Study ranks 10 ‘best cities’ in North Carolina; two local cities make the list

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Credit: Discover Kernersville

A recent study ranks the 10 best cities in North Carolina — and two Piedmont cities made the list.

The study ranked the cities based on five key factors:

  1. Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Residents Who Attended Some College
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

Credit Donkey, a credit card comparison company who conducted the study, says:

“Picking the right spot to settle down is no easy decision. Living near a major metropolitan area such as Raleigh-Durham offers a broader range of options when it comes to jobs, schools and homes but it also means a higher cost of living. Smaller towns, on the other hand, offer the southern hospitality you’re looking for at an affordable price. We’ve put together a list of cities that offer the best of both worlds when it comes to work and play.”

Here’s the list of the top 10 cities in North Carolina, according to CreditDonkey:


“A 30-minute drive from Greensboro, Reidsville is one of the smaller cities on our list, with a population of just over 14,000. Nestled in the heart of Rockingham County, this small rural town still packs a big punch in terms of its rich history and unique attractions. Walking tours are one of the most popular ways to experience everything the city has to offer, and a relatively low crime rate means you’ll be safe when you’re out and about.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 276
Commute Time: 21.6 minutes
Income: $34,700
Residents Who Attended Some College: 25%
Restaurants: 1 per 287 inhabitants
Did You Know: Williamsburg School, considered the first public school in North Carolina, was established just outside Reidsville in 1840.


“If you’re shopping around for some new furniture to go with your new home, Hickory has all you need to outfit your digs in style. At the Hickory Furniture Mart, you’ll find everything from handcrafted Amish dining tables to the latest in contemporary designs. When the winter weather sets in, you can hit the slopes at nearby Sugar Mountain, and during the summer, tour the Catawba River by canoe. Commute times here are among the shortest, and residents have more than 200 dining options to choose from in their off hours.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 152
Commute Time: 18.4 minutes
Income: $38,750
Residents Who Attended Some College: 20.3%
Restaurants: 1 per 184 inhabitants
Did You Know: In June 1944, Hickory experienced a polio outbreak so large that residents banded together to build a hospital in 54 hours just to accommodate the sick patients.


“The largest city on our list in terms of population, Fayetteville sits squarely between Charlotte, Raleigh, and Wilmington, three of North Carolina’s busiest cities. Home to Ft. Bragg, the town is known for its strong military history and rich cultural diversity. You can expect to earn more here, since approximately one-third of the residents attended some college and on average, they spend just under 20 minutes traveling to work.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 174
Commute Time: 19.9 minutes
Income: $44,756
Residents Who Attended Some College: 30.4%
Restaurants: 1 per 498 inhabitants
Did You Know: The University of North Carolina, America’s oldest state university, was chartered in Fayetteville in 1789.


“Resting at the junction of the Trent and Neuse rivers, New Bern’s waterfront is one of the biggest attractions to both residents and visitors alike. You can hike a trail through the nearby Croatan National Forest or pop downtown to visit the site where pharmacist Caleb David Bradham invented the drink that would later become Pepsi-Cola. One of the most popular tourist destinations is Tryon Palace, a modern reconstruction of the original royal governors’ palace that served as the provincial capital in the late 18th century.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 185
Commute Time: 19.4 minutes
Income: $37,180
Residents Who Attended Some College: 24.1%
Restaurants: 1 per 333 inhabitants
Did You Know: Local resident Nicholas Sparks featured New Bern as the setting for his best-selling 1996 novel The Notebook.


“The official seat of Wayne County, Goldsboro traces its roots to the westward expansion of the railroad system that began picking up steam in the mid-1800s. Goldsboro was the setting for Foster’s Raid in 1862, and the town was later occupied by Union soldiers lead by General Sherman as he conducted his infamous march across Confederate territory. Today, this town of more than 37,000 enjoys a booming agri-tourism trade.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 119
Commute Time: 17.5 minutes
Income: $35,338
Residents Who Attended Some College: 27.7%
Restaurants: 1 per 272 inhabitants
Did You Know: The annual North Carolina Pickle Festival is held every April in nearby Mt. Olive.


