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The 20 Best Places to Live in the Carolinas

Fort Mill, South Carolina

If you're considering a move to either North Carolina or South Carolina, you may be wondering which are the best places to settle. When looking for a new town or city to call home, the best place is one that more closely meets your individual and family needs. Some areas are ideal for retirees while others are just right for young professionals and young families still in need of employment resources. We've narrowed our search to include the areas that have the best amenities, highest safety ratings, and affordable living costs. Here are the 20 best places to live in the Carolinas based on these criteria.

Morrisville, North Carolina

20. Morrisville, North Carolina

According to Rocket Homes, Morrisville is one of the best places to live in the state if you have a family. The unemployment rate is about 8 percent but there are plenty of jobs available. The median household income for a family with a four-year college education among wage earners is about $96,489. Renters can expect to pay an average of $1,330 per month for a house. The median home price for a single-family dwelling is $342,250. While this is a bit steep, it is commensurate with the average wage earned. The cost of living is below the national average which makes the city with a residential population of 27,453 an affordable place to live. The city is in the center of the state near the Research Triangle, with plenty of educational opportunities, strong school systems, and a fairly highly educated population. The commute to larger cities and greater employment opportunities is only about 21 minutes. Morrisville offers plenty of amenities with the RDU Observation Park for families, Lake Crabtree County Park with kayaks, paddle boats, canoes, and other rentals, plenty of restaurants, shopping venues, and more.

High Point, North Carolina

19. High Point, North Carolina

High Point is a larger city with a population of 112,791 residents. The unemployment rate is a bit higher at 10.3 percent, but the median home price is half that of Morrisville, at $174,846. The median household income is $45,373 and the average monthly rent price is far lower at just $856. The commute to the larger city of Raleigh is just 20 minutes. The cost of living is far lower in this community and it is considered to be extremely family-friendly. The largest employers are manufacturing industries, healthcare, banking, and education. The private and public education systems are rated as excellent and there are plenty of fun activities available for families that run year-round. There are also plenty of organized sports clubs as well as hiking trails, greenways, and 42 public parks to enjoy.

Mooresville, North Carolina

18. Mooresville, North Carolina

Mooresville is a city with a population of 38,431 residents. The unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent but it's only a 25-minute commute to larger metropolitan areas. The median household income is $67,656 per year with a median home price at $285,594. Housing is affordable with rent at $1,079 monthly. The cost of living is affordable in Mooresville, which makes it easier to stretch a paycheck. It's not far from Charlotte, near Lake Norman with multiple outdoor activities, wine tasting events, live music at the multiple restaurants in the downtown area, and plenty of fun and entertaining amenities. This is a close-knit family-oriented community that is ideal for retirees as well as for young families. It's a historical town that is brimming with landmarks and museums.

Huntersville, North Carolina

17. Huntersville, North Carolina

Huntersville is a slightly larger city with a residential population of 58,098 people. The median home price is higher at $339,864, but the median household income makes up for the higher price at $97,320, making it more affordable. The median monthly rent cost is $1,288. This is a city that is family-friendly with a tolerable crime rate, and plenty of activities for families going on all year long. The unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, but the average commute to larger metropolitan areas is about a half-hour. The cost of groceries and other goods is below the national average. Huntersville is filled with great educational opportunities with hands-on learning programs, historic landmarks dating back to the 1700s, and more. There is plenty of shopping, dining, and recreational venues in Huntersville.

Holly Springs, North Carolina

16. Holly Springs, North Carolina

Holly Springs is a smaller city with a population of 36,749 residents. The median home price is $374,721 with a median household income of $90,827. Renters pay an average of $1,213 per month. The unemployment rate is fairly low at 7.8 percent. This is a family-friendly community that offers an affordable cost of living in a charming southern town that is just 20 minutes outside of the larger metropolitan area of Raleigh. It was voted as one of the best places to raise a family in the state of North Carolina. The city has a rich history dating back to the civil war era, with plenty of outdoor activities, recreation, shopping, and dining.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

15. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill is a city with a population of 60,988 residents. The unemployment rate is lower than many surrounding communities at just 7 percent. The median home price is $359,500, a bit higher because this is a safe and desirable place to live. The median household income is $68,640 annually with a median monthly rent cost of $1,172. The commute to larger metro areas is under 20 minutes. The cost of living is lower in Chapel Hill than in many other communities nearby. It is the home of the first public university in the United States, the University of North Carolina. This is a diverse and multicultural area with tons of public art installments, murals, restaurants, bars, shops, and more. It's also home to the Riverwalk with dozens of parks and hiking trails.

Wilmington, North Carolina

14. Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington is a city with a population of 122,607 residents. The median household income in the city is $45,450 per year, however, the median home price is just $263,178 with rent low at $938 per month. The unemployment rate is at 7 percent with an 18-minute average commute to the larger metropolitan areas. Wilmington is a historic city with plenty of educational and fun activities. It's also near three island beaches if you enjoy time by the ocean. It's brimming with outdoor recreational opportunities, dining, shopping, and other amenities.

Wake Forest, North Carolina

13. Wake Forest, North Carolina

Wake Forest is one of the most highly recommended places to settle for retirees. It has a population of 44,046 residents. The median monthly rent cost is $1,083 with a median home price of $315,422. The average annual household income is $88,394. The unemployment rate is 7.2 percent with a 29-minute commute to the larger metro areas. The cost of living is affordable for those with a moderate income. ake Forest is a relatively safe place to live with a bus system that goes to Raleigh through the Wake Forest Loop, running daily. It's a city filled with history, museums, multiple breweries, and outdoor recreation areas. Education opportunities are excellent and this is a close-knit community that is ideal for families and retirees.

