In search of: a funky southern town.
June 8, 2006 11:43 AM   Subscribe

In search of: a funky southern town.

Charleston is too rich, New Orleans is too far gone, and Asheville has hippies. But I still entertain a fantasy of living somewhere Flannery O'Connor might smile down upon. Any ideas?
posted by subpixel to Society & Culture (47 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Savannah? Key West? Athens, GA? Carrboro, NC? Memphis?
posted by billtron at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2006

Savannah is a nice town. There's quite a bit of the 'hippy' factor since it's the home of SCAD, but it's still a lovely town. Not too expensive either, if I remember correctly.

I've only been to Athens once, and didn't care for it that much. Too much of a 'college party town' feel.
posted by triolus at 11:51 AM on June 8, 2006

Austin, TX

Memphis, TN
posted by frogan at 11:53 AM on June 8, 2006

Carrboro. Full of peace, love, music festivals, and a good co-op. Small enough to be quaint, but close enough to big areas to be full of culture.
posted by NewGear at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2006

Speaking as a native, my advice is to stay out of Little Rock.
posted by lemoncello at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2006

Rome is quite nice.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2006

Savannah's really great. I like Rome, too (also, you're very close to Atlanta for big city fix, as needed).

I'd still say go for Asheville. I don't know how much time you've spent there, but there's a lot more going on there than headshops and patchouli. Hendersonville's next door and has many fewer hippies. The Blue Ridge/Smokey mountains, is, along with the Ozarks, the most beautiful part of the South.

It's hard to tell what you're after by "funky"-- There are cool towns in Alabama and Mississippi, but they are decidedly not funky.
posted by kosem at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2006

I'll third or fourth Carrboro, NC.

Also: Athens, GA; Boone, NC; Chattanooga, TN. Depending upon your comfort with rurality, Sewanee, TN is pretty literary.
posted by griffey at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2006

More of a city, but Charlottesville, VA is pretty cool. Plus, you might bump into Dave Matthews downtown.
posted by 4ster at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2006

Knoxville, TN. I grew up there. Lovely scenery (if you're into that kind of thing), beautiful weather, a decent entertainment scene, and lots of younger people. The football crowd is a little much, but if you like sports, it's a bonus.

Nashville and Chattanooga are similarly neat; Memphis is a smoggy, tense shithole.

On preview, 2nding 4ster's Charlottesville recommendation.
posted by timetoevolve at 12:17 PM on June 8, 2006

Charlottesville, VA, definitely.

Also, go 'hoos.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 12:18 PM on June 8, 2006

Baltimore, hon.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2006

I third the suggestion of Carrboro, NC with the caveat that hipsters (and a fair share of hippies) abound.

I, however, am proud as punch to be a Durhamite.
posted by 10ch at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2006

Flannery O'Connor actually hung her hat in Savannah, GA. The SO just walked by her house en route to a business trip in Hiltonhead. It's an intriguing, funky, town.
posted by Heminator at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2006

Chattanooga is much better than Knoxville these days, IMHO.

Knoxville's nice but it's severely affected by suburban sprawl. I mean severely.
posted by lyam at 12:33 PM on June 8, 2006

Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, and lived all over. However, she would probably be most likely to smile on Milledgeville, GA. You would not want to live there. I don't know what your definition of 'funky' is, but Flannery O'Connor would almost definitely not fit it. She lived a rather sheltered life, was a deeply devoted Catholic, and raised exotic birds for fun.
posted by ND¢ at 12:36 PM on June 8, 2006


The last thing Asheville needs is another visitor/transplant. That's exactly why it's no longer as funky as it could be. And it's more lesbians and gays these days than hippies, if you're prejudiced. ( Personally, I prefer them to Suits, kids, and rich retired yankees or midwesterners.)

fauxscot's rule of attractive places is that they attract people until they are no longer attractive. The world is full of last year's #1 best places!

I used to live in Asheville for say, 45 years or so. If you like decent restaurants, access to real locals, culture and agriculture, health food, history, and decent weather, you could do worse. Damn good little university at UNC-Asheville, too. Community theatre, local music scene is excellent. Great health care.

Traffic sucks. Transplants negatively affect the local real estate market and inflate prices, crowd the restaurants, and don't know how to be polite members of society, so if you don't bring any of those negatives, I'd say check it out.

OTOH, Chattanooga is cool.

Have fun.
posted by FauxScot at 12:43 PM on June 8, 2006

New Orleans.

the funky part IS NOT too far gone.
posted by ab3 at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2006

I'm a fan of the mountains and a decent sized city, personally. If Knoxville is too much of a redneck football town, then Johnson City is it's slightly more literate Basketball playing brother, and Chattanooga is the redneck who made good and drives a Jetta and reads philosophy (but still drinks PBR in a can). Carborro and Asheville, NC are the better towns of the eastern face. With Greenville and Spartanburg nice towns on the southern face.

