Is there a place on the East Coast like the PNW?
April 25, 2018 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I have come to love and depend on the PNW climate; mild summers, cold but not brutal winters, plenty of rain, plenty of nature. To a lesser extent, Oregon and Northern Californa also answer my needs. But I've lived on the West Coast all my life, and someday, I think, I might like a change. Is there a place somewhere to the east that is very similar to the PNW?

It would have to be USA as I don't think I have enough "value" to emigrate anywhere. Ocean coast is nice but not vital; lakes or rivers would be fine, but I don't like deserts. Rural as can be! A huge bonus would be if it's a place which has fireflies in the season, as I love fireflies but have never lived around them.

Everything I've heard about the east coast states seems to be either "long hot and muggy summers" and/or "bitterly cold long-lasting winters", neither of which sound appealing. There's gotta be a middle ground?
posted by The otter lady to Science & Nature (40 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sadly, pretty much not, which is why I live in Seattle after growing up in New England! On the East Coast, you pretty much get either really hot, humid summers and winters of variable mildness, or less-hot (but still humid) summers and really, really cold winters. And even the tradeoff is often not that great. Like, you'd think that DC, with its unbearably hot and muggy summers, would have mild winters, but it can get really freaking cold in the winter there, especially if you're coming from the PNW. And Boston's summers are less oppressive than DC, but it's still pretty muggy in the summer unless you're right on the ocean.

If you can take the grey, it's pretty hard to beat the PNW's climate.
posted by lunasol at 1:32 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

(that said, there are a lot of wonderful things about living on the East Coast, so if you're itching for a change, it might be worth it to try it out and see if maybe you adjust to the cold and/or the humidity).
posted by lunasol at 1:33 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maybe in the southern Appalachian mountains? Asheville or Boone, NC, Roanoke or Charlottesville, VA or any of the cities and towns along there.
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:34 PM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

There's gotta be a middle ground?

Indeed there is! Some places on the East Coast have both muggy summers and cold winters.

In all seriousness, there's isn't anything akin to the PNW that I'm aware of on the East Coast. Anyplace north enough to not have awful summers will have snowfall in the winters. Any place south enough to have mild winters will be pretty hot and muggy in the summer.

If you can take the snow relatively well, the mountains in the middle states might be your best bet, but they are typically quite cold and windy in the winter even if there's not a lot of accumulation.
posted by Candleman at 1:35 PM on April 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

Have lived in Charlottesville, VA and would not describe summers there as "mild", alas.
posted by inconstant at 1:36 PM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

Nope, that specific thing is what people move to the PNW for. I like feeling that I've gotten my money's worth out of a season and have some of the complete opposite to look forward to. It might be worth it to try it just to see what it's like.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:41 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Never been to the PNW, but am I right in thinking that you mean summers that rarely if ever cracks 90F and is not above 85 for more than a week or two, and winters where it is rarely if ever below freezing for more than 24 hours?

No existe.

I would agree with Grimey, as he likes to be called, that southern Appalachians would be your best bet but they are not a very good bet. Definitely would have to be places at substantially higher altitude than Charlottesville, which has summers best described as fuckin' gross. But the places that are high enough to give you acceptable summers will be in or awfully close to ski-resort country.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:41 PM on April 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

The PNW is a specific climate biome called Csb. You don't get it on the east coast, or indeed outside the PNW.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2018 [35 favorites]

Coastal areas here in New England have milder seasons than inland but they are still very cold in the winter, with lots of snow, and quite warm/hot in the summer. Unfortunately, as others have said, really nothing at all like the pacific northwest. According to NOAA Seattle has an average low in December of 37 with little snow and an average high in July of 75 with like no humidity. In contrast Portland Maine has an average low of 20F in December with 13.2" snowfall, average high in July of 79F with 13-30% humidity. Feels really different.

What do you hate less, brutal winters or hot summers? That can help guide answers.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2018

Yeah, Rhode Island was going to be my best suggestion. It tends to be rainy rather than snowy in winter, or at least, it's less snowy than its immediate inland neighbors. But its seasons will still be more extreme than PNW.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:00 PM on April 25, 2018

An interactive version of the map that DarlingBri referred to is here. There are a few patches of Csb in western North Carolina, the southern Appalachians previously mentioned. But the winters will definitely be colder than the PNW, and the summers hotter, as shown on these maps.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:02 PM on April 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

As someone that lives between roanoke and charlottesville i can assure you that we are not your answer. summers are typically 90+ and humid for two months and we get plenty of cold/snow over winter (although there are a surprising number of random 50-60 degree days in winter).
posted by noloveforned at 2:07 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

everywhere on the east coast that has mild winters also has summers that are as hot and humid as satan's own asshole. everywhere that has mild summers without extremely oppressive humidity has winters that might not be as frigidly cold as canada but it's below zero for months at a time, and also have an obnoxious amount of snowfall.

also are there really no fireflies on the west coast? what even goes on there.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:11 PM on April 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

> There's gotta be a middle ground?

