15 Best Places To Raise a Family in North Carolina [2023 Study]

February 06th, 2023

15 Best Places To Raise a Family in North Carolina [2023 Study]

North Carolina has always drawn visitors and residents alike with its charm, history, and coastal beauty. If you’re looking for a place to start your family or move with your family, you’re probably looking at many different cities across the state. It can be overwhelming to compare so many great places.

UpHomes is here to help take some of the guesswork out of choosing your next home with our study of the best places to raise a family in North Carolina. We evaluated 15 factors related to public safety, education, quality of life, and family-friendliness to decide which cities in North Carolina are best for families. Keep reading to learn more about these cities and get your home search started.

 

UpHomes Family-Friendly Rank

City

Population

Violent Crime Rate per 100K

Percentage of Schools Rated Above Average

1

Harrisburg

19,463

49

61%

2

Waxhaw

21,673

97

64%

3

Concord 

107,697

49

61%

4

Kannapolis 

54,446

49

61%

5

Apex 

62,911

24

21%

6

Fuquay-Varina 

36,736

24

21%

7

Indian Trail

40,953

97

64%

8

Holly Springs

43,524

24

21%

9

Wake Forest

49,657

24

21%

10

Cary

176,987

24

21%

11

Monroe

34,888

97

64%

12

Matthews

29,623

63

25%

13

Morrisville

31,278

24

21%

14

Raleigh

469,124

24

21%

15

Mooresville

51,594

164

34%

 

Map of the best places to raise a family in North Carolina.

 

1. Harrisburg

 

Image shows key information that make Harrisburg, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Cabarrus

Population: 19,463

Median household income: $124,090

Median list price: $485,687

Violent crime rate: 49 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 61%

 

Harrisburg is a small city in the Charlotte metropolitan area, offering many benefits to families looking to find a new home. Over 60% of Harrisburg public schools are rated above average quality.

Harrisburg is a very family-friendly city, with the highest average number of people in a household, the highest median income, and low crime rates. These factors come together to make Harrisburg the number one best place to raise a family in North Carolina.

 

2. Waxhaw

 

Image shows key information that make Waxhaw, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Union

Population: 21,673

Median household income: $123,370

Median list price: $724,030

Violent crime rate: 97 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 64%

 

Waxhaw is a fast-growing town just south of Charlotte and close to the South Carolina border. There are comprehensive plans in the works to improve quality of life in Waxhaw with the Waxhaw 2040 Comp Plan, which includes adding various walking, biking, and shared-use paths throughout town.

Waxhaw is in Union County, which has the third lowest percentage of schools rated below average and the highest percentage of schools rated above average on our list. This makes Waxhaw the perfect town to invest in your kids’ future and the second city on our list.

 

3. Concord

 

Image shows key information that make Concord, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Cabarrus

Population: 107,697

Median household income: $78,775

Median list price: $406,139

Violent crime rate: 49 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 61%

 

Concord is the largest city in Cabarrus County and the third best city in North Carolina for families, according to our research. It has a very high walkability rating, larger average household size, and low cost of living. 

These factors contribute to a high quality of life for families, not to mention the large percentage of high-quality schools for your children to attend. This makes Concord the third best place to raise your family in the state.

 

4. Kannapolis

 

Image shows key information that make Kannapolis, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Cabarrus and Rowan

Population: 54,446

Median household income: $58,084

Median list price: $322,986

Violent crime rate: 49 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 61%

 

Kannapolis is just over 30 minutes north of Charlotte and home to the North Carolina Research Campus, which conducts life science research, particularly about agriculture and nutrition.

The cost of living in Kannapolis is quite low at 15.4% below the national average. There are also three museums to explore in the area, despite the smaller population. These factors contribute to Kannapolis being the fourth city on our list.

 

5. Apex

 

Image shows key information that make Apex, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Wake

Population: 62,911

Median household income: $121,313

Median list price: $701,692

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

Apex is a city in the Research Triangle located between Holly Springs and Cary. The motto in Apex is “The peak of good living,” and the city truly fulfills that objective. There is a commitment to making residents’ lives better in Apex, from its dedication to being an official Bee City and supporting native pollinators, to the ADA Transition Plan working to ensure that Apex becomes more accessible for all residents. 

Apex has some of the lowest crime rates in North Carolina and the highest percentage of high school graduates out of the cities we studied. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Apex is the fifth best place to raise a family in North Carolina. 

 

6. Fuquay-Varina

 

Image shows key information that make Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Wake

Population: 36,736

Median household income: $85,047

Median list price: $503,969

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

You might recognize Fuquay-Varina as the safest city in North Carolina, but did you know it’s also a great place for families? 

Not only is Fuquay-Varina safe, but 88.4% of families stay in the same house year over year, and it has the sixth highest average household size on our list at 2.85. This makes it the sixth city on our list.

