Explore the Triangle's Cities and Towns
Newcomers to the Triangle undoubtedly have many choices for where to establish their roots near the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
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More than a dozen towns surround the bustling cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill — each one enticing newcomers with its own unique character. Hillsborough, Wake Forest and Apex delight residents with charming historic districts lined with centuries-old buildings and quaint storefronts that harken back to a simpler time. Morrisville accommodates a large international population, and Holly Springs and Zebulon take pride in having their own professional baseball teams.
Strengthened by its CardRates.com “2018 Cities Primed for Economic Growth and Opportunity” No. 7 ranking — and an unemployment rate well below the national average — Raleigh boasts a reputation as a robust career destination. Just 3 miles west of the downtown district, North Carolina State University ranks ninth on Kiplinger’s 2018 list of campuses with the “Best Values in Public Colleges.”
North Carolina’s fifth-largest city, Durham, boasts the elegantly renovated American Tobacco Historic District, which accommodates shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Just 2 miles northwest of downtown, Duke University sprawls across 8,690 acres of land that includes the majestic Duke Forest. This prestigious private school ranked ninth on U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges list of national universities. And according to the city’s most recent resident satisfaction survey, four out of five feel Durham is a good-to-excellent place to live.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claims the No. 1 spot on Kiplinger’s 2018 list of campuses with the “Best Values in Public Colleges,” and Cary ranked 10th in 2017 among the “30 Safest Cities to Raise a Child,” according to SafeWise, a website that tracks information on home security systems and safety. Ting Park (previously North Main Athletic Complex) in Holly Springs was named “Public Park of the Year” by Tennis Industry magazine in January 2017.
Newcomers to the Triangle undoubtedly have many choices for where to establish their roots. Explore the unique towns and cities Triangle residents call home. Read additional information about some of the region’s most popular suburbs.
Photo by Jennifer Bell
73 Hunter St., 919-249-3400
Apex lives up to its motto, The Peak of Good Living, by hosting events throughout the year such as Christmas on Salem Street, the PeakFest street fair in May, Peak City Pig Fest in June and its popular Olde Fashioned Fourth of July. In 2015, Apex ranked No. 1 on Money magazine’s annual list of the “50 Best Places to Live,” and in 2018 Apex ranked seventh on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
316 N. Academy St., 919-469-4000
Located in the heart of the Triangle between Raleigh and Research Triangle Park, Cary hosts signature annual events such as the Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival in April and Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival in August. In 2017, Cary was named the fourth best real estate market in the U.S. by WalletHub, and the 10th safest U.S. city in which to raise a child by SafeWise. Cary also ranked fourth on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
401 Old Honeycutt Rd., 919-552-1400
Fuquay-Varina, once known as “Piney Woods,” became famous for a mineral spring rumored to heal ailments. Named after French Revolutionary War veteran William Fuquay, who moved his family to the site, Fuquay incorporated in 1909 and joined the neighboring community of Varina in 1963 to become Fuquay-Varina. Annual events include the WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival in May and FM2FV Concert Series in the spring. Fuquay-Varina ranked ninth on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
900 Seventh Ave., 919-772-4688
This fast-growing community south of Raleigh boasts family-friendly events throughout the year, including the Groundhog Day Celebration, Spring Eggstravaganza and Garner Independence Day Celebration. Families can enjoy more than 4 miles of paved trails, 12 playgrounds, a boathouse on Lake Benson open during the warmer months and musical performances at the Garner Performing Arts Center.
128 S. Main St., 919-552-6221
One of Wake County’s boomtowns, Holly Springs is home to a $5 million cultural center, $19 million Ting Park, golf courses and spacious parks. Ting Park was named the “Public Park of the Year” by Tennis Industry magazine in January 2017; and, in 2018, Holly Springs ranked third on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
950 Steeple Square Ct., 919-217-2220
Located just 9 miles from Raleigh, this small town is one of Triangle’s fastest growing. Annual events include the Easter Eggstraordinaire, Fourth of July celebration and Christmas on First Avenue. Knightdale ranked 13th on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
100 Town Hall Dr., 919-463-6200
Morrisville has grown from a small population of 1,022 in 1990 to 24,732 current residents, thanks to its ideal location near Research Triangle Park, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and Interstates 40 and 540. The culturally diverse town is lauded for its signature events, including the East Meets West festival and SpringFest, and residents have easy access to large shopping centers, including Park West Village and Morrisville Place.
