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Asheville, North Carolina Skyline

Best Places to Live in the South

Searching for the best places to live in the South? Here are the eight best Southern cities in the U.S. based on population, housing prices, crime rate, job opportunities, and amazing things to do that’ll make you love living in the South!

Asheville, NC

aerial photo of Asheville from the interstate photo by Instagram user @overasheville

Photo via @overasheville

  • Population: 87,531
  • Home Price: $212,000 median purchase price; $910 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.9%

Nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is considered one of the best places to live in the South. Despite its relatively small size, this North Carolina city is big for filmmaking, thanks to its beautiful scenery—The Hunger Games, Dirty Dancing, and Last of the Mohicans were all shot here. Asheville is also a great place to be for jobs in education and healthcare with major employers like University of North Carolina Asheville, Buncombe County Schools, Mission Health, and Charles George VA Medical Center. Asheville residents are known for being friendly and welcoming, so singles, young professionals, families, and retirees alike will feel right at home in this small Southern city. That goes for LGBTQ residents, too! In fact, the city has a much higher percentage of LGBTQ households than the national average.

Things to Do in Asheville

Drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic route through the mountains full of breathtaking foliage and views. Visit the Botanical Gardens at Asheville to see blooming plants native to the Appalachian Mountains. Walk the Urban Trail in Downtown Asheville and learn more about the city’s history. Take a tour of the grandiose grounds, winery, and interior of Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt II’s 8,000-acre home.  Buy everything from massive canvas paintings to handmade wicker chairs at the River Arts District. If you are looking for something unique to do in Asheville, try Battery Park Book Exchange, which is a used bookstore and champagne bar combination. Get involved in the local craft brewery scene with the annual Asheville Beer Week. Or head to HomeGrown to taste hearty, locally-grown “slow food” like Classic Chicken Pot Pie.

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Austin, TX

Austin TX skyline overlooking river photo by Instagram user @zoerikardo

Photo via @zoerikardo

  • Population: 907,779
  • Home Price: $257,800 median purchase price; $1,106 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 14% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.6%

It should come as no surprise that the capital of Texas is one of the top places to live in the South. You can see “Keep Austin Weird” across the thriving city full of quirky public art, up-and-coming local businesses, and bungalow housing ideal for young residents. The University of Texas at Austin keeps the city on the cutting edge of new technology, which is why big businesses like IBM, Dell, Google, and Apple employ so many Austinites. In fact, Austin is nicknamed “Silicon Hills” and is one of the best U.S. cities for jobs! Austin has also made big pushes for environmentalism. It’s bike-friendly and banned the sale of plastic bags. Another aspect that makes Austin a great place to live in the South is the music! With more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city, Austin is considered “the live music capital of the world.”

Things to Do in Austin

Put on your white and burnt orange gear and cheer on the Longhorns at Texas Memorial Stadium! Spend the weekend at South By Southwest, the internationally acclaimed festival for music, film, games, and more! Grab a seat at the famous Continental Club for a more intimate live music experience. Visit the Austin Zoo, a rescue zoo that rehabilitates exotic animals. Get a drink in the Rainey Street Historic District, which is full of residential bungalows-turned-bars. Try a flight of locally-brewed beers at Jester King Brewery. Get to Franklin Barbecue early and indulge in their famous brisket, which has been sold out every single day since they’ve opened. Or take a stroll down South Congress Street to sample food truck offerings like Korean Bulgogi crepes at Parisian Crepes.

Charleston, SC

  • Population: 129,888
  • Home Price: $269,400 median purchase price; $1,052 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 21% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4%

Living in Charleston means being immersed in American history, incredible architecture from Greek Revival to Queen Anne eras, and much more that make this Southern city enchanting. Known as one of the friendliest cities in America, Charleston is a hot spot for tourism, thanks to its beautiful beaches, trendy historic districts, and southern hospitality, but that friendliness is also what makes it one of the best places to live on the East Coast! This South Carolina city was nicknamed “the Holy City” in its early days for its religious tolerance and skyline of steeples, including the famous St. Michael’s Church, one of Charleston’s oldest structures. It’s also no surprise that there’s a strong military and aviation presence in this Southern city, with jobs largely supplied by major employers like Joint Base Charleston and Boeing. You can even learn more about Charleston’s military history and role in the Civil War at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historic Park.

