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Across the nation, an increasing number of people are retiring to college towns. The atmosphere of college towns is extremely attractive to retirees, and why not? If you think about it, you get a little bit of everything in a college town--cultural activities, athletic events, educational opportunities, and excellent medical facilities--which make them perfect places to retire.

It's no wonder that they are becoming some of our most popular retirement destinations. Below are just a few of our favorite North Carolina college towns.


Although not strictly a "college town," Asheville is home to the University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA) and the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement (NCCCR). So in this case, it fits the bill! We'll talk more about the NCCCR in a bit.

Located more than 2,000 feet above sea level in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the motto in Asheville is "altitude affects attitude." And the attitude is wonderful in this beautiful city. No wonder it consistently appears on lists of the best places to live in the United States.

The largest city in Western North Carolina, and the county seat of Buncombe county, Asheville has become a regional center for manufacturing, transportation, health care, banking, professional services and shopping. The city, dubbed "Paris of the South" by travel writers, is probably best known for its beautiful art deco architecture, mountain views and cultural offerings. Each year Asheville hosts the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival (the country's oldest festival) and its own Shakespeare Festival. It also is home to numerous art galleries, drama companies, music rooms and a symphony orchestra. Biltmore House, George Vanderbilt's 250-room Victorian mansion (complete with winery and a restaurant) offers spectacular views and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

For those who enjoy outdoor adventure, there's something for everyone...a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, whitewater rafting on the French Broad River, a flight in a hot air balloon, a mountain hike and more. And, with a year-round mild climate, there's plenty of time to do it all.

In addition to all of Asheville's obvious charms, perhaps the best reason for retiring there is the above-mentioned North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement. Part of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, NCCCR is one of more than 250 institutes for learning in retirement (IRL). People over 55 are invited to help teach, design the curriculum and help administer their own programs to help them rethink their life goals, stimulate the mind and enable them to stay connected to society.


Only 20 miles north of Charlotte, the town of Davidson combines the charm of a small village with easy access to all the attractions of big city living. Because it borders Lake Norman, the state's largest lake, there are plenty of lakefront recreational activities for water lovers.

Davidson gets its name from Davidson College, the small liberal arts college established there in 1837. Officially incorporated as the Town of Davidson College in 1879, it became simply Davidson in 1891. The college remains the town's biggest employer and has a strong presence in the community.

For example, the school's calendar of events, called "The Oak Row Report" includes a list of college events and activities open to the public. A highlight is the Artists Series, which brings professional theater, dance troups and musical performers from around the world to Davidson. Gallery space in the Davidson College Visual Arts Center is open to the public.

The phrase "within walking distance" is a popular one in Davidson. One in four people works at home or walks to work on the town's tree-lined streets and brick sidewalks. The downtown area is dotted with a variety of restaurants, cafes and charming shops to suit any taste.

Also within walking distance of downtown Davidson is The Pines, a 47-acre retirement community. In addition to maintenance-free living and on-site health care facilities, residents also can enroll in or audit classes at the college, cheer the Wildcats on to victory or become extended families for students.

In addition to activities at the college, the Town of Davidson Parks and Recreation Department provides quality year-round leisure activities for all ages. Each May "Town Day" takes over Main Street and every July there's a good, old-fashioned parade. In the fall, the Children's Schoolhouse Carnival fills the Green and the Christmas season is a filled with carriage rides, strolling carolers, visits from Santa and a parade. The Garden Club is active all year long--hosting a horticultural symposium each spring--and there are a number of book clubs (some of them more than 50 years old). Theater lovers will want to check out the Davidson Community Players Summer Theatre. The professional-quality company does two plays each summer and auditions are open to anyone, no matter their level of expertise. Every aspect of production is handled by volunteers.


Home to the the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is located in the rolling hills of Orange and Durham Counties (primarily in Orange County). The town covers an area of 20.16 square miles and boasts a population of 44,000. It enjoys a "four-season climate," with an average high temperature of about 70 degrees (51 degrees during the winter) and beautiful springs and falls.

Chapel Hill offers a wide variety of enticements, many of them courtesy of the university. Residents of Chapel Hill can attend Tarheel sporting events, concerts and plays or visit the school's libraries, planetarium and art museum. Then there are the restaurants. It's been estimated that Chapel Hill has one restaurant for every 280 residents.

If they can't find what they want within the town limits of Chapel Hill, residents also can travel to other nearby cities, Carrboro, Durham and Raleigh (North Carolina's state capital), which are only minutes away. Collectively, the three cities of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh are known as "The Triangle." Within that area are 16 two- and four-year colleges/universities (including UNC, N.C. State and Duke) and two technical community colleges. So anyone interested in continuing his education has plenty of options.

Also located within The Triangle is Research Triangle Park (RTP). One of the oldest research parks in the country, RTP is home to 137 companies and employs 42,000 people.

For weekend getaways, the mountains and the coast are each about three hours away. The town also is located midway between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Ga., both of which can be reached easily via I-85.

In addition to the entertainment opportunities it offers, Chapel Hill and the Triangle also offer excellent medical care via the UNC Hospitals and the Duke University Medical Center.


When it was founded in 1771, Greenville was an agricultural community. Today the city is a major industrial and economic center for eastern North Carolina, with a population of 60,476 and an economy based on international manufacturing, medical facilities and educational institutions.

Perhaps the best-known of Greenville's educational institutions is East Carolina University (ECU), which provides residents many opportunities to attend athletic events, plays, concerts and other cultural happenings. Anyone interested in continuing his education is welcome at ECU as the school "offers a number of programs that serve the needs of the Adult Learner." A variety of degree programs are available on the Internet, at night and at various sites in the area.

The Brody School of Medicine at ECU and the Pitt County Memorial Hospital offer world-class medical care to patients from a seven-county area. ECU Physicians, part of the Brody School, are leaders in advanced technology, medical knowledge and compassionate health care.

Companies from around the world also also have come to Greenville to set up shop. They include Proctor & Gamble, Rubbermaid and Karastan Carpets, to name just a few. No doubt they were attracted by the city's comfortable climate, strong economy and stable workforce.

Despite its metropolitan status, Greenville maintains a "hometown feel" that is popular with young families and retirees alike.

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