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8 Best Places to Live in South Carolina

By: Emily Kho
August 6, 2021

If you’re interested in moving to the Palmetto State, a state known for its golf courses, historic district, and beaches, you’ll be faced with the challenge of figuring out where you’ll want to live. With so many incredible cities to choose from, it can become a bit overwhelming for anyone beginning their search.

Thankfully, we’re here to help you through the process of beginning your South Carolina apartment search by narrowing down your options and choosing your ideal city. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you learn more about the best places to live in South Carolina and find the best city for you!

1. Charleston

Charleston was given its name after King Charles II when the city was founded in 1670. Originally named Charles Town, the new spelling of the city’s name came with its incorporation over a century later, in 1783. Historically, Charleston was nicknamed The Holy City, as it was known for its broad tolerance for religious freedom that was not common during those times. Today, the more casual nickname for the city is Chucktown or Chuck Town.

From suburban island life to booming nightlife in the downtown area, Charleston is extremely diverse. Choosing the best neighborhood in Charleston can be tricky, with a city that offers so much to diverse demographics.

Check out the Southern-style mansions overlooking Charleston Harbor in what’s known as the Battery or hop on a boat tour and view the harbor by water, where you’ll be able to see some of the famous Charleston landmarks like Castle Pinckney, Fort Sumter, and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

People from across the United States have begun migrating towards Charleston because it is an affordable city with a very high quality of life. In the first quarter of 2021, the most significant migration to Charleston came from New York, New York making up an astonishing 7.4% of the moves into the city. Behind New York was Columbia, South Carolina, at 4.2%, and Greenville, South Carolina, at 4.1%.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in Charleston.

2. Columbia

The Soda City, Columbia, was given its nickname not because of any soda inventions or manufacturers but for the simple fact that the old abbreviation for the city used to be “Cola.” The name Columbia was derived from the well-known historical figure and Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus.

The University of South Carolina can be found within the state capital, Columbia where you can check out a Gamecocks game. Otherwise, the city is home to several different museums, including the South Carolina State Museum, the Columbia Museum of Art, and the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

Although Columbia is infamously hot in the summer, as weather permits, there are tons of outdoor activities you can take part in. The Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden feature plants from all over the world. Take a stroll along paved trails of the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park, or hike the trails along the river banks at Saluda Shoals Park.

Throughout the Carolinas, people have begun increasingly moving to Columbia. In the first quarter of 2021, the most significant migrations to Columbia came from within the Carolinas, with Charlotte, North Carolina, making up the biggest portion at 8.8% of the moves into the city. Behind Charlotte were Charleston, South Carolina, at 5.5%, and Greenville, South Carolina, at 4.8%.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in Columbia.

3. North Charleston

The third-largest city in South Carolina is North Charleston which was incorporated in 1972. Serving as one of the nation’s largest industrial centers, North Charleston is the only United States city that manufactures commercial airplanes and automobiles.

You can check out the incredible history of this industrial city through the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center or the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where you can see the H. L. Hunley Submarine. This American Civil War submarine was rescued near Charleston in 2000.

If you prefer the outdoors, North Charleston has multiple thoughtfully landscaped and beautifully maintained parks operated by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC). Some local favorites include the Riverfront Park, the Wannamaker County Park, or the Quarterman Park. Grab a bite to eat with a drink at Madra Rua Irish Pub, the Brew Cellar, or North Park Grill.

North Charleston is also home to the first professional ice hockey team, the South Carolina Stingrays, which belong to the mid-level professional hockey league ECHL, formerly the East Coast Hockey League. Catch a Stingrays game at the North Charleston Coliseum, one of the largest venues in the state, with 13,295 seats.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in North Charleston.

4. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is a large suburban town in South Carolina. It’s separated from Charleston by the Cooper River. The city was known for being affluent, and for several years was primarily populated by wealthy residents of Charleston who could afford a summer home across the river. It was believed that they could escape the summer heat in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant.

The roots of this town go as far back as the 18th century, and today, Mount Pleasant is still known for its historic houses and stately live oak trees. Explore the beautiful landscape of Mount Pleasant by strolling through one of the five-county parks, which include Mt. Pleasant Pier, Palmetto Islands County Park, Splash Island at Palmetto Islands County Park, Laurel Hill County Park, and Future Park.

As Mount Pleasant has shifted from a strictly seasonal town, the area’s commercial retail stores and boutiques have expanded. Spend some time shopping at the Mount Pleasant Towne Centre, the Belle Hall Shopping Center, or the Market at Oakland.

For anyone looking to check out some of the historical aspects of Mount Pleasant, be sure to tour the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Boone Hall Plantation, and Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Afterward, grab a bite to eat at Page’s Okra Grill, Burton’s Grill and Bar of Mt. Pleasant, or Graze Restaurant, some local favorites.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in Mount Pleasant.

