As was so often the case in North Carolina history, the town of Apex originated around a railroad station built in the 1850’s as a stopping point for steam engines on their way to Raleigh. Today Apex is one of the most desirable places to live in the Triangle region – not to mention Money magazine’s No. 1 place to live in the U.S. in 2015 – and a thriving economic center: the perfect hometown for just about anyone seeking convenient access to Research Triangle Park, outstanding hospitals, three major universities and the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. With highly rated schools, a picturesque main street ideal for shopping and eating, and outstanding recreational facilities – parks and sports complexes, public greenways and lovely Lake Jordan for fishing and boating, just a few miles away – it’s no wonder the town is one of the nation’s fastest-growing suburbs.
Tucked away in the southwest corner of Wake County, the pretty, low-key town of Fuquay-Varina features convenient access to the 540 Expressway, a range of housing from apartments to town homes to upscale neighborhoods, and a commercial center that is growing quickly as more and more people seek properties and business opportunities outside the region’s more urban areas. Fuquay’s robust growth – the town’s population has increased by a whopping 85% over the past ten years, to just over 33,000 – makes it one of North Carolina’s most thriving communities. Residents enjoy popular annual events such as the Celebrate Fuquay-Varina Festival, fall and spring Concert Series, summer Ice Cream Social and Independence Day Celebration, and year-round sports and other activities at multiple greenways and parks throughout the town. Fuquay is known for some of the best local family-style restaurants, bars and craft breweries in the Triangle.
Cary’s high quality of life and ideal location just minutes from Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill have helped maintain this town’s placement on the country’s list of most desirable places to live. Miles of greenway and bike trails link communities and commercial areas, while several parks and public gardens offer classes and recreational facilities for all ages. Schools here are extremely highly rated, and the area is blessed with a diverse and well-educated population and friendly, arts-supportive activities – including the popular annual Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival, taking place each summer. Cary’s stunning Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts musical events, races, and festivals throughout the year, while several outstanding restaurants, an award-winning winery and multiple pubs and breweries welcome residents and visitors to eat, drink and explore. Long considered Wake County’s melting pot, as much as 70% of the town’s population has moved to the area from other parts of the nation, and another 20% are from outside the U.S. entirely. Real estate here in this beautiful town is some of the highest priced in the Triangle.
The phenomenal growth of Holly Springs over the past 20 years as well as its reputation as one of the places to raise a family in the Triangle area have brought about a substantial increase in home prices to an average of almost $270,000, and a vast commercial expansion that has included several new pharmaceutical, healthcare, and biotech facilities. Bass Lake, the perfect place to walk, run, fish or canoe, offers residents an outstanding opportunity to enjoy the natural resources of the region, while Womble Park, Jones Park, the Hunt Recreation Center and Ting Park, Holly Springs’ athletic complex – home field, too, of the town’s own Holly Springs Salamanders – host sporting events, classes and other local events and meetings. Holly Springs‘ Main Street and Downtown Village District have also gone through something of a renaissance over the past couple of years, with new restaurants, shopping, parking deck and the town’s first ever traffic signal adding valuable infrastructure and room for even more future development. Schools here are among the highest-rated in the county.
Just ten minutes south of downtown Raleigh, the 2013 All-American City of Garner is one of the state’s fastest-growing communities and one of the Piedmont’s most affordable. Convenient in every direction to roads and highways leading north into Raleigh, south toward Benson and East out of town toward the I-95 corridor, Garner offers citizens a perfect mix of suburban feel and relaxed country living. Garner’s Lake Benson Park is ideal for boating, fishing, hiking and other activities, while the town’s Senior Center, Garner Recreation Center, Avery Street Recreation Center and White Deer Park Nature Center offer facilities and services for all. The town’s unique and versatile Performing Arts Center, located in the downtown historic district, features live entertainment, camp opportunities for kids, classes and a local art gallery.
