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Cary, North Carolina
Town of Cary
Cary NC Town Hall.jpg
Flag of Cary, North Carolina
Official seal of Cary, North Carolina
Location in Wake County and the state of North Carolina.
Location in Wake County and the state of North Carolina.
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Wake, Chatham
Founded 1750
Incorporated April 6, 1871
Named for Samuel Fenton Cary
 • Total 59.42 sq mi (153.90 km2)
 • Land 58.33 sq mi (151.07 km2)
 • Water 1.09 sq mi (2.82 km2)  1.83%
Elevation 480 ft (146 m)
Population (2015 Census Estimate)
 • Total 159,769
 • Density 2,739.1/sq mi (1,057.6/km2)
Demonym(s) Caryite
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Code 27511-27513, 27518, 27519
Area code(s) 919, 984
FIPS code 37-10740
GNIS feature ID 1019552

Cary /ˈkæri/ is the seventh largest municipality in North Carolina. Cary is in Wake and Chatham counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Located almost entirely in Wake County, it is the second largest municipality in that county and the third largest municipality in The Triangle after Raleigh and Durham. The town's population was 135,234 as of the 2010 census (an increase of 43.1% since 2000), making it the largest town and seventh largest municipality statewide. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the town's population to be 159,769 as of July 1, 2015. Cary is currently the second most populous incorporated town (behind only Gilbert, Arizona) in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, Cary was the 5th fastest growing municipality in the United States between September 1, 2006, and September 1, 2007. Cary is often considered one of the safest places to live in the US, due to its extremely low crime rate at just 84 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, has a violent crime rate of 648 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, almost 8 times higher than Cary.

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill make up the three primary metro areas of the Research Triangle metropolitan region even though today Cary is the 3rd largest municipality in the metropolitan area. The regional nickname of "The Triangle" originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Park, primarily located in Durham County, four miles from downtown Durham. RTP is bordered on three sides by the city of Durham and is roughly midway between the cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and three major research universities of NC State University, Duke University, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Effective June 6, 2003, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) redefined the Federal statistical areas and dismantled what had been for decades the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, MSA and split them into two separate metro areas. This resulted in the formation of the Raleigh-Cary, NC Metro Area and the Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Metro Area.

The Research Triangle region encompasses OMB's Combined Statistical Area (CSA) of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina. As of 2012, the population of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill CSA was 1,998,808. The Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as of Census 2010 was 1,130,490.


Located in the Piedmont region of the eastern United States, Cary is near North Carolina's Research Triangle. It is edged on the north and east by Raleigh, on the north and west by Research Triangle Park and Morrisville, on the south by Apex and Holly Springs, and on the west by the Jordan Lake area. The town is hilly, with much of the undeveloped land covered in dense woods. Several creeks and small lakes dot the area, most notably Lake Crabtree in the north.

Nearly all of Cary is in western Wake County, with neighborhood-sized sections in the northeast corner of Chatham County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 43.5 square miles (112.6 km²). 42.1 square miles (109.0 km²) of it is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km²) of it (3.17%) is water. More recent Cary records show that as of 2010 the town has a total area of 55.34 mi².


Cary has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) under the Köppen climate classification system. It receives hot summers and mildly cold winters, with several months of pleasant weather each year. Temperature extremes here range from the negatives to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Hurricanes and tropical storms can affect Cary, usually after weakening substantially from being over land. Some, such as Hurricane Fran in 1996, have caused great damage in the area. Snow falls every year, averaging around 6 inches annually.

Climate data for Cary, North Carolina
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 50
Average low °F (°C) 30
Record low °F (°C) −9
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.02


Cary is divided into distinct east and west sections. The eastern side, being older, contains the downtown area as well as the town's oldest neighborhoods. Several of the town's iconic buildings, such as the Ashworth Drug Store, Fidelity Building, and Page-Walker Hotel are found in the eastern part of town. The western side is much newer and is visibly the center of wealth in Cary. Almost completely suburbanized, the area features sprawling neighborhoods, parks, and lakes. Golf courses and mansions are commonplace, most notably those associated with the Preston community.

Cary, North Carolina. Cary, NC
The Cary Town Hall
The Fidelity Bank and Ashworth Drug Store
Downtown Cary, on Chatham Street


Page-Walker Hotel (now local history museum).

In 1750, Cary began as a settlement called Bradford's Ordinary. About 100 years later, the construction of the North Carolina Railroad between New Bern and Hillsborough went through the town, linking Bradford's Ordinary to a major transportation route.

Allison Francis "Frank" Page is credited with founding the town. Page was a Wake County farmer and lumberman. He and his wife, Catherine "Kate" Raboteau Page bought 300 acres (1.2 km2) surrounding the railroad junction in 1854 and named his development Cary, after Samuel Fenton Cary (a former Ohio congressman and prohibitionist he admired). Page became a railroad agent and a town developer. He laid out the first streets in Cary and built a sawmill, a general store and a post office (Page became the first Postmaster). In 1868, Page built a hotel to serve railroad passengers coming through Cary. Cary was incorporated on April 6, 1871, with Page becoming the first mayor. In 1879, the Raleigh and Augusta Air-Line Railroad (later the Seaboard, now CSX Transportation) arrived in Cary from the southwest, creating Fetner Junction just north of downtown and spurring further growth.

