Best Places to Retire in North Carolina: 5 Best Cities for Retirees

By |2022-03-15T17:38:35+00:00March 15th, 2022|Seniors|

Nothing Could be Finer than to Retire in North Carolina!

North Carolina is a state that truly has everything you could want in a permanent home. From the stunning heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the peaceful lull of the sea at the Outer Banks, there’s something for everyone there. Not to mention, the Piedmont and Triangle areas are just as lovely and serene.

It’s more popular now than it ever has been to retire to North Carolina. Like the great state of Florida, North Carolina features some of the best cities to retire in the country. Some of you want to retire to quiet rural areas where you can fish and explore the great outdoors. Others want to retire to a place with plenty to do and a vibrant nightlife scene. What makes North Carolina one of the best places to retire anywhere is the fact that it has all of that and more.

It’s tough to narrow down the best places to live in North Carolina, much less the best cities to retire. After some major deliberation, we’ve come up with this list of 5 of the best places to retire in North Carolina.

1: Hickory, NC

The first on our list of the best cities to retire in North Carolina isn’t the most well-known, but it’s the most affordable and serves as a gateway to the Blue Ridge. Hickory, North Carolina is a lovely little place nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. It’s considered a small town, but there’s plenty of big city charm to be found here.

Given its place at the foot of the Blue Ridge, there’s plenty of serene forests, lakes, and rivers to be found for those of you fond of the great outdoors. The famous Lake Hickory offers plenty of opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and boating, and there are numerous parks, greenways, and trails for further outdoor exploration.

If nightlife and shopping are more your thing, Hickory offers plenty of both! Numerous indoor and outdoor shopping centers offer goods and works from talented local artisans as well as recognizable names. As far as nightlife goes, there are plenty of options for traditional and alternative lifestyles alike in Downtown Hickory and beyond. If you prefer heading to the big city for entertainment, you’re less than an hour away from two of North Carolina’s biggest and most vibrant cities, Asheville and Charlotte.

Being a smaller place than most on this list, the cost of living in Hickory is relatively low. The average median rent sits at around $683, while the cost of purchasing a home is around $158,700 – not too bad in today’s market! If you’re of retirement age and looking to cast off the burden of owning and maintaining a home, you’ll find plenty of top-rated retirement communities and villages, as well as other long-term facilities in the area.

There are an abundance of Primary Care Physicians to choose from in the area to serve your medical needs. Hickory is also home to two renowned hospitals, Catawba Valley Medical Center and Frye Regional Medical Center. If you need more specialized care, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem and Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte are only an hour away.

In addition to being one of the best places to retire in North Carolina, Hickory is also home to numerous top colleges, including Lenoir-Rhyne University. If you’re looking to further your education in your golden years, you’ll find plenty of opportunities in Hickory. Even if you’re just looking to learn a new skill, this is a great place to do just that.

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2: Winston-Salem, NC

Next on our list of the best places to retire in North Carolina is a city that mixes small-town country charm with the lively feel of a bustling metropolis. Winston-Salem may not be the biggest city around, but this jewel nestled in the middle of the Piedmont-Triad region offers plenty of delights for retirees.

For the outdoors-y types among you, Winston-Salem offers plenty of lovely parks and greenways to help keep you active. Bethabara Park offers an array of trails and greenway access, and Muddy Creek Greenway offers three miles – out of 25 – of greenway ideal for walkers, joggers, and cyclists alike. If you prefer to take your workout indoors, you’ve also got a variety of gyms in the area to choose from. Anything from the local Y to larger chains, there’s plenty of opportunity for the fitness buff!

When you’re looking for something to do, Winston-Salem offers plenty of fine dining, shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. The Downtown Arts District is an electric centerpoint for those looking to buy goods from local artisans, or catch dinner and a show on any given night. In this area, many locals love indulging in modernized soul food dishes and cocktails at Sweet Potatoes before catching a Broadway-quality show at the Stevens Center. If you’re looking for a nightcap, there are plenty of upscale pubs offering classy cocktails and company in the surrounding area.

