Here are the best counties to raise a family in North Carolina

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Known in other parts of the world as shires, provinces, or territories, the United States’ counties (also known in certain states as boroughs or parishes) date back to the 1600s, when settlers first came to find freedom from British rule. Today, those counties remain, with the 50 states divided into several, each with its own unique makeup.

For people looking to find a home to raise a family in, choosing a county is an important decision. Most families place affordable homes, safe neighborhoods, a quality school system, and family-friendly activities at the top of their wishlists.

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to raise a family in North Carolina using data from Niche. Niche ranks counties based on a variety of factors including cost of living, schools, healthcare, recreation and weather.

The list features counties that boast some of the top schools and fun, family-friendly activities for every season. Keep reading to explore the best counties to raise a family. Maybe you’ll find one that suits your brood.

Washuotaku // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Lincoln County

– Population: 82,919
– Median home value: $172,000 (76% own)
– Median rent: $727 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $57,536
– Top public schools: Lincoln Charter School (A), Rock Springs Elementary School (A-), St. James Elementary School (A-)
– Top private schools: Long Shoals Wesleyan Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Westport (A-), Lowesville (B), Denver (B)

Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Gaston County

– Population: 219,271
– Median home value: $144,200 (65% own)
– Median rent: $832 (35% rent)
– Median household income: $52,835
– Top public schools: Highland School of Technology (A), Mountain Island Charter School (A-), Cramerton Middle School (A-)
– Top private schools: Gaston Day School (A+), Gaston Christian School (B+), Cramerton Christian Academy (C+)
– Top places to live: Belmont (A), Cramerton (A-), Mount Holly (A-)

Nikola Spasic Photography // Shutterstock

#23. Pitt County

– Population: 178,433
– Median home value: $148,600 (52% own)
– Median rent: $794 (48% rent)
– Median household income: $47,437
– Top public schools: Hope Middle School (A-), Wintergreen Intermediate School (A-), Chicod (B+)
– Top private schools: The Oakwood School (A+), John Paul II Catholic High School (A-), Christ Covenant School (B+)
– Top places to live: Winterville (A), Greenville (B+), Ayden (B)

G Keith Hall // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Surry County

– Population: 71,971
– Median home value: $126,900 (73% own)
– Median rent: $628 (27% rent)
– Median household income: $43,597
– Top public schools: Shoals Elementary School (A), Elkin Middle School (A-), Elkin Elementary School (A-)
– Top private schools: White Plains Christian School (B-), Dobson KinderCare (unavailable), Elkin KinderCare (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Elkin (A-), Mount Airy (B+), White Plains (B)

Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Lee County

– Population: 60,481
– Median home value: $144,200 (67% own)
– Median rent: $775 (33% rent)
– Median household income: $49,994
– Top public schools: Lee Early College (A), Tramway Elementary School (B+), Greenwood Elementary School (B)
– Top private schools: Grace Christian School (B), Lee Christian School (B-), Calvary Education Center (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Sanford (B), West Sanford Township (A-), Broadway (B+)

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#20. Carteret County

– Population: 69,070
– Median home value: $214,100 (73% own)
– Median rent: $902 (27% rent)
– Median household income: $57,194
– Top public schools: Tiller School (A+), Morehead City Middle School (A), Broad Creek Middle School (A)
– Top private schools: Gramercy Christian School (B+), St. Egbert Catholic School (unavailable), Newport Christian Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Cedar Point (A), Emerald Isle (A-), Pine Knoll Shores (A-)

G Keith Hall // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Watauga County

– Population: 54,925
– Median home value: $238,000 (60% own)
– Median rent: $870 (40% rent)
– Median household income: $47,526
– Top public schools: Hardin Park Elementary School (A), Blowing Rock Elementary School (A), Parkway Elementary School (A-)
– Top private schools: Grace Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Boone (B+), Blue Ridge Township (A), Blowing Rock Township (A)

State Archives of North Carolina Raleigh, NC // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Sampson County

– Population: 63,385
– Median home value: $89,300 (69% own)
– Median rent: $648 (31% rent)
– Median household income: $42,151
– Top public schools: Clement Elementary School (A), Sampson Early College High School (A), Midway Middle School (A-)
– Top private schools: Harrells Christian Academy (B+), Mintz Christian Academy (C+), Spirit of Life Christian Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Clinton (B), Vann Crossroads (A), Mingo Township (A-)

