cities in North Carolina, often splitting their time between the two locations.

Because the Outer Banks is an area of natural beauty, you can’t expect too much in the way of manmade attractions. Almost everything to explore across the stretch of the barrier islands.

Things to do in Outer Banks:

  • Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
  • False Cape State Park
  • Relax on the beaches
  • Visit the lighthouses

Also Read: Beautiful Small Towns in North Carolina

6: Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill | Dreamstime/Jill Lang

If the Outer Banks is the most expensive place to live in North Carolina, Chapel Hill is in second place. This location has an average house price of $450,000. Just 70,000 people are living here, though. So, if you are lucky enough to be able to afford to live in Chapel Hill, you'll be in an incredibly safe area, and you'll have plenty of space at your disposal.

Despite being a smaller town, there is no shortage of things to do in Chapel Hill. The bulk of the activities are centered around Franklin Street. This historic street plays host to a growing number of restaurants and nightclubs, and tourists descend on the area during the summer months. There is almost always something to do here.

If the nightlife isn't your scene, then Chapel Hill has some stunning walks, gardens, and parks in the nearby area. You may even feel like tapping into the cultural scene and checking out the Ackland Art Museum.

Things to do in Chapel Hill:

  • Ackland Art Museum
  • Visit Franklin Street
  • North Carolina Botanical Garden
  • Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

7: Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem | Dreamstime/Sean Pavone

Winston-Salem may be one of the best cities to live in North Carolina if you want to live in the heart of the city, but you don't want to be paying sky-high sums of cash for the privilege. The average house price in Winston-Salem is just $158,000. This makes it one of the cheapest cities in North Carolina and is also significantly below the US national average.

The city is ranked as one of the best places in North Carolina to raise your children, and this is down to the quality of the schools in the area. Again, this is a place where the local government has been investing heavily, and we are sure that it will pay off significantly over the next few years.

While the job situation in Winston-Salem isn't quite as good as some of the other cities in North Carolina, it isn't too bad. The city is home to the HQ for major organizations such as Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Lowes Foods, and more. The city is also a leader in nanotech, bringing many researchers into the area, which, no doubt, will push up house prices in the near future.

In terms of entertainment, there is plenty to do in Winston-Salem. Every Christmas, you'll find countless light festivals, markets, and more. During the summer months, you may want to spend some time chilling around Salem Lake, just a few minutes from downtown Salem.

Things to do in Winston-Salem:

  • RiverRun International Film Festival in the Spring
  • Salem Lake - swimming and lots of watersports
  • Gears & Guitars - a music festival that happens in May every year.
  • Bethebara Historic District

Also Read: Best Things To Do in North Carolina

8: Wilmington

Wilmington
Wilmington | Dreamstime/Igor Skryagin

Wilmington is one of the few places in North Carolina with more renters than buyers. We suppose this is because Wilmington is an area that attracts a lot of young professionals starting out in their careers. They don't want to buy until they have given their life a solid foundation. The house prices in Wilmington sit at an average of $279,000, significantly above the US national average. The rental prices average $1093, below the US national average. This makes the place a great area for renters.

Wilmington itself is a port town, a city right on the Cape Fear River. This provides the area with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, and Wilmington has become a top destination for shipping within North Carolina. Due to the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington is also a tourism hotspot, with countless tourists venturing into the city during the warmer months of the year.

While a good number of jobs in Wilmington are in tourism, shipping, and port work, Wilmington has a particularly vibrant manufacturing industry. A treasure trove of products is manufactured here, from paper products all the way through to nuclear fuel. This means there is a job for all skill levels in the manufacturing industry. This has resulted in Wilmington having a median home income of $54,000. It is slightly below the national average, but Wilmington (assuming you are renting) is an affordable place to live.

Wilmington is a very cultural place, with plenty of festivals and other events happening throughout the year. One of the main cultural parts of Wilmington is Thalian Hall, which has a performance almost every single day of the year. Those who love the outdoors will probably spend a ton of time around Cape Fear River, although being a short hop from the beach means you can head there during the warmer days too.

