12 Best Places to Live in the South (By Quality of Life)

by Jem
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The South is not just a place, it’s an experience. It’s known for its unique culture and warm welcome. Think of Nashville’s lively music to Savannah’s serene streets. This region has many lifestyle choices. Choosing among the best places to live in the South can be a big decision, but I’m here to help.

I’ve traveled a lot in the South. Its beauty and diversity amaze me. From Charleston’s historic buildings to Atlanta’s vibrant scenes, or the Blue Ridge Mountains’ views to Gulf Coast beaches – there’s so much variety. Whether you love music, history, or city life, the South has the perfect spot for you.

Wondering where to begin? Everyone’s ideal place is different. You might want cultural scenes, good schools, or affordable living.

Let me guide you through the best cities in the South. I’ve done the research, looked at data, and talked to locals. I’ve prepared a list that fits different lifestyles and budgets. Ready to start this journey? Let’s go!

The top places to live in the South for all

The Best Places to Live in the South  

Eager to explore the most picturesque places to call home in the South? Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the South boasts a locale for every preference. Continue reading to uncover the top living destinations in this region.

Searching for the ideal hometown in the South? Whether it’s coastal serenity or urban energy you’re after, the South has a place that can fulfill your desires.

  • Best for tech jobs: Austin, Texas
  • Best for history: Charleston, South Carolina
  • Best for education: Columbia, South Carolina
  • Best for outdoor activities: Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Best for arts and innovation: Greenville, South Carolina
  • Best for luxury living: Hilton Head Island
  • Best for space and science careers: Huntsville, Alabama
  • Best for waterfront living: Jacksonville, Florida
  • Best for beach lifestyle: Melbourne, Florida
  • Best for suburban living: Mount Pleasant
  • Best for tourism industry opportunities: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Best for bourbon enthusiasts: Lexington, Kentucky

Here are the prime spots in the South that you need to know about:

1. Austin, Texas

Buzzing with a unique Texas charm, Austin is more than just a city; it’s a lifestyle, making it the best city to live in the South. Known for its unique restaurants, music, and outdoor activities, Austin offers a vibrant mix of experiences. This city’s lively atmosphere and rich cultural scene provide an ideal setting for those seeking an energetic and fulfilling lifestyle in the heart of the South.

Music is the heart of Austin. From local gigs to big festivals like South by Southwest, the city is a haven for music lovers. Its food scene is equally exciting. You can enjoy everything from Texas BBQ to gourmet vegan dishes.

Nature lovers have plenty to explore in Austin. Lady Bird Lake is perfect for paddleboarding, while the Barton Creek Greenbelt offers great hiking and biking trails. The city is a blend of urban energy and natural beauty.

Austin is more than a place to live; it’s a community that embraces diversity and creativity. It’s the best place to live in Texas for those who want a blend of culture, innovation, and fun. Whether you’re here for the career opportunities or the cultural scene, Austin welcomes everyone.

Austin is a lifestyle destination that exudes a certain Texas flair, making it one of the best places to live in the South.
Austin is a lifestyle destination that exudes a certain Texas flair, making it one of the best places to live in the South.

2. Charleston, South Carolina

A gem in the South, Charleston is a blend of history and charm, making it not only a great place to live in the South but also a cultural treasure. Its cobblestone streets and pastel antebellum houses tell tales of a rich past. This city’s unique combination of historical significance and enchanting beauty creates a living experience that is both culturally rich and deeply rooted in Southern tradition.

Food in Charleston is a highlight. The city offers world-class seafood and traditional Southern dishes. The dining experience here is both elegant and deeply rooted in local flavors.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love Charleston’s beaches and parks. You can spend days exploring the scenic coastline or relaxing in lush, green spaces. The city is also rich in arts and history. Museums and galleries abound, offering a glimpse into both the past and contemporary South Carolina culture.

Charleston is more than just a city; it’s an experience. It’s the best city to live in South Carolina for those who appreciate a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. This city invites you to become part of its vibrant community, rich in tradition and full of life.

Charleston's distinctive fusion of charm and history makes it both a cultural treasure and a great place to live in the South.
Charleston’s distinctive fusion of elegance and tradition makes it both a cultural treasure and a great place to live in the South.