Ammodramus // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Johnston County

– Population: 196,870
– Median home value: $165,100 (73% own)
– Median rent: $857 (27% rent)
– Median household income: $59,865
– Top public schools: Johnston County Early College Academy (A), Cleveland Elementary School (B+), Corinth Holders High School (B+)
– Top private schools: Southside Christian School (A-), Childcare Network Benson (unavailable), Childcare Network Clayton East School Road (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Clayton (A-), Four Oaks (B), Pine Level (B)

Anthony Ricci // Shutterstock

#16. Henderson County

– Population: 114,913
– Median home value: $214,000 (73% own)
– Median rent: $853 (27% rent)
– Median household income: $55,945
– Top public schools: Hendersonville Elementary School (A), Glenn C. Marlow Elementary School (A), Rugby Middle School (A-)
– Top private schools: Veritas Christian Academy (A-), Fletcher Academy (B+), Immaculata Catholic School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Laurel Park (A), Mills River (A), Fletcher (A-)

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#15. Cumberland County

– Population: 332,861
– Median home value: $135,300 (51% own)
– Median rent: $941 (49% rent)
– Median household income: $46,875
– Top public schools: Cross Creek Early College High School (A), Massey Hill Classical High School (A), Cumberland International Early Colleges (A)
– Top private schools: Fayetteville Academy (A+), Village Christian Academy (A-), Fayetteville Christian School (A-)
– Top places to live: Spring Lake (B+), Fayetteville (B+), Hope Mills (B+)

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#14. Durham County

– Population: 311,848
– Median home value: $223,000 (54% own)
– Median rent: $1,067 (46% rent)
– Median household income: $60,958
– Top public schools: North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (A+), Research Triangle High School (A+), Durham School of the Arts (A)
– Top private schools: Durham Academy (A+), Trinity School of Durham & Chapel Hill (A+), Camelot Academy (A+)
– Top places to live: Durham (A), Gorman (B-), Triangle Township (A+)

Travis K. Witt // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Iredell County

– Population: 175,538
– Median home value: $190,300 (72% own)
– Median rent: $868 (28% rent)
– Median household income: $60,955
– Top public schools: Pine Lake Preparatory School (A+), Collaborative College for Technology & Leadership (CCTL) (A), South Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: Woodlawn School (A+), Statesville Christian School (B+), Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy (B+)
– Top places to live: Mooresville (A), Troutman (A-), Statesville (B+)

Nolichuckyjake // Shutterstock

#12. Catawba County

– Population: 157,613
– Median home value: $143,600 (69% own)
– Median rent: $738 (31% rent)
– Median household income: $52,056
– Top public schools: Discovery High School (A), Challenger Early College High School (A), Shuford Elementary School (A-)
– Top private schools: University Christian High School (A), Hickory Christian Academy (A-), Tabernacle Christian School (B+)
– Top places to live: Mountain View (A-), Hickory (A-), Newton (A-)

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#11. Buncombe County

– Population: 256,886
– Median home value: $238,200 (63% own)
– Median rent: $975 (37% rent)
– Median household income: $52,207
– Top public schools: Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. Discovery Academy (A+), Evergreen Community Charter School (A), T.C. Roberson High School (A)
– Top private schools: Asheville School (A+), Carolina Day School (A+), Christ School (A+)
– Top places to live: Biltmore Forest (A+), Royal Pines (A), Avery Creek (A)

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#10. New Hanover County

– Population: 227,938
– Median home value: $243,600 (58% own)
– Median rent: $1,031 (42% rent)
– Median household income: $54,891
– Top public schools: Isaac M. Bear High School (A), John T. Hoggard High School (A), Wilmington Early College High School (A)
– Top private schools: Cape Fear Academy (A+), Coastal Christian High School (A-), Wilmington Christian Academy (B+)
– Top places to live: Sea Breeze (A), Wrightsville Beach (A), Ogden (A)

