Why Hickory, North Carolina, Is a Great Place to Retire

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Why Hickory, N.C., Is a Great Place to Retire

Flanked by the Appalachian Mountains, Hickory's milder weather makes it pleasant to live in year-round.

City of Hickory


Nearest large city:

What $300,000 will buy:
4-bedroom, 2-bath historic home in downtown Hickory with hardwood floors, updated kitchen

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Hickory is still a center of furniture manufacturing, but, emblematic of a diver­sifying economy, it’s also home to Apple’s largest data center. “Siri lives here,” says Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp.

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Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, Hickory is an hour from Charlotte and two hours from the Great Smoky Mountains. You can ski in the tallest mountains on the East Coast and attend a pro game in Charlotte on the same day, says Millar. You’ll experience four seasons, but summers are tempered by cool evening breezes, and snowfall is limited by the southern location. Travelers to more far-flung locales can take the Hickory Hop shuttle to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.


Revitalization of downtown Hickory is under way and picking up steam. Union Square hosts a farmer’s market and festivals (including Oktoberfest), a summer concert series and more. The SALT Block, a cultural arts complex, houses a library, a science center, an art museum, an arts council, a choral society and a regional symphony. Lenoir-Rhyne University, a private liberal arts school, features many cultural opportunities, too.

The region is a golfer’s heaven, with 24 courses located within 20 miles of town. Lake Hickory—a large, dam-controlled lake on the Catawba River—provides plenty of other recreational possibilities.

SEE ALSO: 8 Great Places to Retire Abroad

The median home price in Hickory is $148,000; the entry level of the market (up to about $300,000) is very tight, but buyers have more to look at in the $300,000-to-$400,000 range. A home with a single story or most of its living space on the first level will run about $300,000 to $500,000 in a golf-course community and $450,000 to $750,000 on Lake Hickory, says Mike Kelly, a real estate agent. The area has few condos and one 55-plus community, Abingdon Glen. The median property tax in Catawba County is $957.

In 2014, Charles and Gwen Elmore, 68, formerly of Norfolk, Va., relocated to Hickory to be near his extended family. They settled on a single-story home with four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms for $319,000. “People here, as a rule, are so kind and not in such a hurry,” says Gwen. The couple love Hickory’s many restaurants and enjoy RV camping with their dogs. “Coming from the coast, I dreaded being landlocked, but when you drive down the road and see the mountains in front of you, it’s just gorgeous!” she says.


Hickory has two hospitals: Catawba Valley Medical Center and Frye Regional Medical Center, which is part of the Duke LifePoint Healthcare system. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the largest hospital in the state, in Winston-Salem, and Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte, are both about an hour away.

North Carolina has a flat income tax rate of 5.75%. Social Security benefits are exempt from income taxes, but most other retirement income is taxable. The state has no estate or inheritance tax.

See Also: The State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retirees