Tell me about North Carolina
January 20, 2014 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Would you rather live outside of Greensboro or south of Asheville on the North/South Carolina border?

I got a job offer outside of Greensboro, NC! Yay! I also think I have a good chance of being offered a job on the North/South Carolina border south of Asheville. Unfortunately, I need to tell the Greensboro place tomorrow and will be waiting a week to hear from the other place, so there's some timeline awkwardness.

I have never been to NC. So, mefites, which place is better? The jobs are, all considered, about equal, each has their ups and downsides. I love outdoorsy things but also interesting cities. I'm interested in proximity to interesting things within a few hours drive as well.

This move will only for a short period, not even a year, so I'm more interested in fun things to do and general feel rather than property taxes or anything.

Added complication: My bf will be living in the closer-to-Asheville location, which is obviously a huge plus. But if I move there we will be working at the same company, which is awkward.
posted by geegollygosh to Travel & Transportation around North Carolina (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Asheville. It's not even close.

Greensboro is a small town, and a lot cheaper to live in than Asheville, but...just no.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:30 PM on January 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I should clarify that when I say “south of Asheville,” I mean I would be living 50 miles south of Asheville, not in the south suburbs or anything.
posted by geegollygosh at 2:34 PM on January 20, 2014

About 18 years ago Asheville sort of rocked. One of my best friends from childhood actually moved there and still lives there. While it has commercialized and sanitized and standardized slightly in its fun. There's still way more of an artist and culture vibe to Asheville than Greensboro. If I had to move south of the Mason Dixon line and I had my choice of destinations - it would be Asheville.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:35 PM on January 20, 2014

Greensboro is 3 hours away from Asheville, and even if you're only traveling 2 hours instead of 3, that will get old really quickly.

Also, Asheville, and the road in general off of I40 is really pretty.

Greensboro, is okay, but it's nothing special. If you're talking about Spartanburg, six of one, half dozen of the other.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:42 PM on January 20, 2014

If you love outdoorsy things, I would lean toward the Asheville area. There's so much nearby to do outside - Blue Ridge Parkway, Chimney Rock, Pisgah National Forest, the AT, Nantahala National Forest... The area south of Asheville is practically littered with waterfalls.

However, I may be biased because I happen to love Asheville, the amazing food in that city, and the whole general area :)
posted by geeky at 2:47 PM on January 20, 2014

If the NC/SC location is somewhere smaller like Tryon or Landrum, then it's a fair schlep up to Asheville, and a bit of a haul just to get into 'the mountains'. It's fifty miles where a decent chunk is steepish roads that take a bit of time getting used to, especially if you haven't driven mountain passes at interstate speeds alongside big trucks. Also: significantly more rural and conservative.

Distances between places open up a lot more in the south than the northeast. Greensboro to your bf's location is three hours, and whatever route you take will definitely get old fast. So I'd say go for the NC/SC location, but you'll definitely want to get into the habit of day trips on weekends.
posted by holgate at 2:51 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well I was born and raised in Greensboro, and went to college in Asheville, and I have to say--Western NC wins hands-down. Even the rural areas around Asheville have a great vibe that the Triad can't compete with. Especially if you're outdoorsy, that part of the state is awesome.
posted by ailouros08 at 2:55 PM on January 20, 2014

So where? Like Sylva? Franklin? Because that shit is BORING. Very pretty, but boring. Living that far out of asheville is like not living in Asheville at all. Greensboro, while lacking the natural beauty of Asheville, is a little bit more vibrant and youthful.

It really depends on what you like. If you value isolation and beauty and outdoorsiness, then go for the near-Asheville place. If you value convenience and (a little bit of) nightlife, then Greensboro.

For reference, I'm from Asheville. My extended family is in Franklin. I spent 9 years in Chapel Hill, which is 30 minutes from Greensboro, and hung out with friends in Greensboro many times over the years. I haven't lived in any of these places for the last 5 years, but I still frequent them all during visits. Asheville itself is great, but there's not much outside of it. Maybe you could compromise and find somewhere between Asheville and whatever town to live.
posted by greta simone at 3:05 PM on January 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

There are some interesting restaurants in Greensboro (there's a Vietnamese place I like, plus some vegetarian places). There's also UNC-Greensboro, which has an excellent (vocal at least) music program, so there should be some concerts. It's also about 1 hour away from Chapel Hill, then Durham and Raleigh (the NC Triangle), which have a lot of good stuff. Then, 1.5-2 hours beyond that, is the outer banks, with fairly laid-back beaches and the oldest hang-gliding school in the USA.
posted by amtho at 3:12 PM on January 20, 2014

Former NC resident here.

