A Guide to the Triangle’s Most Popular Suburbs

Big-city amenities are easily accessible, but homeowners can take refuge in a small town, where they can experience a true sense of community.
Photo courtesy of the Town of Holly Springs
Downtown Holly Springs

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Raleigh ranked 14th in 2017 among the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Perhaps due to that growth and recognition, more families are choosing to settle in Raleigh’s nearby suburbs.

Julie Fielding, a real estate agent with Nina Parker Realty Group in Apex, says people are moving to Triangle suburbs primarily because of location. “They can be close to work, whether that’s in downtown Raleigh or Durham, Research Triangle Park, at a hospital or at a university,” she says. Big-city amenities are easily accessible, but homeowners can take refuge in a small town, where they can experience a true sense of community.

Here are some of the most popular suburbs Triangle newcomers are calling home.

Note: All statistics come from the town governments,the U.S. Census Bureau and population.us, which predicts population statistics based on growth trends.


Thanks to a 23-year population boom, Apex has grown by 28 percent since 1995, increasing from 5,000 residents to around 50,000 in 2018. In 2015, Money magazine named Apex its No. 1 small town in America, which consequently attracted new residents, making it not as small of a town as it used to be. The Halle Cultural Arts Center, located in the bustling historic downtown district, features concerts, movies, exhibits and more. Apexers have easy access to numerous parks, a variety of restaurants, I-540, Raleigh and Durham.


Once a small-town suburb, Cary has graduated to city size with a population of more than 162,000. Newcomers still find it a refuge from big-city life, since it claims a quaint, historic downtown, its popular Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival and hometown parades. Residents also like having access to Cary’s large shopping centers — soon to include Wegmans Food Market.


Fuquay-Varina, located 15 miles south of Raleigh, has grown by 42.2 percent since 2009, bringing its number of residents to 25,000 based on the latest U.S. census. It boasts two downtown areas in reflection of what used to be separate towns. Both feature shops, restaurants and annual festivals. I-540 makes it possible for residents to quickly travel to RTP and downtown Raleigh.


Holly Springs

Many families are choosing to settle in Holly Springs, based on a 33 percent growth rate since 2009 and an estimated 37,000 residents in 2018. RTP and downtown Raleigh are easily accessible via I-540 and, in 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek named Holly Springs “The Best Place in North Carolina to Raise Kids.”

Photo courtesy of Town of Knightdale


Knightdale has experienced an impressive 28 percent growth rate over the past 10 years, bringing its population to nearly 17,000 in 2018. Stefanie and Mark Despagni, who moved there in the fall of 2016, were drawn to its small-town feel, proximity to downtown Raleigh (less than 15 miles away) and low cost of living. The parks and recreation options were added bonuses. 

Knightdale residents will have even more to enjoy in the near future, according to Jonas Silver, public information officer for the Town of Knightdale. The 73-acre Knightdale Station Park just started phase three of construction, which will add a permanent amphitheater, veterans memorial, restaurants and local shops. In addition, the Mingo Creek extension will connect Knightdale Station Park to Mingo Creek Park, the Neuse River Trail and, ultimately, the Capital Area Greenway System.

Photo courtesy of Town of Morrisville


Morrisville is the closest town to RTP — one of the largest research parks in the world — so it makes sense that many newcomers employed by companies in the park are choosing to make Morrisville their home. The 2015 U.S. Census showed the population at 23,699, a 31 percent increase since 2009. Residents have access to walking and cycling trails, downtown festivals and more, so they get the benefits of a small town with quick access to work locations and community amenities.


Since 2009, Rolesville has quadrupled in size from 2,000 to an estimated 8,000 residents. Once known for farming, this northeastern Wake County town offers three parks, athletic programs and classes through the town’s parks and recreation department, town events and more.

Wake Forest

With nearly 45,000 residents predicted for 2018, the quaint town of Wake Forest has experienced a 32 percent growth over the past 10 years. Its proximity to downtown Raleigh attracts new residents who enjoy Wake Forest’s annual festivals and historic downtown district.

Median Home Values

Source: Zillow

Apex: $325,700

Fuquay-Varina: $234,000

Holly Springs: $279,500

Knightdale: $181,100

Morrisville: $292,000

Rolesville: $271,900

Wake Forest: $288,700

Michele Jonczak is a freelance writer in Raleigh and mom to Holden (8), Hayes (6) and Emery (4). 

Categories: Annual Guides, Triangle Go-To Guide