Indeed there is! Some places on the East Coast have both muggy summers and cold winters.

Yep, this. This is the definition of weather for the entire mid-Atlantic region, in fact.
posted by desuetude at 2:14 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Duluth, MN, feels to me like Portland, OR, in woodsiness, culture, and air feel. Winters are colder but much sunnier than PNW. Nature and culture are a way of life there, and Lake Superior can be quite ocean-y because it is so big and vast. I highly recommend you try visiting the North Shore along the cliffs of Lake Superior.
posted by jillithd at 2:22 PM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Agreeing that RI may be the closest meteologically, but I'd include the part of Massachusetts from RI to Cape Cod.
Culturally, maybe only Providence and the Cape.

You could also think about some more southern but higher altitude places like Asheville, NC.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:24 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nopity nope nope nope nope ahahahaha nope. The PNW is a unique, special, uh, snowflake? If I could summer there every year for the rest of my life, I would be a happy camper, because Northeastern summers are miserable af stanky swampy pits of humidity, relieved only occasionally by a 15 minute thunderstorm that cools things down 10 degrees. This is true from Boston all the way down to DC. There's a reason people flee to Maine for summer vacation because it's at least a little cooler and breezier, but it's even more snowy and frigid and isolated in winter than Massachusetts.

If I ended up wintering in Seattle as well, I could deal with it, because at least it would be less consistent snow than New England. But the Northeastern "bargain" is basically two gorgeous Instagram-perfect weeks of spring and blossoms in April, two gorgeous weeks of fall foliage at the beginning of October, and 5.5 months apiece of hellish heat and frigid freezingness the rest of the time.

(poffin boffin, I grew up in Northern California, went camping every summer in various parts of rural Northern California for multiple weeks, and it took me to the age of *25* to see a firefly after I'd moved to the Northeast.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:25 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have lived in the PNW all my life with the exception of 18 months spent in New England, and I have also traveled extensively throughout the mainland US. No part of New England is even remotely like it is here ("here" being Portland, but I grew up in Seattle). Just like there's no store like Fred Meyer outside the NW, there's no climate like the NW's anywhere else in the US.

You want fireflies? Go to the Midwest for a vacation in the summer, despair at how muggy it is, then come back to the NW where "humid" means "comfortable evenings" not "why am I trying to breathe through this burlap bag"
posted by pdb at 2:38 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the difference is in the humidity. I grew up in the mid-Atlantic area of the East Coast (see another poster's comment about having both muggy summers and cold winters--accurate if only by West Coast standards) and previously lived in a moderate but still far-north part of coastal Canada. I live in northern California now... and I kind of hate the climate here. I mean, I don't hate the weather on any given day, but I hate how cold the summer nights are (because of the low humidity) and I knew I'd miss snow but I didn't realize I would also miss crisp autumn air and sunny winter mornings.

However, I don't think winter even begins until it gets below freezing -- for posters talking about "below 0" East Coast winter temps, that's either Celsius or only applies to Boston -- and it's not summer until the thermostat hits 90F. Which means that I get approximately 2 total weeks of summer, interspersed in 10 months of bland spring/autumn.

See, it's all about perspective ;) But seriously, you've already found your ideal climate, stay there! I join in the unanimous choir in assuring you that nowhere on the East Coast will you find the same great/terrible combination of weather and temperature patterns.
posted by serelliya at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

No - having lived in several places and traveled to all of the US for work, there's nothing like the mild climate of the west coast. Maine's coast is nice but the climate is vastly different. I like fireflies, but there are weekends and airplanes for that. The lack of humidity and general lack of snow and lack of high heat in the summer? Yeah, it rains all the time. Keep telling people that.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Does it have to be the east coast or do you just want a new region? What about elevated areas of the SW or W like Santa Fe, Boulder, or Flagstaff...? I'd look at New Mexico -- although you might think of it as desert, there are beautiful forests.
posted by flourpot at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fellow Seattleite from the mid-Atlantic here. I agree that the east coast is not what you want. It is downright SWAMPY in the summers on the east coast. Damp, musty, fog-your-sunglasses-up humid. The thunderstorms that come along with that are pretty neat but overall, I will keep the PNW summer.

