What's it like to live in Hickory, NC?

Profile written by local expert:

Virginia Annable

With its moderate climate and sweeping mountain views, the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area, sometimes known as the Catawba Valley, is a home for retirees and families and is becoming a destination for young professionals as well. The region is starting to see growth from Charlotte, which is just an hour's drive south from Hickory, and sees influence from beer- and art-loving Asheville, just an hour west into the mountains. 

With growth on the horizon, new businesses including restaurants, retail stores and bars are popping up. 

The area’s past is in furniture, hosiery and textiles, the birthplace of brands like Broyhill and Bernhardt. Now, the area’s industry has bounded beyond its roots into new technologies and data; tech giants Google and Apple both have facilities here.

The region has strong artistic roots as well. Sculptures from local and regional artists abound, and art galleries are in each of the towns. 

See all the best places to live in North Carolina.


U.S. News analyzed 150 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Hickory, North Carolina is ranked:

#49 in Best Places to Live

#90 in Best Places to Retire

#4 in Best Places to Live in North Carolina

#8 in Cheapest Places to Live




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Hickory, NC Quick Stats

  • 365,339

    Metro Population

  • $40,610

    Average Annual Salary

  • N/A

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 42.8

    Median Age

  • $152,258

    Median Home Price

  • N/A

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.7%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $682

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 22.8 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What is there to do in Hickory, NC?

Outdoor recreation abounds in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area. The Catawba River invites tubers, kayakers and canoers to jump in during the summer. Hiking trails weave throughout the region, summiting nearby mountains like Bakers Mountain and Table Rock. Greenways provide easy access to walking and running paths as well as mountain biking trails. 

The area also has a selection of local breweries and bars.

The minor-league baseball Hickory Crawdads play here, and the Charlotte Hornets NBA team and the Carolina Panthers NFL team are just an hour away in Charlotte. 

There are annual festivals throughout the year, including the Hickory Hops Craft Beer and Music Festival, Hickory’s Oktoberfest event, the North Carolina Blackberry Festival in Lenoir and the Morganton Festival, which brings in free live music for a weekend.

There are local history museums in Caldwell, Burke and Catawba counties and an art museum, science museum and library in Hickory at the SALT Block -- science, arts and literature together.

What's the cost of living in Hickory, NC?

The area is fairly affordable, with rents low and the median sale price for homes lower than the state average. But the supply of homes is still low, so finding a home can be tricky. Local entities are working to bring more new construction, but the price of homes is still rising due to that lack of supply and higher and higher construction costs in the area. Some municipalities in the area don’t charge property tax beyond the county rate, but most –  including Hickory, Lenoir and Morganton – do. North Carolina has a state income tax as well.

Looking for financial advice? Find a local financial advisor in Hickory, North Carolina.

Value Index

Index Score: 8.2 /10

How we calculate this.

Hickory offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2019



Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Hickory, NC and Morganton, NC.

What's the weather like in Hickory, NC?

Summers are warm, but not hot or humid, and temperatures are cooler in the mountainous areas of Burke and Caldwell. Fall brings crisp mornings and red, orange and yellow leaves. In recent years, summer has inched further into fall, causing leaves to change later in the year. 

Winter is typically cold, and it snows almost every year. Sometimes there is one heavy snowfall during the season, but typically just a few light dustings that coat the trees and mountains, then melt within a few days.

The area has been hit with the remnants of hurricanes in the past, but the effects are often just a few inches of rain by the time any storms reach the region.

What's the best way to get around Hickory, NC?

Transportation can pose a challenge for anyone without a car here. Because driving is a necessity, there is ample parking, even in downtown areas. Most people drive to work, and many people travel between Hickory, Lenoir and Morganton for their jobs. Traffic is almost always calm except on two major roads in the area: U.S. 321 and I-40. 

A few Greenway Public Transportation buses travel around Hickory and between counties.

Just an hour south is Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and a little over an hour west is the Asheville Regional Airport, both which bring the world closer.

Commuting in Hickory, NC

Means of Transportation
Above national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

22.8 minutes

3.8 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Hickory, NC?

Many retirees end up in the area, but a growing number of young people are moving here, too, attracted by amenities like outdoor recreation and proximity to Charlotte and Asheville. 

Local officials are working to make their cities more attractive for young working professionals. As more apartments and single-family houses go up, more single young people and young families are moving in.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

Fewer single people in Hickory than
national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.