3. Columbia, South Carolina

Step into Columbia and feel the pulse of South Carolina’s capital. It’s a city where tradition and progress meet, offering a lifestyle that ranks it among the best places to live in the South. Columbia is a hub of energy, history, and Southern hospitality.

The city’s heart beats with vibrant cultural scenes. From the South Carolina State Museum to indie music venues, there’s always something new to explore. The food scene here is a delight. Savor Southern classics and modern cuisines in local eateries spread across the city.

Nature lovers won’t be left out in Columbia. The Congaree National Park, with its majestic trees and serene trails, is a haven for outdoor adventures. The city also boasts beautiful parks and the scenic Riverfront Park, perfect for leisurely strolls or picnics.

Columbia seamlessly blends urban energy with natural beauty, making it a great place to live in the South. Whether you’re a student, professional, or family, this city offers a diverse and welcoming community. With its blend of educational institutions, thriving businesses, and cultural richness, Columbia invites you to make it your home.

Columbia is a fantastic area to reside in the South since it successfully combines urban activity and natural beauty.
Columbia is a fantastic area to reside in the South since it successfully combines urban activity and natural beauty.

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Uncover the charm of Fayetteville, a hidden gem that shines brightly among the best places to live in the South. This city merges the vibrancy of a college town with the tranquility of the Ozarks, creating a unique living experience.

In Fayetteville, community and culture intertwine. The streets are lined with local shops and cafes, buzzing with the energy of the University of Arkansas. Cultural events and festivals fill the calendar, ensuring there’s never a dull moment.

Outdoor adventures await at every corner. The city is surrounded by Arkansas’ natural beauty, from lush forests to scenic trails. It’s a paradise for hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts. The city’s parks and green spaces are perfect for family outings and relaxing weekends.

Fayetteville offers a welcoming community, making it the coolest place to live in the South. It’s a city that balances small-town charm with a lively cultural scene. Whether you’re seeking educational opportunities, a career, or a place to retire, Fayetteville provides a warm welcome to all who choose to call it home.

Explore the allure of Fayetteville, a Southern jewel that shines brightly among the best locations to live in the South.
Fayetteville is the hippest area to live in in the South because of its friendly community.

5. Greenville, South Carolina

Imagine a city where Southern charm meets modern vibrancy. Greenville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is one such place, widely recognized as one of the best places to live in the South. This city is a blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication.

Greenville’s downtown, with its tree-lined Main Street, is the heart of the city. Here, you’ll find a wealth of restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. The city’s love for the arts is evident in its public sculptures and the Peace Center, a hub for performing arts.

The outdoors is always close by in Greenville. Falls Park on the Reedy is a local favorite, offering stunning views and tranquil spaces. The city is a gateway to outdoor adventures, with numerous trails and parks for hiking, biking, and exploring.

Greenville is more than a city; it’s a community. It’s also known as one of the best in the South towns to live in, thanks to its friendly atmosphere and high quality of life. Whether you’re a young professional, a family, or a retiree, Greenville offers a welcoming environment and an unmatched lifestyle.

Being a neighborhood rather than just a municipality makes Greenville one of the best places to live in the South.
Among the greatest places to live in the South is Greenville, which combines urban sophistication with scenic natural surroundings.

6. Hilton Head Island

Escape to a paradise where leisure and beauty blend seamlessly. Hilton Head Island, with its stunning beaches and lush landscapes, ranks as a top destination and one of the best places to live in the South. This island offers a serene, upscale lifestyle with a strong sense of community.

Here, life moves at a gentler pace. The island’s natural beauty, from its sandy shores to its maritime forests, is breathtaking. Golf enthusiasts will find some of the best courses in the country, while beach lovers can enjoy miles of pristine coastline.

Hilton Head Island isn’t just about relaxation. It’s a hub for cultural activities and community events. The arts scene is thriving, with galleries, festivals, and live performances. The local dining is a blend of Southern classics and fresh seafood, a true delight for foodies.

Living on Hilton Head Island means embracing a life of tranquility and luxury. It’s a great place to live in the South for those seeking a peaceful retreat with all the amenities of a sophisticated resort town. Whether you’re looking for a family home or a retirement paradise, Hilton Head Island offers a dreamlike setting where every day feels like a vacation.

With its gorgeous beaches and verdant surroundings, Hilton Head Island is one of the best places to call home in the South.
With its gorgeous beaches and verdant surroundings, Hilton Head Island is one of the best places to call home in the South.