Things to Do in Charleston

Tour the beautiful Georgian architecture around town, starting with the pastel Rainbow Row on the waterfront. Take a ride on the water with Harborview Charters. Tour the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens to see gorgeous year-round blooms. Get Instagram-worthy photos of the famous Pineapple Fountain in the French Quarter. See marine animals from jellyfish to alligators at the South Carolina Aquarium. Walk through the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to see artwork created by College of Charleston students. Watch stage plays, films, interpretative dance performances, and more at the internationally-recognized Spoleto Festival. Try delicious dishes like the pigs’ ears at Husk. Order blackened catfish or shellfish over grits at upscale southern eatery Magnolias. Or throw back a craft cocktail from the seasonal menu or on bartender recommendation from the speakeasy-like The Gin Joint.

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Fayetteville, AR

Fall colored trees line main street in Fayatteville, AR photo by Instagram user @fayettevillear

Photo via @fayettevillear

  • Population: 80,552
  • Home Price: $186,200 median purchase price; $734 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 8% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.3%

The scenic Ozark Mountains provide a perfect backdrop for beautiful Fayetteville. The third largest city in Arkansas and one of the best small towns in America is without a doubt one of the best places to live in the South. From downtown bungalows to mountain cabins, the housing options in Fayetteville are great for prospective homeowners who don’t want cookie-cutter homes. The flagship campus of the University of Arkansas is right in the heart of this Southern city, so when the Arkansas Razorbacks (NCAA) are playing, you’ll definitely know! Plus, with job opportunities with major employers like Walmart and Tyson, business is booming in this small Southern town!

Things to Do in Fayetteville

Stop and smell the roses at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks! Cycle down the 36-mile Razorback Regional Greenway. Learn about the Cold War, World War II, and early military technology at the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. Check out trendy boutiques around town like Maude for stylish women’s clothing and high-quality leather pieces. Eat sauced-up ribs, rev your engines, and listen to a huge variety of talented musicians at Bikes, Blues, and BBQ. See plays and improv shows with the folks at TheatreSquared, or watch independent films at Cameo Art House Theater. Shop local produce at the Fayetteville Farmers Market downtown. If you’re hungry, swing by Hugo’s for hamburgers or their signature Grasshopper Crepes. Or visit hidden gem The Nines for local brews and wine on tap.

Franklin, TN

  • Population: 70,625
  • Home Price: $342,900 median purchase price; $1,221 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 57% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3%

Slow down and enjoy the leisurely pace of life in one of the best cities in Tennessee—Franklin! This small Southern town was named after founding father Benjamin Franklin and has several historic landmarks like The Carter House and Carnton, which are associated with the Battle of Franklin, one of the last major battles of the Civil War. Franklin sits about 20 miles south of Nashville, so big city vibes are just a short drive away. Families and retirees in particular will find their niche here among this southern city’s mix of spacious Neoclassical and Colonial homes and quiet neighborhoods.

Things to Do in Franklin

Learn about the massive Battle of Franklin at the Lotz House, a residential home turned field hospital during the Civil War. See movies, concerts, and plays at the restored Franklin Theatre! Visit Natchez Glen (one of the largest gardens in the United States) and walk through rows of beautiful flowers. Shop for local goods like bath bombs, stationery, and tee shirts at the bright and cheerful Tin Cottage. Shop at Factory at Franklin for a huge collection of shops all under one industrial roof, from Artisan Guitars to the much-loved Franklin Farmers Market. Become a regular at Biscuit Love and chow down on their Southern-style brunch like biscuits and gravy. Or sip Chardonnay or Cabernet at nearby Arrington Vineyards.