 

7. Indian Trail

 

Image shows key information that make Indian Trail, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Union

Population: 40,953

Median household income: $88,673

Median list price: $$466,311

Violent crime rate: 97 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 64%

 

Indian Trail is the largest municipality in Union County and is part of the Charlotte metropolitan area. While the current walkability score in Indian Trail is on the low side, there are plans to improve walkability and make the city more bike-friendly, showing that Indian Trail will only get better in the future.

The schools can’t get much better here. Indian Trail is in Union County, so it has the third lowest percentage of schools below average and the highest percentage of schools above average of the cities we studied. This earns Indian Trail the seventh spot on our list.

 

8. Holly Springs

 

Image shows key information that make Holly Springs, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Wake

Population: 43,524

Median household income: $120,229

Median list price: $646,178

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

Holly Springs is a short 30-minute drive from Raleigh but offers a much quieter atmosphere, with less than a tenth of the population. There are currently five active parks and recreation projects in Holly Springs to add more parks and greenways so residents can get out and enjoy nature.

Holly Springs has the fourth highest median income and sixth lowest poverty rate on our list. The average family has over three members, so the area is perfect for a family truly seeking community. If you’re looking for a small-town vibe where you can still explore Raleigh any weekend, Holly Springs is the perfect place for you.

 

9. Wake Forest

 

Image shows key information that make Wake Forest, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Franklin, Granville, and Wake

Population: 49,657

Median household income: $104,006

Median list price: $724,375

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

Just outside of Raleigh, you’ll find the city of Wake Forest. This city is great for young professionals with families. It’s still within the Research Triangle without the higher crime rates that tend to come with living in a larger city.

Wake Forest earns the ninth spot on our list due to its low poverty rate and high walkability score. It also has a relatively high median income at $104,006. These factors make Wake Forest a great option for your next home.

 

10. Cary

 

Image shows key information that make Cary, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Wake and Chatham

Population: 176,987

Median household income: $113,782

Median list price: $682,885

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

If you travel just west of Raleigh, you’ll find yourself in Cary. Nearly a quarter of the city’s population are school-age children, meaning there’s a thriving family-friendly community in Cary.

Cary ranks 10th overall for the best place in the state to raise a family. Nearly 97% of the population in Cary has a high school diploma, which is higher than the statewide and national rate. This makes Cary ideal for any family, whether your kids are starting preschool or they’re already in high school.

 

11. Monroe

 

Image shows key information that make Monroe, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Union

Population: 34,888

Median household income: $58,180

Median list price: $431,218

Violent crime rate: 97 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 64%

 

Located on the outskirts of Charlotte, Monroe is known for its charming downtown area full of local stores. There’s already a plan in action to improve accessibility to downtown areas, allowing the city to expand without compromising the small-town feel residents love.

There are many families in Monroe, with an average household size of 2.98. It also has the fifth lowest FEMA risk score on our list at 10.11 and high-quality Union County public schools. This makes Monroe the 11th best place for families in the state.

 

12. Matthews

 

Image shows key information that make Matthews, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Mecklenburg

Population: 29,623

Median household income: $96,195

Median list price: $532,500

Violent crime rate: 63 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 25%

 

Matthews is just outside of Charlotte, 20 minutes away from the popular First Ward neighborhood. Its economy has roots in the early lumber industry, which earned Matthews the nickname “Stumptown,” referring to tree stumps. Don’t worry about this nickname, though — there are many lush parks and greenways to explore today.

Matthews earned the 12th spot on our list due to the low crime rates, a high median income at $96,195, and a high walkability score.

 

13. Morrisville

 

Image shows key information that make Morrisville, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Wake

Population: 31,278

Median household income: $106,891

Median list price: $655,874

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

Morrisville is known as the home of the U.S. headquarters for Lenovo, which is a major producer of consumer electronics. This creates many jobs in the area, which translates to a low poverty rate and a high median income.

Although there aren’t any museums in the area, Morrisville is part of the Triangle, so there are boundless opportunities for fun and education nearby. This brings Morrisville to the 13th spot on our list of the best places to raise a family in North Carolina.

 

14. Raleigh

 

Image shows key information that make Raleigh, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Wake

Population: 469,124

Median household income: $72,996

Median list price: $645,065

Violent crime rate: 24 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 21%

 

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and the heart of the Research Triangle area. If you hope to keep your children around through college, there’s no shortage of great universities in the area.

While your children are growing up, Raleigh has the most museums and second most libraries to explore out of the cities we studied. It also has the fourth highest walkability score, which makes Raleigh ideal for anyone who wants their family to get the hands-on experiences of city life in a family-friendly environment.

 

15. Mooresville

 

Image shows key information that make Mooresville, North Carolina a great place to raise a family.

