I have spoken often with friends and coworkers of places we’d all like to live. The answer is almost always different but their answers can be pretty much broken down into two categories: “In the country” (rural) or “in the city” (urban). There seems to be strong trends among age groups. Usually the older they were, the more likely they’d want to live in a rural area. The opposite is true for younger groups: wanting to live in a city. When you think of reasons why it kind of makes sense. When you’re younger, you want to adventure out and see new things, and make something of yourself. A city is the best place to do that. When you’re older you’ve already done those things and want to settle down, a rural area is the best for that.
I have had the fortunate pleasure of living in a state that does both very well. North Carolina is a very diverse state in terms of living potential. Rural areas are widespread and contain a lot of people, more than 2,000,000 in fact. However, I’m not going to talk too much about rural NC in this article because, to be frank, I find it quite boring. I’ve lived in it since birth so I’m one of those “youngins” who wants to be big and bad in the city. NC does cities very well so I'm going to describe my favorite ones as I perceive them. Often times locals will compare these cities to other major cities, especially those on the west coast. To kick this off, I will start with the city I’ve visited most recently:
“The Denver of NC”
I haven’t been to a place in a long time where I was absolutely speechless about the scenery around me. I absolutely love this city. Coming from the East Coast, as you get closer, the mountains will slowly rise higher and higher. If you’ve never seen mountains before, this is an astonishing view to be had. The scale of those b*stards is just mind-numbing and you can easily get lost, staring for minutes or maybe even hours. The best place to see them would have to be on the Blue Ridge Parkway of course. Be careful though, my car went into a slide and I almost tumbled down the mountains. It was completely my fault for slamming on the brakes so quickly.
The mountains aren’t really representative of the city because it’s a geographical feature but I believe It has a massive influence on the types of people it creates / attracts: Hippies and hipsters. I mean that in a purely affectionate way because I like them all. In my hometown, no one gives a sh*t if you’re in a band. It’s especially hard to find new members, at least in the genres I like. In Asheville the population is younger and very supportive of new / small acts. My group went for a show of a pretty popular band called Of Montreal but the second show we saw featuring It Looks Sad had a vastly more interested and excited crowd. The venue was smaller but I feel as if there were more people. Maybe it was just an illusion though.
I feel as though Asheville is very unique in terms of political compass as well. Surrounding areas, and by extension most rural areas of NC, are very conservative. No that doesn’t mean they’re all women-hating racist scum, they just have more traditional values. I am not a woman and am a white male so I don’t have first-hand experience with the way other people are treated. I have been told that in some places being a woman is a harder because of “mansplaining” (I f*cking hate that word. Anyone can condescendingly explain something) and just general mistreatment, but like I said, I don’t know. Asheville is on the opposite end of the spectrum, being very liberal and much more LGBTQ friendly. If you’re more politically left, enjoy art, hippie culture, and love beautiful sights of nature, Asheville is the place for you. If not, I’m sure one of these other cites will appeal to you.
“The NYC of NC”
I always get excited when I’m driving towards this place and see the tall buildings in the distance. I’m just a sucker for cities I suppose. Although, it is a little less exciting than Asheville Oher people may love that. Charlotte is a major financial hub and is the largest city in the state in terms of population. Some people are even confused and believe it’s the capital of NC.
Downtown is very businessy. You see fancy people with fancy cars but also backed up traffic. Also there’s that one homeless guy who always talks to himself at the subway. Well technically it’s a light rail train but it’s still really cool. One thing I love the most about it is the branding. It’s call the LYNX train and is part of the CATS. “LYNX” because it “links” Charlotte and CATS because it’s the “Charlotte Area Transit System”. My brother and I rode it just for fun one day, all the way from Ikea to the southern-most station in the city. Charlotte really is huge and diverse.
As for the culture, I can’t really say too much. I mainly just went for Warped Tour (2012 to 2018) and other concerts like Beartooth or Excision (bass so thick I couldn’t breathe). The people were nice though. Kind of like NYC, it’s a mish-mash of a bunch of people so it’s difficult to generalize. One thing you’ll see a trend in is cities being more liberal / left, but in Charlotte I feel like most people are just too busy to give a sh*t, at least in downtown. Which I’m okay with. In the grand scheme of things, nothing we do matters anyway. I feel like I may be wrong about them. If I am, someone let me know.
“The San Francisco of NC”
I am inspired every time I visit. It reminds me that I really should be working harder on my dreams and passions. Everyone here is so motivated and wants to get shit done. Maybe it’s because NCState is here. I kind of wish I went to this school but as we all know, college is a scam. Raleigh is just a special place. It has a small-town vibe but with a city hidden inside of it. Everyone I talked to was just down-home and nice. A fun little story: I once was stranded here for a week because of Hurricane Florence. In that time we really got to explore Crabtree Valley Mall, Pullen Park, the Museum of History, the Capital Building and etcetera. I would do it again. Staying home for a hurricane is dumb. If you get work off, might as well have a vacation
I really like the city but thing that’s extremely f*cky is the traffic patterns. I can’t remember specifically what was going on but damn, get from one place to another is a daunting task. Maybe it’s just one of those things where it takes time to get used to
As for the culture, I pretty much said it already. One thing I like is the presence of a more punk-rock oriented crowd. My favorite record shop in the world, Sorry State Records is right in downtown and is thriving. I know of a lot of pop punk bands who play often in the city.
Raleigh is a place for those who like to work hard but not necessarily play hard. I admire that. Get shit done, then go home and relax.
Honorable Mention: Wilmington, NC
“The Charleston of NC”
I was born here. Every time I visit, I feel like I am at home despite not ever living here. To me, Wilmington is more corporate than surrounding areas which leads me to say often that Wilmington is like NYC and Myrtle Beach is like LA. Yes I know MB is in South Carolina but it’s close. “But why did you call it the Charleston of NC?”. Everytime I visit Charleston I just feel like I took an extra long way to go to Wilmington. The scenery and architecture is just very similar
Wilmington culture is pretty cool though. If you want cover bands, beer, and bar food, then downtown is for you. I’ve played live a few times in Wilmington and generally enjoy it when I’m not profusely sh*tting my pants out of stage fright. My favorite time playing in Wilmington was at Katy’s Bar. We weren’t on a stage or anything, just jamming out in a corner of the place and enjoying our time with a few drunk people screaming lyrics with us.
There are some strong corporate businesses here too, like PPD and Reed’s. I’ve tried to work for Reed’s multiple times but have always gotten denied. Maybe I’ll talk about that some other time.
We're Pretty Cool
North Carolina is a very diverse state. I feel like It’s very unique in the sense that you can’t easily pin down what kind of people live here. I always feel a sense of pride when I hear or see NC on the news or in movies. I can’t say the same for South Carolina. I live very close to SC and visit often but it just doesn’t really do it for me. Nothing really sticks out about it to me except Myrtle Beach. NC just has it all. Mountains, beaches, and everything in between. If you’re one of those people who hates the South, I challenge you to visit here and say the same thing afterwards. We aren’t just the stereotypical southern state. But we do have the stereotypical southern accent.