Things to do in Wilmington:

  • Visit the Bellamy Mansion
  • Relax on the beach
  • Watersports on Cape Fear River
  • Airlie Gardens
  • Cinespace Studios
  • Cameron Art Museum

9: Cary

Cary
Cary | Dreamstime/Kelley Albert

Cary is a suburb of Raleigh, although, with 171,000+ residents, it acts more as its own city. Since the 1970s, the population of Cary has been steadily increasing. This is all thanks to the proximity of Cary to Research Triangle Park.

Cary is a dense suburban area. It isn’t cheap to live there either, at least in comparison to some of the other places to live in North Carolina. The average house price is bordering of $405,000. However, this makes sense when you consider the fact that Cary has a median household income of around $110,000. This makes it one of the highest in North Carolina.

There is plenty to do if you live in Cary. Each year, the Cary Band Day happens, which is the largest regional school marching band competition. The Spring Daze Arts & Craft Festival and the Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival are multi-day events that often attract thousands and thousands of people to the area.

Outdoor lovers can enjoy more than 30 different public parks in the area, including the stunning Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Owing to the suburban feel of Cary, you’ll find plenty of places to walk. These walks will be up there with some of the most stunning in North Carolina too.

Things to do in Cary:

  • Cary Tennis Park
  • Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
  • Spring Daze Arts & Craft Festival
  • Koka Booth Amphitheater
  • Indian Festival of Light

10: Greensboro

Greensboro
Greensboro | Dreamstime/Sean Pavone

Greensboro is one of the great places to live in North Carolina when it comes to affordable housing. With an average house price of $169,000, living in Greensboro is significantly cheaper than the US national average, making it one of the cheapest places to live in the state. Many people who live in Greensboro love the dense suburban feel of it. If you live here, you really feel as if you are at the heart of a community, and you’ll find plenty of community events to keep you occupied throughout the year.

Greensboro is certainly a city on the up, especially when it comes to jobs. In recent years, the local government has invested heavily in helping Greensboro to become the center for future tech development. More and more companies that specialize in the likes of nanotech and logistics are starting to appear. The University of North Carolina has also invested heavily in research. This means it wouldn't surprise us if the average home price in Greensboro started to rise as more and more professionals ventured into the area.

One of our favorite things about Greensboro is just how central it is. While you will be perfectly fine staying within Greensboro, if you live here, you'll be within a short driving distance of Winston-Salem and the Outer Banks. This provides you with a wealth of different day-out options.

Things to do in Greensboro:

  • Greensboro Science Center
  • Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
  • Uwharrie National Forest
  • Carolina Theater
  • Lake Brandt

11: Boone

Boone
Boone | Dreamstime/Sean Pavone

With a little under 20,000 residents, Boone is the smallest place on this list so far, and it may be one of the good places to live in North Carolina if you are the type of person who favors a bit of space while also getting to enjoy that small town feel every now and then. If you live in Boone, you can enjoy a real sense of community.

As you can probably expect from a smaller location, the average house price in Boone is a bit higher than the national average. You can expect to be paying around $272,000. The average rental is considerably lower than the average, though. It comes in at $972. So, it probably comes as no surprise that about 75% of the people who live in Boone rent their homes.

One of the cool things about Boone is that it is unlikely to go through any major development. This may push property prices up in the future, but it will help Boone retain a relatively tranquil feel over the next few years. This is all because Boone is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. It makes for some stunning scenery and scenery that cannot be touched. If you live here, we are sure you will take a few walks through the incredible mountain range.

Because it is a smaller town, don't expect to be able to have an extravagant number of things to do. Most of what you can do in Boone just involves sitting and relaxing in nature and perhaps the odd walk through the aforementioned mountains or Elk Knob State Park. You are also close enough to the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive that too (one of the most scenic routes in the US)

Things to do in Boone:

  • Visit the Appalachian Mountains
  • Elk Knob State Park
  • Tweetsie Railroad theme park
  • Watauga River

12: Hickory

Hickory
Hickory | Dreamstime/Jeff Yount

With 40,000 residents, Hickory is certainly on the smaller side of things. However, unlike Boone, this doesn't really contribute to a larger property price. If you opt to move to Hickory, the average house price is around $199,000, which, by now, you should know is considerably below the US national average. The median rental price is $812, which is exceedingly cheap compared to other places in North Carolina.