In the early years Cary adopted zoning and other ordinances on an ad-hoc basis to control growth and give the town structure. Beginning in 1971, the town created Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning to accommodate population growth related to the growth of Research Triangle Park nearby. A PUD allows a developer to plan an entire community before beginning development, thus allowing future residents to be aware of where churches, schools, commercial and industrial areas will be located well before such use begins. Kildaire Farms, a 967-acre (3.9 km2) Planned Unit Development in Cary, was North Carolina's first PUD. It was developed on the Pine State Dairy Farm by Thomas F. Adams, Jr. Adams named a section of Kildaire Farms "Farmington Woods" in their honor. The local government has placed a high value on creating an aesthetically pleasing town.

In addition to the Page-Walker Hotel, the Carpenter Historic District, Cary Historic District, Green Level Historic District, Ivey-Ellington House, and Nancy Jones House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Preston Clocktower in West Cary
Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 316
1890 423 33.9%
1900 333 −21.3%
1910 383 15.0%
1920 645 68.4%
1930 909 40.9%
1940 1,141 25.5%
1950 1,446 26.7%
1960 3,356 132.1%
1970 7,686 129.0%
1980 21,763 183.2%
1990 43,858 101.5%
2000 94,536 115.6%
2010 135,234 43.1%
Est. 2015 159,769 18.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

According to the 2010 Census, there were 135,234 people and 55,303 households in the town. As of 2013, the population has increased to 151,088. The population was 73.1% White, 13.1% Asian, 8.0% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.0% Pacific Islander, and 2.6% were from two or more races. In addition, 7.7% were Hispanic or Latino, of any race.

The median household income for Cary as of 2011 was $110,609.


Over two-thirds (68.0%) of Cary residents (aged 25 and older) hold an associate degree or higher, and 60.7% of adults possess a bachelor's degree or higher. Cary has one of the lowest crime rates (79% less than North Carolina) in the state for municipalities of its size. The home ownership rate (owner-occupied housing units to total units) is 72.8%. The western part of Cary is particularly affluent and educated.

In 2013, Cary moved up in the latest rankings of safe U.S. cities and is now considered the third-safest among municipalities with populations of 100,000 to 499,999 behind Amherst, New York, and Irvine, California. according to CQ Press, publisher of the annual "City Crime Rankings 2008-2009: Crime in Metropolitan America."

Cary's reputation as a community for affluent transplants from outside the South has led to humorous backronyms for its name such as "Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees." Data from the 2000 Census shows 29.2% of Cary residents are native to North Carolina. 55.2% were born in other states. Additionally, 15.6% of the town's population were born outside the United States.


Public transit

Public transit within the town is provided by GoCary, with six fixed-routes. There is also a door-to-door service for the senior citizens (60+) and riders with disabilities. GoTriangle operates fixed-route buses that serve the metropolitan region and connect to the local municipal transit systems in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

Intercity rail

Amtrak's Silver Star, Carolinian and Piedmont passenger trains stop at the Cary Amtrak station. They offer service to Charlotte, New York City, Miami, and intermediate points.


The League of American Bicyclists has designated Cary one of the fourteen recipients of the first Bicycle-Friendly Community awards for "providing safe accommodation and facilities for bicyclists and encouraging residents to bike for transportation and recreation".

The Maine-to-Florida U.S. Bicycle Route 1 passes through suburban Cary, as does N.C. Bicycle Route #2, the "Mountains to Sea" route.

Mountain bike trails are available just north of Cary in Lake Crabtree County Park. Information on other trails in the area is available at


Cary Greenways and Trails maintains a network of sidewalks and paved trails connecting neighborhoods and parks throughout the town. These greenways place strict requirements on environmental conditions to preserve a park-like atmosphere. In addition, standard sidewalks and paths exist throughout the town.


The Raleigh-Durham International Airport, located north of Cary via Interstate 40 between Cary, Raleigh and Durham, serves Cary and the greater Research Triangle metropolitan region. Raleigh-Durham offers more than 35 destinations, serving approximately 9 million passengers per year.

Freeways and primary routes

  • Interstate 40
  • U.S. 1
  • U.S. 64
  • State Highway 54
  • State Highway 55
  • State Highway 147
  • State Highway 540
  • State Highway 751
  • Cary Parkway
  • Kildaire Farm Road
  • Walnut Street (which appears on some maps as Cary-Macedonia Road)
  • High House Road
  • Harrison Avenue
  • Maynard Road Loop
  • Davis Drive (links to Research Triangle Park)
  • Holly Springs Road

Public recreation

Cary Tennis Park
  • Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park
  • Page-Walker Hotel
  • WakeMed Soccer Park, where the Carolina RailHawks play.
  • William B. Umstead State Park
  • USA Baseball National Training Complex
  • Thomas Brooks Park
  • Sk8 Cary Skate Park
  • Fred G. Bond Metropolitan Park
  • Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
  • MacDonald Woods Park
  • Walnut Street Park


  • Cary Tennis Park
  • Recreation Club of Lochmere


  • Lochmere Golf Club
  • Prestonwood Country Club
  • MacGregor Downs Country Club
  • SAS Championship



  • Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival
  • Spring Daze Arts & Crafts Festival
  • Cary Diwali Celebration - Festival of Light
  • Ritmo Latino Music, Art and Dance Festival
  • NC Eid Festival
  • Cary Band Day


  • 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship
  • 2009-2014 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship
  • 2011 NCAA Division III Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships
  • 2012 NCAA Division III Men's and Women's Tennis Championships
  • Home to North Carolina FC of the North American Soccer League

Honors and designations

  • Money Magazine Best Place to Live #5 in the Nation in 2006.

Sister cities

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