Insider's Guide to Living in Raleigh (Live Like a Local)
Raleigh: City of Oaks.
Without losing track of the area’s natural beauty (oak-lined streets are a common sight), the capital of North Carolina is a city full of innovation as the largest point of the Research Triangle.
With a cost of living lower than the national average, low unemployment rate, and lower housing prices than many comparable areas, it’s easy to see why Bankrate has put Raleigh #5 on their “America’s Best Places to Live in 2023” list. More than that, they’ve also named it the best place to live in North Carolina.
A bustling tech sector, a tight community with a small-town feel, and a pretty uniform climate are why Raleigh has continued to be one of the southern East Coast’s most popular cities in which to live, work, and play.
Let’s explore this city together and find out why living in Raleigh is such a great choice, especially if you choose a new home by DRB Homes in Raleigh.
THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF RALEIGH
Circling downtown Raleigh is the I-440/I-40 Beltline, dividing the city into “inside” and “outside” the Beltline.
But beyond that distinction, there are many individual and diverse neighborhoods throughout Raleigh.
Neighborhoods that have their own flavor, culture, and vibe, but share one connected Raleigh spirit. Here are just a few of the neighborhoods that make Raleigh such a special place.
Downtown Raleigh can be found completely inside the Beltline. Here, you’ll not only discover the historic buildings and museums you’d expect in a city incorporated in 1792, but also more contemporary attractions like performing arts venues, boutique shops, legendary restaurants, and local breweries.
From the Capital District to the Warehouse District and every square and street in between, Downtown Raleigh is ready to impress, amuse, enlighten, and inspire.
North Raleigh is one of the many sections of the city that’s flourishing.
Here, you’ll find a growing number of residential communities, restaurants, retail stores, and indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces. Nature preserves and parks surround you with North Carolina’s natural beauty, providing unique experiences for families of all shapes and sizes to enjoy.
North Raleigh is a go-to destination for so many fun activities, delicious places to eat, and amazing places to unwind that it will feel like living in paradise.
Where Glenwood Avenue crosses Fairview Road, and Whitaker Mill Road ends at the same spot, we have the historic Five Points neighborhood. This walkable area is cozy, connected, and just two miles north of North Raleigh.
Period and period-style homes and mature trees and landscaping make this area a beautiful place to call home. Expect to browse antique stores and art galleries, while never being far from a delicious restaurant or coffee shop.
Close to Raleigh Durham National Airport (RDU), this portion of Raleigh is full of job opportunities, retail, and restaurants. And not just any restaurants, but the type with a deep community history including one with over half a century of winning awards and making stomachs happy.
But you won’t have to feel cooped up inside! Open-air shopping and picturesque state parks mean every day is about enjoying life outside in the fresh Raleigh air. The welcoming feel extends down every road in Brier Creek and throughout the entire area.
Raleigh’s first planned community, Village District (formally, Cameron Village) has quickly become the area’s premier destination for shoppers and diners for almost 75 years.
Village District prides itself on being a refuge from the fast-paced and often chaotic nature of urban life. This is a special community full of unique shops and restaurants owned by your neighbors. It’s a place where every turn feels like a natural extension of your home.
Midtown is the larger section that includes Five Points and Village District, as well as North Hills and Crabtree Valley. Each one is just a few miles from the other, and each district is a walkable delight in its own right.
Not only will you find delightful places to call home here, but also a wide variety of nationally known and uniquely local shops, restaurants, and entertainment. And all just a little northwest from Downtown Raleigh!
Which Neighborhood is Right for You?
The truth is, anywhere you choose to live in Raleigh will provide your family with fun, opportunity, and a delightful home.
Your choice of where all will depend on how close you want to be to Downtown Raleigh or RDU.
Every section of the city, as shown above, offers a wide range of dining, shopping, and entertainment options (more which we will explore below).
RALEIGH’S COST OF LIVING
Housing costs in Raleigh are about 19% lower than the national average. The average price for buying vs. renting a home is about the same, but renting has less up-front costs and often includes utilities and lawn maintenance.
Utility, Healthcare, and Other Costs
Utility costs are, however, about 5% lower than the national average, which is great news for new homebuyers.
Transportation costs are lower than the national average by 4%, and healthcare is lower by almost 13%.
Food and entertainment expenses do vary by lifestyle, of course, but the average food cost is about 15% higher than the national average (most likely because of all the delicious restaurants in Raleigh which give residents amazing reasons to eat out more).
