Can't take the cold Northeast and wonder if Charleston would work?
January 23, 2013 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Can't take the cold Northeast and wonder if Charleston would work? My husband and I recently moved from Los Angeles to the Eastern shore of Ct. for a variety of reasons mainly cost of living and seeking a closer knit community. Now that we have experienced a cold winter ( it's just starting!) we see that it isn't for us. Weather is a big deal and we thought we could handle it but the being stuck indoors, the layers of clothes, the desire to hibernate are all getting to us pretty quick.

I am from here so we wanted to come back East for the beauty of the place and to be near some good friends. Unfortunately we don't see them much as they are in NYC and we are two hours away so that has not been a factor.

I like the area but find it is limited in a few areas that are important. What we seek is a place with great food, lots of fitness options ( we both enjoy all kinds of outdoor and indoor exercise activities) ethnic mix, affordable real estate, decent weather- seasons are ok but not the dramatic swing of the North East it turns out- a smaller city and a sense of community.

We are thinking of Charleston now as an option as it seems to fit some of what we have on the list and would like to be near the water. He enjoys sailing and I like to swim a lot so those are two things that appeal to us about that area.

Oh and by the way, I am a chef and culinary instructor and he is in the yachting/ sailing business. We are both self employed and would be looking to start over. We are in our mid 50's so don't care much about hanging out but enjoy good food, music, outdoor stuff.

Any input into what area in the Carolina's or elsewhere on the East coast that might work? We don't have any interest in the West coast, been there, done that!
posted by privatechef to Travel & Transportation around Charleston, SC (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about Nashville? sure about the yachting and water, although there is a navigable river, but it hits on the rest of your points.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:25 AM on January 23, 2013

Wilmington, NC
Savannah, GA
Tybee Island, GA
Myrtle Beach, SC
Outer Banks, NC

I'd go there and check it out. My very good friend moved to Wilmington (and has since moved elsewhere) but I know it. Lots of funk factor along the water. Cute old-town charm in some places (although when they opened the food pantry across the street from her house, she didn't find it so charming.)

Now would be a good time to take a road-trip down I-95 to check it all out. Weather is cold, but sunny, no snow.

I also love Gatlinburg, TN in the Smoky Mountains. Total tourist place in the middle of God's Country. No sailing, but scenery for DAYS!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on January 23, 2013

How do you feel about hot, humid summers? As someone who grew up with mild California weather, I'd rather cope with northeast winters (you can always put on more clothing) than the sticky, miserable and almost paralytic heat of southeast summers.
posted by exogenous at 5:39 AM on January 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

Savannah might be up your alley.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:42 AM on January 23, 2013

Yeah, the summers are pretty brutal. The high will duck below 90 for a few days in late June through August, if you are lucky. Go outside before sunrise to exercise, and it is already unpleasantly humid. Spring and Fall are really nice though, and the winters are mild.
posted by thelonius at 5:45 AM on January 23, 2013

Oh and by the way, I am a chef and culinary instructor and he is in the yachting/ sailing business. We are both self employed and would be looking to start over. We are in our mid 50's so don't care much about hanging out but enjoy good food, music, outdoor stuff.

Yes, go. It's on the water and has a big food culture. Plenty of nice bars, restaurants, festivals and concerts big and small. Only question mark would be the heat - I like it, myself. And, coming from Maine, I've never once had to shovel heat out of my driveway, or scrape heat off my windshield.

Several direct flights daily to LGA, JFK, and EWR out of CHS.

A lot of other nice coastal cities but none of them have Charleston's food culture as best I can tell.
posted by ftm at 6:36 AM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm with exogenous. It's hard to find The Perfect Place but I would prefer to be very cold than very hot. Moving south sounds great now but I think it stays very hot longer than it is very cold in the Northeast.

That said, Savannah is beautiful and charming. There's an art school, SCAD, and I think it helps prevent the city from becoming an intolerant southern city. I'd also be interested in Wilmington, NC if you're a beach person.

My crazy idea that I'll throw out there for the sake of throwing it out there: what about Austin, Texas? I think it hits on all of your points. I'm terrified of the heat but I've thought about going for it in Austin.
posted by kat518 at 7:09 AM on January 23, 2013

Charleston is pricy, but beautiful.

May I offer a biased alternative? Winston-Salem, NC. Gorgeous here!
posted by Falwless at 7:25 AM on January 23, 2013

Check out Greenville SC It's inland but close to mountains and lakes, growing downtown area, good economy, considerably less humid that Charleston in summer.
posted by JaneL at 7:27 AM on January 23, 2013

Best answer: Savannah is lovely, and by Northeast standards, cheap. But you probably have no idea what you are getting into with the summers. The humidity is soaking. Maryland and Virgina feel like a swamp in the summer, farther south it's like you're in a sauna. (This is less true for the mountains, of course).

