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Best Places to Live in North Carolina

Thinking of moving to the Tar Heel State? Here are the best places to live.

By Nick Mann on May 10, 2018

Known as the Tarheel State, North Carolina is the 10th largest state in the U.S. and had a population of over 10 million. It contains a diversity of geographical features and is divided into three sections: the mountains are in the west, the Piedmont is in the middle and the coastal plains are in the east.

Its central location on the Atlantic Coast, mild weather and economic diversity make it a great place to call home. Also, its two largest metropolitan areas of Raleigh and Charlotte are among the top 10 fastest-growing in the country. Let’s take a look at some of the best places to live in North Carolina.

Here’s a list of the best places to live in North Carolina:



Home to Duke University, Durham is part of the Research Triangle and known to many as the “City of Medicine.†This is a place with a thriving music scene and one that’s fond of its sports, especially the Duke Blue Devils. Durham also has a strong economy and ranked No. 26 on Forbes‘ list of the Best Places for Business and Careers in 2014.


What could be considered as the heart of the Piedmont region, Greensboro is centrally located in North Carolina. It’s also the third largest city behind Charlotte and Raleigh. It’s a food lover’s paradise, and there are over 500 restaurants throughout the city. There are also plenty of attractions including art galleries, a zoo, waterpark and several golf courses.



Second only to Charlotte in population, Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina. It has a lot to offer with all of the attractions of a large city, but in a more laid-back setting with plenty of natural beauty. Raleigh has historical sites, museums, live shows and is the home of NC State University. It’s also an excellent place for economic opportunities and ranked No. 1 on Forbes‘ list of the Best Places for Business and Careers in 2014.

8 Reasons to Move to North Carolina
Courtesy of clio1789 under a CC 4.0 license.


This is the largest city in western North Carolina and is a must visit for nature lovers. With the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby, an eclectic music and dining scene, and what a Bohemian vibe, Asheville is a one-of-a-kind city. It’s also home to the largest privately owned home in America, the Biltmore.

Chapel Hill / Courtesy of Michael Zulauf under a CC 2.0 license.

Chapel Hill

Also part of the Research Triangle, Chapel Hill is a city with an emphasis on education. The University of North Carolina is located here, which is a school that’s passionate about its basketball and home of the Carolina Tar Heels. Area attractions include performing arts, outdoor recreation activities, and there’s also a great music scene.


This is the largest city in North Carolina and the second-largest banking center in the U.S. after New York. It’s home to numerous corporations, including seven Fortune 500 companies. It’s known for automotive racing with the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it’s where the NASCAR Hall of Fame is located. In terms of attractions, Charlotte has several museums, sporting venues, an amusement park and performing arts centers.

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Greenville / Courtesy of Wayne Memorial Hospital


More than a dozen buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Greenville, a vibrant city with academic choices like East Carolina University and Pitt Community College. Greenville has several major U.S. and state highways that provide easy access to interstate systems, and the city has a robust entertainment and nightlife scene.

Winston-Salem / iStock Photo/BSPollard


Located only a short distance from Greensboro and the fourth-largest city in the state, Winston-Salem has strong ties to both the tobacco industry and furniture making, and its history dates back to the 1750s. It’s a destination for wine lovers, and there are over 35 wineries in Winston-Salem and surrounding areas. It’s also a great place for recreation, with 75 parks and 12 golf courses.

Elizabeth City / Michael Conti

Elizabeth City

Known as the Harbor of Hospitality, Elizabeth City is a waterfront community on the eastern seaboard, just 45 minutes from Norfolk, Virginia. The United States Coast Guard calls the harbor home and the North Carolina Potato Festival is held here annually. Architecture buffs can enjoy six National Register Historic Districts.

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High Point / Courtesy of the City of High Point

High Point

Nicknamed the “Home Furnishings Capital of the World,†High Point enjoys a long history of quality furniture making and still has more than 40 retail furniture outlets today. The economy has diversified into sectors like banking, distribution, pharmaceuticals and technology, and the city is home to three universities, a popular Greenway Trail and High Point City Lake Park.


Located in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina, Wilmington is a premier destination for beach lovers. In only a short drive, it’s possible to access Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. This is an area steeped in history, and European settlements can be traced back to the early 1700s. Because of its position along the Atlantic Coast, Wilmington played a role in both the Civil War and World War II. Area attractions include the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, the USS Carolina Memorial and the Confederate Memorial.


Just outside of Raleigh and the Research Triangle, Cary is close to all the amenities of a large city while still maintaining a small-town atmosphere. It’s an economically prosperous city and has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. Cary is also clean and green and offers 36 greenway trails, which are perfect for a variety of recreational activities.

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Wake Forest

Just north of North Carolina’s state capital of Raleigh is Wake Forest, the original home to Wake Forest University before it moved to Winston-Salem. The median annual income for a family is an impressive $75,000, and the average price of a single-family home is about $260,000. More than 50 percent of the local population ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

Wilkesboro / Todd Bennett


Located in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains is Wilkesboro, which offers outdoor recreation like mountain biking, birding and canoeing. The city hosts several festivals, including MerleFest, which celebrates Americana music and is held on the Wilkes Community College campus. The community is home to locations for several well-known brands, including Tyson Foods and Lowe’s.

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