Everybody knows which Carolina is the best Carolina; the one with the beaches, forest, those hot summer temperatures. The one with the variety of things to do, people to meet, and places to see. You know the one, right?
Fortunately, though, we don't have to reawaken any dormant rivalries here (We're looking at you, Tar Heels and Gamecocks), because this post is not about picking which Carolina is the best; it is about picking which places within South Carolina are the best.
Just like we did with North Carolina before, we conducted an analysis to find out just which places in South Carolina were the best. The winner? Five Forks. Of course this wasn't without some serious competition, though, so without further ado, here are the 10 best places in SC, clearly one of the two best Carolinas around:
1. CDP of Five Forks
2. Town of Hilton Head Island
2. City of Charleston
4. City of Mauldin
5. Town of Mount Pleasant
6. City of Greenville
6. Town of Lexington
8. City of Beaufort
9. Fort Mill
10. City of Goose Creek
Clearly, the old saying is true: Five Forks are better than one, and a Hilton Head always beats a Goose Creek. Okay, it's not exactly a saying, and it doesn't actually make a lick of sense, but if you read on we'll explain the order of our list, the method of our analysis, and just why each of these places beat out the competition.
How We Did It
As much as we'd have liked to base our analysis around which South Carolina places had the best beaches (Hilton Head, by the way) or which places were best for sports fans (we've already done that), to find the flat out best places in the state, we needed something a bit more universal. So, we relied on the following seven criteria:
- Total Amenities
- Quality of Life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student to teacher ratio)
- Total Crimes
- Tax Rates (sales tax and income tax)
- Commute Time
- Weather (temperature and air quality)
Once we settled on our criteria, we looked at the U.S. Census data for all of the places in South Carolina with populations over 10,000, leaving us with a total of 50 locales. Then, with the criteria above, we ranked each place from 1 to 50, with one being the best possible score. After that, we averaged each ranking for an overall Big Deal Score; the lower the score, the better a place fared.
For a complete list all the places in our study, scroll to the bottom of the post. Otherwise, we'll head over to Five Forks and see just what makes this place so special.
1. Five Forks
Source: Google Maps
Looking at our data, Five Forks is simply. awesome. It had one of the highest overall quality of life scores in our analysis. That's because with a median household income of $97,161, Five Forks is easily the most affluent on our list, plus, it has some really pricey real estate, with a median home price of $245,500 and a rent price of $1,313. Of course, all of this contributes to its high cost of living (102, where the national average is 100), but it's also a good indicator of the area's desirability.
And desirable it is. Not only is this Greenville suburb one of the safest on our list, but it also has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state-- just 6 percent. I mean, sure, it doesn't have as many amenities as, Beaufort (No. 8 on our list), but after all, it is just a short drive from Greenville.
2. Hilton Head Island
Source: Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau
If this ranking had anything to do with the most beautiful white, sandy beaches, stretching for as far as the eye could see, Hilton Head Island would have won. Even without the 12 miles of coastline taken into account, though, this Beaufort County town still made it to the top of our list, thanks to its high quality of life. What does a good quality of life look like in Hilton Head? The median household income is one of the highest in the state at $67,629. Additionally, real estate here is the most valued out of any place in our study, with a median home price of $500,800. Finally, the rent ($1,064) is sky high, an indicator of desirability.
Source: Cameron Pollard
Tied for No. 2 on our list was another beach community, Charleston. Known for its beautiful architecture, variety of restaurants, rich history, and South Carolina charm, Charleston is not new to the world of honors and accolades. It was recently voted America's Most Friendly City by Travel + Leisure and the "most polite and hospitable city in America" by Southern Living magazine.
All this aside, Charleston scored well in our analysis for a number of reasons--a high number of amenities and high quality of life. For our quality of life ranking, Charleston's high median home price and low student to teacher ratio were key for its high rank.
Charleston also ranked better than the others when it came to weather, with a relatively cool average summer temperature of 78 (remember, we're in the south, people) and a low air quality score of 41. Perfect weather for a ride on the Charleston Water Taxi.
Source: Google Maps
This Greenville County city may have a small-town feel to it, but that certainly doesn't mean that is lacking in things to do; in fact, with its variety of amenities, there seems to be plenty going on.