Cost of Living Analysis
The total cost of living for Raleigh is about 5% higher than the national average, but when compared to other major eastern cities, it pales in comparison. Miami, Florida, for example, is about 12% higher than the national average. Arlington, Virginia, is about 56% higher, the same percentage higher as Washington, D.C.
RALEIGH’S JOB MARKET AND ECONOMY
Raleigh has a booming job market and very healthy economy. Large companies and the area’s universities all make the city a phenomenal place for those looking for growth and satisfaction in their chosen field.
Top Industries and Employers
As part of the aforementioned Research Triangle, Raleigh offers many opportunities for jobs in the research, education, healthcare, and tech sectors.
Indeed, some of the area’s largest employers include IBM, Cisco Systems, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and three regional universities: Duke, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.
Unemployment Rate and Job Growth
The unemployment rate in North Carolina is 3.4% (as of February 2023), lower than the national average of 3.6%.
Raleigh, more specifically, was rated as one of the top 5 hottest job markets in America by The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). As part of the area’s tech boom, major companies like Apple, Google, and Fidelity Investments are expected to create over 20,000 jobs in the next few years.
All this should grow Raleigh’s economy by a projected $209+ billion over the next couple of decades.
Tips for Job Seekers
With all the potential job growth coming to Raleigh in both the near and far future, the main tip for job seekers is: Get in now!
As everything in the area continues to expand, settling in and building up your skills early puts you in the best place to get one of these highly anticipated new jobs.
RALEIGH’S ARTS, CULTURE, AND ENTERTAINMENT
As ready as Raleigh is to provide for job seekers, it’s not just a land of work. Raleigh’s arts and entertainment scene is rich in history and culture. Here are some of our favorite places.
Downtown Raleigh is home to three amazing museums, which are also three of the state’s most popular attractions.
The North Carolina Museum of National Sciences and the North Carolina Museum of History are unforgettable places to visit to deep dive into everything from dinosaurs to insects to the people who made North Carolina what it is today.
And if that’s not enough, kids have their own Marbles Kids Museum where they can learn through fun and educational hands-on exhibits and award-winning programs.
Performing Arts Venues
The performing arts are important to the soul of a community, and two of the best venues for it are found in Downtown Raleigh.
Theatre Raleigh is a locally produced professional theater company that brings innovative experiences that celebrate inclusion and diversity. Here you’ll enjoy musicals, plays, concerts, and family-friendly shows perfect for introducing children to the magic of theater.
And if that’s not enough, there’s the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts. Four separate venues—Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Meymandi Concert Hall, A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater, and Kennedy Theatre—and five resident companies—Carolina Ballet, NC Opera, NC Symphony, NC Theatre, and PineCone—provide hundreds of shows every year. The Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts hosts national tours making it a cultural nexus for all those living in Raleigh.
Live Music and Nightlife
Whether you prefer the orchestral sounds of the NC Symphony or the rocking southern sounds of a local band, Raleigh is ready to delight your ears.
From the outdoor excitement of the Red Hat Amphitheater to intimate music at many of the city’s restaurants, pubs, and coffee houses. You’ll love going to a motion picture at our historic Rialto Theatre in the Five Points neighborhood. This classic, one-screen theater has been delighting moviegoers since 1942!
And don’t forget to delight in our very own social district. Sip n’ Stroll offers a unique way to enjoy Downtown Raleigh. This special area lets you drink your beer, wine, and other adult beverages while strolling, socializing, and shopping.
Annual Events and Festivals
Raleigh loves celebrating its unique community. From arts to music to beverages, everything gets its special day.
For lovers of movies, there’s the annual Longleaf Film Festival. This free festival showcases local filmmakers and works that spotlight North Carolina. If you prefer your pictures to stay still, then Artsplosure – The Raleigh Arts Festival is for you. A whole weekend in Downtown Raleigh celebrating local art and artisans.
For over a decade, The North Carolina ‘Cuegrass Festival has put bluegrass music and barbecue center stage. Multiple vendors, two stages of live music, and a draft beer tent combine to help raise money for helping the children of the community.
If that barbecue leaves you super thirsty, enjoy Brewgaloo: a two-day extravaganza with over 110 craft breweries from all over North Carolina that celebrates local brews, local food, and even more local music. Expect to meet people from all across America as they travel to this 2nd largest craft beer festival in the country!
RALEIGH’S OUTDOOR RECREATION
Raleigh is green and fun! Over 200 parks await you here, offering classes, programs, art and community centers, pools, playgrounds, trails, and historic sites. Here are four of our favorites:
Lake Johnson Park
Lake Johnson Park is both a metro park and a nature preserve making it an absolutely beautiful place to visit. Explore its 500 acres of lush greenery, 150-acre lake, 2.8 paved trail, 1.5 unpaved nature trail, fishing, boat rentals, and more!