At one time an agricultural community based on cotton and tobacco production, the town of Knightdale began truly developing once a wealthy local landowner – Henry Haywood Knight – donated a small portion of his land toward the construction of a railroad depot in the early 1900’s. Once train service to Raleigh was established, townspeople were more easily able to ship their timber and farm products to the city and beyond, and the town grew rapidly until today 16,000 residents call Knightdale home. As one of the top ten fastest growing towns in the state and just a quick 20-minute drive from downtown Raleigh, the area boasts highly rated public schools and three private schools, an impressive public transportation system – the Triangle Transit and the Knightdale/Raleigh Express bus systems connect Knightdale directly to downtown Raleigh – and over 40 places of worship. Knightdale’s cost of living and crime rate are both slightly lower than the national average, while the median home value – $171,300 – is 9% higher than the average price of a North Carolina home.
Rolesville’s 8,000 residents enjoy a community that truly celebrates outdoor North Carolina at its best with three major parks – Mill Bridge Nature Park and amphitheater, Community School Park and Main Street Park– and countless other trails and natural spaces including the incredible 50-acre Fantasy Lake Scuba Park. With a population that has more than doubled in size over the past ten years, the town’s focus is on sustainable economic development based on a low corporate income tax to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs while maintaining job growth and a high standard of living for its residents. Rolesville’s slightly rural feel and moderate home prices attract families and retired people, while its location – just 15 miles from Rolesville to downtown Raleigh – is enticing to those working in or around the state’s capital city. Visit the Little House Museum and Gallery, an early 19th century homesite, to discover more about the area’s history and local arts and crafts.
Over 85% of Morrisville’s residents have at least some college to their name and an astounding 67% hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, making this area the most highly educated in the Triangle. The population of this tech-y town has exploded over the past 20 years to almost 28,000, and it’s no wonder why – many of the state’s largest healthcare, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are located here or close by, schools are extremely highly rated, and several world-class universities are within an hour’s drive. The ever-expanding RDU international airport is located within the town’s limits as is the Lake Crabtree County Park, a fabulous place to bike, boat, hike and picnic alongside the peaceful, 520-acre lake. An extensive network of greenways extends throughout the area, including a recently completed stretch of Crabtree Creek Greenway, connecting to Cary’s greenway system and lending access to the lake itself and Umstead State Park.
The second largest of North Carolina’s cities, over the past several years the City of Oaks has taken its place among the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S.; currently it is no. 3 on the list, with an astounding population growth of over 20% since 2010. Raleigh’s economy is thriving, and as a hot spot for tech startups, medical research and healthcare, more newcomers than ever are drawn by the booming economy, near-perfect year-round weather, and close access to higher education. Housing expenses (rents, home prices and utilities) are a full 30% lower than the national average, and amenities – museums and art galleries, parks and dining – are varied and plentiful. History surrounds you in this growing metropolis; take a walk through historic Oakwood Cemetery, where over 1,500 Confederate soldiers are buried, or browse the 150,000 artifacts of the North Carolina Museum of History. Or, get out and play at beautiful Lake Johnson, Pullen Park, the Raleigh Greenway or any of the other 200-ish parks, nature preserves and playgrounds that grace the city.
Conveniently situated just off of I-64, ten minutes east of Raleigh, the peaceful town of Wendell, NC offers direct, convenient access into the capital city. Citizens have worked hard to preserve the quaint, small-town feel of Wendell’s historic downtown area, where tobacco farmers first established the town with the construction of a landmark school in the mid-1800’s. Incorporated since 1903, the picturesque Raleigh suburb has expanded to include shops and cafes, offices and small businesses that line quiet, very walkable downtown streets, and several new subdivisions have been established in the region, attracting families and commuters. Wendell’s busy farmer’s market, open every Saturday morning, features locally grown, baked and otherwise created products: a lively social scene, too, though certain current restrictions are in place to ensure the continued health and safety of shoppers and sellers. Wendell’s busy Community Center offers programs and classes for youth, adults and seniors.