I'd suggest you take a long weekend in July down there first.
posted by spaltavian at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

What about Mobile, AL? It's arguably the least Alabama-ish part of Alabama. My understanding is that it's culturally a lot closer to New Orleans than, say, Birmingham.

(Nashville is great, though. We moved hear from ATL a few years ago and have been thoroughly happy).
posted by jquinby at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2013

I'd recommend somewhere between Virginia and SE Pennsylvania/Jersey. If you look at this map, it shows the climate zones.

What this means is the Connecticut's winters are much colder and longer than just a few hours south. I live in Philly, and so far it has only snowed twice and neither time did it accumulate. Moving south of NYC, you would be in a much more temperate climate, without the soul-sucking heat and humidity of the deep south.

You might also like Charlotte, NC. Never been there but I have relatives who live there for its food and music scene (one is a chef).
posted by DoubleLune at 7:46 AM on January 23, 2013

Most locations have a few months when it just sucks to go outside. In the Northeast, that's roughly from mid-December through early March. In Charleston--and just about everywhere south of Virginia--it's July and August.

You pays your money and you takes your choice.

If, however, your husband is serious about continuing with his yachting activities, something on the coast is going to be pretty important. Myrtle Beach is okay, though it's kind of a ghost town between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Huge tourist traffic. Charleston is very well to do, and there are some incredibly swanky private islands just south of town, i.e., Kiowah and Seabrook. Hilton Head is a similar resort island just north of Savannah. And just about any mid-sized or larger city in Florida will have an active sailing community.
posted by valkyryn at 7:47 AM on January 23, 2013

I love it here in North Carolina (New England transplant), but you really need to be right on the coast for enough boating to support a career in it, so the bigger cities are pretty much out (Charlotte, the Triangle, the Triad). The only city of any note on the coast is Wilmington, and it has a little bit of a funky vibe to it, but I'm not sure the food culture is what you would want it to be. Maybe that makes being a private chef a little easier though? I don't know.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:57 AM on January 23, 2013

The Northeast is usually not as cold as it is this week, and unfortunately with climate change temps like this will be increasingly less common.
posted by Asparagus at 8:55 AM on January 23, 2013

You should also check out Annapolis, MD which also offers mild winters, historic character, a thriving sailing culture, and good restaurants. It's hot in the summer, but not as humid as either Charleston or Savannah.
posted by carmicha at 9:01 AM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Charleston sounds like a good match for you - it's my hometown, although I haven't lived there for years - in everything except affordable real estate. It's crazy expensive to live there; that would be one of the reasons I don't. Savannah is a little cheaper and funkier, so I'd check out both if I were you. That said, yes, if you don't like walking outside every day from June to September into a nice cup of boiling soup, then neither one may be the place for you. You are looking at something like 90% humidity and temperatures in the 90s, for months on end.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:22 AM on January 23, 2013

Do you have employment lined up? Charleston's got a particularly nasty combination of a high cost of living (due to all the wealthy retirees and tourists), and a terrible local economy.

That said, it's a pretty nice place.

A few years ago, I was working a graveyard delivery/warehouse shift in the dead of winter in Northern New Jersey that was freezing, exhausting, unrewarding, and often outright degrading. The day I quit my job (before even returning home) I took the bus directly to the airport, and flew to visit my Aunt, who had just moved to Charleston and had offered to sell me her old car, and let me stay in her guest room for a few days.

This was my first time in Charleston, and probably one of the best and most cathartic weeks of my life, just due to the staggering difference between lounging on a beach in sunny, 75-degree weather, and freezing my ass off while delivering slabs of frozen meat at midnight. It was paradise.

Basically, I'm saying that you should get a job in a meat warehouse in New Jersey, quit, and then move to Charleston so that you enjoy it more or something...

I'm not sure that I could live there, but it really is a wonderful city. Great food, beautiful scenery, nice roads for bicycling, etc. If employment wasn't a concern, and I had to live in the South, Charleston would be a no-brainer. It does get unbearably hot/humid in the summer though -- you're not going to find any of the West Coast's wonderful temperate zones out East.
posted by schmod at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2013

you're not going to find any of the West Coast's wonderful temperate zones out East.

This. I don't know much about Charleston, but pretty much anywhere in the eastern half of the country you are going to get at least three months of mostly terrible weather (and maybe more - I happen to think NYC's summers are, usually, worse than the the winters, but that's me). On the East Coast, the weather basically boils down to picking your poison. If having nice weather year-round is important to you, you might want to move back to California.*

*This is not an insult. I love California, and love California's weather, and would consider living there if I thought I could find a job and it weren't a continent away from nearly everyone I know.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:54 AM on January 23, 2013

I don't know anything about Charleston. If you're sure you want to move, I can't help at all.