5. Rock Hill

Nicknamed Football City USA, Rock Hill, South Carolina is the fifth-largest city in the state and the largest in York County. The nickname comes from the fact that Rock Hill has produced 21 football players that have made it to the NFL. Much like most of the state, Rock Hill is home to multiple historic sites, including twelve contiguous buildings dating back to the 1840s.

Nature lovers thrive in Rock Hill thanks to its thirty-one parks, which are very well maintained and provide exceptional outdoor amenities. Some of the favorite local parks include Riverwalk Park, Cherry Park, and Ebenezer Park. In addition to the parks, Rock Hill residents enjoy a botanical garden, Glencairn Gardens, and four recreational centers, including Boyd Hill, Emmett Scott, Fewell Park, and Northside.

Rock Hill was in the top 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance multiple times and was named one of the top 50 places to live in the country by Time’s Money magazine. Rock Hill is continuing to emerge as a popular destination for young professionals to call home.

There is a grand sense of community in Rock Hill, with numerous seasonal events hosted by the city each year, including the Come See Me Festival in the spring, the Red, White, and Boom Festival in the summer, the Blues and Jazz Festival and the Underexposed Film Festival YC in the fall, and the ChristmasVille Rock Hill winter festival.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in Rock Hill.

6. Greenville

Nestled in the northwestern corner of South Carolina is Greenville, just about halfway between Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Greenville continues to be a popular city to move to in South Carolina and was even named the fourth fastest-growing city in the country.

Greenville is part of the southeastern region of the United States known as the Piedmont region, a humid subtropical climate. As such, Greenville residents experience four distinct climates throughout the year. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are generally short and cool, with an average of under five inches of snowfall each year.

Without extreme temperatures from the winter through the summer, Greenville is an excellent place for anyone looking to get outdoors and enjoy nature. You can check out Falls Park on the Reedy, GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, or Paris Mountain State Park. Otherwise, there are countless indoor recreational activities, including the Peace Center, the Bon Secours Wellness Area, and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate.

People throughout South Carolina and the rest of the nation are more interested in moving to Greenville than ever. In the first quarter of 2021, the most significant migrations to Greenville came from within the state, with Spartanburg, South Carolina making up the biggest portion at an astonishing 19.0% of the moves into the city. Behind Spartanburg was Columbia, South Carolina at 4.0%, andNew York, New York at 3.9%.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in Greenville.

7. Summerville

The Flowertown in the Pines is the nickname given to Summerville by its Chamber of Commerce nearly a century ago. Spring blooms, made up of primarily azaleas found in public and private gardens, are responsible for bringing countless tourists to the town each year. So much so that the city started the Flowertown Festival every April that is the largest of its kind in the state, celebrating arts and crafts.

The city itself spans 18 square miles, most of which falls within Dorchester County. The other parts of the neighborhood are found in Charleston and Berkeley counties. The 12-acre park located in the middle of downtown Summerville, Azalea Park, is a calm place of serenity with sculptures, fountains, paths, and ponds. Azalea Park is where the annual Flowertown Festival is held, welcoming over 200,000 visitors each year.

There is so much history in Summerville, with five different city locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re looking to check any of these historic spots out, peruse the Summerville Historic District, the Old White Meeting House Ruins and Cemetery, the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, Middleton Place, or the Ashley River Road.

Check out the hundreds of apartments available for rent now in Summerville.

8. Hilton Head Island

The island named after Captain William Hilton, once Hilton’s Headland, is known today as Hilton Head Island. With 12 breathtaking miles of Atlantic Ocean beachfront properties, Hilton Head Island has become a hot vacation destination and a popular place to live in more recent times. It is believed that the population of the island can nearly quadruple during peak season in the summer.

Those who live in Hilton Head Island enjoy access to eight public beach access spots, including Folly Field Beach Park, Alder Lane Beach Access, Mitchelville Beach Park, and Driessen Beach Park. In addition to the beach access, the island boasts 22 island parks, including some of the local favorites like Shelter Cove Community Park, Jarvis Creek Park, Low Country Celebration Park, and Chaplin Community Park.

Some of the best things to see in Hilton Head Island include the Hilton Head Island Bike Trails, Coligny Beach, and the Coastal Discovery Museum.

Check out the apartments available for rent now in Hilton Head Island.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to in South Carolina?

No matter what you are looking for in South Carolina, whether it be along the water of the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant or the hustle of a more metropolitan area like Charleston, there's something for everyone. Thankfully, some of the best places to live in South Carolina are still reasonably priced.

So, if you are interested in moving to South Carolina, now might be a good time to start your research. First, find out more information about the cost of living in South Carolina. Next, register with Apartment List today and start checking out the thousands of available apartments to rent in South Carolina!

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Emily is a professionally trained SEO writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Read More
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