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Thinking about moving to North Carolina’s Research Triangle? Lucky you – you have choices to make, but you really can’t go wrong here. Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are all great places to live. That said, one of them is perfect for you – and we’re going to help you figure that out right now, in this article.
Fast facts about the Research Triangle
The Research Triangle region actually encompasses nine counties, and is anchored by the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, as well as surrounding communities. As you may have guessed, this region has a high concentration of research institutions, namely North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Duke University in Durham, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The primary industries are science, technology, and healthcare. The Research Triangle Park is a 7,000-acre property located between Durham and Raleigh that is home to more than 200 companies and research organizations.
Overall, the Research Triangle region is a hub of innovation and research, and is an important economic and cultural center in the Southeastern United States. Each city has its own unique character, but here are some general characteristics of each:
- The capital city of North Carolina
- Largest city in the Research Triangle region
- Home to North Carolina State University, one of the largest universities in the state
- Known for its thriving technology and research industries
- Offers a mix of urban amenities and outdoor recreation opportunities
- Find out more about life in Raleigh.
- Home to Duke University, a prestigious private university
- Known for its rich history and vibrant arts scene
- Has a diverse population and is often cited as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the South
- Has undergone significant revitalization in recent years, particularly in its downtown area
- Home to the Durham Bulls baseball team and the American Tobacco Campus, a popular entertainment and dining destination
- Get the details on Durham.
- Home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the oldest public university in the United States
- Known for its picturesque college town atmosphere and southern charm
- Has a strong focus on sustainability and has been recognized as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country
- Offers a variety of cultural attractions, including the Morehead Planetarium and the Ackland Art Museum
- Has a reputation as a progressive and politically active community.
Jobs and Economy
The Research Triangle area as a whole has a strong economy and is known for its job growth and innovation. The median household income in the Triangle area is approximately $73,600, according to U.S. Census data. This is nearly 10 percent higher than the national median household income of $65,712. However, Salary List points out that salaries vary greatly, ranging from $25,653 to $595,800.
According to Salary List, the highest paying jobs are in the medical and technology industries, with some medical specialists and pharmaceutical company executives earning more than $150,000. Software engineers, research scientists and project managers similarly can make more than $100,000. Given that the cost of living in the area is slightly more or just below than the national average. So even if you earn the median household income, you’ll live very comfortably in the Triangle area.
Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill each have their own unique economies and job markets. Given their close proximity to each other, you’ll have easy access to job opportunities across the region. Here is an overview of the job market and economy in each city:
Raleigh is a hub for government and education. Major employers in the city include the state government, Wake County Public Schools, North Carolina State University, and Duke Energy. The city also has a growing tech industry, with companies such as Red Hat, SAS Institute, and Cisco Systems having a presence in the area. Other important industries in the area include healthcare, finance, and retail.
Durham is home to Duke University and Duke University Health System, which are major employers in the city. The city, like Raleigh, has a growing tech industry, with companies such as IBM, Fidelity Investments, and Cree having a presence in the area. Other important industries in the area include healthcare, finance, and research.
Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care, which are major employers in the area. It has a strong biotech industry, with companies such as Biogen, Novartis, and GSK having a presence in the area. Other important industries in the area include education, research, and hospitality.
Cost Of Living
Overall, Raleigh and Durham are generally more affordable than Chapel Hill, with lower housing costs and reasonable transportation and food costs. Here is an overview of the cost of living in each city, using data from Numbeo, based on a national cost of living average of 100:
The cost of living index in Raleigh is 73.95. Housing costs in Raleigh are generally more affordable than other major cities, with a median home price of $ $390K. Transportation costs in the city are also relatively affordable, with a monthly public transit pass costing $40. The cost of food and entertainment in Raleigh is also reasonable, with a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costing around $60.
The cost of living index in Durham is 73.39, which is lower than the national average of 100. Housing costs in Durham are generally more affordable than other major cities, with a median home price of $ $370K. Transportation costs in the city are also relatively affordable, with a monthly public transit pass costing $50. As the City of Durham grows, they are looking for solutions to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips. Solutions include transit, ridesharing, walking, biking, and telework. The cost of food and entertainment in Durham is also reasonable, with a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costing around $60.
The cost of living index in Chapel Hill is 89.43. Housing costs in Chapel Hill are generally more expensive than other cities in the area, with a median home price $599K. Transportation costs in the town are also relatively expensive, with a monthly public transit pass costing $70. The cost of food and entertainment in Chapel Hill is also higher than other cities in the area, with a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costing around $70.