Mauldin also scored well in our analysis for its high median household income of $56,480, that's 44 percent higher than South Carolina. This, plus a sales tax of just 6 percent, easily makes Mauldin one of the most affordable places on our list, and with a crime rate of 2,466 per 100,000, it is 43 percent lower than the rest of the state, to boot. And they have Moretti's Pizzeria and Bar? Some people just have everything.
5. Mount Pleasant
Source: Town of Mount Pleasant
The most pleasant-sounding place on the list, our No. 5 place ranked well for a number of reasons, but mostly for its high quality of life score.Broken down, that means Mount Pleasant's median household income is one of the highest in the state at $75,842. It also has some of the highest median home and rent prices around, at $363,500 and $1,203 respectively.
Mount Pleasant truly earned its name, though, when it came to crime: At 2,028 crimes per 100,000 people, it ranked the highest in this criteria.
And did we mention Mount Pleasant also has the best weather in our list? It does. Perfect for enjoying the Osprey Boat Charters or just strolling around Shem Creek Park. Or should we say pleasant?
In recent years, CNN Money has named Greenville one of the Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S., Bloomberg has named it the third Strongest Job Market, and Forbes has called this South Carolina city one of the Best for Young Professionals.
Needless to say, Greenville is accustomed to praise; but for this honor from Movoto, Greenville scored well in nearly all of our criteria. For example, with over a variety of total amenities, Greenville placed among the top 10 when it came to things to do. It also had a low unemployment rate of just 7.4 percent, and one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state, just 6 percent. To top it off, for all those people commuting in this third strongest job market, their drive is a quick 19 minutes on average.
Source: Town of Lexington
Tied for the No. 6 spot on our list with Greenville was Lexington. This county seat of Lexington started out strong with a high number of amenities, for its population of under 20,000. Aside from tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, and things to do, Lexington also scored well for an overall good quality of life. Specifically, Lexington had a low student to teacher ratio of just 15:1, and an overall high score in quality of life for its high median household income of $58,800, and higher than average rent and home prices. To top it off, Lexington had the lowest unemployment rate in our list, just seven percent.
Source: Eric Smith Captured Moments
The city of Beaufort may not be the cheapest on our list, with its cost of living of 96, but it certainly makes up for that with plenty to do and a high salaries. Starting with amenities, Beaufort ranked No. 1 in this category with a variety of businesses for their population of just more than 12,700. And as far as salary goes, Beaufort residents make 25 percent more than the rest of the state, with a median household income of $49,063.
Beaufort also earned points for its low commute time of just 19 minutes and low student to teacher ratio, just 14:1, giving it an overall score in quality of life.
With all of this, plus the beautiful scenic atmosphere, the art scene, the old historic buildings, and the sense of community, it is no wonder Beaufort has been named the Best Small Southern Town by Southern Living.
9. Fort Mill Township
Fort Mill is a delightful town of just over 11,000 residents, making it the smallest on our list. But, according to the Fort Mill website, it is one of the fastest growing communities in the state, and for good reason. Fort Mill has all the educational, cultural, and dining benefits of being close to the Charlotte metropolitan area, but it also acts as its own, close-knit community. In fact, with so many amenities in Fort Mill, you don't really have to venture outside of town unless you want to.
Fort Mill is also the most affordable place in our top 10, with a cost of living of just 89, and yet residents here make well above average with a median household income of $64,924.
To top it off, Fort Mill also ranked No. 1 in weather, with a low average summer temperature of 76 degrees and an air quality score of 41.
10. City of Goose Creek
Source: Google Maps
The final place on our list was Goose Creek, mostly for its high overall quality of life. In this case, a high quality of life meant a high median household income of over $60,000; a high median home price of $169,600, and some of the highest rent prices in the state, a median price of $985, indicating the area's high desirability.
Also, with just 2,613 crimes per 100,000 people, Goose Creek was also one of the safest communities in our list. All of this, plus some of the most beautiful scenery, homes, and, for you golfers out there, some of the nicest golf courses around, it is no wonder people are flocking to this Berkely County city.
So Long, SoCar
Well, there you have it, South Carolina: the 10 best places in your fine state. Of course there was a Mount of Pleasant places to choose from, but in the end, the No. 1 spot went to Five Forks. And as far as which Carolina is the best of the two-- well, that is up to you to decide. Take it to the comments, people.
(click to enlarge table)