Moving to Raleigh, NC? Tips and Insights for a Smooth Relocation

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Raleigh at a Glance

Located in the central North Carolina timberlands, Raleigh is the largest city in North Carolina’s nerdiest corridor — the Research Triangle — which brings together the brain banks of NC State, UNC, and Duke. This unique trifecta between Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham has made the region and the state a powerhouse for research and a major economic driver, too. But Raleigh has always been its core. 

After the city shed its original clunker of a name, Wake Courthouse, in favor of the more melodious moniker, Raleigh, the city named for Sir Walter himself became a hub for industry and innovation. This capital city in the piedmont got its commercial start in manufacturing, where furniture, tobacco and textiles and dominated production statewide. Raleigh’s early investment in railroad infrastructure made the City of Oaks a regional distribution hub, and its early industrial base has proven to be a fruitful foundation for the diverse 21st-century economy of Wake County.  

Raleigh is now home to 476,587 howling North Carolina State University fans (go, Wolfpack!), a notable uptick from its population of 403,892 just a decade ago. People move here for the jobs, the landscape and the lifestyle, but it’s the friendly population that keeps them in this community. Unemployment is low in Raleigh and job prospects are high, whether you’re an engineer, a financier or an entrepreneur. There are great restaurants and shopping along with fine museums and performing arts. There are beautiful brick and clapboard houses, an artsy warehouse district, cozy clubs, and thousands of acres of rolling wilderness to lose the stresses of the workweek in. And with the Atlantic coast and the mountains just hours away, along with big cities like Atlanta and Washington, D.C., it’s hard to find a city better situated for satisfaction. 

If you think this Southern economic hub might be a good place for your family, learn more about Raleigh’s cost of living, job market, public transit and attractions below.   

Raleigh’s Cost of Living

One reason why Raleigh continues to attract newcomers (nearly 70 a day, in fact) is that the cost of living in Raleigh is reasonable compared to bigger cities, particularly on the coast. The median home value in Raleigh is $347,000 — far above the state and national average — but it’s far less than home values in Chapel Hill, where the median tops $537,100. Durham’s prices are the lowest in the area, at $316,600. Rent in the Triangle ranges from $1,296 in Durham to $1,371 in Raleigh to $1,419 in Chapel Hill. 

While real estate costs may be more in Raleigh, wages are also higher. The median household income in Raleigh averaged $78,631 between 2018 and 2022, $4,000 more than Charlotte and Durham, and $12,000 higher than the state average. But wages in nearby Chapel Hill are even higher — $85,940. 

Finding a Job in Raleigh

Raleigh has a strong — and diverse — industry base, from manufacturing to technology, therapeutics, food processing and banking. Companies like Red Hat, Pendo, Merz North America, Pepsi Bottling, Advance Autoparts and Boon Edam, among others, all make their headquarters in Raleigh. In 2024, Raleigh was named one of the Best Cities for Women in Tech by CoWorkingCafe — a feat for a non-Silicon-Valley city. And Raleigh’s unemployment rate has stayed below 3% for over a year, keeping it a half-point lower than the already historically low U.S. rate of 3.5%. 

But this capital city offers another major advantage over others: The Research Triangle. North Carolina State University (NC State), located in Raleigh, along with UNC in Chapel Hill and Duke University in Durham, form this powerhouse cohort, which attracts top talent from around the world and provides a proving ground for new ventures. Research Triangle Park (RTP) — a physical campus found between these three college towns — promotes strategic collaborations between the universities and the business and nonprofit community. The RTP provides 7,000 acres for more than 300 businesses to operate, network and generate the next big ideas for humanity. 

The greater Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area has a non-farm, civilian labor force of more than 800,000, and Professional & Business Services leads the pack. This sector saw significant growth between 2022 and 2023, expanding by 7.5% for a year-end total of 157,800 employees. Trade, transportation and utilities, which employs 132,000 Raleigh-area residents grew by 3.1% and the government and education and health services sectors, which each employ more than 96,000 residents, also ended the year on the plus side.  

Curious about how much you might make in the City of Oaks versus where you’re living now? Check out the wage statistics for Raleigh from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Commute and Transportation in Raleigh

Raleigh is a major commercial transportation hub, but navigating the city and the Triangle as a commuter is also straightforward. The Go system — which includes GoRaleigh, GoDurham, GoCary and GoTriangle — can get you around the area on buses and commuter rails. The average commute time in the city is only 23.7 minutes — significantly less than the national average — and fares are reasonably priced. 

Normal rates start at $1.25 for a single ride on a GoRaleigh bus and go up to $3 for a trip on an express GoTriangle vehicle. Daily, weekly and monthly passes offer even better rates. It’s currently free to ride all these fleets (through June 2024), thanks to an influx of federal dollars from the CARES act.   

For those who live close to their jobs or want to help reduce their carbon footprint, walking and biking are popular in Raleigh. You can pop your bicycle on the front of the all-electric fleet of city buses or try out the city’s bikeshare program. Check out the city bike map to see which neighborhoods have bike-friendly routes and review the Capital Area Greenway’s network of recreational trails. 

If you’ll be using a car, the city is well-encircled by major highways. I-40 will take you down to the coast in Wilmington or northwest to Durham, and the perimeter highways of 440 and 540 circumscribe the metro area’s inner and outer limits. It’s relatively easy to connect to both I-85 and I-95, which give you two direct routes to points south, like Atlanta (around 6.5 hours away) and northern destinations like Washington, D.C., around 5 hours away.  