Coastally speaking, there's Mt. Pleasant and Folly Beach, but the best secret on the SC coast is Beaufort. Military as a high&tight but a great little town with tons of history.

I'm biased, but if i had a brother in Mississppi/Alabama/Geogria and a brother in jail, I'd bust the one out of Mississppi/Alabama/Geogria first.

Is Austin San Antonio still Southern or Western? I can't keep up.

Anyway, these are the larger towns I'd have on my personal wishlist, if it's a small town you're looking for, well, the possibilities are endless, but I'll always have a soft spot for Bell Buckle, TN
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I dunno about Carrboro (and dude, just say "Chapel Hill." Carrboro is basically the western section of Chapel Hill).

For the full-on treatment, maybe Pittsboro, Siler City, or Mebane nearby, or Mt. Airy?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 PM on June 8, 2006

Geogria = Georgia = jaw-JA (to the SCians)

*hangs head, learns to spell*
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2006

Hot Springs AR has a Documentary Film Festival and my friends opened a punk club there.
posted by zonkout at 1:06 PM on June 8, 2006

I hear that Beaufort, SC is nice.
posted by lilboo at 1:15 PM on June 8, 2006

If you had to pick somewhere in Arkansas, your best bets are probably either Hot Springs or Fayetteville.
posted by box at 1:35 PM on June 8, 2006

charlottesville is supposedly the best place to live in the US, but i'm too lazy to look up a source on that.
posted by soma lkzx at 1:37 PM on June 8, 2006

Galveston has a very "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" feeling. Think of millionaire real-estate heir Robert Durst hiding out here pretending to be a deaf-mute woman. He set his wig on fire in a gay bar. Later he killed his neighbor across the hall in the flophouse charming historic apartment buidling where they lived, dismembered the body, and tossed it -- headless -- into the Bay.

This is typical of our Island. Most Many people here are drunk or high or both. We do have our share of upstanding citizens and robber barons very wealthy businessmen. And there's always the beach...

And history. What city can match the ghastly, ghostly heritage of the Great Storm of 1900? It swept away what was then the leading city of Texas, leaving 8000 or more dead. This, long before Katrina, was the original American Tsunami.

Come visit, or come to stay. Come quickly. New devlopment is apace. Galveston, as a town, will likely remain funky and odd, but beachside construction -- hurricanes regardless -- is having an impact.
posted by Robert Angelo at 1:39 PM on June 8, 2006

I fell in love (hard) with Biloxi when I went there last summer. That was pre-Katrina, needless to say, and it's not what it was.

That said, if you're looking to become a real part of a community, I think moving somewhere and helping out with the rebuilding process shows that you're not just in it for the cool factor. Absolutely no snark intended, by the way.
posted by anjamu at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2006

UNC-Asheville grad checking in...if you like hiking/camping/climbing/biking and the south, you will love it.
posted by toastchee at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2006

Little Rock, AR
Hattiesburg, MS
New Orleans, LA - les bon temps roulent!

Baltimore is NOT Southern, y'all. If it's above North Carolina, Tenessee, or Arkansas, it's not the South. Nor are the Smoky Mountains. There's a distinction between Southern and Appalachian. Appalachian areas have hillbillies and the South has rednecks.

I don't feel like any place where you can't get sweet tea is the South, personally. That counts New Orleans out, but they make up for it on other ways.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:10 PM on June 8, 2006

Fayetteville, AR! Fun, college-y (so kinda hip), and beautiful. Check it out (wo)man. Very nifty place.
posted by mercurysm2 at 2:15 PM on June 8, 2006

It's hard to tell what you mean by "Funky".

If you want lemonade, antebellum houses, humidity, spanish moss, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, there is no better place then Savannah. It's a gorgeous city, and seems to have a fairly decent "hip" culture without being overrun by it.

I have heard Charleston, SC is very similar, though I cannot speak much for that one.

If you'd prefer a good, wholesome, laid-back, more or less liberal town that has that college town vibe, but still holds on to its southern graces, try Chapel Hill, Asheville, or Athens.

For something a bit more rustic, if you want the Mayberry feel, but which isn't totally dumpy, I highly recommend Mount Airy (the model for Mayberry), Siler City, Boone, or any of a hundred little towns in central and western North Carolina. If you can forgive their eccentricities and bits of backwardness, they're incredibly easy to fall in love with.

And yes, I'm a Carolina boy.
posted by jammer at 2:43 PM on June 8, 2006

No offense, but Hattiesburg is so not funky. It's a midpoint between the awfulness that is Meridian and the gaudiness that is Biloxi.

Chattanooga definitely rocks and is worth looking into.

And don't dismiss NOLA too soon -- it is a city that is worth rebuilding and saving, come hell or high water (the second is apparently more likely).