I just wanted to suggest looking into seasonal affective disorder. If the low winter light is depressing you and you can treat that, the other rigors of winter might be more bearable.
posted by Bruce H. at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2013

I didn't add this before, and someone else brought it up, but consider Maryland. Cost of living is quite high, but you'll fine a lot of sailing and water recreation. (The Chesapeake is a huge sailing draw, especially around Annapolis.) Winters can get very cold, but not for the extended period of time you see in New England. It's very humid in the summer, but it's not as intense as the South.

Everywhere in Maryland is within 3 hours of the ocean and the mountains, so outdoors stuff is always an option.
posted by spaltavian at 1:45 PM on January 23, 2013

Just moved to Charleston 6 months ago (I'm a cold weather-put-me-in-Chicago-guy):
great food
-Amazing restaurants here. As good as any place of it's size in the country. Not alot of ethnic dives (see below).

Lots of fitness options ( we both enjoy all kinds of outdoor and indoor exercise activities)

Gyms are ok here, but it has been over 50 degrees the last 3 months.

ethnic mix:
It's pretty much only two ethnicities here (black or white) and depending where you are you'll only see one.

Affordable real estate:
Living downtown is fairly expensive (think DC area expensive), but the more suburban areas are MUCH cheaper. Going 5 miles you can get 3x the house for the same price. I live in the downtown because I wouldn't ever live anywhere else, however.

Decent weather-
-It's brutally hot from June through September, but I think people get more used to the heat than they do the cold.

You should definitely check it out. Most people come down here for a 'short time'.

And never leave.
posted by sandmanwv at 3:27 PM on January 23, 2013

You should definitely check it out. Most people come down here for a 'short time'.

We saw a quote from a Charleston matron years ago when we took a trip out there. Someone had asked her if she did any traveling.

"Travel? Honey I'm already there."
posted by jquinby at 4:42 PM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input. Here is some more info for clarifying the decision: we both lived in Miami for a while so know all about humid hot summers. I don't mind it but my husband doesn't like it as much. That said- we both would rather be hot than cold any day- and had not lived in north east cold in many years so really had amnesia about why it's so miserable. The biggest issue is the being indoors, the tendency to want to hole up and be lazy and the way it affects us physically.
I think being outside in heat is easier than being outside in cold. But yes, we will go down in the summer to check it out.
We are both liberal and left wing people who would not really want to be in super right wing or religious areas. So the South is a question mark in that dept. neither one of us likes really touristy places either after living in Miami which basically ruins the vibe of the place. The middle of the country just doesn't appeal unless there is a big lake or lakes nearby.
Texas is out. Love Austin- but couldn't imagine the rest of the state as an area to be near.
We have a desire to be near an airport as we like to travel quite a bit so it can't be the middle of nowhere.
We left LA because of the impossible cost of real estate so when people mention charleston as expensive not sure what that means? I have seen houses online for $300k that looked great to me. Is that considered expensive? You can't buy a shoebox in La for less than $450k. So it's all relative. I think we would like to get a small house for around $300 - is that doable?
We will check out Savannah but I had heard that it was way more touristy than Charleston- no?
posted by privatechef at 7:07 PM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: PS. My husband sells parts for boats and he loves sailing but we don't have to be near the coast as long as there is a large lake or lakes nearby that a boat can sail in we are fine. We considered Asheville and are going next week to check it out. Not sure if there is a good enough economy there though- I hear its over-saturated with ex new englanders!
posted by privatechef at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2013

300 K may not sound like much for a house in Charleston - and it won't get you anything great or anything downtown, but it will get you a pretty damn nice house on the close suburbs - but keep in mind that you will be making maybe 1/4 of what you made in LA. Maybe less. Savannah, Charleston and Asheville are all extremely touristy and I do mean extremely. Savannah is a bit more overt and appeals to a less moneyed demographic; Charleston & Asheville are somewhat more upscale. It's the main source of income for all of them though and there's no real getting away from it. I live in Asheville. While the money you're talking about will net you a mansion here, you can look forward to a whopping $10 an hour as a private chef, maybe, if you're lucky. After five years you might get $12. There are way more people looking for jobs here than there are jobs: lowest wages in NC and highest cost of living, yet again.

I think maybe you should check out Baltimore. It's cheap, it's funky, it's liberal and it has more or less everything you're looking for. 300K will get you an awesome house in a great neighborhood and the weather is much more bearable than either New England or the south.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:40 PM on January 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you to all. We are going to see what comes to us and continue to take trips and be open to opportunities!
posted by privatechef at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2013

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