From the Appalachians anchored by Asheville on the west side of the state to the Outer Banks on the Atlantic coastal plain, North Carolina is one of the 10 most populous states and it’s not hard to understand why. The majority of North Carolina live between the mountains and the beach, in the central plateau region known as Piedmont.
The state of Tar Heel has a rich history, but it is also the largest tobacco producer in the country. Pork barbecue is the staple food of the south, and North Carolina is known for two types: the Lexington style, which uses only pork shoulder and is served with tomato and vinegar sauce, and the oriental style which uses “whole pork” and is served with a vinegar-based sauce. This can help you determine which side of North Carolina you want to live in – for the rest of the tough decisions, check out our guide to the best places to live in North Carolina.
With more than 2.5 million residents, The Queen City is the most populous (and arguably the best) place in North Carolina to live in North Carolina. Here you can find everything from fine restaurants and rooftop cocktail bars to 24 hour French pastries and a thriving art scene. Serving as the head office for Bank of America, Charlotte is the largest banking center in the country after New York, so finance is a big part of the local economy. Technology is the fastest growing sector, while textiles and commerce remain important industries.
In addition to a thriving job market, Charlotte is home to many charming neighborhoods, including Uptown and First Ward, where you’ll find the bustling 7th Street Public Market, the Levine Museum of the New South, Blumenthal Performing Arts and First Ward Park. In addition, there are the historic Fourth Ward, the NoDa Arts District, the laid-back Dilworth neighborhood, the University City college and the upscale Elizabeth and Myers Park.
Buy before you go to SouthPark Mall, the largest in the Carolinas. There is a plethora of nightlife, dining, and entertainment options. Attractions include Carowinds Amusement Park, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Charlotte Motor Speedway is actually located 30 minutes near Concord.
Charlotte has the most professional teams in all the major cities in North Carolina. The NFL Carolina Panthers and the NBA Charlotte Hornets will be joined by a Major League Soccer team in 2021. And, the Charlotte Knights are an AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox who play Uptown at BB&T Ballpark. Travel the city on North Carolina’s only light rail system, the LYNX, or get out of the dodge and board a flight from Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Known for its universities, such as North Carolina State University, the capital is the second largest metropolis in the state, with a population approaching half a million. With Chapel Hill and Durham (both about 40 km), Raleigh is one of the corners of the Research Triangle, the country’s largest research park made up of a number of technological and academic institutions.
The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes play at the PNC Arena, which is about one and a half miles from the fairgrounds where the NC State Fair is held annually. Other attractions include the North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Marbles Kids Museum, and the 19th-century Neo-Greek-style North Carolina State Capitol building. Pullen Park offers more than 60 acres of green space just west of the city center, while Umstead Park has almost 5,600 acres of trails and lakes next to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Crabtree Valley Mall, North Hills Mall and Triangle Town Center keep the people of Raleigh in fashion, while GoRaleigh keeps them in motion with 33 bus routes.
Located about 40 km from Raleigh, Durham is home to cafes, bars, theaters, art galleries, restaurants and Duke University. Also part of the Research Triangle, Durham is the most liberal county in the state and is also a great advocate for the arts. James Taylor, who wrote the unofficial state anthem, “Carolina in My Mind” grew up nearby and members of the Avett Brothers, Iron & Wine and Hiss Golden Messenger all live in Durham. The city also promotes the visual arts, hosting the Scrap Exchange, the country’s largest non-profit artistic center for creative reuse, as well as the Nasher Museum of Art, as well as a plethora of small galleries and studios.
Part of Durham’s extensive network of routes and bike paths, the American Tobacco Trail begins downtown and continues south through Research Triangle Park, ending in County Wake. Raleigh-Durham International Airport also serves this area, as does the GoTriangle bus system. Durham is home to Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill is located on the outskirts of Durham, both of which bring a university city feel to the region.
Speaking of liberal and artistic communities, Asheville is there with Durham – just ask the 425,000 people who live there. The largest city in western North Carolina is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains. Mountain scenery, outdoor activities, a vibrant art scene and historic architecture make it one of the best places to live in North Carolina. Asheville is home to one of the most impressive complete collections of Art Deco architecture in the country, but it also houses the Saint-Laurent basilica surmounted by a dome and the vast 19th-century Biltmore estate. Galleries and museums dot the Downtown Art District, while old factories have been converted into studios in the nearby River Arts District.
Stroll through the magnificent botanical gardens of Asheville or browse the shops of the Grove Arcade. Get a new page turner (for you) at The Captain’s Bookshelf or the Battery Park Book Exchange, then play a few games at the Asheville Pinball Museum. With an abundance of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, Asheville is one of the best cities for foodies, and what could be better with food than with a drink? Asheville is full of breweries, such as the Wedge Brewing Co. and the Highland Brewing Company, and has quickly become one of the country’s top destinations for craft beer lovers.
There are no pro-sports teams in town, but at least there is a minor league baseball team – the Asheville Tourists. Asheville has a regional airport, but it’s usually cheaper to get to Greenville, Charlotte or Knoxville, which are all two hours or less. ART (Asheville Redefines Transit) has several bus lines.
The mountainous, winding and picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway cuts through the city. Park on any viewpoint and there is most likely a trail nearby, this can even lead to a beautiful waterfall! The city is surrounded by hiking trails. Popular places include Mount Pisgah, Graveyard Fields, Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell. Part of the Black Mountain range, Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet. The birthplace of forestry, Chimney Rock Park in the scenic Hickory Nut Gorge, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the NC / TN border, and Gorges State Park all offer incredible views and hiking trails within walking distance. one hour from town.
Besides the great outdoor spaces, restaurants, art scenes and entertainment, the best places to live in North Carolina all have something in common: affordability. Find your next apartment on Zumper and enjoy a lower cost of living than cities like New York and San Francisco.