What's it like living in Greensboro, NC?
January 1, 2017 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Mrs. Monkeysuit and I plan to retire to NC this year. We like the looks of the Greensboro area, but have never spent any time there. We're northern liberals. How would that work for us?

We're writers, so although we're "retired," we're still actively engaged in freelance publishing projects. Anywhere we move will also be where we work. We each have a few health issues, nothing serious; but we want to be fairly close to a hospital. And culture; music, movies, etc. We haven't got a lot of money, being on fixed incomes (plus whatever the freelance work brings in, which varies widely, as freelancers know). We're not church-goers. We mind our own business and although we want to have roots in the community, we're not huge "joiners." I have a friend in Greensboro, but I want input from others who know the region. We might also look north and west of the city. We have a friend in Lynchburg, VA, which is about 100 miles away. We looked at VA but decided we didn't care for it all that much, so NC it will be -- my wife has a brother in Wilmington, but she doesn't like that area. Wherever we end up down there will be our forever home, as they say. So -- can it work for us? What's good about the region, what's bad? Thanks to all in advance. and have a happy and prosperous 2017!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit to Travel & Transportation around Greensboro, NC (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies for the derail, but if you're northern liberals and artsy types considering North Carolina, have you thought about the Asheville area?
posted by slkinsey at 1:07 PM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thought about it, slkinsey, but this previous post kind of put me off of it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:23 PM on January 1, 2017

I live in Greensboro and adore it (http://ask.metafilter.com/255669/Tell-me-about-North-Carolina#3714988). Good health care in the Moses Cone system. We were also really happy with Hospice of Alamance County when my mom was there and I had a good counseling experience with Hospice of Guilford (morbid but relevant). I'm happy to expound at more length when I'm home tomorrow on a real computer.
posted by joycehealy at 1:28 PM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe this will help. I'm the guy who wrote (under a different name) that previous post and we ignored it and moved to Asheville anyway. I'm very glad we did. Like you, I'm a semiretired freelance writer, a northern liberal who happened to live in Florida most of the time but worked mostly for national magazines in NY. I know at least two others who exactly fit that description. I've been here three years and will probably stay. You can memail me for details if you like. I wish you luck. Visit the city for a few days, ideally a week or so, and check it out.
posted by Skipjack at 1:36 PM on January 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, and by the way, I tried Wilmington a few years before moving here and only lasted two years there. I didn't like it much either and I'm usually a coastal, not mountain, guy. Go figure.
posted by Skipjack at 1:37 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: joycehealey -- yes, tell me more!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:55 PM on January 1, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks, Skipjack -- we'll be in touch. FWIW I grew up on the beach and love it, but it's not for everyone. My wife can't take the humidity. I said, "It's North Carolina, hon!" :-)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:56 PM on January 1, 2017

UNC Greensboro offers an MFA in writing presumably with related events.
posted by brujita at 2:17 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have very liberal friends who live in downtown Greensboro and love it. Their neighbourhood is really walkable and friendly with easy access to restaurants downtown. They are always posting about various interesting events, seems like there's lots to do and it's a nice size for a mix of friendly and heaps of resources.
posted by kitten magic at 2:36 PM on January 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think you'd like Greensboro a lot. Not so much Asheville--er, I mean, yes, Asheville is great (I've lived here for a while) but Greensboro puts you closer to the beach and family and the high-high-quality medical facilities at Duke and UNC, and I would argue that the literary life is better in Greensboro than it is in Asheville.

Asheville has Warren Wilson College, which offers a low-residency MFA program, and there are a fair amount of literary events around town--open mics, mostly, for poetry. But Greensboro has UNC-Greensboro, which offers a full-residency MFA program, and there are many readings and thesis performances available to the public. I did my undergrad work at UNCG in English, and I consider my Greensboro years to be some of the best in my life. Not just because college blah blah, but also in terms of intellectual stimulation. You can check out the Greensboro Review for a bit of what the literary vibe is like.

Other Greensboro stuff that's nice: housing is fairly cheap and good; there are all the amenities of a large town without the pains of a big city; close proximity to larger cities and a location that's basically smack dab midway between the mountains and the beach. The town seems to be sprawly and getting sprawlier, but downtown is dense and easy to walk around, and there are good restaurants and coffee shops all over the place. And out in that sprawl are some good parks and lakes for recreation.

Greensboro culture is also heavily influenced by its role in the Civil Rights Movement; the site of the Woolworth's lunch counter is now a museum that's pretty awesome. And I can think of five colleges/universities in Greensboro off the top of my head. Lots of smart, curious, engaged people in town.

One thing I regret about Asheville is that the level of intellectual discourse is somewhat...how to put this...lower? Asheville is really transient, not because of students so much as because of folks who move here looking for [something] and move away a few years later because the job and housing situations are kinda bad. Downtown is full of tourists and crusty punks with dogs on a rope. And the students from UNC-Asheville and WW are delightful, as far as I can tell, but not terribly engaged in the community.

