Why People Love Cary NC
A lot has changed in Cary, NC since we last updated this post 3 years ago. The pandemic housing boom pushed Cary prices higher. You’ve got to see below how prices have changed from 2019. You’ll shake your head! Cary began (and is almost finished) with a new downtown park unlike anything else in the Triangle. Developers have built denser housing in downtown. Fenton opened its doors and changed the Cary landscape. Epic Games bought the Cary Town Center Mall for its new headquarters. And the town has set it eyes on building a new sports complex at the site of South Hills Mall.
For more info about Cary and useful links, check out our Living in Cary City Guide here.
Cary, NC is one of the hottest locations in the country for people looking to relocate. And it’s no surprise. Among a long list of accolades, Cary has been named:
- #6 Most Desirable Places to Live
- #3 Safest City in America
- #1 Lowest Property Crime in the South
- #3 Best Midsize City to Move to
- #6 Best Places to Live in America
- #1 Top Town for Families
- Best City for Early Retirement
- 4th Best City for Job Growth
- 4th Best City to Launch a Start Up
And all of those accolades were from before 2020. Since then Cary has racked up a more impressive list of accolades:
- #1 Safest Affordable City in the US (2023)
- #1 Affordable Large US Metro with the most 6 figure jobs (2023)
- #2 Fastest growing metro in the US (2022)
- #1 Safest place in NC (2022)
- #1 ‘most resilient” Economy in the Nation (2022)
- #3 Safest City in America to Trick-or-Treat (2022)
- #4 Healthiest Housing Market in the US (2022)
Lots of people think it’s great! I bet you’re wondering… why? Why does everyone want to live in Cary? Some of the accolades are self-explanatory: job growth, low property crime and opportunity for entrepreneurship are all attractive features. But in Cary, NC, quality of life is the main attraction.
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1. Cary NC Parks
The Cary NC Parks system currently manages 31 city parks. These range from small pocket parks to large parks over 300 acres. There are parks with large lakes offering boating, parks with challenge courses and splash pads, skate parks with skate ramps for kids of all ages. The majority of the parks are accessible by greenway.
Want to see some of my favorite parks? You can see them here.
Bond Park is a 310 acre park in the center of Cary. This beautiful and well planned park includes 4 miles of greenway trails and is the hub of Cary’s greenway system. When completed, the system will include over 170 miles of trails. Other features of the park include…
- Boathouse – The Bond Park Boathouse offers boat rentals, boating instruction, supplies for fishing, snacks and drinks, and facilities rental for parties and events.
- Challenge Ropes Course – The Challenge course offers both a high and low course, designed for team building exercises for groups. It is also available to individuals at set times throughout the year.
- Amphitheater – The Sertoma Amphitheater is a small outdoor concert venue offering free concerts to guests. For examples of the types of concerts at the venue, see here.
- Community Center – The Bond Park Community Center offers programs and classes, indoor open gym with basketball, volleyball, pickle ball & badminton, and camps.
- Senior Center – The Cary Senior Center offers a place for seniors to connect and live an active lifestyle. There are classes & activities, including group outings. The senior center can also be rented for private events.
- Ball Fields
North Cary Park
North Cary Park is one of the most popular parks in town. The playground is artistically designed and blends in nicely with the landscaping. They have several very steep slides, that are embedded into the landscape with rubber ground cover for safety. And the trails connect to the Black Creek Greenway, one of the longest greenways in Cary at 7+ miles.
North Cary Park’s unique features are listed below and don’t miss the video below for an in person review of this great park! Video courtesy of WRAL
- Sand Volleyball Court, Soccer Field & Basketball Courts
- Climbing Boulders
- Picnic Shelter, Restrooms, Charcoal Grills
Jack Smith Park
Jack Smith Park is one of Cary’s newer parks. It incorporates whimsical play areas, a splash pad for hot summer days, a dog park for small and large dogs as well as greenways with plans to connect to multiple future greenways in coming years.
Jack Smith Park features
- Dog Park
- Climbing Rock
- Splash Pad
- Public Art from Local Artists
- Picnic Shelter, Tables & Restrooms
- Greenway Trails
Sk8 Cary (Cary Skate Park)
Sk8 Cary is an action sports venue in North Cary off Maynard Road. The complex is designed to meet the needs of skaters and bikers of all skill levels from young beginner to adult. A BMX pro rider is on staff, offering private and group lessons as well as parties. There is also a pro shop with skater apparel and supplies.