7. Huntsville, Alabama

Discover a city where innovation meets Southern hospitality. Huntsville, known as “Rocket City,” blends its rich history in space exploration with a vibrant present, making it one of the best areas to live in the South. It’s a place where technology, arts, and culture converge.

Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center is not just an attraction; it’s a symbol of the city’s pioneering spirit. This spirit extends to the city’s thriving tech and research industries, attracting professionals and families alike.

Cultural experiences are abundant in Huntsville. The city boasts a variety of museums, theaters, and art galleries. Its downtown area is a bustling hub of restaurants and shops, offering a taste of modern life amidst historical settings.

Outdoor activities are part of Huntsville’s charm. With several parks, lake house rentals, and nature reserves, residents enjoy hiking, biking, and exploring the natural beauty of Alabama. The city’s green spaces are perfect for family outings and weekend adventures.

Huntsville represents a unique blend of past and future, making it a nice city to live in the South. Whether you’re drawn to its aerospace legacy, educational opportunities, or the warmth of its community, Huntsville offers a quality of life that’s hard to match.

A nice place to live in the South is Huntsville, which offers a unique mix of the old and the new.
A nice place to live in the South is Huntsville, that offers a unique mix of the old and the new.

8. Jacksonville, Florida

Venture into Jacksonville to experience a city where urban life meets seaside bliss. This sprawling metropolis, set along the stunning Florida coastline, is hailed as one of the best cities to live in the South. It’s a place where city vibes, vibrant night life, and beach relaxation exist in harmony.

Jacksonville is not only Florida’s largest city but also one with the largest urban park system in the nation. This unique feature offers residents an array of outdoor activities, from hiking and fishing to beachcombing on its vast Atlantic beaches.

The city’s cultural scene is just as vibrant. With numerous museums, art galleries, and a thriving music scene, there’s always something to stimulate the mind and soul. Food lovers will relish the diverse culinary offerings, ranging from fresh seafood to international cuisines.

Jacksonville’s neighborhoods each have their own character, from the historic charm of Riverside and Avondale to the bustling downtown area. This diversity makes Jacksonville a top city in the South to live for people from all walks of life.

Embracing both its rich history and modern development, Jacksonville offers a lifestyle that’s both exciting and relaxed. For those seeking a balance between urban amenities and the joys of coastal living, Jacksonville presents an ideal choice.

Jacksonville's bustling downtown and charming historic district make it one of the top cities in the South.
Jacksonville’s bustling downtown and charming historic district make it one of the top cities in the South.

9. Lexington

Step into a world where tradition and innovation coexist beautifully. In the heart of Kentucky, Lexington emerges as one of the best towns to live in the South. Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” this city offers a unique blend of equestrian heritage and vibrant urban living.

Lexington’s love for horses is evident in its picturesque horse farms and the renowned Keeneland Race Course. But there’s more to this city than just horses. It’s a cultural hub with thriving arts, music, and food scenes. The city’s downtown area is a bustling mix of historic sites, trendy shops, and eclectic restaurants.

Education and innovation are at Lexington’s core, with the University of Kentucky driving growth and opportunities. The city’s focus on education contributes to a lively and intellectual atmosphere, making it an attractive destination for families and professionals.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of green spaces and parks in Lexington, ideal for leisurely walks, picnics, or sports. The surrounding Bluegrass region offers stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventures.

Lexington is not just a city; it’s a community that celebrates its history while embracing the future. It stands out as the best place to live in Kentucky, offering a quality of life that combines the best of both worlds – urban sophistication and rural charm.

One of the greatest places to reside in the South is Lexington, which is located in the center of Kentucky.
One of the greatest places to reside in the South is Lexington, which is located in the center of Kentucky.

10. Melbourne, Florida

Experience the allure of a city where coastal charm meets space-age innovation. In the heart of Florida’s Space Coast, Melbourne has emerged as one of the best places to live in the South. This city offers a unique blend of beachside relaxation and cutting-edge technology.

Melbourne’s proximity to the Kennedy Space Center adds to its appeal, attracting space enthusiasts and professionals alike. The city’s tech industry is booming, yet it retains a laid-back beach town vibe.