North Carolina has a base sales tax of 4.75 percent. Then, depending on which county and city you live in, you’ll pay additional. Although Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are in different counties, the combined sales tax for all three is 7.25 percent.
Property taxes also depend on the county. In Raleigh (Wake County), the property tax rate is 0.615 or 61.5 cents per $100. Durham’s property taxes (Durham County) are nearly double that at $1.2739 per $100 of assessed value. Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill (Orange County), the rate is 0.78 or 78 cents per $100.
The individual income tax rate in North Carolina is currently 5.25 percent. That means an individual an annual income of $75,000 would pay an estimated $3,373 in state income tax if they filed as a single or $2,809 if they filed as married
K-12 education in the Research Triangle
In general, public schools in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill all have a diverse student population and offer a range of programs, including magnet schools, year-round schools, and specialty programs. The following statistics are from each city’s school district’s web site and the Public School Review.
The Wake County Public School System is the largest school district in North Carolina and serves over 160,000 students. The district includes 191 schools, including 121 elementary schools, 45 middle schools, and 26 high schools.
Raleigh public schools have an average math proficiency score of 45% (versus the North Carolina public school average of 42%), and reading proficiency score of 55% (versus the 47% statewide average). Schools in Raleigh have an average ranking of 8/10, which is in the top 30% of North Carolina public schools.
The Durham Public Schools district serves over 33,000 students and includes 53 schools, including 30 elementary schools, 9 middle schools, and 14 high schools. The district offers language immersion programs, and gifted and talented programs. Public Schools in Durham Public Schools School District have an average math proficiency score of 29% (versus the North Carolina public school average of 42%), and reading proficiency score of 39% (versus the 47% statewide average).
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district serves over 12,000 students and includes 20 schools, including 11 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 2 high schools. The district is known for its strong academic programs. Public Schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools School District have an average math proficiency score of 60% (versus the North Carolina public school average of 42%), and reading proficiency score of 66% (versus the 47% statewide average).
Getting around the Research Triangle
GoRaleigh is the city’s public transportation system, which includes buses and a downtown circulator. The system serves over 18 million passengers annually and offers a variety of fares and passes. Raleigh also has a bike share program, called LimeBike, that allows users to rent bikes using a mobile app. Additionally, Raleigh’s RLine offers free rides on hybrid electric busses that connects passengers to popular restaurants, museums and other venues.
GoDurham is the city’s public transportation system, which includes buses and a free downtown circulator. GoDurham operates 24 bus routes and the Robertson Scholar Express route for GoTriangle. To make it easier to get around, GoDurham is fare-free until June of 2023. The system serves over 3.5 million passengers annually. Durham also has a bike share program, called Spin, that allows users to rent bikes using a mobile app.
Chapel Hill Transit is the town’s public transportation system, which includes buses and a free downtown circulator. The system serves over 7 million passengers annually and offers a variety of fares and passes. Chapel Hill’s bike share program, called Tar Heel Bikes, allows users to rent bikes using a mobile app.
All three cities are located near Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which offers domestic and international flights to numerous destinations. The average commute in the area is roughly 27 minutes.
Research Triangle Restaurants
This region is known for its diverse and vibrant food scene, and you’ll have a wide variety of cuisines and restaurants to choose from. Here are some of our favorite restaurants in the area:
Acme Food & Beverage Co. (Chapel Hill/Carrboro) – This Carrboro institution serves classic American dishes made with local ingredients, along with a great selection of beers and wines.
Brewery Bhavana (Raleigh) – This unique restaurant combines a brewery, bookstore, and flower shop, and serves delicious dim sum and noodle dishes.
Gocciolina (Durham) – This Italian restaurant in Durham is known for its homemade pastas and authentic Italian dishes, along with a great wine list.
Juju (Durham) – This Asian-inspired tapas bar in downtown Durham serves small plates and cocktails in a lively atmosphere.
Lantern (Chapel Hill) – This Chapel Hill institution serves upscale Asian cuisine, including dishes inspired by the flavors of China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Mateo Bar de Tapas (Durham) – This lively restaurant in downtown Durham serves Spanish-style tapas, including a great selection of cured meats, cheeses, and small plates.