Winston-Salem isn’t the smallest place you’ll find, so you can expect to pay a little more for housing. The current monthly average for rent in Winston-Salem is around $895, which is about 13% higher than it was in 2021. The cost of an average home in Winston has also increased, jumping up 14.7% from 2021 to $235,000. This isn’t as high as some of the other places you’ll find on our list, but still something to consider. Of course, if you’re looking to downsize, you’ll find plenty of top-rated retirement communities in the area that offer plenty of freedom, scenery, and wonderful amenities.

To meet your medical needs, you’ll find that Winston-Salem is home to some of the highest-ranked healthcare systems around, such as:

  • Atrium Health
  • Novant Health
  • Cone Health

As a result, you’ll find a vast network of Primary Care Physicians, specialists, and hospitalists that can assist you with any medical issues you may have. In fact, Winston-Salem is home to some of the top hospitals in the country, including:

  • Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center
  • Novant Health Medical Park Hospital
  • Wilkes Regional
  • Novant Health Rehabilitation Hospital

Do you have a desire to learn new skills? Are you considering pursuing a new degree? If so, Winston-Salem is one of the best places to retire for you. From top-rated community colleges, such as Forsyth Tech, to world-renowned universities, such as Wake Forest and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, you won’t find a lack of higher learning here.

3: Greensboro, NC

Did you know that two of the best places to retire in North Carolina are essentially right next door to each other? Greensboro, often touted as one of the best places to live in North Carolina, is also one of its best places to retire. This ever-growing Piedmont city has something to offer residents of any age, especially retirees.

Like Winston-Salem, Greensboro offers plenty of parks and greenways for active seniors to enjoy the great outdoors. Many locals tend to enjoy the scenery and history of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, the site where the Battle of Guilford Courthouse occurred during the last years of the Revolutionary War. The 2.5 mile walking loop here is just one of hundreds of miles of trails and greenways in the area.

If you’re seeking nightlife and entertainment, Greensboro offers plenty. Avid shoppers will find plenty of local, regional, and national goods in any variety of shopping centers. After you’ve explored the stores, you can take in a meal and a drink at a number of renowned local taverns and grilles, such as Fat Dog’s or Melt Kitchen & Bar. You also have the option of catching a good play or a good band at one of many local venues, including the Cone Denim Entertainment Center and the Tanger Center for the Performing Arts.

You’ll find that rates for rent and housing are a little higher than they are in Winston-Salem or Hickory. The median monthly rent for a place in Greensboro is currently $902, while the median listing price for a home is around $245,000. If this seems too steep and you’re looking to make a move toward a more minimal lifestyle, you’ll find plenty of excellent retirement villages, communities, and facilities in the area if you’re of retirement age.

Quality healthcare is a major concern for anyone, and Greensboro offers some of the best providers and facilities in the country. Local provider Cone Health has a major presence in the area, offering a vast network of PCPs, specialists, and hospitals, including:

  • Wesley Long Hospital
  • Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital
  • SRI Surgical Moses Cone Hospital
  • Select Specialty Hospital

You’ll also find a number of excellent providers and hospitals outside of the Cone Health network in the area, such as Kindred Hospital.

It’s never too late to learn new skills or pursue a higher degree, and Greensboro offers plenty of opportunities for you to do just that. Guilford Tech, Guilford College, and UNC Greensboro are just a few of several senior-friendly higher education institutions in the area that allow you to further your education.

4: Raleigh/Durham, NC

A midway point between the mountains and the beach, the Raleigh/Durham area offers the best of everything in the beautiful package of a thriving city. That’s part of what makes it one of the best places to retire in North Carolina! 

For outdoor enthusiasts, Raleigh offers over 180 miles of trails and greenways. There are also plenty of parks and historical sites in the area, including John Chavis Memorial Park – which features a classic carousel as its centerpiece – to spend the day picnicking or exploring. Like any city considered one of the best places to live in North Carolina, you also have plenty of indoor options to keep your health in check if that’s what you prefer. You’ll find no shortage of yoga studios, indoor aquatic parks, or gyms in Raleigh/Durham.