“The park consists of a lighted concrete slab with 12,000 square feet of wood ramps. Existing park features include a mini-ramp, rails to grind, recently added box jump and roller, and ledges to slide. All ramp skating surfaces are made with Skatelite Pro, which gives the Town the opportunity to rearrange the park features as opposed to an unchanging concrete park.” For more information about the park and future plans see the Town of Cary Website.
Other Notable Cary Parks….
Downtown Park this park in historic downtown Cary is located across the street from the Cultural Arts Center and next to the site for the new 31,000 square foot Regional Library.
Downtown park offers beautiful green space, public art, games such as Bocce, table tennis, foosball, checkers and chess with a fountain as the focal point. Well, at least it did until they tore it all down. Yes, they built a park and then took it down. Cary was convinced they could make it better.
The timeframe for completion of the new park has been pushed back a little bit. It was supposed to be done this summer. When it is complete it will be pretty amazing. There will be a children’s play space and a bark-bar (dogs and booze). A lawn and amphitheater will host concerts. Water features and gardens will abound!
The park is surrounded by new high density housing. The look and feel of downtown Cary has changed dramatically!
Marla Dorrell Park
Marla Dorrell is “a play area where kids of all physical and mental ability can enjoy fully-integrated play in a multi-sensory environment that challenges both muscles and minds.”
For a complete list of Cary Parks, including Dog parks and nature parks, see the town of Cary’s website.
2. Cary NC Greenways
The Town of Cary currently maintains nearly 100 miles of greenways and trails throughout the city. And the Town is committed to continuing to make Cary a walkable and active community. Future proposed greenways will include an additional 145 miles. Because of the Town of Cary’s commitment, Walk Friendly Communities recently upgraded Cary’s walkability status from Bronze to Silver.
Notable Greenways – the following greenways are the longest in Cary. You can find a list here of all the greenways in Cary, along with their trail length. However, keep in mind that even the shorter greenways, in many cases, connect to the longer ones. The grand plan for Town of Cary Greenways is an interconnected system creating a walkable community.
American Tobacco Trail
The American Tobacco Trail, often called the ATT stretches through 3 counties of the Triangle. It was built by the Triangle Trails to Rails Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to converting abandoned railroad tracks into vibrant, usable green space.
The Wake County section of the American Tobacco Trail is located in West Cary. Due to the lack of utilities where the greenway was built, there are off grid restroom facilities. The facilities were beautifully designed with upscale architecture using wood beams and plenty of natural light.
Black Creek Greenway
The Black Creek Greenway is the longest trail in Cary at 7.1 miles long. It begins at Lake Crabtree, Proceeds through North Cary Park and Robert Godbold Park (Cary Sk8 Park), ending at Bond Park, where it connects with multiple other trails, including the White Oak Greenway. The Black Creek/White Oak Greenway within Cary is part of the East Coast Greenway, which will eventually stretch from Maine to Florida.
White Oak Greenway
White Oak Creek Greenway combined with the Black Creek Greenway, the White Oak Greenway represents the backbone of the greenway system. When completed, these two greenways will connect to the American Tobacco Trail, Durham, Bond Park, Lake Crabtree County Park, Umstead State Park, and Raleigh as well as the East Coast Greenway, connecting Maine to Florida.
3. Cary NC Events
From festivals to food truck rodeos, there is always something going on in the Town of Cary. There are too many to list. See here for a complete list of events.
The following are some of the most popular…
4. Downtown Cary
Downtown Cary is a beautiful combination of historic elements and modern amenities. The Town has done a beautiful job of incorporating places just to hang out, with seating throughout Academy Street and the new Downtown Park, with it’s classic games of shuffleboard, chess and the like. There are plenty of restaurants, the Cultural Arts Center, Bars and the historic Cary Theatre, if you want to catch a classic show. And Brew cafe is a great environment for grabbing a cuppa. Cary is a place to just BE.
To take a virtual walk through Downtown Cary, check out the Cary Photojournal.