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#9. Moore County

– Population: 97,294
– Median home value: $216,500 (76% own)
– Median rent: $879 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $59,963
– Top public schools: The Academy of Moore County (A+), West Pine Elementary School (A), West End Elementary School (A-)
– Top private schools: The O’Neal School (A+), Sandhills Classical Christian School (unavailable), Episcopal Day School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Pinehurst (A), Southern Pines (A), Foxfire (A)

KAD Photo // Shutterstock

#8. Chatham County

– Population: 71,338
– Median home value: $281,700 (76% own)
– Median rent: $845 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $67,031
– Top public schools: Perry W. Harrison Elementary School (A-), Margaret B. Pollard Middle School (A-), Chatham Charter School (A-)
– Top private schools: Haw River Christian Academy (unavailable), Thales Academy Pittsboro K-5 (unavailable), Auldern Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Fearrington Village (A), Pittsboro (B+), Siler City (B-)

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#7. Forsyth County

– Population: 375,195
– Median home value: $159,300 (62% own)
– Median rent: $812 (38% rent)
– Median household income: $51,569
– Top public schools: Early College of Forsyth (A+), Atkins Academic & Technology High School (A), Ronald W. Reagan High School (A)
– Top private schools: Forsyth Country Day School (A+), Salem Academy (A+), Calvary Day School (A)
– Top places to live: Clemmons (A+), Lewisville (A), Winston-Salem (A)

Beckycafferylepage // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Union County

– Population: 231,053
– Median home value: $241,400 (81% own)
– Median rent: $1,030 (19% rent)
– Median household income: $80,033
– Top public schools: Marvin Ridge High School (A+), Weddington High School (A+), Central Academy of Technology & Arts (A+)
– Top private schools: Arborbrook Christian Academy (A-), Metrolina Christian Academy (A-), Grace Academy (B)
– Top places to live: Marvin (A+), Weddington (A+), Waxhaw (A)

PHHI // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Cabarrus County

– Population: 206,615
– Median home value: $203,100 (71% own)
– Median rent: $925 (29% rent)
– Median household income: $67,328
– Top public schools: Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College High School (A), J.N. Fries Middle School (A), Cox Mill High School (A)
– Top private schools: Cannon School (A+), Christ the King Catholic High School (A), Covenant Classical School (B+)
– Top places to live: Harrisburg (A+), Concord (A), Kannapolis (B+)

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#4. Guilford County

– Population: 527,868
– Median home value: $167,000 (59% own)
– Median rent: $878 (41% rent)
– Median household income: $53,261
– Top public schools: The Early College at Guilford (A+), The STEM Early College at N.C. A&T (A+), Greensboro Academy (A+)
– Top private schools: Greensboro Day School (A+), Wesleyan Christian Academy (A), Caldwell Academy (A)
– Top places to live: Oak Ridge (A+), Stokesdale (A), Jamestown (A)

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#3. Orange County

– Population: 144,836
– Median home value: $308,800 (63% own)
– Median rent: $1,093 (37% rent)
– Median household income: $71,723
– Top public schools: East Chapel Hill High School (A+), Carrboro High School (A+), Chapel Hill High School (A+)
– Top private schools: Carolina Friends School (A+), Emerson Waldorf School (A), St. Thomas More Catholic School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Chapel Hill (A+), Carrboro (A+), Hillsborough (A)

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#2. Mecklenburg County

– Population: 1,074,475
– Median home value: $238,000 (56% own)
– Median rent: $1,146 (44% rent)
– Median household income: $66,641
– Top public schools: Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy (A+), Ardrey Kell High School (A+), Community School of Davidson (A+)
– Top private schools: Providence Day School (A+), Charlotte Country Day School (A+), Charlotte Latin School (A+)
– Top places to live: Ballantyne East (A+), Dilworth (A+), Fourth Ward (A+)

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#1. Wake County

– Population: 1,069,079
– Median home value: $281,700 (64% own)
– Median rent: $1,150 (36% rent)
– Median household income: $80,591
– Top public schools: Raleigh Charter High School (A+), Green Hope High School (A+), Wake NC State University STEM Early College High School (A+)
– Top private schools: Cary Academy (A+), Ravenscroft School (A+), St. David’s School (A+)
– Top places to live: Morrisville (A+), Cary (A+), Apex (A+)

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