As for winters, I do wish we had more snow out west, but at least we don't have the sheets of ice that are common on the east coast. I do not miss falling on my ass so often.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:56 PM on April 25, 2018

The reason why there isn’t anything comparable is global circulation patterns, btw.

Yes, PNW is fairly special, but eg. You’d probably be able to find places on the left coast of Europe that would fit your wants better than places on the eastern USA. Or for that matter on the western bits of South America.

posted by SaltySalticid at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

+1 on Asheville, NC. You'll miss the water and the urban culture (if you're comparing to Seattle/Portland/Vancouver), but the mountains keep the heat/cold down a bit. Here's a look at the monthly average temps. It carries an appropriate amount of adult-y hippy-ness like Seattle did 10/15/20 years ago.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 3:27 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Seattle currently in Boston, except for a couple extreme weeks in august and february it's not that far off. Generally. This last year was wacky, perfect weather in the summer and autumn then insane cold in january, lovely february and miserable march. But on average it's not bad. And, in the middle of the winter there is often bright clear sunlight!
posted by sammyo at 3:27 PM on April 25, 2018

I'd include the part of Massachusetts from RI to Cape Cod.

I live in this area in the summers. How do you feel about hurricanes? Also we got feet of snow there this winter.

I lived in the PacNW for ten years after college after growing up in (and returning to) New England and I have to say it's a pretty unique place. There are great places to live in Northern and Southern New England. I am in Vermont the rest of the year and this year we got less snow than Central MA and maybe thanks to global warming we'll eventually not have Real Winter. But for now we totally do. I find it pretty bearable, especially compared to everyone bitching about the weather in the PacNW (only sort of kidding). You wear good clothes and you develop winter habits and you try to live in a well-insulated house. There are a lot of people who live in Vermont who are from Asheville, actually, they mostly come here to escape the humidity and the politics.
posted by jessamyn at 3:37 PM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Portland is the same latitude as Montreal. That means the east coast is getting more sun in the winter than the PNW. That's not immediately obvious from a political map until you think to notice, so it's a factor to take into account. Dark makes winters brutal in a different way than snow.
posted by aniola at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2018

I haven't spent much/any time in the PNW, but am originally from San Diego, went to school in Charlottesville, VA, and have spent the last four years in western Wisconsin and West Michigan (Grand Rapids). Every one of those places I've listed fails for some reason - San Diego gets really hot in the late Summer (like, July through October and maybe November). Getting off the plane when I got to school in Charlottesville was like walking into a wall and I think I actually flinched from the heat and humidity, and that was at the very end of August. Wisconsin is insanely cold. West Michigan is kind of an average of all those places - the lake moderates the weather somewhat, but there are still definitely distinct seasons and we get some lake effect snow drifting over, but it's not as cold in winter as Wisconsin, not as hot in summer as San Diego, nor as humid as Virginia. Still probably too extreme for what you're looking for, but I actually have come to enjoy the seasons, and below freezing doesn't bother me as long as its in the high teens or up, which is about the lower limit for where I'm at.
posted by LionIndex at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2018

If you were going to pick a place on the east coast to try, I'd suggest Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine. The summers can include some surprisingly hot and humid weather, but that's not really the norm. Where I live in Vermont there are a lot of summer days that remind me of summer days in western Washington. (More rain, but most summers it's not too bad. And I like the thunderstorms.) Fall here is better than fall in Washington - less rain and more color. Spring is nice, but short. We have fireflies! The biggest difference from the PNW is the long, snowy winter, but that can be considered an advantage. Snow is prettier than rain and you can ski on it. And it's fun to have four really distinct seasons.
posted by Redstart at 4:10 PM on April 25, 2018

What makes the PNW special is the warm ocean current smacking into Oregon. Much like the Gulf Stream flows up and over & warms the UK. Perhaps your answer lies even further east.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:50 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've spent time in Asheville and while it is lovely, it can definitely be sweaty and hot during the summer. It's also increasingly expensive in the area.
posted by Candleman at 5:15 PM on April 25, 2018

Agreeing that Asheville (really the Black Mountains just to the east of Asheville) is the only other temperate rainforest in the contiguous US. Asheville proper is expensive and has a good urban heat island effect going on on the valley floor, but Black Mountain is still a lovely little town. It can get hot (and with climate change, is getting hotter in the summers than ever before, but then so is Seattle), but overall the climate is very temperate and very wet, the winters are snowy but not brutal, and the nature and protected wild land is abundant.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:32 PM on April 25, 2018