Frisco, TX

photo at night of Frisco square in Frisco TX photo by Instagram user @friscosquare

Photo via @friscosquare

  • Population: 145,646
  • Home Price: $300,900 median purchase price; $1,313 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 75% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.9%

Frisco is a growing area just outside of Dallas that’s brimming with southern hospitality. You’ll want to head there quickly because housing is going fast in this Texan suburb, especially among families with kids! Frisco Independent School District is one of the highest rated public school districts in Texas and employs more Frisco residents than any other business. Frisco’s focus on education, along with the low crime rate, makes this Southern city one of the best places for families and retirees looking to settle down in new homes and gated communities. Thanks to its relatively low cost of living, booming jobs, and friendly community, it’s no wonder Frisco is one of the best places to live in the South!

Things to Do in Frisco

Find dining, shopping, and local events at the outdoor Frisco Square. Explore small businesses like wedding boutique The Blushing Bride and comfort food stop The Depot Cafe in Downtown Frisco (a.k.a. the Rail District). Catch a glimpse of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL) heading to football practice when you grab a bite to eat or shop around at The Star. Don’t miss the Frisco RoughRiders (MiLB) at Riders Field, home to the unique Chocktaw Lazy River. Wander through the Texas Sculpture Garden to see unique sculptures and artwork. Tour the National Video Game Museum for a blast from the past. Or visit the Museum of the American Railroad to learn more about the history of trains in the United States.

Port Orange, FL

photo overlooking the water with palm trees in Port Orange FL photo by instagram user @arturabel

Photo via @arturabel

  • Population: 58,780
  • Home Price: $145,600 median purchase price; $1,062 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 65% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.6%

Located about 15 minutes south of Daytona Beach, Port Orange is a hidden suburban oasis for families and retirees who want a taste of Southern living without the high price tag. Apart from the tourism that boosts Port Orange’s economy, most career opportunities in Volusia County fall within the area’s healthcare industry through large employers like AdventHealth, Halifax Health, and Florida Health Care Plans. Also, this Florida city has highly-rated schools like Spruce Creek High School, Creekside Middle School, and Horizon Elementary School–and regular community events like the Spring Fair & Food Festival and Family Days, making Port Orange one of the best places to live in the South for families.

Things to Do in Port Orange

Play a round of golf at the public Cypress Head Golf Club. Visit the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse to learn more about the tallest lighthouse in Florida and its history. Drive up to Daytona Beach to catch a NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway. Take a walk through the beautiful and spacious Tiger Bay State Forest. Walk among rows of beautiful roses and see dinosaur sculptures at Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens. Get the kids outdoors with the playground at Spruce Creek Recreational Facility. Dance up a storm at 509 Lounge, or try a new Pinot Noir at 95 and Vine. Or head to waterfront seafood tiki bar Boondocks for a great kids menu, pet-friendly patio, and pounds of shrimp!

Raleigh, NC

Downtown Skyline of Raleigh NC photo at dusk photo by Instagram user @visitraleigh

Photo via @visitraleigh

  • Population: 441,326
  • Home Price: $218,200 median purchase price; $966 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 29% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

The capital of North Carolina is an easy pick for one of the best cities in the South! Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University, which attracts both young adults pursuing degrees and big financial companies looking to hire recent graduates. But it’s not just college students who are getting a great education here—Raleigh has some of the best public schools in North Carolina for K-12 education! The city has put a lot of effort into public transportation, most notably the intercity train system. Don’t worry about commuting too far, though—Raleigh is one of the best cities in the U.S. for jobs. Its low unemployment rate, proximity to Durham and Chapel Hill, and beautiful cityscape make Raleigh one of the best places to live in the South!

Things to Do in Raleigh

Check out the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) for sculptures, embroidery, and mixed media projects. Tour the dinosaur skeletons at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Jam out at the open-air Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Win a prize and load up on funnel cake at the annual North Carolina State Fair. Take a hike on the 28-mile Neuse River Greenway Trail which connects to several fishing and canoe areas like Anderson Point Park. Attend the Raleigh Flea Market to buy or sell antiques, jewelry, and more. Grab a frank at Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs. Or find your new favorite IPA or Stout at the Raleigh Beer Garden, which has the largest selection of draft beers in the world.

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City statistics from AreaVibes

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