This NC City Was Just Named One of the ‘Most Beautiful and Affordable Places to Live’

Downtown Hickory. This scenic, western NC city was recently tapped as one of the 10 "most beautiful and affordable" cities in America by Travel & Leisure magazine. (Shutterstock)

By Leah Sherrell

April 4, 2023

Scenic locations, affordable housing, and headed for a growth spurt – this western NC city gets its due from a national magazine.

Some of North Carolina’s picturesque cities and small towns look like they came straight out of a Hallmark movie. (And maybe that’s because some of them actually were: “To Her, With Love,” for example, was filmed in Salisbury. Wilmington was the backdrop for “Christmas in Conway.”)

If you’ve spent any time exploring our state, you know some of the most obvious charmers: Southport has Southern beach charm. Bryson city is a peaceful town backing up to the Great Smoky Mountains.

And Hickory? Well, this western North Carolina city recently made Travel and Leisure’s list of the 10 Most Beautiful and Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

It’s not hard to see why. The median home price is $161,000, it’s close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s lesser known than its big-city neighbors Charlotte and Asheville. It’s also the perfect place for those who like to be outside, home to many hiking trails and waterfront locations like the Catawba River and Hickory Lake. 

READ MORE: 4 North Carolina Cities Make It on Southern Living’s Best Small Towns of the South List

One way to explore Hickory is the “City Walk,” a path that runs from Lenoir-Rhyne University, through downtown, and down Old Lenoir Road—which will eventually be home to the OLLE Art Walk , a multi-use connector between Hickory trails and the city.

For caffeine lovers, there’s no shortage of coffee shops, including a (locally) famous coffee bus, Taproot Coffee Roasters.

History and movie buffs can visit the Henry River Mill Village. Once an early 20th-century textile mill, the village looked like a ghost town until it became District 12, a ramshackle, post-industrial setting in The Hunger Games films. 

Hickory is also due for a growth spurt. Right now it’s mainly home to retirees, Travel & Leisure writes, “but it’s also becoming more attractive to young families; a steady stream of residents has been flocking here for its newfound fame as a technological hub for Google and Apple.” 


  • Leah Sherrell

    Leah Sherrell is a multimedia reporter for Cardinal & Pine. A graduate of UNC-Wilmington, she's a resident of Kernersville with a background in video production and communication. Leah uses many forms of media to explore the multifaceted lifestyles and cultures present in North Carolina.

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