Things to do in Downtown Cary…
Buy an original piece of pottery from Cary Pottery
Take a metal smithing class at the Cary Arts Center
Check out a book at the Cary Library and find a cozy reading nook at Brew
Buy some original local artwork at the Cary Gallery of Artists
Have a wine tasting at the Chatham Street Wine Market
Enjoy some fresh local ice cream from Fresh: Local Ice Cream
Catch a comedy show at The Cary Theatre
5. Cary NC Safety
Of the accolades Cary has received, many of them revolve around safety. Almost every year Cary receives some kind of safety accolade. Like I said above, in 2023 Cary was recognized as the safest affordable city in the country. But, some of the other accolades received over time are…
- Safest City in the Southeast
- Safest City in America
- 3rd Safest City in the Nation
- Lowest Crime Rate for Similar Sized Cities
- 4th Safest City in the Nation
- Safest City with Population 100k-500k
- Safest City to Drive in Bad Weather
- Lowest Property Crime in the South
According to BestPlaces, Cary’s rate of violent crime is 8.9/100 and property crime is 19.8/100. Those are some low crime rates.
6. Cary NC Education
Overall, Wake County Schools perform very well, receiving an overall A. Wake County Schools are judged #1 in the state for student athletes, and #7 overall.
Cary schools are in the red circle…
In addition to excellent public schools, the general population of Cary is better educated than the Triangle area overall as well as the state of North Carolina. Notice the level of college educated people in Cary compared to Raleigh-Durham, NC & the US (in the box on the right).
Did you know Cary home prices vary depending on where you buy? I left the numbers up from the last time I updated this post just so you can see what the last few years have done to housing prices in Cary.
Median Sales Prices: (Updated 4/2023)
East Cary: $308,000 (2019)
Downtown Cary: $269,500 (2019)
South Cary: $418,500 (2019)
West Cary: $430,000 (2019)
East Cary: $385,000 (2023)
Downtown Cary: $440,000 (2023)
South Cary: $690,000 (2023)
West Cary: $632,500 (2023)
7. Cary NC Cultural Arts
The Arts are valued in Cary, and it is apparent by the many local works of art displayed throughout the cityscape, parks and greenways. Citizens enjoy supporting local artists and many opportunities are available for that support.
The Cary Arts Center
Visit the Cary Arts Center to enjoy the following…
- 431 Seat Theatre
- Classes & Camps
- Events & Performances
- Gallery Exhibitions
- History & Public Art
- Open Studios for Clay, Glass, Metals & Jewelry, Sewing, Woodworking, etc.
- Performance Programs
- Rental Space
Page-walker Arts & History Center
This beautiful building is a stunning representation of Cary Historic architecture. Fully restored in the 1990’s the Page-Walker building now serves as a location for classes, events, concerts, social gatherings, historical and fine arts exhibitions. The building is open most days from 10am through evening. It is well worth a visit to learn about our history and see the beautiful grounds, especially in the summertime.
Koka Booth Ampitheatre
The Koka Booth is an outdoor venue in the Regency area of Cary. The stunning amphitheatre overlooks Symphony Lake, providing the backdrop for the North Carolina Symphony, popular bands from all genres (see here for past performers) as well as community and cultural events such as the annual Chinese Lantern Festival and Fourth of July Celebration.
Cary Performance Opportunities
For the amateur (or even more accomplished) performer, Cary offers a wide variety of performance opportunties.
The Cary Town Band rehearses weekly in preparation for patriotic events, ceremonies, and civic events. They welcome amateur musicians with a very informal interview and audition.
Concert Singers of Cary is a community chorale offering multiple groups open to singers of differing ability level. The chorale performs independently as well as in conjunction with local symphonies and music ensembles.
Cary Youth Voices was originally a youth division of Concert Singers of Cary. They provide concert singing experiences for children in grades 2 – 12. Auditions are required but no singing experience is necessary.
Cary Players is a community Theatre Company that performs at the Cary Arts Center. They perform 4-5 shows per year. Both audition for performance as well as volunteer opportunities for behind the scenes are available.
8. Cary NC Restaurants
Cary has become a haven for fresh local food with many cultural and ethnic choices. This is just a small selection of what is available in Cary. There are many more excellent, well-reviewed restaurants to don’t stop at these! Some of the most popular choices are…
Casual Asian food in a modern colorful space
Authentic Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine
New American & cocktails in downtown Cary
A place to enjoy your favorite Nepali and Indian foods
The Best Burgers and largest selection of glass bottled sodas in Cary
Turkish & Mediterranean kebabs, meze & more
9. Environmentally Friendly/ Forward Thinking
Cary understands that the future is in our hands. The Town is actively engaged in making Cary an example of environmental consciousness as well as a technologically advanced community.