Neuse River Greenway Trail
The Neuse River Greenway Trail stretches 27.5 miles through important wetlands, informative signs, and agricultural fields with historic and scenic sights at every turn. This trail not only provides a wonderful place to explore nature, but also connects to other local parks for even more outdoor enjoyment.
As North Carolina’s first public park (founded in 1887), Pullen Park has a little of everything. Sure, it has fields and trails, but it also has a community center, aquatic center, playgrounds, sports courts and fields, an arts center, a café, a theater, and amusement rides including a carousel, train, and boat rides.
Umstead State Park
Umstead State Park can be enjoyed just 10 miles northwest of Downtown Raleigh. Three man made lakes, over 30 miles of hiking trails, 13 miles of mixed-use trails, seasonal boat rentals, and sites for camping and just a few of the features this amazing park has to offer.
RALEIGH’S SPORTS FACILITIES
The PNC Arena is the home of both Carolina Hurricanes ice hockey and NC State University Men’s Basketball. This major sports and entertainment venue not only features major sporting events, but also touring concerts and family-friendly shows.
Home of North Carolina’s State University’s Wolfpack, Carter-Finley Stadium has been thrilling fans with its sleek and innovative facilities since the start of the 1966 college football season. Constantly improved over the years, Carter-Finley has become synonymous with a fantastic football experience.
Local Sports Leagues and Clubs
There’s always a friendly competition to be found in Raleigh. From fun and weekly Air Hockey Tournaments at Boxcar Bar and Arcade, various organized leagues at Tri Sports Social Club, to youth sports at the local YMCA, the Raleigh local sports scene is electric.
RALEIGH’S FOOD AND DINING
We’ve already mentioned the fantastic craft brewing and barbeque that Raleigh serves up, but those aren’t the only mouth-watering dishes the city has to offer. Raleigh’s culinary scene is as diverse as it is delicious.
There’s the fine southern dining at the Angus Barn which boasts “one of the most amazing wine collections in the United States,” and offers many uniquely themed meal experiences.
There’s Irregardless—on Open Table’s Top 50 Vegetarian Restaurants in 2019—where you can dine surrounded by local art on their gallery walls listening to local musicians playing almost every night.
And when your family can’t decide on what to eat, head to Morgan Street Food Hall. This amazing cross section of all the great flavors that make Raleigh such a great foodie town spotlights local eateries, restaurants, and food retailers with such delicacies as empanadas, hibachi, crepes, pizza, curry, lobster, and rolled ice cream. And everything comes together in one shared eating area.
To find the best places to eat in Raleigh, look for the locals. Ask the locals. And go where the locals are eating. Sure, some tourist and national chain restaurants are great, but to find the true foodie feeling of Raleigh, you need to become a local diner.
RALEIGH’S TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS
And Raleigh makes getting around to all its different food, shopping, and entertainment venues easy with a robust public transportation system and intuitively designed car- and bike-friendly infrastructure.
GoRaleigh has 27 fixed routes throughout Raleigh and a few regional routes connecting with GoTriangle services. GoTriangle is a regional transit system that connects Raleigh with other areas in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region, including RDU International Airport and the Research Triangle Park.
Commuting by bike is also easy to do with Raleigh’s network of bike lanes and trails. Downtown Raleigh is crisscrossed by many dedicated bike lanes and shared roadways. These paths also extend outward to other Raleigh neighborhoods and even to such places as North Carolina State University.
When you need to travel even farther, look no further than RDU. With flights all over the world (including nonstop flights to the Bahamas!), living close to RDU is an amazing advantage.
GoTriangle offers bus service to the airport for an easy way to reach your flight. But if you do have to drive, it shouldn’t take too long, as RDU is only about 23 minutes in good traffic from the center of Downtown Raleigh.
IT’S EASY TO FEEL AT HOME IN RALEIGH
Raleigh is a city that opens its arms and offers so many opportunities for families wanting to move there. Wonderful places to dine, memorable places to shop, picturesque escapes into nature, and convenient travel methods connecting them all are just some of the thrills to living here.
Cutting-edge sports venues and other entertainment spaces let you make the most of your weekends, and a sparkling nightlife turns every night into a party. Plus, Raleigh has a yearly celebration of bluegrass and barbecue… nothin’s better than that!
Check out new homes for sale in Raleigh, and start living in southern charm today.