Your choices are basically:

- A small city (some people call it "Greensboring") with an OK if sometimes college-oriented downtown, a huge surrounding morass of sprawl - I don't know where your job is but holy shit Greensboro's layout is confusing as hell and I grew up near there - a commute that might suck (although you probably won't be near the worst of it), and what amounts to a long-distance relationship because driving to Greensboro to south of Asheville will suck ROYALLY. However, you're in one smallish city, you're right next to another smallish city (Winston-Salem, which I always kinda liked), and you're about an hour away from the Triangle, so in terms of accessibility to fun things it is by far your best bet.

- Rural, or at best suburban, conservative town. Pretty much anything a few interstate stops away from a city will be like this, let alone 50 miles off. The "artist and culture vibe" is true of Asheville to an extent, but probably not wherever your job is located.

So the question, salary and rent and etc being the same, is really which is the lesser of two evils to you: being in a long-distance relationship but near (some) fun things to do, or being far away from everything but not having a three-hour commute to see your boyfriend?
posted by dekathelon at 4:17 PM on January 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Contrary to what Ruthless Bunny says, Greensboro has over a quarter million people in it, not a small town by any measure and about nine times larger than Spartanburg.

Economically it's not as well-off as Raleigh or Charlotte, which is one strike against, but it's going to be healthier and more diverse than any town for which Asheville is the nearest big city. If you can't find anywhere satisfactory to work in Greensboro, Winston-Salem is not far to the west, and I know people who commute from Greensboro to Durham for work -- not an awesome arrangement but better than what's considered the status quo in the Bay Area or DC area.

If anything, one of Greensboro's strengths is its location. You're not necessarily close to anything, but you're not far away from anything either.
posted by ardgedee at 4:18 PM on January 20, 2014

You shouldn't be comparing Greensboro and Asheville because the second job isn't in Ashevlle. Your choice, really, is between "Greensboro + Chapel Hill and Durham 50 miles away" and "Rural outpost + Asheville 50 miles away."

if the choice was between Greensboro and Asheville, Asheville wins easily. In your situation however, I'd probably Greensboro unless you really like rural living and a bit shorter drive to your boyfriend.
posted by eisenkr at 4:27 PM on January 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Former Ashevillean (native) here.

No one lives in the flatlands. You may go to school there, then you leave. Unless you work at the schools or reallllllllllly have to have a high-tech job.

I'd rather be in hell with a backache than in the flatlands of NC. But that's me. I'm a friggin' hillbilly and think the flatlands suck like a Hoover with a new bag. Suck the red off an apple suck. Suck the devil out of hell suck. Suck start a Harley suck. Suck razor blades suck.


Full of baptist, right wing idiots, wonderful schools (except the bible colleges which are also around Asheville... hopeless!). Hot as hell in the summer. Unremarkable in the winter. 5 hours from the beach and 5 hours from the mountains. Why bother?

Asheville area. Worth waiting for. No contest.

Screw the flatlands. Did I mention I don't like that area?
posted by FauxScot at 5:09 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm a native North Carolinian. This is going to come down to your preference but hopefully more information will help?

I am not a fan of Greensboro but I would still choose it over rural Western NC. Either way I'd have to drive about an hour to get somewhere "good" - Durham/Chapel Hill for Greensboro and Greenville/Spartanbug/Asheville for the other option (Hendersonville?). But, at least in Greensboro, I would have more to do directly nearby. There is outdoors stuff to do in the vicinity of both options, but the landscape is different (mountains/foothills vs piedmont).

One other thought - are you from the South? If not, the other thing I'd say is that Greensboro would be much less culture shock than somewhere in Western NC along the border. This may or may not be a plus for you, depending on what kind of experience you're looking for!
posted by marmago at 5:15 PM on January 20, 2014

Yeah, sorry - tiny NC towns are a no. It's fun to drive through quaint mountain towns when you're on vacation, but I can't imagine living there, unless you really like hunting and hiking or something.

Native North Carolinian here, and I'd vote Greensboro. It's a nice town with a good vibe, and it's very livable. Lots of art and antique shops downtown, and less than an hour's drive from Durham, which has the best food in the State (yeah Durham!).
posted by duvatney at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2014

I grew up in Hendersonville/Flat Rock for some time and my parents currently live outside Greenville, SC. I am guessing you'd be somewhere in the vicinity. To me, both are nice areas, and you'd be near Asheville. But I am way over big city life and prefer rural, so there's that.
posted by medeine at 5:33 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

About your actual job situation, if you have a firm offer and a maybe offer, you take the firm offer. I would not turn down an acceptable offer in the hopes that another offer might come through. If the other offer does come through and it is too amazing to pass up, then you can change your mind about the Greensboro offer. Which might annoy people but is ultimately not the end of the world.

I live just outside of Greensboro and commute to work in Chapel Hill. Depending on where you live in Greensboro (and I noticed that you said "outside" of Greensboro, so I'm wondering where exactly - High Point? Kernersville? Whitsett?) it is a solid hour's drive or more to the Triangle (Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh). For me that's more a day-trip distance than dinner, but YMMV.

