Asheville, NC

Will the Ranking of Best Towns in North Carolina Be Affected by Covid Stats?

Hunter Cabot

These three towns were ranked "Best in North Carolina in 2021", but Covid-19 might change how we rate desirable location.

North Carolina offers both beaches and mountains, low cost of living and top-notch educational facilities

Known as the Tar Heel state, North Carolina is the 28th largest state in the U.S. by area, and ranks 9th highest in population. The diverse geographical features, changing seasons and steady economic growth make it one of the most desired locations to live in America, year after year.

Full of southern charm and rich history, unique architecture and eclectic dining, arts communities and top-notch schools, the following places rank high in overall resident satisfaction.

This article was updated on September 1, 2021 to reflect the changes caused by the pandemic.


A winner of the 2021 All-American City award, Morrisville is a suburb of Raleigh with a population of just under 30,000.

Its central location and proximity to Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill make it a short commute for most residents. Within easy reach of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Research Triangle Park, three area hospitals and two universities, location is a major factor in Morrisville's appeal.

The town also offers many greenways, parks, and access to watersport recreation, the most notable being Lake Crabtree County Park, a 215-acre park surrounding a 520-acre reservoir.
Morrisville Independence Day Celebrationphoto courtesy of town of Morrisville Instagram


  • Morrisville population is 45% white, 37% Asian, 12% black, 5% Hispanic/Latino
  • Median age of residents is 33.5
  • 69% of population is married
  • 64% of households have children under 18


  • Crime rate (overall crime) is 45% lower than the U.S. average
  • Chance of being a victim of violent crime in Morrisville: 1 in 2404


  • High school graduation rate: 93% (13% higher than the national average)
  • Student / teacher ratio is 16:1


  • Median home value is $291,400
  • 49% of residents own their homes

What's Changed?

Although Wake County has some of the highest vaccination rates in North Carolina, they are facing a huge crisis in hospital capacity.

On August 25, leaders from the three hospitals in Wake County, Duke Raleigh Hospital, UNC REX Healthcare, and WakeMed Health & Hospitals, held a virtual news conference in which they stated they are having such a shortage, they are turning lobbies into hospital rooms.

There is also a significant staffing shortage of doctors and nurses, and that is only expected to get worse, as some medical professionals are experiencing PTSD and job burnout from the pandemic.

Wake EMS response time has increased drastically, as Emergency Rooms are so full the paramedics are required to wait before bringing in new patients. If they're waiting, they're not on the road responding.

For some families and older couples who were previously eyeing Wake County because of its reputation for excellent medical facilities, the appeal of the area may diminish until things get back on track.

This possible new impact on the town's desirability also applies to Cary, North Carolina. (below)


Cary has become one of the hottest locations in North Carolina to move to in recent years. The population has more than tripled in the last 25 years, from 45,000 to 160,000, making it the largest town in North Carolina. The reason?

Quality of life. A combination of historically low crime rates, a high employment rate, and a strong sense of community centered around family friendly events and town festivals, combine to draw people from all over the U.S. to relocate to this friendly Raleigh suburb.

In addition, Cary has top-rated public and private schools and a thriving downtown with many excellent restaurants, coffee houses and local breweries.

Culture can be found at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center, the Cary Arts Center and Koka Booth Amphitheatre, and local artists' works are on display all around town and throughout the greenways and parks.

The park system in Cary is another big draw. Boasting 31 city parks, ranging from lake parks encompassing hundreds of acres, to skate parks, playgrounds and dog parks, there is something for all ages. Cary also offers nearly 100 miles of greenways with walking trails and bike paths, as well as several outstanding golf courses and country clubs.
Lazy Daze Festival in Caryphoto courtesy of town of Cary


  • Cary population is 71% white, 15% Asian, 8% black, 4% Hispanic/Latino
  • Median age of residents is 38
  • 66% of the population is married
  • 53% of households have children under 18


  • Crime rate (overall crime) is 61% lower than the U.S. average
  • Chances of being a victim of violent crime in Cary: 1 in 1494


  • High school graduation rate is 94% (14% higher than the national average)
  • Teacher/student ratio is 16:1


  • Median home value in Cary is $309,800
  • 68% of residents own their homes

What's Changed?

Please see this section under "Morrisville" (above), as the changes apply to all of Wake County.


Asheville is considered by many to be the crown jewel of North Carolina. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this trendy location combines the convenience of city living with all the recreational opportunities of having the wilderness at your fingertips.

Affectionately called "The Land of the Sky" by its residents, Asheville sits at an elevation of 2,134 feet, located on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway between the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.

The population of Asheville is growing every year, recorded at 93,350 in 2020. Asheville is known for its unique artsy charm, hip downtown area and the famous Biltmore Estate - a 250-room castle built in 1889 by George Vanderbilt, celebrated as "America's Largest Home", set upon 8,000-acres resplendent with lush gardens.
The Biltmore Estatephoto by Cody Dueitt on Unsplash

Tourists flock to Asheville by the score, many of whom fall in love with the area and dream of staying. For some, that dream becomes reality. Unlike Cary and Morrisville, whose exceedingly low crime rate draws a majority of couples looking to raise a family, Asheville has become a magnet for single adults and older couples as well as young professionals.

Recently, Asheville ranked #8 nationwide as the Best Place to Retire, scoring high in other categories as well, in a survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report.
Asheville rankingsscreenshot from U.S. News & World Report
Although the crime rate jumped considerably higher in 2020, perhaps lessening the city's appeal to young couples raising families, the combination of the culture, arts scene, shopping/dining and the breathtaking scenery continues to draw more transplants to this amazing city every year.


  • Asheville population is 81% white, 12% black, 5% Hispanic/Latino, 2% Asian
  • The median age of residents is 39.1
  • 46% of the population is married
  • 41% of households have children under 18


  • Crime rate is 96% higher than the national average
  • Chances of being a victim of violent crime in Asheville: 1 in 134


  • High school graduation rate is 89% (8% higher than the national average)
  • Teacher/student ratio is 12:1


  • Median home value in Asheville is $212,000
  • 51% of residents own their homes

What's Changed

Buncombe County has been a hotbed of Covid-19 transmission, and the numbers keep growing. Perhaps because of the demographic due to college students (the Delta variant seems to target the under 50 crowd), the transmission rate in Buncombe County is stuck in the red zone - Very High.

As of today, Sept 1, 2021, one in twelve people in Buncombe County have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the last 14 days (mid-August) hospitalizations are up 69%, 9 people have died of Covid-19, and the test positivity rate is averaging 11%... a statistic the CDC says indicates cases are being significantly under-counted.

Buncombe County - and in effect, Asheville - is considered so highly contagious, at this time the CDC is advising all residents and visitors, vaccinated or not, to wear face masks.

Given that the higher crime rate (covered above) was already likely to topple Asheville's status as a favored place to live in North Carolina, the additional worry of high viral transmissability will surely slow the influx of transplants to the city for the remainder of 2021.
view from Blue Ridge Mountainsphoto by Cody Scott Milewski

What are your favorite North Carolina towns? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


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