If you're looking for a new place to call home in 2024, you might want to consider North Carolina. The Tar Heel State has a lot to offer, from beautiful beaches and mountains to vibrant cities and charming towns. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly community, a thriving job market, or a cultural hub, you'll find it in North Carolina.
But where are the best places to live in North Carolina for families? That depends on your personal preferences, budget, and lifestyle. To help you narrow down your options, we've compiled a list of 10 best places to live in North Carolina in 2024. Here they are, in no particular order:
10 Best Places to Live in North Carolina for Families & Retirees 2024
Davidson is a small town in Mecklenburg County, about 20 miles north of Charlotte. It's best known for being the home of Davidson College, a prestigious liberal arts institution. Davidson has a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, and cafes, as well as a farmers market and a public library. The town also has plenty of parks, trails, and green spaces for outdoor recreation. It is one of the best places to live in North Carolina for families & retirees.
Historical significance: Founded in 1835, Davidson boasts a rich history reflected in its architectural gems, from Victorian homes to the iconic Davidson College campus.
Lake Norman appeal: Davidson sits beside picturesque Lake Norman, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, paddleboarding, and enjoying stunning waterfront views.
Foodie haven: Beyond charming cafes, Davidson's downtown features diverse restaurants showcasing Southern comfort food, international cuisine, and trendy farm-to-table fare.
Active community spirit: Davidson residents embrace a vibrant community life through festivals, outdoor concerts, art shows, and collegiate sporting events.
Cary is a large town in Wake County, about 10 miles west of Raleigh. It's part of the Research Triangle region, which is home to many high-tech companies and universities. Cary has a diverse and educated population, with many residents working in fields such as science, engineering, and health care.
Entertainment Hub: Beyond bustling business, Cary offers diverse entertainment options like the Koka Booth Amphitheatre for renowned concerts, a dynamic theater scene, and the renowned SAS Institute for immersive science exhibits.
Foodie Paradise: From international flavors to Southern staples, Cary's culinary scene explodes with diverse restaurants, vibrant food trucks, and a bustling farmers market, satisfying every palate.
Green Oasis: Escape the urban scene through Cary's expansive park system, boasting miles of scenic greenways, the serene Bond Park for picnics, and the adventurous Umstead State Park for nature trails and outdoor activities.
Festival Flair: Immerse yourself in Cary's lively community spirit through annual festivals like the Lazy Daze Arts Festival, the Cary BandFest, and the Holly Jolly Cary Christmas celebration, each bursting with local music, art, and food.
Apex is another town in Wake County, about 15 miles southwest of Raleigh. It's nicknamed “The Peak of Good Living” for its high quality of life and friendly atmosphere. Apex has a historic downtown area with quaint buildings and shops, as well as modern amenities such as a community center, a skate park, and a sports complex.
Charming Downtown Stroll: Immerse yourself in Apex's historic spirit by strolling through its quaint downtown. Brick-lined streets lead past well-preserved buildings housing unique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes, transporting you back in time while indulging in modern delights.
Family Fun for All: From the vibrant Apex Community Center offering classes and events to the adrenaline-pumping Apex Parks & Recreation Complex with its skate park, sports fields, and aquatic center, Apex caters to every family member's interests, fostering active lifestyles and community connections.
Nature's Playground: Just beyond the urban hum, Apex boasts expansive green spaces like Jordan Lake State Park, a haven for kayakers, boaters, and picnickers seeking serene waterfront bliss. Hikers and bikers can explore miles of scenic trails in Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, reveling in the tranquil beauty of the Carolina woods.
Festivals & Festivities: Apex comes alive with vibrant community spirit throughout the year. Immerse yourself in the lively Apex Music Festival for a weekend of diverse musical talents, or join the annual Apex DogFest for a furry-friend extravaganza. From holiday parades to farmers markets, Apex offers endless opportunities to celebrate and connect with your neighbors, making it one of the best places to live in North Carolina for families & retirees.
Morrisville is a town in Wake County, about 12 miles northwest of Raleigh. It's located near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Research Triangle Park, making it convenient for commuters and travelers. Morrisville has a diverse and multicultural population, with many residents coming from India, China, and other countries.
Global Gastronomy: Immerse your taste buds in Morrisville's diverse culinary scene! From aromatic Indian curries to flavorful Chinese cuisine, you'll find restaurants representing numerous countries nestled alongside American favorites. Don't miss the vibrant flavors of the Diwali Festival food stalls or savor dim sum delicacies in authentic teahouses.
Techie Playground: As part of the Research Triangle, Morrisville buzzes with innovation. Visit the cutting-edge headquarters of companies like Lenovo and Syneos Health, or explore the dynamic startups and research labs shaping the future. Attend tech conferences, participate in hackathons, or simply soak in the atmosphere of creativity and progress.