Greensboro is really part of a larger contiguous populated area in combination with High Point and Winston-Salem with a population of over 1M. I moved here from Denver and grew up in Houston, and it definitely isn't that caliber of place, but it's not awful.

There are good places to eat, and an active arts and culture scene. Also, if you're here in that timeframe and you like music, the Eastern Music Festival punches way above Greensboro's weight.

I would be much more wary of moving to a smaller place an hour away from Asheville. Although I don't endorse everything FauxScot says above, he isn't wrong about the conservatism that is common in rural NC and SC.

Bottom line: I think you could find better food, more interesting stuff to do, and more interesting people with a 10 minute drive in Greensboro than in rural NC/SC. Maybe being close to your boyfriend trumps all that, but in any case don't turn down a sure thing for a maybe thing.
posted by jeoc at 5:38 PM on January 20, 2014

*cracks knuckles* My bona fides: I grew up rural North Carolina. I went to school in Durham and Raleigh, have lived in Cary for giggles, and have also lived in Salt Lake City, San Jose, El Cerrito (near Berkley in California), and in several places in the greater Seattle area, and now I live in Greensboro. So I'm not nearly the best traveled person here, but I've lived in big cities and tiny towns and I love Greensboro with a burning passion. However, I should note that I have not lived in Asheville.

Firstly: we are not a small town. At a population of 275k just inside the city itself (never mind the outlying areas), we're a solid sized city.

Greensboro has the "Greensboring" rep already mentioned, but really (this is going to sound cheesy) Greensboro is only as boring as you make it. If you're outdoorsy, you have your choice of miles and miles of parks and trails for hiking and mountain biking, including 42 miles of gorgeous watershed parks and people to enjoy them with. If you're into music, the local music scene is up and coming. If you are of the geeky type, there's a lovely local geek scene, including a Friday night board game meetup. We have a ton of good local restaurants and all your usual chain suspects. If partying is your thing, there bar scene downtown on weekends is great. Do you dance? There's an awesome local salsa scene, along with other Latin dancing. There's a thriving local contra dance scene. Want farmer's markets? We have two big ones and some smaller ones that pop up. The local minor league baseball team and the college sports teams are fun, if sports are your thing. There's a quiet but large local poly and kink community. UNCG has one of the top music and theater programs in the region with more than just some concerts (if you have the means, you could see a performance around here, between UNCG and A&T and Guilford and the Carolina downtown and the local music venues, pretty much every night). :) There's a ton of local meetup groups for things I'm forgetting. Even the local library system is awesome. We have just about everything; there's a lot I'm leaving out.

And then hey, if you get bored with Greensboro, Raleigh and Chapel Hill (sports, including pro hockey, museums, more restaurants, etc.) are an hour and fifteenish down the road (and I don't think anything of driving to Raleigh for dinner with friends, but that all depends on your tolerance for driving). Charlotte (biggest city in the state) is also 75 to 90 minutes down the road (depending on the state of 85 that day). The mountains are three hours away. The beach is three hours away. DC and Atlanta are 5 hours away. There's a nice airport in town and RDU and CLT are both easy and fast to get to.

You don't say anything about your politics in your post, but we lean liberal around here (though if you lean conservative, you can find your community around here too). One of the local colleges (there are 4 colleges and universities in town itself, plus a campus of the local community college - which has excellent continuing ed classes for that painting or cooking class you never took, plus some for-profits) is known as UNC-Gay for good reason. I'm out at work (I'm a professor) and no one blinks. We went out to celebrate our engagement (same sex interracial couple) over Christmas at a big chain restaurant near the mall and no one blinked (and we were dressed up and holding hands, it was pretty obvious we were out on a date). We're not super liberal, but we're purple leaning blue.

We're a pretty diverse city. We're less than 50% white, about 40% black, and then about 10% everyone else (which no, is not super diverse, but is doing better than a lot of places in NC). We have folks from something like 150 countries living in Guilford County? There's a report somewhere that I can't find right now. There's a thriving local Asian community and I took friends that have lived all over the place to the local big pan-Asian grocer this weekend, where they reported the selection was the best they'd ever seen.

I'm going to have to (having lived in the Bay Area and Seattle) respectfully disagree that traffic around here is a nightmare, and as far as the city layout being confusing... well, I've driven in Cary and Salt Lake and Seattle and a lot of other places, and Greensboro is the first place I've lived that I could navigate without a map. It's all what you're used to.

I could keep going, but I should go grade some things. The bottom line is that people tend to either love Greensboro or they really don't care for it (as you can tell from the differing perspectives you're getting in this post!) I walked to a burlesque show from my apartment last night and I'll go eat Ethiopian food with a friend tomorrow night, and if I'm at home of an evening, it's because I chose to be, not for a lack of stuff to do around here.