Back in 1980 my first job out of college, a young guy from Ireland came to work at the company (South Jersey, near Philadelphia). He could not stand the weather and moved back home. So this supports the point made by SaltySalticid. FWIW.
posted by forthright at 5:36 PM on April 25, 2018

You're not going to find it in the US. I've lived on both coasts and traveled a bit all over the country. You either end up with summers that are too hot or winters that are too cold (or both). The midwest is worse, you don't have the ocean acting as a moderating force to temper the cold and hot. The southeast is going to be muggy all summer except when it's raining (Not quite, but it's going to be hot in the summer.)

You might find this is other countries (I think you might have luck in Japan or the British Isles), but if you're staying in the US, you're going to want to stay between (roughly) San Francisco and Blaine, WA.

As someone who lives in NYC, we get a few weeks of brutal, muggy summers and usually at least one blizzard a year. The further south you go, the worse the summer and the gentler the winter Go north and things reverse.
posted by Hactar at 6:21 PM on April 25, 2018

Thanks for all the very helpful responses! It looks like Asheville area would be worth checking out, at least! I'll try to hit it in the heat of summer and see how bad it is, and if it's tolerable I may go back and try a bit of winter too. :) But it's kinda nice to know that where I am really IS pretty special, too. Thanks!
posted by The otter lady at 7:04 PM on April 25, 2018

I live in Asheville. If you come check us out, give a look at small towns outside the city, like Weaverville, which is arty and a little higher elev. If you wouldn't mind a drive, look at Celo or Little Switzerland. And if you want glorious old-growth forest, go to Joyce Kilmer Forest inside Pisgah (pronounced piz-ga; once heard a travel guide pronounce it piss-ga) Forest. Like everywhere, it's getting hotter here but there are still many many places without a/c. And it nearly always cools off at night for good sleeping. Winters get some snow but the mtns break lots of storms up. The humidity is mostly temperate except occasionally. I grew up on the NC coast which really is the swampy nasty weather everybody's talking about unless you're right on the beach. I think, though, that if the PNW suits you so well, you should stay.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:18 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding all of this. My family is from the PNW, but I grew up globally, including Indiana, Boston, and Europe. Switzerland actually came the closest to the climate in the coastal PNW of anywhere, but Ireland and the UK fit the bill as well. I have no desire to be east of the Rockies at any other times of the year than roughly now and just about in October thru early November.

In Indiana my house was literally buried in snow in 1978, and they did not call school off. In 1988, I lived in a student house in which the interior temperature never dropped below 100 degrees over the entire summer (it was next to a parking lot, the windows were painted shut, and it was insanely cheap). In 1986, I spent a night randomly walking the streets of Indianapolis trying to figure out where my friend lived when the outside temperature with wind was about thirty below.

No fireflies? Fair trade.
posted by mwhybark at 7:26 PM on April 25, 2018

PNW summers are incredible- in New England I think only coastal Maine is nicer in the summer. The winters on the north east coast are very cold, but one thing I prefer is the sun. We have cold and sunny days a lot, which I sometimes prefer to warmer but darker days in the PNW winter. I did tend to get depressed in the winter there. The mid-Atlantic is milder than New England during all seasons, but not at all as mild as PNW. New England winters are just too cold for me, otherwise it’s really nice there.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:12 AM on April 26, 2018

An easy way to get comparative data, Otter Lady, would be to favorite Asheville in your preferred weather app - that will show you temps, humidity, etc. on a regular basis when you check your local forecast. I've done it for a few places I considered moving and it was enlightening.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:19 AM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Sonoma County CA, currently live in PNW and have spent a year each working in Atlanta and Jacksonville FL.

Every time I got off the plane in GA or FL, my first breath felt like I was in a steam room. In Jacksonville, I turned the AC in my corporate apartment to 65 degrees and left it there. Every morning the outside of my doorknob would be dripping with condensation. And having to have the corporate apartment treated for bugs every 4-5 weeks was no picnic either.

The eight months I spent in Rhode Island were interesting. So many flights were diverted or cancelled because of weather. One day it started snowing and everyone was sent home. I brushed the inch of snow off my car and it was already back before I drove the 25 yards out of the parking lot. It took almost 2 hours to make the 20 minute trip to my hotel. I kept having to get out of the car and break the ice off the wipers.

I cannot afford to live anywhere in CA that I would want to live.

Nope. Staying here.
posted by Altomentis at 6:21 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

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