I'm glad to answer any questions if you want to Memail me!
posted by witchen at 3:06 PM on January 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Have y'all looked at Durham, NC? Less sprawl, more liberal, roughly equivalent affordability.
posted by little mouth at 3:20 PM on January 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Two things strike me as a mismatch for you guys and NC:

1. Summers here are godawfully hot and humid. Like relentlessly for weeks from June through September.

2. It's possible I've got blinders as a liberal NC native, but if politics is important to you, you won't find a helluva lot of liberal brethren here - unless you stay within the confines of a liberal city. Like Durham/Chapel Hill or very close to a major large university.

While it is true that there are pockets of blue that are great company, just be forewarned that the blue islands here are just that - islands. Once you go 5 or 10 miles outside of them it is as red as it gets. -my $0.02.
posted by yoga at 4:23 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Guilford County definitely voted for Clinton- and almost every state in the union is blue islands and red rural areas.

Asheville is lovely but it is also less diverse, more expensive, and hipsteryer than Greensboro. It feels to me like more of a vacation spot than a place to settle down. Plus Greensboro is much closer to the Triangle area, which will have a lot of cultural events you'll probably want to go to. If I move back to NC it'll be either Greensboro or Durham for sure.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:33 PM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

My parents live in Greensboro now. They're liberal, not into organized religion, and live a (longish) walk from downtown. I never would have bought of them as "joiners" either, but they've really plugged into the lefty scene in a way that they didn't in the more suburban mid-Atlantic town I grew up in. Which I think has them torn now, because NC politics continue to be super depressing, but there's a lot of community they don't really feel like leaving, locally. Anyway, visiting is a little weird because *I* didn't grow up there, but my impressions over the past decade of long weekend-ish trips have been postive, with a lot of good changes happening downtown and with more grad students and younger folks moving into the area. They still get asked which church they go to by older people, sometimes, but I think that's probably a function of their (older) neighborhood demographics.

Oh, and the airport's pretty nice for a regional airport, if you care about that kind of thing.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:39 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and my folks are your age and moved to Greensboro to "retire" a.k.a. work on their freelance writing projects full time, so I guess memail me if you want more specific recommendations on what that's been like.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:44 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm back. :) First of all, a working link to my previous comment.

A lot of what I might have said has been covered by other commenters, but... as far as to what it's like to live here, there's good things and bad things, like anywhere else. We're a super segregated city, depending on where you live (and a lot of the aging liberals around here don't walk the walk when it comes to where they live, and live in super white neighborhoods). On the other hand, we're a super diverse city, and I hope you like pho, enough diners that you can eat at a different one a day for a couple weeks and not get bored, Ethiopian food, lots of really great Mexican food, a European style cafe with mussels so good and a view that will have you swearing you're in a bigger city, choices of all different kinds of worship if that's your thing, and hearing people talking in Arabic while listening to Taylor Swift playing at the Super G.

You can spend a lot on housing (there are 300 and 400K condos downtown, which just blows my mind, never mind the three-quarters of a million dollar houses out by the big golf course), but you can also get a house for under 100k with lots of space and a nice yard in a more diverse neighborhood. Public transit sucks, but driving is easy, everything is under 20 minutes away (maybe 30 to 40 if you're going from Pleasant Garden to Summerfield) and parking downtown is cheap. There's lots of bars downtown if that's your thing, there's a minor league baseball team and we just got a d-league basketball team. You can join the Friends of the Library and go to events at the Spoon and those two things will keep you busy.

Our state politics are incredibly jacked up right now, in ways that I can't even begin to detail and that make me weep, but we swore in Cooper as soon as we could and courts are already working on some of McCoury's shenanigans, so it has to get better. Greensboro is pretty darn blue (we're the only city in the state to have protections for GLB folks in housing, as sexuality is not a federally protected class). You're going to run into bigots here, but they're everywhere. I (white woman) and my wife (black woman) live here without any trouble.

About the only things I don't like living here are the crap public transit (it's terrible), and the lack of some things that I got used to living in bigger cities (dim sum, how I miss thee). But it's not like Raleigh and Charlotte are that far away. PTI is actually an international airport (barely), and again, CLT and RDU are not far away, and parking at CLT is cheap.

I feel like I'm rambling, but I love it here. I'm happy to answer specific questions via memail. :)
posted by joycehealy at 5:46 PM on January 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi everyone -- thanks for the great input. I apologize for not responding sooner but I have had some minor health issues that kept me occupied. I will look over all this stuff more carefully now. :-)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2017

Response by poster: I suppose I should also say that we're not wanting to live in Greensboro, but somewhere outside of it, like 5 or 6 miles maybe. We're not city people.

Right now we live about an hour out of Philly, and 10 minutes outside of Doylestown, PA, in a carriage house on a farm.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2017

Response by poster: We're trying to refine what we like best about the area. The single biggest piece for us is the Blue Ridge Mountains -- we love them. We love the Skyline Drive, and the portions of VA and NC that the mountains go through. So maybe that's more in line with what we want. I am thinking that more elevation would mitigate the effects of those hot, humid summers...?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:53 PM on January 6, 2017

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