 

County: Iredell

Population: 51,594

Median household income: $75,141

Median list price: $760,011

Violent crime rate: 164 per 100,000

Percentage of schools above average quality: 34%

 

Mooresville sits right on Lake Norman and is famous for being home to many NASCAR drivers and teams. In fact, the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame is located in Mooresville, which makes for a fun family outing.

Mooresville comes in as the 15th best place to raise a family in North Carolina due to a variety of factors, such as having four museums to explore and a county FEMA rating under 11.

 

Other Places To Raise a Family in North Carolina

Check out more of the best cities in North Carolina to raise a family below. 

 

Rank

City

Population

Violent Crime Rate per 100K

Percentage of Schools Rated Above Average

16

Lexington

19,516

110

38

17

Mint Hill

26,633

63

25

18

Charlotte

879,709

63

25

19

Carrboro

21,312

146

25

20

Statesville

28,844

164

34

21

Garner

31,935

24

21

22

Clemmons

21,517

218

26

23

Chapel Hill

61,128

146

25

24

Thomasville

18,867

110

38

25

Cornelius

31,650

63

25

26

Gastonia

81,161

206

26

27

Winston-Salem

250,320

218

26

28

Hickory

43,532

219

26

29

Asheville

94,067

125

17

30

Jacksonville

72,876

112

20



  1. Lexington

  2. Mint Hill

  3. Charlotte

  4. Carrboro

  5. Statesville

  6. Garner

  7. Clemmons

  8. Chapel Hill

  9. Thomasville

  10. Cornelius

  11. Gastonia

  12. Winston-Salem

  13. Hickory

  14. Asheville

  15. Jacksonville

 

FAQ

Many families are wondering where they should move in North Carolina. Here are the answers to your top questions about the best places to raise a family.

 

What is the best area in North Carolina to raise a family?

Of our top 15 places to raise a family in North Carolina, six cities are located in Wake County, making it the best area for families in the state.

 

Is North Carolina a good state to raise kids?

North Carolina has a lot to offer for raising kids. The low cost of living allows families to prove for their children, access to green space, and low unemployment rate are all factors that make North Carolina a great place for families.

 

What is the best place in North Carolina to live?

Considering crime rates, cost of living, education quality, walkability, and several other factors related to quality of life, Harrisburg is one of the best places to live in North Carolina, especially considering family-friendliness.

 

Where is the best and safest place to live in North Carolina?

According to our study on the safest cities in North Carolina, Fuquay-Varina is the safest city. It also ranks sixth on our list of best places to raise a family in North Carolina.

 

Methodology

To give you the full picture on which cities to consider when moving your family to North Carolina, we gathered data on the 70 most populous cities in the state. 

Several cities are located in multiple counties. When looking at county data, we used data for the primary county of that city. The exception is the city of Rocky Mount, which is split evenly between two counties. For Rocky Mount, we averaged the county data between those two counties.

Eleven cities were excluded from our study. The city of Huntersville was excluded due to environmental concerns from a 2020 pipeline spill. The following cities were excluded due to a lack of data for one or more of our factors:

 

  • Knightdale

  • Kinston

  • Pinehurst

  • Mount Holly

  • Hope Mills

  • Graham

  • Stallings

  • Albemarle

  • Southern Pines

  • Belmont

 

We looked at 15 safety, quality of life, and education factors to rank the best places to raise a family in North Carolina. We weighted those factors as noted below:

 

  • County violent crime rate per 100K - 10%

  • County property crime rate per 100K - 8%

  • County schools below average quality - 10%

  • County schools above average quality - 8%

  • Percentage of families in the same home year over year - 8%

  • FEMA National Risk Index - 8%

  • Cost of living - 8%

  • Number of people in a household - 7%

  • Percentage of children 19 and younger with health care coverage - 5%

  • Percentage of population with high school degree - 5%

  • Walkability of downtown area score - 5%

  • Median household income - 5%

  • Poverty rate - 5%

  • Number of libraries - 4%

  • Number of museums - 4%

 

Find Home Base With UpHomes

You want the best for your family, and that includes finding the best location to make your home. The best places to raise a family in North Carolina offer unique experiences, educational opportunities, unparalleled safety, and more for any family. When you’re ready to find your family’s forever home, get in touch with UpHomes for expert advice on your home buying journey.

CTA-images
Find your new home Search real estate and homes for sale
Share this post
Ryan Fitzgerald

Ryan Fitzgerald

Hi there! My name is Ryan Fitzgerald, and I am a REALTOR®. My goal is to help you learn more about real estate through our Real Estate Blog! Hopefully, you enjoyed the above blog post and it found a way to provide help or value to you. When you're ready to buy or sell a home of your own let us know here. Please feel free to join the conversation by dropping us a comment below.