Good Hope Farm image courtesy of Cary Magazine
Good Hope Farm is a historic farm in the Carpenter district of Cary. The Farm was purchased by the Town of Cary. Through partnerships with the town and local area conservationists, it seeks to honor Cary’s agricultural heritage while increasing the community’s access to farmland and connecting its residents to local, healthy food.
Farmers wishing to launch an agri-business can rent up to 2 acre plots at the farm. Citizens can purchase produce grown on the farm and attend classes and workshops offered.
Cary Garden for Wildlife is a program that provides the resources and education for citizens to make their gardens wildlife friendly. The efforts of our residents will help Cary become recognized as a Community Wildlife Habitat for providing a home for birds and pollinators, like bees and butterflies, in our yards, schools, and community spaces.
Smart Lighting, Mobile Apps & Amazon Echo the Town of Cary is always looking for ways that innovation can make it’s citizen’s lives better through technology. The Town is currently partnering with technology companies to develop tools that will make parking in downtown more streamlined, Smart Lighting that will use technology to save money and connecting utility services with Amazon Echo so rescheduling a trash pickup is as easy as, “Alexa, can you…?”
10. Cary NC Sports
Cary is home to the North Carolina Football Club. NCFB is a professional soccer team based in Cary, NC, playing in the North American Soccer League. The team plays it’s home games at WakeMed Soccer Park, where they have played since 2007. The team’s colors are Atlantic Blue, Cardinal Red and Southern Gold. The current coach is Colin Clarke
PNC Arena – Just 2 miles from Cary’s eastern border lies the PNC Arena, home to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team and the NC State Wolfpack basketball team. The arena also hosts concerts and other events such as the Harlem Globetrotters and Disney on Ice.
Recreational Sports & Activities
Cary Tennis Park
You can find rates of use here.
Tennis – Cary Tennis Park is one of the largest public tennis facilities in the Southeast. In true Cary fashion, the facility is accentuated by scenic bridges and beautiful landscaping.
Cary Tennis Park features 25 outdoor courts and 7 covered courts, a ball machine, a pro shop, comfort stations, locker rooms with showers, and a double-sided backboard.
Many subdivisions in Cary have their own private pools. However, for those that don’t have a community pool, or who prefer a longer swim season than most pools offer, there are plenty of year round swimming options to choose from.
Swim team is a popular summer activity for children and the community pools almost always have swim teams that compete against other neighborhood teams.
Popular swim clubs in Cary include,
Triangle Aquatic Center – The #1 venue for aquatic events in the state, Triangle Aquatic Center is home the TAC Titans, a top-50 ranked USA Swim Team with 600 swimmers, most of whom live in Cary.
And if you’re looking for lessons, Triangle Swim School is a great option. Also, Swimjitsu offers training in what appears to me to be a combination of Tai Chi and Swimming.
Adult Sports – Town of Cary offers the following adult recreational sports teams: softball, volleyball, basketball. Additional adult sports opportunities can be found at Triangle Adult Soccer League, XLSoccerworld, NC Adult State Soccer Association for soccer.
11. Cary NC Shopping
I think Cary must be the grocery store capital of the world. It is true that Cary has been called the Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. (C.A.R.Y) But we also attract people from all over the country and the world. And grocery stores have followed from all parts of the country.
Regional grocery stores are Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods. Organic Groceries available: Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Discount Grocers: Lidl, Aldi, SuperTarget and Walmart Regional stores: Publix and Wegmans.
In addition to grocery stores, Cary is home to a large number of both chain and independently owned shops. The major shopping centers are:
Waverly Place – more than just a shopping center, Waverly Place is a central hub of entertainment and recreation. The center, anchored by Whole Foods and Cinebistro, boasts a lawn and fountain area for concerts and events, a playground and a splash pad.
Park West Village – winner of the 2018 Maggie Award for best shopping center, Park West is a collection of walkable boutique shops and restaurants as well as the Park West Cinema. District Lofts provide premium rental apartments for those wishing to live in the middle of everything. Park West often hosts seasonal festivals and events.
Cary, NC Homes for Sale
When you’re done reading, check out these other great Triangle cities!