Raleigh also has its own international airport which offers dozens of direct flights around the country and the world, from Seattle to Mexico City to Reykjavik. Amtrak also serves the city well for long-distance travel (but can’t get you all the way to Iceland…yet). 

Downtown Raleigh

Downtown Raleigh is composed of six distinct areas, from the center of state politics — the Capitol District — to the culturally-centric Fayetteville District. Downtown is built for work, play and living it up, so whether you’re in the mood for some retail therapy or a one-act play, Downtown Raleigh is your destination.  

Raleigh has a fine symphony orchestra, but if you’re looking for more local flavor, check out the concert list for the PineCone, which supports traditional, regional music. Or get in on the fun yourself. In addition to concerts at the A.J Fletcher Theatre, the PineCone also hosts jams and dances. Who knows, maybe you were born to play the fiddle?  

If you prefer to dance to a different jig, there are lots of other family-friendly attractions in the heart of the city, like the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and Nature Research Center, the Raleigh Museum and the Marbles Kids Museum. Plus, there are always ‘Canes games during hockey season (that’s the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, for newbies). The rest of the year, everyone will be dressed in Wolfpack Red, except for the enemy, who will be sporting powder blue gear. Watch out for those UNC Tar Heels.  

Want to take a hard look back in time? Visit the Joel Lane Museum house, a colonial-era clapboard that encapsulates life, death and politics in 18th-century North Carolina. The homestead and plantation were built and maintained by enslaved laborers, and the site gives a remarkably honest account of its namesake, who was a founding father of the city.  

When it’s time to eat, you’ll find scores of great indie restaurants, but there are also two major food hubs downtown: the Morgan Street Food Hall in the Warehouse District, and the Transfer Co. Food Hall in Moore Square, where you’ll find the morbidly refreshing brews of Burial Beer Co. (an Asheville import), Bul Box (sumptuous Japanese fare) and kids’ all-time favorite — Captain Cookie & the Milkman. You won’t be sorry they suckered you into that giant ice cream sandwich.  

After dark, Alchemy can transform a dull work week into an all-night dance blitz, but if you’re feeling averse to synth and strobe, the Ark Royal will tiki you away to exotic destinations on sips of pineapple, orgeat, falernum and lime. And, if you need a night out but also night off from booze, Killjoy will be your happy place with their fizzy Orange Dreamsicle or their Old & Grey, which spices up the bergamot with vanilla and a dash of angostura, but the buzz you get comes only from the deep steep of Earl Grey. 

Get Outdoors in Raleigh 

While the City of Oaks may be known for the stately old timbers that line its urban streets, Raleigh was built in the middle of North Carolina’s pine forests, and the gorgeous landscape of Piedmont is one of the glories of the city. Nature nuts will want to hike the trails at William B. Umstead State Park or plan a cycling adventure on the East Coast Greenway — you could even bike to Durham and back!  

Paddlers can cruise along the easy waters of Lake Raleigh or launch into the woodsy wonders of Robertson Millpond Preserve. Those looking for bigger adventures can put in for a whole day on the Neuse River Canoe Trail, the hottest spot for cooling off in the summer in an inner tube.  

Shredders can enjoy the urban landscape in the new Conlon Family Skatepark downtown or the 13,000sf Rogers Family Skate Plaza in Apex. And the new playscape in downtown Cary features two slides and climbing structures shaped like giant cardinals — a more charming perch does not exist.  

In August, Walnut Creek Wetland Park’s annual “Mud Day” brings everyone together for a cathartic day in the dirt. Line the car with old towels and wear your worst clothes to this liberating gather for fort-building, animal-feeding, food-trucking, obstacle-coursing, craft-making, and — of course — mud-pitting fun! The park’s resident bald eagles, groundhogs and skinks note this event on their calendars as their favorite for people-watching.  

The linksmen of your household have found their Valhalla in Raleigh. North Carolina’s golf courses are legendary, and Raleigh puts you in chipping distance of some real gems. One of the closest is Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State, a public course designed by Arnold Palmer. MacGregor Downs Country Club and the Country Club at Wakefield Plantation are two area-favorite private courses, both featuring impeccable greens enveloped in towering pines. 

When you want to be outside but also soak in some culture, try the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park at the North Carolina Museum of Art. This sculpture park is accessible on foot or bicycle via the Capital Area Greenway, and you’ll find works by legendary sculptors like Barbara Krueger, Ursula von Rydingsvard and Ellsworth Kelly along with works by contemporary giants like Yinka Shonibare and Thomas Sayre. The museum has made a fun scavenger hunt that will keep even hard-to-wrangle crews entertained. 

Relocating to Raleigh, NC Soon? Let Mayflower Get You There 

The earlier you plan for you move to Raleigh, the better. Don’t hesitate to start looking for the right mover and getting moving quotes now for Raleigh. Unsure where to start? Let Mayflower help get you where you want to be. 

As America’s most trusted mover for nearly a decade, we offer unparalleled long-distance moving services to make your relocation to Raleigh a breeze. Our customized, full-service moving packages can help take the strain out of moving by providing packing and unpacking services, debris removal, storage and even shipping your car. Mayflower can handle your cross-country move to Raleigh from anywhere in the country.  

Moving locally to and from Raleigh? Our interstate North Carolina movers provide local moving services independently under their own businesses and brands. 

Ready to make a move? Get a quote today on moving to North Carolina

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