“Nicknamed the “Heart of the Piedmont Triad,” Kernersville is just a short drive from the Winston-Salem, High Point, and Greensboro metro areas. Commute times stand at just over 20 minutes, and incomes here are significantly higher, averaging close to $50,000 annually. Kernersville’s close proximity to more than 20 colleges and universities, including Wake Forest University and Guilford College, makes it a hotspot for academics and professionals alike.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 217
Commute Time: 20.8 minutes
Income: $48,425
Residents Who Attended Some College: 23.8%
Restaurants: 1 per 313 inhabitants
Did You Know: Kernersville is home to Körner’s Folly, the former home of artist and designer Jule Gilmer Körner. Today, Körner’s Folly is open to the public as a museum commemorating his unique design vision.


“If you’re looking to take in the breathtaking mountain views, look no further than the rapidly growing city of Asheville. Convenient to both the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville combines historic charm with a vibrant arts scene. If you love the nightlife, you can book a spot on the “Brews Cruise,” a guided tour of the city’s nine breweries. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try your hand at zip-lining or tackle the rapids on the French Broad River.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 202
Commute Time: 18.4 minutes
Income: $42,333
Residents Who Attended Some College: 21.1%
Restaurants: 1 per 214 inhabitants
Did You Know: The 250-room Biltmore Estate is one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Carolina. George W. Vanderbilt completed construction of the renowned mansion in Asheville in 1895.


“Belmont holds the honor of being the smallest city on our list, boasting just over 10,000 residents. Crime here is almost nonexistent, and the average income of $56,030 is the highest of the cities in this study. Commute times here are slightly longer, but you’re still within a 20-minute drive to the Charlotte metro area. Once a thriving textile town, Belmont is now considered a mecca for professionals who are seeking a quiet place to call home.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 319
Commute Time: 22.3 minutes
Income: $56,030
Residents Who Attended Some College: 26%
Restaurants: 1 per 355 inhabitants
Did You Know: The monastery at Belmont Abbey features one of 64 basilicas in the U.S. to be officially recognized by the Vatican.


“Thirty minutes south of Asheville, Hendersonville serves up small-town charm and southern hospitality in healthy doses. At just over 13,000 residents, Hendersonville features a cozier feel, but there’s still plenty to see and do despite its size. Chimney Rock Park, Mount Pisgah National Forest, and the North Carolina Apple Festival are just a few of the attractions you’ll want to put on your list. Even better, the average commute time clocks in at 17 minutes flat, which means you won’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic on the way to work.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 170
Commute Time: 17 minutes
Income: $38,849
Residents Who Attended Some College: 21.4%
Restaurants: 1 per 120 inhabitants
Did You Know: Literary enthusiasts can tour the former homes of novelist Thomas Wolfe and Pulitzer-prize winning poet Carl Sandburg, both just a short drive from Hendersonville.


“Situated in western North Carolina, Mooresville is less than an hour’s drive from both Charlotte and Hickory. Incomes in the area are over the $50,000 mark, and major employers include the NASCAR Technical Institute and Lowe’s Home Improvement, whose regional headquarters are located in Mooresville. The low crime rate combined with the moderate commute time puts Mooresville at the top of our list.”

Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 344
Commute Time: 22.6 minutes
Income: $53,066
Residents Who Attended Some College: 27%
Restaurants: 1 per 242 inhabitants
Did You Know: Nicknamed “Race City USA,” Mooresville is home to several racing-themed attractions, including Dale Earnhardt Inc., Kyle Busch Motorsports, and the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website that publishes data-driven analysis for consumers, according to the company’s website. This study was published with permission from CreditDonkey.


  • FaithC

    Fayetteville? Have they ever been there? There may be a few nice sections, but the rest is just one big cesspool.

  • NRA4ever

    Towns 10 – 6 are giant turds. k-ville may be ok. new bern is a great location, but surrounded by crime/ghetto and military bases. i’m a fan of the military, but the businesses a base attracts are not good very positive (hookers, strip clubs, etc)

  • Jones

    Trafic in Mooresville? I can get anywhere I want to go in Mooresville in just a few minutes. Im not sure what traffic you are referring to?

    • Natalie

      And, there’s so many back roads in Mooresville to bypass 150. They just expanded Brawley School Rd but not many people use it, which is fine with me. 😃

  • Jen

    Some I agree with, some make me wonder if they ever set foot in NC. Um Fayetteville? Also the research triangle and Raleigh always makes the “best of” lists at major publications for where to live but doesnt even hit the radar?

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  • Aaron

    What the hell kind of list is this? Fayetteville? goldsboro? Seriously? Have these people ever even been to NC?

  • Jordan

    I wouldn’t rank any of these cities other than Asheville. Hickory? Fayetteville? No. Just no.

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