The beaches in Melbourne are a highlight, offering miles of pristine coastline perfect for surfing, sunbathing, or just enjoying the ocean breeze. The historic downtown area is a treasure trove of unique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes, reflecting the city’s creative spirit.

Outdoor activities abound, with numerous parks and nature preserves ideal for hiking, bird-watching, and exploring Florida’s natural beauty. The city also boasts a vibrant arts and cultural scene, with regular community events, music festivals, and art shows.

Melbourne is a city that offers the best of Florida living. It’s a place where you can watch a rocket launch one day and relax on a beautiful beach the next. For those seeking a blend of adventure and tranquility, Melbourne is a nice city to live in the South.

Melbourne, in the heart of Florida's Space Coast, is among the best places to live in the South.
Melbourne, in the heart of Florida’s Space Coast, is among the best places to live in the South.

11. Mount Pleasant

Explore a town where Southern charm meets coastal living at its finest. Mount Pleasant, a stone’s throw from Charleston, stands out as one of the best places in the South to live. This town beautifully balances modern amenities with a strong sense of community and history.

Mount Pleasant is known for its picturesque Shem Creek, lined with vibrant seafood restaurants and bustling with kayakers and paddleboarders. The town’s proximity to Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms offers residents easy access to some of the region’s most beautiful beaches.

The town’s historic district reveals a rich past, with well-preserved homes and storied streets, while the modern side of Mount Pleasant features shopping centers, parks, and recreational facilities. It’s a family-friendly place, with excellent schools and numerous community activities.

Living in Mount Pleasant means embracing a lifestyle where nature, history, and modern comforts blend seamlessly. It’s the best place to live in the South for those who value a high quality of life in a scenic, serene setting. Whether strolling along the Mount Pleasant Pier or exploring the town’s charming boutiques, life here is about savoring each moment in a truly idyllic setting.

A strong sense of community and heritage coexist harmoniously with contemporary conveniences in Mount Pleasant.
A strong sense of community and heritage coexist harmoniously with contemporary conveniences in Mount Pleasant.

12. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Embrace the coastal charm and vibrant energy that Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is known for. This city is a delightful mix of beachside leisure and lively entertainment, making it one of the best the South cities to live in. It’s a destination where sunny days and fun-filled nights are the norms.

Myrtle Beach is famous for its stunning shoreline, with miles of sandy beaches perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and beach sports. The iconic Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is a hub of activity, lined with shops, vacation rentals, restaurants, and attractions, including the SkyWheel, offering breathtaking ocean views.

This city is not just about beaches; it’s a haven for golfers with numerous championship golf courses. The nightlife in Myrtle Beach is vibrant, with a range of options from live music venues to family-friendly shows.

Myrtle Beach is also a family-oriented city, with attractions like the Ripley’s Aquarium and amusement parks that delight visitors of all ages. The city’s growing economy and affordable living make it an attractive option for those looking for a permanent vacation vibe.

Life in Myrtle Beach is about making the most of the coastal setting and the lively community. It stands as a top city in the South to live, offering a blend of relaxation, entertainment, and a warm, welcoming community.

One of the greatest places to live in the South is Myrtle Beach, which offers a beautiful blend of coastal relaxation and exciting nightlife.
One of the greatest places to live in the South is Myrtle Beach, which offers a beautiful blend of coastal relaxation and exciting nightlife.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places to Live in South

Seeking to broaden your understanding of what are the best places to live in the South? Below are some frequently asked questions I receive regarding the finest places to reside in the South.

What is the nicest state in the South?

Determining the nicest state in the South can be subjective, as each state offers its unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some highlights of what makes certain Southern states stand out:

  • Diverse Appeal: The South boasts several states with unique charms, making “nicest” subjective.
  • Florida: Known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant cities like Miami, and attractions such as Disney World.
  • Georgia: Offers a blend of history and modernity, with cities like Atlanta and Savannah’s scenic beauty.
  • South Carolina: Renowned for its coastal towns like Charleston and historical significance.
  • Texas: Stands out with its diverse landscapes, cultural richness, and cities like Austin and Houston.
  • North Carolina: Famous for its scenic mountains, research triangle, and dynamic cities like Charlotte.

Where is the safest place to live in the Southeast?

