Best Places To Live In North Carolina: Top 5 Cities Most Recommended By Experts

With its beautiful scenery, fantastic economy, and friendly residents, it’s no wonder that North Carolina is consistently ranked among America’s best states to live in. Steeped in Southern charm but thoroughly modern in its amenities, the state is truly summarized by the phrase, “the best of both worlds.” The best places to live in North Carolina offer the perfect stomping ground for anyone.

North Carolinians take Southern hospitality seriously. In fact, a recent StudyFinds round-up of the United States’ friendliest cities named Asheville (our top pick) the fifth friendliest in the country. And of course, community is an incredibly important factor in deciding where to live. Recent research found that getting to know your neighbors may have positive health benefits, even improving life expectancy. Researchers at Rutgers University studied Chinese Americans in the greater Chicago area, finding that those in communities with greater cohesion experienced reduced early death risk. 

One of the best parts of life in North Carolina is the temperate climate, allowing residents to spend more time outdoors enjoying the scenery. Research shows that access to nature has a greater impact on mental health than general health, employment, or income. And speaking of income, a recent survey of 2,000 working adults found that 73 percent believe the weather has an impact on their productivity. 

So, whether you’re pondering a move to North Carolina for business or pleasure, you’ll find no shortage of cities worth considering. But with so many great options, it can be hard to narrow it down to a clear winner. That’s why StudyFinds did the digging for you and rounded up local and expert opinions on the best places to live in North Carolina. Whether you’re looking for a big city or a small-town feel, our list has options for all kinds of preferences. But of course, if we missed one, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

The List: Best Places to Live in North Carolina, According to Locals

1. Asheville

If you love the mountains, Asheville may just be the place for you. “One of the most beautiful places in North Carolina, Asheville is a great town for nature lovers,” says UpNest.

“Living here can give you a new view on life — literally,” adds Bankrate. “The city offers access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, so you’re a short drive away from some beautiful spots along the Appalachian Trail. When you take your hiking boots off, you can raise a glass at one of the nearby wineries, including the famous Biltmore estate.”

But of course, Asheville has more to offer than just its stunning landscape. “There are countless things to do to satisfy the active explorers, the art lovers, music buffs, and the adventurous foodies,” UpHomes claims. “Certainly, an excellent food scene, fed by local farmers and producers, is a huge draw. As for the beer, Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city,” US News adds.

Dolly Parton mural in Asheville
Dolly Parton mural in Asheville (Photo by Wes McFee on Unsplash)

2. Raleigh

North Carolina’s capital city makes for an excellent place to call home for all kinds of people. “Raleigh again tops our list of best places to live in North Carolina — and our list of the best places to live anywhere in the U.S., as well,” says Bankrate.

“[The] state’s capital is desirable across all fronts and suitable for people of all ages. The cost of living, educational opportunities, and the hot job market help make the case for this city,” UpHomes claims. 

As the home of many of the state’s best schools, Raleigh is a great place to raise a family. But with a thriving downtown and phenomenal career opportunities, it’s just as fitting for singles and young professionals. “It’s turned itself into a desirable destination for families seeking quality education, professionals seeking further employment opportunities, and those after a lower cost of living without giving up convenience,” says Touropia. “There’s a chance everyone can find their ‘home’ in Raleigh with plenty to do for young and old. Well-maintained parks exist in great numbers, along with museums, local sport, live music and ample outdoor adventures.”

Raleigh downtown at night
Downtown Raleigh at night (Photo by Higgins Spooner on Unsplash)

3. Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem may be a college town, but students are far from the only ones flocking to the city. “With a great location, low cost of living and a strong sense of community, Winston-Salem is a popular choice for many,” says Touropia. “As the home of Wake Forest, those new to town can expect a diversified population from students, to young professionals and families.”

The city is warm and inviting, and is known for embracing the many backgrounds of its residents throughout the year. “Although the city is traditionally Southern in its friendliness, it has an international feel,” notes US News. “The metro area celebrates its diversity during an array of festivals and through a variety of cuisines. You’ll find restaurants serving everything from traditional North Carolina barbecue to Indian curries and Greek pastries.”

UpHomes says this is a great spot for those looking to explore: “The city’s centrally located in the state, making trips to other cities like Charlotte and Greensboro easily accessible and trips to the mountains feel like a breeze.”

powerplant in Winston-Salem NC
Bailey Powerplant in Winston-Salem (Photo by Ian McIlwraith on Unsplash)

4. Durham

As the home of Duke University, Durham is another college town with a lively social scene and a booming economy. Also home to Google, the city is becoming increasingly known as a hub for technology and medicine. “Durham has always been a major hub of attractions,” says Touropia. “This should excite career-minded individuals who wish to escape the big smoke but still enjoy fantastic employment opportunities in a smaller city.”

Outside of its fantastic job market, Durham is also a city that knows how to have fun. “Whether you’re a big sports fan or into performing arts for entertainment, you can soak it all up in this city,” UpHomes states.

“Whether you want to root for the Duke Blue Devils, run or bike the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail (12 miles run through Durham) or head to a gallery crawl that shows off the artists that give Durham a reputation as a creative haven, this city … delivers first-rate ways to enjoy your days and nights,” Bankrate adds.

Duke University chapel in Durham NC
Duke University chapel in Durham (Photo by Chuck Givens on Unsplash)

5. Charlotte

If you’re considering a move to North Carolina from out of state, you’ll find plenty of company in Charlotte. “The extensive range of colleges (there are over 40) and with Charlotte increasingly becoming a destination for those moving from out of state, you’ll uncover a very diverse population,” Touropia says.

It’s easy to see why so many out-of-staters are flocking to the city. “The big city’s offerings certainly match its population,” notes UpHomes. “From expansive shopping options to unique clubs and bars and everything in between, you’ll never be bored living in this city.”

And despite its big-city status, Charlotte remains very much attached to its regional roots. “Although its economy and rapid development make Charlotte a thoroughly 21st century metro area, Southern charm is still very much alive, and making friends with neighbors isn’t the Sisyphean task it can be in other large cities,” says US News

downtown buildings in Charlotte
Downtown Charlotte (Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.