Family-Friendly Oasis: Beyond business, Morrisville fosters a welcoming environment for families. Kids can splash in the aquatic center, play on the expansive greenways, or discover interactive exhibits at the Museum of the Triangle. Immerse yourselves in community events like the annual “Touch a Truck” festival or enjoy quality time amidst Morrisville's peaceful neighborhoods.
Cultural Tapestry: Celebrate diversity in Morrisville's vibrant cultural tapestry. Experience the intricate beauty of Indian classical dance performances, witness the colorful spectacle of Chinese lion dances during Lunar New Year, or listen to the captivating rhythms of international music festivals. This cultural blend enriches the community and offers unique experiences for every resident.
Cornelius is a town in Mecklenburg County, about 15 miles north of Charlotte. It's situated on the shores of Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. Cornelius has a lot of waterfront activities, such as boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking. Cornelius also has several golf courses, parks, and trails for outdoor enthusiasts.
Lake Life Bliss: Dive into the heart of Cornelius – Lake Norman! Rent a pontoon boat for a family outing, cast your line for bass and catfish, or kayak through hidden coves for a serene escape. Don't miss the vibrant Cornelius Landing with its waterfront restaurants and bars, perfect for soaking in the lakeside ambiance.
Tee Time Paradise: Cornelius is a haven for golf enthusiasts. Challenge yourself at courses like Quail Hollow Club, known for hosting the PGA Wells Fargo Championship, or tee off at the scenic Peninsula Golf Club amidst stunning lake views.
Parkside Adventures: Step away from the water and explore Cornelius' green havens. Hike and bike through the serene trails of McDowell Nature Preserve, home to diverse flora and fauna. Pack a picnic basket and bask in the sun at Jetton Park, offering stunning lakefront views and playgrounds for families.
Charming Downtown Delights: Cornelius' historic downtown exudes small-town charm. Stroll down brick-paved streets lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes. Indulge in gourmet treats at locally-owned bakeries, or unwind with a glass of wine at a riverside patio. Don't miss the annual Davidson-Cornelius Arts Festival for a vibrant showcase of local art and live music.
6. Holly Springs
Holly Springs is a town in Wake County, about 17 miles southwest of Raleigh. It's one of the fastest-growing towns in North Carolina, with a population increase of over 200% since 2000. Holly Springs has a lot of attractions, such as Ting Park, a sports and entertainment complex, the Holly Springs Cultural Center, which hosts concerts and events, and the Bass Lake Park, which offers fishing and hiking.
Ting Park Thrills: Get your adrenaline pumping at Ting Park! Boasting an impressive aquatic center with slides, a lazy river, and a splash pad, this complex also caters to landlubbers with a skate park, batting cages, and a rock-climbing wall.
Cultural Cornerstone: Immerse yourself in the arts at the Holly Springs Cultural Center. Catch a musical performance in the intimate theater, browse captivating exhibits in the art gallery, or attend educational workshops for all ages.
Bass Lake Bliss: Escape the urban buzz and find serenity at Bass Lake Park. Cast your line for largemouth bass or crappie, explore the scenic walking trails, or pack a picnic and enjoy the tranquil lakeside ambiance.
History Comes Alive: Discover the town's rich heritage at the Holly Springs Museum. Immerse yourself in exhibits showcasing the lives of early settlers, learn about the community's growth, and even take a guided tour of a historic log cabin.
7. Wake Forest
Wake Forest is a town in Wake County, about 15 miles north of Raleigh. It's the original home of Wake Forest University, which moved to Winston-Salem in 1956. Wake Forest has a rich history and culture, with many historic buildings and museums, such as the Wake Forest Historical Museum, the Wake Forest Birthplace Museum, and the Wake Forest College Birthplace. Wake Forest also has a vibrant downtown area with shops, restaurants, and festivals, which makes it one of the best places to live in North Carolina.
Echoes of Academia: Step back in time at the Wake Forest Birthplace Museum, housed in the 1834 Calvin Jones House. Explore exhibits detailing the history of Wake Forest College, founded right here, and delve into the lives of its notable alumni.
Living History: Stroll through the charming downtown area, brimming with historic buildings like the South Brick House, the oldest surviving structure from the Wake Forest College campus. Admire the architectural styles and imagine the vibrant college life that thrived here for over a century.
Festival Flavor: Immerse yourself in Wake Forest's lively spirit through its numerous festivals. From the Carolina Craft Festival showcasing local artisans to the Wake Forest Music Fest filling the air with tunes, there's something for everyone throughout the year.
Modern Downtown Delights: Beyond history, Wake Forest's downtown boasts trendy shops, eclectic boutiques, and captivating art galleries. Savor gourmet fare at upscale restaurants, grab a coffee at a cozy cafe, or browse for unique finds – this modern hub offers a vibrant scene for both locals and visitors.