Cary, North Carolina

12. Cary, North Carolina

According to, Cary is one of the best places to live in the state of North Carolina. The schools are highly rated and there are several private and public schools to choose from. The amenities are solid with multiple choices for shopping, dining out at restaurants, and more. There are a lot of trails and greenways throughout the town for outdoor recreational fun. The city is also known for its festivals, music concerts, rodeos, and more. Niche gives it a high rating for being one of the best places to live in the Carolinas. Cary is one of the best Raleigh suburbs for families.

Ballantyne East, North Carolina

11. Ballantyne East, North Carolina

Ballantyne East is a neighborhood in Charlotte with a population of 9,099 residents. It's a community within a larger city that has the feeling of an urban suburb. Most of the residents in this tight-knit community own their own homes. The public schools are highly rated and the community is known for its friendliness as well as its low crime rate and high safety rating.

Dilworth, North Carolina

10. Dilworth, North Carolina

Dilworth is a neighborhood in Charlotte. The residential population is 10,109 people. The neighborhood has an urban feel with most residents in the area owning their homes. The area is filled with parks, coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. This is a conservative area with highly rated public schools and many young professionals.

Greensboro, North Carolina

9. Greensboro, North Carolina

According to Uphomes, Greensboro is one of the best places to live if you're interested in education. It's located in the Triad region that is home to five colleges and universities. The population is a little under 300,000. It's the place to live if you enjoy city living with all of the associated amenities. It's located in North Central North Carolina and is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains and 3 hours from the coast. It's one of the greenest cities in the United States with a focus on community sustainability and over 90 miles of greenways and trails for hiking, walking, biking, and other outdoor recreation.

Davidson, North Carolina

8. Davidson, North Carolina

Davidson is a historic city with a population of 12,921 residents. It's a suburb of Charlotte that is the home of Davidson College, with a cozy small-town feeling. Community ties are strong in Davidson. It's a safe place for families to live but it has a good balance of college students, retirees, and families in the community makeup. The town is laid out for cyclists and pedestrians with a high level of safety and a low crime rate. The median household income is $83,750, making it one of the higher-end places to live in the state.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

7. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem is another college town. Wake Forest University is the main college in the area. The city offers tons of amenities with a suburban feel, family-friendly vibes, and a lot of arts and culture activities. Housing costs are much lower in Winston-Salem, which makes it one of the more desirable places to live in the state.

Durham, North Carolina

6. Durham, North Carolina

Durham is the home of Duke University. It ranks high in quality educational opportunities. It has a rich history and s one of the biggest tobacco producers in the nation. It also ranks high in technology, innovation, and medicine. This is a growing city because of its high livability score. There are plenty of jobs available and affordable housing options for renting or buying. There are lots of sporting events in Durham, as well as a performing arts center, Broadway performances, live music, and much more.

Carrboro, North Carolina

5. Carrboro, North Carolina

Carrboro is a vibrant city that is not far from Chapel Hill. It's one of the best places to live if you're raising a family and want the best possible educational opportunities. This is a progressive, wholesome and energetic city that is loaded with fun and interesting recreational and entertainment opportunities. It's a hot spot for musicians, foodies, beer lovers, and more. It has an urban feel and is just a half-hour's drive from the metropolitan heart of Raleigh. There is a good mix of young families, young professionals, and postgraduates living in Carrboro.

Southern Pines, North Carolina

4. Southern Pines, North Carolina

Southern Pines is a diverse town of just 13,000 residents. It has a quaint small-town feel. It's home to a combination of retirees, military families, and young families. It's a peaceful and safe place to live, but it's also a tight-knit community that sponsors multiple community events that are geared towards the family. Recreation is a big deal in this town with a population of fun citizens who like to keep things interesting. The public schools are highly rated, the homes are affordable and there are plenty of parks, restaurants, golf courses, and other amenities.

Columbia, South Carolina

3. Columbia, South Carolina

According to Rocket Homes, Columbia is one of the larger cities in South Carolina, but it is an affordable place to live with tons of amenities. The population of residents is 131,674. The median home price is affordable at $209,853 with an average household income of $45,663 annually. The University of South Carolina is at home in the city of Columbia. It is one of the major employers and economic booster for the city. Football is the main pastime in this capital of South Carolina with a big tailgating culture.

Tega Cay, South Carolina

2. Tega Cay, South Carolina

Tega Cay is a lovely small community for those who prefer peace. It's a suburb of Charlotte, but it's located within the north part of South Carolina. This is an affluent little community of just 11,335 residents. The median household income is one of the highest in the state at $123,564 annually. The median home price is affordable when compared with average incomes at $353,000. Tega Cay boasts a peninsula of 3.87 miles. It's a lakeside town that is close-knit. The residents sponsor multiple community events and gather together to celebrate life in this beautiful hamlet. It's a fun and friendly place to live.

Fort Mill, South Carolina

1. Fort Mill, South Carolina

Fort Mill has a population of 22,284. It's small enough to have a quaint small-town feeling but large enough to offer tons of amenities. It's not far from Tega Cay. The average home price is more expensive at $369,769, with a lower household income of $81,401, but the quality of life here is heavenly. Fort Mill is easily one of the nicest places to live in the Carolinas because of its low property taxes, exceptional public schools, and choice of new houses thanks to the construction boom.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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