Poole’s Diner (Raleigh) – This classic American diner in downtown Raleigh serves updated versions of classic dishes, such as fried chicken and mac and cheese.
The Durham (Durham) – This modern American restaurant in downtown Durham serves seasonal dishes made from local ingredients, along with a great selection of cocktails and wines.
The Fiction Kitchen (Raleigh) – This vegetarian and vegan restaurant in downtown Raleigh serves creative and delicious dishes, including vegan versions of classic comfort foods.
These are just a few of the many great restaurants in the Research Triangle region, and there are many more to discover and explore.
Arts and Entertainment
Prepare for fun! Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are all great cities for entertainment, each with its own unique offerings. Here are some highlights of each city:
Home to the North Carolina Museum of Art, which features a large collection of American and European art, as well as outdoor art installations and walking trails. And don’t miss the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Museum of History.
Downtown Raleigh is known for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, restaurants, and music venues. The popular Glenwood South and Fayetteville Street districts are great spots to explore.
Music and performance places to check out include The Ritz, Red Hat Amphitheater, Visionworks, Milk Bar, the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek and the Progress Energy Center For The Performing Arts.
Raleigh is also home to several large music festivals throughout the year, including the Hopscotch Music Festival and the IBMA Bluegrass Festival.
Home to the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), which hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and other live performances throughout the year.
You’ll also want to check out the Nasher Museum of Art, the Duke Basketball Museum and Duke Athletics Hall of Fame, and keep an eye on what’s happening at the Baldwin Auditorium.
The American Tobacco Campus is a popular destination for dining, shopping, and entertainment, with numerous restaurants, bars, and events taking place throughout the year.
Durham is also home to several historic sites, including the Duke Homestead and the Bennett Place State Historic Site.
Home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which offers numerous cultural events throughout the year, including concerts, theater productions, and art exhibits.
Stand-out museums include Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Ackland Art Museum, Kidzu Children’s Museum, and The Carolina Basketball Museum.
Franklin Street is the main commercial district in Chapel Hill, and features numerous bars, restaurants, and shops.
Excellent music venues include The Kraken, Local 506 and Memorial Hall.
Chapel Hill is also home to several outdoor recreation areas, including the Carolina North Forest and the Battle Branch Trail.
Green Spaces in the Research Triangle
Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill all have several green spaces and parks that offer residents opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation. Here are some of the notable green spaces in each city:
Umstead State Park is a large park with miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and a lake for fishing and boating.
Pullen Park is a popular destination for families, featuring a carousel, train ride, paddle boats, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
The Neuse River Trail is a 33-mile paved trail that runs along the Neuse River, offering scenic views and opportunities for walking, running, and biking.
Duke Gardens is a stunning 55-acre garden with numerous walking paths, ponds, and fountains. It also hosts various events throughout the year, including outdoor concerts and workshops.
Eno River State Park is a large park with miles of hiking trails, fishing spots, and picnic areas along the scenic Eno River.
Durham Central Park is a popular spot for outdoor concerts and events, with a playground, dog park, and farmers market.
The UNC-Chapel Hill Arboretum is a 7-acre garden with numerous walking paths and a diverse collection of plants and trees.
Battle Park is a large park on the UNC campus with miles of walking and biking trails, a creek, and several historic sites.
The Bolin Creek Trail is a scenic paved trail that runs through Chapel Hill and Carrboro, offering opportunities for walking, running, and biking.
All three cities have numerous other green spaces and parks, so there are plenty of options for outdoor recreation and relaxation in each city.
So many options!
Need help narrowing it down? Here’s our quick take: Chapel Hill is a great place for students and young families with kids, along with folks of all ages associated with the University community. Durham is perfect for young professionals as well as retirees who are seeking a diverse community with a thriving arts scene, interesting restaurants and clubs, startups and small businesses. Raleigh is the big city of the bunch, and is more like Durham in its amenities, while being more affordable than Chapel Hill (unless you’re living in a dorm).
The good news is that you really can’t go wrong. You can live in Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill and easily access the other two in a 15 minute or less drive, or about 25 minutes on public transportation.
We hope this was helpful, and whether you end up moving to Durham, Raleigh or Chapel Hill, we’d love to help you make the move. We’re Bellhop, and our mission is to make moving as easy and pleasant as possible. We can coordinate long-distance moves to Raleigh, in-state and in-town moves.
We look forward to helping you make your move!