In the past, Hickory was a major focal point for the furniture-making industry. While there are some furniture makers in the area, it isn't a major employer. Nowadays, the bulk of the employers in Hickory are in the tech industry.

In fact, there are multiple server farms in the area, and they constantly crave new staff members. Other tech companies are looking to make their presence known in Hickory too. The job market is in a healthy place, and the average income for a household in Hickory is $53,000. This is below the US national average but enough to live on in this area.

Hickory is on the smaller side of things, so it isn’t necessarily a hustle and bustle of activity. Although, you do still have plenty of things to do in the local area. For example - the Hickory Farmers Market every single week often attracts a good amount of the community. You also have several parks, including the much-loved Glenn C. Hilton Memorial Park. On top of that, there are several museums, including the Hickory Museum of Art.

Things to do in Hickory:

  • Hickory Aviation Museum
  • Geitner Park
  • Hickory Farmers Market
  • Catawba Science Center

13: High Point

High Point
High Point | Dreamstime/Wirestock

Like many places in this part of North Carolina, High Point was once at the center of the furniture-making industry. While its heyday has long since passed, a trip to High Point is still on the calendar of many furniture enthusiasts.

Each year, 100,000 people descend upon High Point to display their furniture and make purchases at the High Point Furniture Market. It is the largest event of its kind in the world. Essentially, during the exhibition, the population of High Point doubles.

Of course, being the home of the High Point Furniture Market probably isn’t at the top of the list of reasons to move to High Point. Not unless you like furniture, of course. The low median house value of $167,000 probably helps, as does the low median rent of $938. Both are significantly below the US average.

We love how diverse the attractions are in High Point. One of the highlights is the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library, which has the world's largest collection of furniture-related books (we told you that High Point loves furniture). You also have High Point City Lake Park, which is a combination of a recreational area and an amusement park. On top of this, you have countless museums and art exhibits.

Things to do in High Point:

  • High Point City Lake Park
  • High Point Bowling Center
  • High Point City Museum
  • Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library
  • World’s Largest Chest of Drawers (art exhibit)

14: New Bern

New Bern
New Bern | Dreamstime/Alex Grichenko

New Bern has a fantastic claim to fame - it is the birthplace of Pepsi, although the company is no longer based in New Bern. It is also the second oldest colonial town in North Carolina (Bath is the oldest), and it still has that old-style small-town charm to it. Not surprising, really. The town only has 30,000 people living there.

New Bern’s house prices have been steadily creeping up over the last few years, with the average house price now sitting at $263,000. This is a bargain price to live in somewhere as beautiful as New Bern. It offers low crime and fantastic education.

Owing to its small size, New Bern isn't exactly brimming with attractions. In fact, we would argue that the main attraction of New Bern is the town itself. It has numerous historic districts and museums, and it is a true joy to wander through the centuries-old buildings and wonder what life was like when the region was first settled.

Like most small towns (and larger cities, for that matter), New Bern has plenty to do throughout the year. This includes numerous festivals (music & arts festivals), as well as a fantastic Christmas market. All the while, you’ll be enjoying the fantastic small-town feel that New Bern offers.

Things to do in New Bern:

  • The Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola
  • Tryon Palace
  • Walks along the river
  • New Bern Farmers Market
  • Union Point Park

FAQs

What are the Pros and Cons of living in North Carolina?

North Carolina has a low cost of living and some beautiful scenery. It is often regarded as one of the best places to raise children. However, remember that North Carolina may not have the same job opportunities as other states.

Where is the best area to live in North Carolina?

The Outer Banks is one of the best regions to live in North Carolina. 

Is North Carolina considered a good state to live in?

Yes. If you love being out in nature, then North Carolina is fantastic. It is also a great place to live if you prefer a lower cost of living. 

What is the safest place in North Carolina to live?

Considering its size, Raleigh is one of the safest places to live in North Carolina. Boone also has a very low crime rate.

Wrapping up

As you can see, when it comes to the best places to live in North Carolina, you have no shortage of options. You have huge cities like Raleigh and Charlotte and tiny, sparsely populated areas like the Outer Banks. There is somewhere to live in North Carolina for everybody, and you'll get to enjoy a fantastic state with a tremendous, booming tech market, ensuring that there will be a great job market for many years to come.

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