Hickory North Carolina - Happiness Circa 1863

Lake Hickory NC

This year, Hickory North Carolina got a bad rap once again, ranked #9 out of 10 on a list of unhappiest cities in America. We shake our heads. Fake news or does someone have a bone to pick with Hickory, one of the most affordable mountain towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Why didn’t they pick Funkey Minnesota or Anoka Nebraska? Did Hickory residents the pollsters talked with have a bad day?

While Hickory is not a glamorous vacation destination like Hawaii or a city with the highest paying job opportunities like Silicon Valley, it is a nostalgic hometown who has been quietly attracting baby boomers who have successfully served their 9-5 employment sentence. Folks who are now financially secure living in the gated communities near Asheville NC, who know where to find a big bang for the buck, and yes, are happy. 


The media blamed bad weather as a key reason why people consider a city unhappy. The media got it wrong with Hickory. This mountain town enjoys over 200 days of sunshine. Harsh winters? Not. You can ditch your shovel if you live in Hickory. Winter lows dip to 28 degrees with a light frosting of snow. Seven inches is the total average for the winter season. And summer highs peak at 88 degrees, unlike scolding Arizona where temperatures exceed 106 degrees. Hot heat and no water in Arizona. That could make anyone unhappy. Cool evening breezes and mild four seasons. That’s Hickory and it has its own 4,200 acre crystal clear lake, where water temperatures average 65 degrees. All ingredients for a best small town retirement.


Reporters claim Hickory folks have bad eating habits - yet the local farmer’s market is one of the best in the region. The market is always hustling and bustling with locals. Over 50 vendors offer a wide selection of fresh, locally grown produce, potted plants and herbs, meats, dairy products, cut flowers, honey, preserves, fresh baked goods, hand-made crafts, and more. The market is open Wednesday 10am-2pm and Saturday 8am-1pm, July through September. During the off season, organic produce is readily available at a number of markets such as Food Matters Market & Cafe which recently was named “Best Health Food Store in Catawba County”.

Health Nut is another organic food market in Hickory. Since 2010, they’ve been offering 100% organically grown produce. Natural Food Store and Nature’s Goodness founded by Dr Herb are also located in Hickory. These are in addition to Lowes Foods.

Like the rest of aging boomers across America, health consciousness is on the rise in Hickory, as boomers long to defy aging. From the refrigerator at home, to the corridors of city government, the buzz is ‘health - well crafted'. The City of Hickory and Catawba County are proactive with a number of new greenways, parks and a riverwalk in the approval process, adding to the community’s infrastructure.


Cross over the big pond (the Atlantic Ocean) and Old World town squares are among the most cherished tourist destinations in Europe. Towns like Sorrento Italy, where the streets close at night and families come out for a leisurely stroll and gelato. Pet friendly streets lined with outdoor cafes shaded by umbrellas where local musicians serenade passersby. In downtown Hickory, you’ll find the same at Union Square. One of a kind restaurants like the new Standard Oyster or the Old Hickory Tap Room. Stores like Ella Blu and The Natural Olive are favorite pastimes. The community theatre and downtown cinema are a short walk from downtown's free parking. Yes, we said free parking. Locals love the towering Bisnair Jewelers 12 foot clock and the Olde Hickory Station, now a restaurant in the old historic train station. 

The music scene in Hickory echoes from all corners of the city. From backstreet pubs to summer concert series in Union Square. There are all types of musical performances in town including the award winning Western Piedmont Symphony who calls Hickory home. And most of these events are free. More reasons why Hickory is one of the most affordable mountain towns in North Carolina.


Since automobiles transformed America, our country has never been the same. Slick chrome, ground shaking engines and leather could make any guy quiver. Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and Dodge Challengers were the rage. Folks in Hickory still have the pleasure of rubbernecking on Saturday nights at Hickory Motor Speedway, watching racers on the best short track racing around and birthplace of NASCAR stars such as Ralph Earnhardt. 

Grab some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. The Hickory Crawdads are the city’s Minor League Baseball team, a Class "A" affiliate of the Texas Rangers. They play at L.P. Frans Stadium which seats over 4,000 fans. 

It doesn’t take a lot to make people in Hickory happy. They just are.


While Hickory has been known as the ‘Furniture Manufacturing’ capital, did you know Hickory is now home to large data-centers operated by Apple and Google? Companies who have the highest scores in employee satisfaction. Companies who also hire smart people. Apple’s billion-dollar data-center campus just south of Hickory, is one of the world's largest. Those who chose to relocate to Hickory, to work for these tech companies, knew about the abundance of outdoor recreational activities all around.

Here you’ll find great schools and affordable colleges such as Lenoir-Rhyne University. Parents have rated Oakwood Elementary, W M Jenkins Elementary, Viewmont Elementary, Harry M Arndt Middle School, Northview Middle School and Hickory Day School with five stars! That’s a lot of happiness when parents tend to be the most picky when it comes to their child’s education.


The overall cost of living in Hickory is 10% below the national average. Real estate taxes are low. The average home price is around $150,000 with a tax bill of about $1,000 a year depending on which tax district you live in. That’s 1/3 of the tax bill compared to a home in Hoboken New Jersey. 

What can $350,000 buy you in gated communities near Asheville NC? A lake home with great views, open floor plan, deep water, large dock, move-in ready. The great room features a wood-burning fireplace, beautiful wood flooring, dinning area, kitchen with granite counters/bar, wall of windows overlooking Lake Hickory, access to upper deck main bedroom with cathedral ceilings boasts wide open lake view, privet balcony, and upper loft. The partially finished basement includes spacious den, and additional bedroom, both lead to tremendous deck for entertaining gorgeous bath features. Outside features covered double boat dock, double detached garage, over 180 feet of water-front with stunning lake views. Ask us for more info! This same home on Lake Norman in the Charlotte area would easily be twice the price.

Or you can buy acreage and build a new home at the award winning Coves Mountain River Club

Locals love Lake Hickory because of the constant water level, water clarity, and the natural shoreline. The lake is 4,200 acres in size with 105 miles of shoreline and is managed by Duke Energy. Unlike most other North Carolina lakes, Lake Hickory offers a crystal blue color, since it has a sandy bottom, as opposed to clay. The scenery is beauty, a far cry from a concrete jungle.  Over 20 miles of shoreline are designated as Natural Areas and will never be built upon. The lake is a recreational lake with boating, sailing, jet ski’s, water skiing, and fishing. Folks can access the lake via 16 boat launches and 6 marinas. 

Some accolades that make Hickory famous:  Hickory won “All-America City" three times, in 1967, 1987 and 2007. The Hickory metro area was named the "10th Best Place to Live and Raise a Family in the United States" by Reader's Digest in 2013.

Does this sound like a miserable place to live to you? Where people are kind and not in a hurry. People who love their church and are quick to lend a helping hand. 

We encourage you to explore happy towns like Hickory, Lenoir and Morganton, towns we believe offer the best small town retirement in North Carolina and see The Coves Mountain River Club, a fine example of the happiest places to live.

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