In a nation bookended by California’s temperate splendor and the bustling, historied metropolises of New England—not forgetting the island paradises of Hawaii and Puerto Rico—actuaries at U.S. News and World Report have twiddled their abacuses and determined the mythical city of Raleigh-Durham as the second-best place to live in the nation.

For the second year in a row, the ruggedly hip Rocky Mountain hamlet Boulder, Colorado, snagged the top spot.

The annual list ranks cities based on the quality of life, job market, and best overall value. A scorecard rates the region as a 7.5 out of 10, with high desirability and growing net migration. 

While we may not be encircled by mountain majesty (and pot is still illegal), I couldn’t help but wonder…

Are we really better than everyone? 

The Triangle has been punching above its weight class for a while. It’s only just in the past few years that “Best Of” lists have taken notice.

For the past two decades, the area has been a burgeoning tech hub, and because of its great universities, relative affordability, and mild winters, has been experiencing a population boom only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that residents are fleeing more expensive coastal metros, Raleigh-Durham is climbing the ranks.

Granted, “Raleigh-Durham,” as many refer to it, may not actually exist (the cities are separated by a 25-mile stretch of highway that becomes seemingly infinite during rush hour) and the municipalities themselves are about as culturally akin as mayonnaise and peanut butter—yes, Raleigh is mayonnaise—we should still soak up this win for all it’s worth. It’s our moment in the sun! The very hot, unrelenting, summer sun. 

But are we really better than everywhere but Boulder? With a state legislature that prioritizes stripping women’s rights over racial justice, a fundamental lack of mass transit, and an ever-increasing cost of living, it’s best to take such accolades with a Southern-fried heaping of salt. 

These rankings, of course, are the nightmare of neighborhood NIMBYs who bemoan the growth even as the value of their homes, purchased decades ago, skyrockets in value. They’d prefer this two-million-person region be a best-kept secret.

Well, too bad! Behold as Yankees and crypto traders flock to get a taste of our eclectic breweries and vaguely cultured gastropubs, bringing with them hedgefund-backed startups and drawl-free dialects. Rejoice (or sob) at rising housing costs and get ready to pay $5 for a PBR. 

Don’t like it? You can always move to Fayetteville (No. 142 on the list).

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Senior Staff Writer Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to