PopulationMetro: 542,399
One of America’s top college towns is poised to meet the demands of its ambitious growth by growing from within while welcoming the world.

They call them the “Cameron Crazies,” the fans who turn the Cameron Indoor Stadium into a raucous party every time Duke University’s NCAA Division 1 Blue Devils take to the court.

At Duke, sporting events are not only attended, they’re lived. Founded by Quakers and Methodists in 1838 and relocated to Durham in 1892, Duke University has always held sports close to the core of campus spirit. However, this private research university of 6,700 students has a global academic reach, and counts among its game-changing alumni Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook and Melinda Gates. The university also boasts several Nobel Prize winners on its faculty. That’s why Durham is one of America’s top college towns, scoring a #2 University Ranking overall among small American cities.

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Off-campus, the American Tobacco Historic District honors the role tobacco and cigarette making played in the city’s history and the founding of Duke University; this Ivy League university is named after the Dukes, one of the country’s preeminent tobacco tycoon families. These days the university is at the heart of Durham, a progressive city of 270,000 full of parks and distinctive neighborhoods. The campus is mere steps away from the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke gardens and neighborhoods like Rockwood and South Square.

Research Triangle Park, founded in 1959, is home to 170 companies and 40,000 employees. And just as Duke University connects Durham to the world, Raleigh-Durham International Airport, a 20-minute drive from the campus, puts this small North Carolina city on the flight paths of nine carriers. With 400-plus non-stop flights per day to more than 50 destinations, and plans this year to reopen four dormant gates due to passenger growth, this facility earns Durham a #3 ranking for Airport Connectivity.