Rolesville is a town in Wake County, about 15 miles northeast of Raleigh. It's the second-oldest town in Wake County, founded in 1792. Rolesville has a rural charm and a close-knit community, with many family-owned businesses and farms. Rolesville also has several parks and recreation facilities, such as the Rolesville Community School Park, the Main Street Park, and the Granite Falls Swim and Athletic Club.
Historic Haven: Immerse yourself in Rolesville's rich history, dating back to its founding in 1792. Explore the Rolesville Historical Society Museum housed in the 1838 Bryan House, where captivating exhibits and artifacts bring the town's past to life. Stroll down Main Street, lined with charming old buildings, and admire the architecture while feeling the whispers of times gone by.
Family-Friendly Fun: Rolesville offers a plethora of recreational activities for families. Splash and play at the Main Street Park's interactive water features, let the kids loose on the expansive playground at Rolesville Community School Park, or tee off at the Granite Falls Swim and Athletic Club, featuring swimming pools, tennis courts, and fitness facilities.
Rural Charm: Escape the urban bustle and embrace Rolesville's rural idyll. Visit local farms and orchards, pick your own seasonal produce, and savor the freshness of nature's bounty. Explore the serene woodlands along the Neuse River Trail, or bike the scenic country roads, breathing in the clean air and soaking in the tranquility.
Community Spirit: Experience the warmth of Rolesville's close-knit community. Support local businesses like the charming antique shops and family-owned restaurants, savor homemade treats at the farmers' market, and join the bustling events like the annual Rolesville Barbecue Festival. This town's genuine hospitality and friendly atmosphere make you feel right at home.
Asheville is a city in Buncombe County, in the western part of North Carolina. It's the largest city in the Blue Ridge Mountains region and a popular tourist destination for its scenic views, artsy vibe, and outdoor activities. Asheville has a lot of attractions, such as the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the U.S., the North Carolina Arboretum, which features botanical gardens and trails, and the River Arts District, which showcases local artists and galleries.
Biltmore Grandeur: Step into opulence at the Biltmore Estate, the architectural marvel perched atop 8,000-acre rolling hills. Explore the 250 rooms adorned with Gilded Age grandeur, wander through the meticulously landscaped gardens, and immerse yourself in the lavish lifestyle of the Vanderbilts.
Botanical Enchantment: Breathe in the fresh mountain air and discover diverse flora at the North Carolina Arboretum. Wander through breathtaking gardens boasting rhododendrons, azaleas, and vibrant seasonal blooms. Hike along scenic trails, learn about native plants, and even picnic amidst the serene beauty of nature.
Riverfront Renaissance: Immerse yourself in Asheville's vibrant arts scene at the River Arts District. Nestled along the tranquil French Broad River, this hub bursts with creativity. Explore captivating galleries housed in former warehouses, meet talented local artists, and discover unique handcrafted treasures.
Waterfall Wonderland: Asheville's scenic surroundings offer a cascade of adventure. Hike the lush trails leading to breathtaking waterfalls like the majestic Hickory Nut Falls, plunging 64 feet into a verdant gorge. Or kayak along the serene French Broad River, soaking in the stunning mountain vistas and vibrant riverside life.
Greenville is a city in Pitt County, in the eastern part of North Carolina. It's the home of East Carolina University (ECU), a large public university that offers many academic programs and sports teams. Greenville also has a thriving health care sector, with Vidant Medical Center being one of the largest employers in the region.
Pirate Pride: Immerse yourself in the spirited atmosphere of East Carolina University (ECU). Cheer on the Pirates at Dowdy-Fikes Field, home to the nationally ranked baseball team, or catch a game at the Minges Coliseum, where the basketball teams battle it out. Explore the vibrant campus, boasting beautiful green spaces, iconic buildings like the cupola, and a dynamic student scene with clubs and events for every interest.
Health & Wellness Haven: Greenville's thriving health care sector offers top-notch medical facilities and research opportunities. Visit Vidant Medical Center, one of the largest employers in the region, or explore the Brody School of Medicine, a leader in healthcare education and innovation. Enjoy the benefits of a strong healthcare network, from cutting-edge treatments to dedicated professionals, fostering a community focused on well-being.
Foodie Paradise: Greenville's culinary scene explodes with diverse flavors. Savory Southern staples like barbeque and grits mingle with trendy cafes serving locally-roasted coffee and international delights. Explore eclectic restaurants downtown, grab a bite at a bustling food truck park, or stock up on fresh produce at the vibrant farmers' market. Greenville caters to every palate, ensuring memorable culinary adventures.
Waterfront Adventures: Greenville's location on the Tar River grants access to scenic waterways and outdoor activities. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the serene waters, or cast your line for bass and catfish. Take a stroll along the Riverwalk, soak in the peaceful ambiance of Cypress Glen Nature Park, or picnic amidst the greenery of Greenville Town Common. From quiet contemplation to active pursuits, Greenville's waterfront offers something for everyone.