Raleigh/Durham is an area full of vibrant culture, and you’ll find plenty of entertainment, shopping, and nightlife here. The famous PNC Arena hosts everything from live music to sporting events, and there’s plenty of incredible local hangouts in the bustling Downtown area. In between all of the activity, speakeasies, taverns, grilles and more offer the gamut, from delicious breakfasts to smooth nightcaps. Watts and Ward and the Cortez are just two of many local favorites.

Given the size of this metropolitan area, as well as the constant growth, the cost of living is a little higher here than it is in the other three places on our list. The median cost for rent for a modest place in Raleigh/Durham is $1,185. The median listing price for the average house in the area is $379,000. If Raleigh/Durham is where you want to be, you may take it as a great opportunity to downsize your lifestyle. There are plenty of excellent retirement communities in the area that welcome incoming seniors with open arms!

The level of quality healthcare you’ll find in the Raleigh/Durham area is second to none. There are numerous providers, PCPs, and specialists around to assist with any needs that you have. You’ll also find some of the best hospitals in the country in this area, such as:

  • Duke University Hospital
  • Duke Regional Hospital
  • Duke Raleigh Hospital
  • WakeMed
  • WakeMed North
  • WakeMed Brier Creek Healthplex

In addition to plentiful opportunities to keep your body in great physical shape, Raleigh/Durham offers plenty of ways to keep your mind healthy as well. There are many museums to explore in the area, and if you’re an artist at heart, the Downtown area offers lots of ways to expand your creative horizons, with classes and “sip and paint” sessions at galleries, wineries, and breweries. If you’re eager to learn a new skill or pursue a degree, you’re in the driving range of Duke University, Wake Tech Community College, and many other establishments of higher learning.

5: Asheville, NC

Last, but certainly not least, on our list of the best places to retire in North Carolina is a true mountain utopia. Asheville is a haven for free spirits and the young at heart. That’s a huge part of what makes it an ideal new home for retirees.

No matter where you live in Asheville, you’re never less than a few minutes’ drive away from lovely trails or state parks. In fact, French Broad River park is just a few miles from the downtown area, which makes it easy to go for a walk by a beautiful river after a leisurely lunch. The park also serves as an entry point to several miles of greenway if you choose to keep walking! If you prefer a more metropolitan environment, Downtown Asheville also offers several miles for a good stroll.

Nightlife, shopping, and entertainment are abundant in Asheville. No matter where you happen to be in the city, you’ll find something fun to do. If you’re looking for a nice dinner or a nightcap, local favorites such as Tupelo Honey, Banks Ave., Red Stag Grill, and – for those of you who live a vegan lifestyle – the Laughing Seed are can’t-miss options. If you’re looking to dance a little, you’ll always find good music at The Orange Peel, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, or the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater. If you’re truly young at heart and like to walk a little more on the wild side, the famed Odditorium walks the line between friendly local dive and curiosity museum.

When it comes to the cost of living, Asheville is perhaps the most expensive spot on our list. Those looking to simply rent a place may find the median cost of $1,367 kind of steep, and an average housing cost of $395,430 may encourage you to consider downsizing if a move to Asheville is being considered. After all, there are plenty of top-tier retirement communities in the area that are always very welcoming to seniors who are new to the area.

Access to excellent healthcare plays a big role in the decision to retire anywhere. Asheville has many stellar healthcare providers in the area, including top-rated PCPs and specialists. You’ll also find a number of quality hospitals nearby, including:

  • Mission Hospital
  • Mission Health Partners
  • Biltmore Hospital
  • Asheville VA Medical Center

Like all of our other best cities to retire in, Asheville offers abundant opportunities to keep your mind sharp. There are many museums and historical sites in the area, and you’ll find plenty of folk centers and trade schools to learn a new hobby. If a degree is what you’re after, UNC Asheville is a top spot, and there are several excellent community colleges in Asheville as well.

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No Matter Your Choice, You’ll Find a Good Place in North Carolina

As always, the choice of best cities to retire anywhere is always subjective. In fact, in your eyes, the best places to live in North Carolina may not even be on this list! Choosing to retire to North Carolina in itself is an excellent choice. No matter where you end up in the state, you’ll know you’ve found your home in one of the best places to retire in the country.

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