The Southeast is known for its warm hospitality and diverse communities, and safety is a top priority for many residents. When considering the safest places to live, several factors come into play, such as crime rates, community engagement, and local law enforcement efficacy. Here are some of the safest places to move in South:

  • Cary, North Carolina: With consistently low crime rates and a strong sense of community, Cary is often ranked as one of the safest cities in the region.
  • Johns Creek, Georgia: This suburb of Atlanta is known for its excellent schools, affluent neighborhoods, and a particularly low incidence of crime.
  • Frisco, Texas: Part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Frisco offers a safe environment with a suburban feel and plenty of amenities.
  • Sandy Springs, Georgia: Another Atlanta suburb, Sandy Springs, has a dedicated city police department and community programs focused on safety.
  • Germantown, Tennessee: A suburb of Memphis, Germantown is noted for its low crime rates and strong community involvement in neighborhood safety.
The South is home to serene beach communities, thriving city hubs, and all points in between.
The South is home to serene beach communities, thriving city hubs, and all points in between.

Where is the best place to live in the South in your 20s?

Living in the South in your 20s can be an exciting experience, with several cities offering vibrant culture, career opportunities, and an active social scene. Here are some top picks:

  • Austin, Texas: Known as a live music capital, Austin is a hub for tech jobs and has a lively nightlife, making it a great place to live in the South for young professionals.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: With its booming music scene, excellent food, and affordable living, Nashville is perfect for those in their 20s looking to jumpstart their careers in a dynamic environment.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: A city with a diverse population, Atlanta offers a strong job market, rich cultural experiences, and a variety of entertainment options.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina: A growing financial center with a young population, Charlotte provides a balance of work and play with its expanding urban parks and recreation.
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: Part of the Research Triangle, Raleigh is ideal for those in their 20s, with its educational institutions, research facilities, and a thriving job market.

Is the South a good place to live?

Oh, absolutely! The South is a fantastic place to call home. It’s got this warm, welcoming vibe that you just can’t find anywhere else. Picture friendly neighbors, sweet tea on the porch, and communities where people genuinely care about each other. It’s like living in a place where every day feels a bit like coming home.

The weather? Mostly sunny and warm, perfect for those who love to soak up some good old Vitamin D. And the landscapes are stunning, from beautiful beaches to lush mountains. There’s always something gorgeous to see or an adventure waiting around the corner.

Food in the South? It’s a whole world of deliciousness! From mouth-watering barbecue to heavenly biscuits and gravy, the culinary scene is as rich as it is diverse. It’s like every meal is a celebration of flavor.

And let’s talk about culture and history. The South is steeped in both, offering a unique blend of tradition and modernity. There’s music, art, festivals – a vibrant tapestry of cultural experiences.

Plus, the cost of living is often more affordable compared to other regions, making it easier to enjoy a good quality of life. So, is the South a good place to live? You bet it is! It’s not just a place; it’s a lifestyle – one filled with warmth, charm, and a whole lot of heart.

Why is it so cheap to live in the South?

Living in the South can be surprisingly affordable, and there are a few reasons why! First off, the cost of land and housing tends to be lower compared to many other parts of the country. This means you can get more house for your buck, which is always a win.

Then there’s the overall cost of living. Things like groceries, utilities, and even going out for a meal often come with a smaller price tag. It’s like the South rolls out the welcome mat with lower prices.

Also, many Southern states have lower tax rates, which can make a big difference in your wallet. It’s not just about what you earn, but what you get to keep, right?

And let’s not forget the Southern charm! The warm, welcoming community vibe is a bonus that comes free of charge. It’s like getting a big hug from your neighborhood without spending a dime. So, living in the South? It’s not just affordable; it’s also about enjoying a rich, friendly lifestyle that doesn’t break the bank.  

Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in South

The South offers a diverse array of living experiences, from Austin’s vibrant energy to Charleston’s historic grace. Each place we’ve explored presents its own unique charm. Whether it’s the coastal beauty of Hilton Head Island or the tech-forward vibe of Huntsville, the South has a place for every taste.

Choosing where to live in the South is about matching your lifestyle with the right community. Cities like Jacksonville and Lexington blend modern life with rich heritage. The South is more than a region; it’s a collection of communities each with its special appeal.

In the South, you can find bustling urban centers, peaceful beach towns, and everything in between. Its welcoming atmosphere, varied cultural experiences, and scenic beauty make it an ideal choice for many. The perfect place in the South is out there, waiting for you to call it home.

The top places to live in the South right now
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