If you want a funky town in Mississippi, you should check out Monticello. Then again, that's only if by funky you mean insanely smelly.
posted by brina at 3:54 PM on June 8, 2006

PS. You can get sweet tea in New Orleans. I can't remember the name of the place, but there's a nice little breakfasty cafe on South Carrollton with lovely sweet tea.
posted by brina at 3:57 PM on June 8, 2006

Come Arkansas it's Eureka Springs.

Charlottesville is a wonderful town, but more conservative than funky.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 4:26 PM on June 8, 2006

C'ville is the place. Meet you at the White Spot.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:35 PM on June 8, 2006

It's a shame you decided against n.o. It's the definition of funky, and what would be better than moving there and helping it on it's feet? (and it's funky even as is)

I'm biased, but if i had a brother in Mississppi/Alabama/Geogria and a brother in jail, I'd bust the one out of Mississppi/Alabama/Geogria first.
posted by 1f2frfbf

Don't listen to the ignorant. There are plenty of funky places in those three states. Small, historical towns, lots of history. A trip through the delta would be well worth it.
posted by justgary at 5:41 PM on June 8, 2006

(and dude, just say "Chapel Hill." Carrboro is basically the western section of Chapel Hill)

Chapel Hill is more uptight white liberal than funky, which I figure is why Carrboro folks insist on making the distinction. They're almost certainly right to do so. But remember that both are relatively small towns. If you include nearby Durham and Raleigh, the Carrboro/Triangle area starts feeling a bit more like a metropolitan area with funky areas.

And your anti-hippie bias against Asheville is just silly.
posted by mediareport at 6:15 PM on June 8, 2006

Destin, Miramar Beach and Santarosa Beach FL.

Moved here a year and a half ago...there's NO place like it.
posted by othersomethings at 6:49 PM on June 8, 2006

I can't belive that no one has mentioned Greensboro, it is not too big and not too small. It is affordable and has a number of distinct and quality neighborhoods. There is a sizeable immigrant population and downtown is both cute and funky.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:35 PM on June 8, 2006

brina - I admit, Hattiesburg is not so funky, but it's really southern and quaint. Re: sweet tea, are you talking about the Jazmine Cafe? I know you said South Carrollton, but I can't think of anything still standing that fits your description down that way.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:11 PM on June 8, 2006

According to its site, Benson, NC, just may be the Southrun equivalent of Keillor's Lake Wobegon:
Benson is Americana — a small town, where is it [sic] quiet and safe to raise children. Neighbors know neighbors, people walk and jog the streets and the historical district is very attractive. It is a community dedicated to family and a way of life where children can safely grow up.

OK, all very nice, but you asked about funky? Benson does funky.
posted by rob511 at 9:49 PM on June 8, 2006

Destin and environs are overbuilt with traffic from Hell. It is not what you are looking for if you want a "funky southern town." If you want touristy with t-shirt shops every block, it's just right.
posted by wsg at 11:16 PM on June 8, 2006

Eureka Springs, AR is definitely the funkiest town in the state. Lotsa hippie-types. Fayetteville is probably the coolest place in the state, though the hippies are neck and neck with the conservative lot. Hot Springs has some funky elements, but is a real bore of a town after a while.
posted by zardoz at 2:47 AM on June 9, 2006

Oh, oh--you're looking for Colonial Beach, VA. My wife and I spent several days there, and it was like a real-life Margaritaville. Not much to do there, but the Southern Gothic element is strong.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:42 AM on June 9, 2006

Definitely Athens, GA. There is something for everyone there. I like the college party town atmosphere on "game days," but otherwise it is totally laid back.

Hippies, gays, townies, hipsters, drunk frat boys/sorority chicks, etc. With 50 bars, 10 coffee shops, and endless restraunts and shops within a 3 block span you will find your kind of people somewhere.
posted by meeshelle39 at 7:58 AM on June 9, 2006

Mr. Gunn: Not the Jazmine Cafe. This place is a little breakfasty/lunchy Southern-style cafe with a porch. And I sadly cannot remember the name. It may not even be around any more -- last time I was there was several years ago. But I do remember it being not too far from the riverbend.

Sorry to diss Hattiesburg. But I guess when I think funky, I think Berkeley/Brooklyn in the South. And nothing but New Orleans comes very close in my experience.

Athens is a good recommendation, though. Or, just for a visit, Hammond, Louisiana. It is (or was, pre-Katrina) a very cute little historic town with old run-down buildings that just make you want to snap pictures everywhere.
posted by brina at 12:50 PM on June 9, 2006

Don't listen to the ignorant.
posted by justgary

Mea culpa. I didn't know anything specific about those places, except for the times I had lived in them, and found them quite devoid of funk, so I took the opportunity to make a lame joke. I'm sure there any many great places there.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:27 AM on June 12, 2006

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