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Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh
222 W. Hargett St., 919-996-3000
In February 2018, CardRates.com ranked Raleigh the seventh “City Primed for Economic Growth and Opportunity.” Men’s Health ranked Raleigh third among the “Sportiest Cities in America” in September 2017. From parks to museums, North Carolina’s capital offers plenty of fun and entertainment for Triangle families.
502 Southtown Cir., 919-556-3506
Rolesville is Wake County’s second oldest town after Raleigh, and one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing. Once fenced from post to post to contain animals, Rolesville now accommodates residential and commercial subdivisions where large farms once stretched.
301 S. Brooks St., 919-435-9400
The original birthplace of Wake Forest College, this quaint town offers residents a rich history in addition to shops and restaurants at The Factory, a thriving farmers market, annual parades and festivals, and recreational fun at nearby Falls Lake. The town’s annual Meet in the Street festival in May draws more than 10,000 attendants.
15 E. Fourth St., 919-365-4450
Once a tobacco-farming area, Wendell evolved from a school-centered village in the late 1800s named by a teacher in honor of poet Oliver Wendell Homes, to a picturesque town with an historic business district. A 70-foot-long tobacco hornworm mural was painted in downtown Wendell in 2016 to preserve the town’s history. The hornworm, affectionately named Oliver, wears different hats throughout the year to celebrate the seasons and holidays.
Photo by Zack Frank/Shutterstock.com
Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace
1003 N. Arendell Ave., 919-269-7455
The easternmost town in Wake County, Zebulon came into existance after the Raleigh and Pamlico Sound Railroad Company decided to lay down rails through a dense pine forest between two family farms in 1906. The town is named after Zebulon B. Vance, the state’s governor during the Civil War. Zebulon is also home to the Carolina Mudcats, a minor league baseball affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
101 City Hall Plaza, 919-560-1200
Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District features shops, restaurants and entertainment venues located in renovated tobacco warehouses. The Durham Bulls play in Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which is also located in the district, and the Durham Performing Arts Center attracts award-winning Broadway shows and concerts year-round. Durham is also home to Duke University, Duke University Medical Center and North Carolina Central University.
A 2017 Durham Resident Satisfaction Survey showed that 81 percent of residents feel that Durham is a good-to-excellent place to live. Durham County also comprises the unincorporated communities of Bahama, Rougemont and Bethesda.
301 W. Main St., 919-942-8541
Carrboro is known for its cultural diversity, managed growth, dedication to the arts and Weaver Street Market, a natural foods grocery store. The bustling Carrboro Farmers’ Market is celebrating its 40th year in 2018 and features more than 75 market vendors. Carrboro ranked 11th on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
Photo courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill
405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 919-968-2743
Chapel Hill’s history is tied to the University of North Carolina, which ranked first on Kiplinger’s 2018 list of campuses with the “Best Values in Public Colleges” and 30th among U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges list of national universities. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools boasts the state’s lowest dropout rate and one of its highest graduation rates. In 2017, Chapel Hill was featured in The Guardian’s “Best Towns and Small Cities in the U.S.”
101 E. Orange St., 919-732-1270
Rich with American Colonial history, Hillsborough claims more than 100 late 18th- and 19th-century structures and hosts a variety of special events throughout the year. Downtown Hillsborough comes alive with arts and entertainment the last Friday of each warm weather month. Natural attractions include Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area and the Hillsborough Riverwalk.
635 East St., 919-542-4621
Pittsboro is home to a quaint downtown district and the renowned Fearrington House Inn, a AAA Five Diamond Relais and Châteaux property. The town hosts an old-fashioned Christmas parade the second Sunday in December, and the ever-popular Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance, which takes place biannually in spring and fall 10 miles northwest of town.
111 E. Second St., 919-553-5002
Clayton has experienced explosive growth in the last decade, owing to its small-town charm and close proximity to Raleigh. The Clayton Center is the town’s crown jewel, offering a variety of musical and dramatic performances for all ages, and Clayton ranked 10th on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 list of “The Safest Cities in North Carolina.”
350 E. Market St., 919-934-2116
Situated along the Neuse River, Smithfield is home to the Ava Gardner Museum in the town’s historic district, and hosts the annual Ham & Yam Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors in celebration of the region’s agricultural heritage.
Populations are based on July 2016 U.S. Census population estimates, the most recent available at press time.