By Kari Ruel
Year after year, Raleigh and Cary come up in the national rankings as a great place to live and raise a family, but what about retiring in Wake County? The better question should be, why not? According to the 2021-2022 U.S. News & World Report analysis of 150 metro areas in the United States, the Raleigh area ranks number 22 among the best places to retire for active people age 55 and over.
Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are known for their research/technology roots and collegiate rivalries. This tri-city region (known as the Triangle) lures 63 new residents daily with solid job growth and a high quality of life.
According to Steven David Elliot, realtor with Fathom Realty, that lure is split evenly between young families and older people moving to Wake County. “There are endless reasons to retire to Wake County,” said Elliot, whose own parents recently moved from Florida to the Raleigh area. “A lot of people are attracted to the ‘southern hospitality’ here. I also have a lot of senior clients who are moving here and still working remotely. The cost of living for this size market compared to other markets this size is more affordable, and that’s attractive to the near-retirement age. Though housing prices currently change daily, the median price home in Wake County is $450,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home.”
Wake County is ideally located to reach various destinations within a few hours. Want to go to the mountains? It’s a scenic three- or four-hour drive west to the famed Blue Ridge Parkway or Asheville, home to the iconic Biltmore Estate. Do you want sand between your toes? Drive just two hours to Carolina Beach or just over three hours to the Outer Banks. While you are driving along the North Carolina coast, check out any of its seven lighthouses. Do you want to be more adventurous and spend a day traveling? You can reach Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and New York City in about an eight-hour drive. Imagine all the scenic places in between!
Staying closer to the Raleigh area, there are endless things to see and do. According to Visitraleigh.com, Raleigh is the “Smithsonian of the South” and the “Home of the Free,” meaning free attractions are abundant. Fresh air abounds at more than 200 parks and 180 miles of greenways, connecting you to many attractions when traveling by foot or bicycle. There are also more than 40 free attractions, including 18 museums in the area. Three must-see destinations are JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University, internationally recognized as one of the premier collections of more than 6,000 trees, shrubs and flowers; the North Carolina Museum of Art, with more than a dozen galleries holding works from around the world; and the State Farmers Market, which is considered one of the nation’s best and most modern markets. Here, visitors enjoy 75 acres of indoor/outdoor specialty shops, restaurants and garden centers, with fruits, vegetables, meats and gift products from across the state.
Several free attractions are a short drive from the Raleigh area, including must-see museums in Roanoke Rapids in the Canal District; Little Washington, North Carolina, on Pamlico River and Sound; or the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, featuring artifacts from Blackbeard’s ship.
The arts scene is vibrant throughout Wake County, with an endless number of live performances, visual arts galleries and world-renowned artists. The area’s emerging live music scene, named one of “The Best Music Scenes Right Now” by Rolling Stone in early 2020, continues to attract national headliners and grassroots musicians.
Suppose you are a sports enthusiast. Wake County is home to the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, men’s and women’s professional soccer teams, and the Minor League Baseball team, the Carolina Mudcats. College sports rivals in the Triangle include North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke University. The area also offers several world-class golf courses, boating and other water activities, horseback riding, and other outdoor adventures, including scuba diving at Fantasy Lake Adventure Park.
The Raleigh area is becoming a “foodie” mecca with diverse restaurants, cafes and bars. The Raleigh Beer Garden holds the Guinness World Record for the most beers on tap. The famed Angus Barn Steakhouse, an upscale steakhouse with an abundant selection of wines, steaks and seafood, is celebrating 61 years this year.
To keep you healthy in your senior years, Wake County is home to exceptional hospitals like UNC Rex, WakeMed and Duke Raleigh Hospital, where you can find providers who specialize in treating older patients.
For the active 55-plus age group, there are several resources in Wake County to take advantage of, including hiking groups, seniors helping seniors, day trips, senior exercise programs, community gardens, art projects and volunteer organizations. In addition, a number of senior centers around the county offer services for both independent seniors and those who receive supervised care.
Perhaps the best reason of all to retire in Wake County is the climate. You can still experience all four seasons without too much snow. If you want snow, the mountains are not far away. Though the snowfall varies from year to year, Wake County averages about four inches of snowfall per year, much of it melting quickly. The summers can be hot and humid, but you can escape to the mountains or enjoy activities indoors in the air conditioning.