If you have any questions about Greensboro or the NC in general, I'm happy to answer them; just mefi mail me. And hey, if you move here, let's get a drink - did I mention the local ciders and microbrews? :)
posted by joycehealy at 6:41 PM on January 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

I have lived in Asheville for the last 14 years. If I didn't have family here I'd move to Greensboro for a good job in a heartbeat. I'm tired of being ridiculously broke and watching the town I used to love get overrun with pretentious hipsters, equally pretentious retirees and overrated restaurants and bars I can't afford. However! That is not an answer to your question. It would really help if you were a bit more specific about your alternate to Greensboro. There are some pretty, if super rural places 50 miles south on the NC / SC border, like Traveler's Rest or Tryon, where there is a lot of great hiking and camping and river sports but really nothing much else - and then there are some pretty flat, sprawly, grisly places like Greenville/Spartanburg and Anderson where there's sort of nothing, period. Although I know some people who have moved to Greenville and they like it OK. Apparently it's getting much better.

However, here's the thing: where ever you are around here, 50 miles is 50 miles and driving up and down the mountain to get to Asheville is going to get old quick. 50 miles, even if it's all on I-26, is probably going to be at least an hour and sometimes an hour and a half or even more depending on the weather and that is assuming you're near 26. If you're way out in the boonies, add a whole lot of extra time to that. And then there's the drive back, or finding a place to stay, which is not cheap in Asheville. Basically, I would not really be adding Asheville to this equation at all. You're not moving here. I would say that unless you are really into staying home and / or living the rural life to the fullest, go to Greensboro just because it's going to have a lot more options.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

So here goes the self-doxing. I've spent most of my adult life in Amsterdam and New York City, but I grew up in Spartanburg (most of my family is still there) and graduated from Furman. My brother, with whom I'm very close and visit once or twice a year at least, has lived in Greensboro for more than 20 years. My best friend spent 10 years on Chapel Hill. Memail me if you have any specific questions about specific places.


+ Greensboro: Meh. Only if you live downtown. The other research triangle cities are further away than you think. You will drive everywhere and be surrounded by interstates. On the other hand, you're near the best BBQ on the planet - and I will fight anyone who says different.

+ Asheville proper: Expensive but cool despite the "hipsters" and "halfbacks." One of the few places in the States I considered living before deciding to move back to Europe. Decent weather.

+ Points between Asheville directly South along I-26 towards Greenville: Beautiful but not much to do except hike. Decent weather getting less decent the further out of the mountains you get.

+ Greenville: Only if you live downtown, but the downtown has become very cool indeed and entirely walkable with a very cool pre-war 'hood walking distance to the North. The city is this weird mix of liberal and educated people and Teaparty people.

+ Anywhere in Spartanburg county: Oh HELL no. Just no. God forbid you wind up there, memail me for sure, and I'll pass on decades of survival tips.

The one thing I will say about Greensboro or anyplace not actually in the mountains: based on your profile (and assuming you lived at your present location for some time), the summers will absolutely kill you the first few years.

Likewise, I think that culturally you would enjoy being near Asheville more than Greensboro. All that said, joycehealy is right that Greensboro is far better geographical situated. It will take you forever to get anywhere outside the Asheville area by car or plane. And Greensboro and the Research Triangle are far more expansive. Asheville and points South may begin to feel very small after a few years, if that sort of thing bothers you.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:23 AM on January 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ultimately, this comes down to variables that only you can quantify: how important is it for you to have convenient access to a somewhat urban environment, and how important is it to be close to your bf?

Having done the trek down to SC along I-26 twice in the space of a week, I can confirm that the 50 miles to Tryon is gruelling, more so than 50 miles along most of I-40; the drive to Travelers Rest is slightly better, but still takes longer than you anticipate and wears you out. The drive to those areas from Greensboro is also a haul, and the only route that doesn't really involve mountains takes you through Charlotte's traffic.
posted by holgate at 10:17 AM on January 21, 2014

Response by poster: Hmm, mixed opinions. I now have two job offers (yay?).

Sorry for not being more specific about the place-- the closest town to the western NC job is Brevard.

While my profile says I live in RI, I lived all of my non adult life in the ruralest part of rural Indiana, so I think the culture shock factor is probably not a super huge factor- ie I know what I´m getting myself into. I don´t mind living in rural areas (and I like hiking and camping), but I like to be within an hour´s drive of a city.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:22 AM on January 21, 2014

Brevard's better connected, although places further out (Lake Toxaway, for instance) make for a longer drive. It's still fairly quiet and conservative, and the nearest bigger city is the retiree-tastic Hendersonville, but the run up to Asheville's more tolerable because you're already in the mountains.
posted by holgate at 10:34 AM on January 21, 2014

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