I think this has been answered pretty well by a lot of folks, so I’ll move on.
It’s definitely better than Atlanta, but I-40, which runs across the Triangle, can be very congested and slow at times. Places like Cary, which lies right smack next to Raleigh, can be very busy. Cary is a white-bread vanilla bedroom community through which people move enmasse daily to get to their jobs which are elsewhere (and is often jokingly referred to as the Containment Area for Relocated Yankees, so you’d probably want to avoid it anyway ;)).
The Raleigh area shares a disadvantage with larger cities like D.C. and Boston in that it’s an old city - and therefore the street system frequently makes no sense. There’s also not much imagination when it comes to street names, so you’ll find the same names or numbers used and reused (which is probably something they have in common with Atlanta - that city seems to really like using the names Peach and Peachtree over and over again). Where I live, we’ve got Route 70 Business and Route 70 Bypass, and Route 86 and Old Route 86. There are several Hillsborough Streets/Roads farmed out among communities in the Triangle as well.
That said, I’d rate the traffic as better than almost any larger city. I’d much rather drive in Raleigh than in Boston or DC. We also seem to have a smaller number of aggressive, angry drivers than you’d expect for an area of this size.
Greensboro is a growing area too, but the highway system there is built to handle it and even though it can be busy, I’ve never had a problem passing through. Can’t tell you too much more about Greensboro proper, though, as I always seem to be just passing by.
What I like most is the natural beauty of the place - I live near Hillsborough, which is just about halfway between Raleigh and Greensboro, and about 15 miles north of Chapel Hill. The sunsets are beautiful and I enjoy passing through the misty farm fields on each side of the country road I take into work every day. We have bluebirds, meadowlarks, lots of deer and other wildlife to enjoy. In the Raleigh area, you can find this too if you don’t live too close to the city center. One of the things my husband always comments on is how we can go to Raleigh for something and then - poof - suddenly we’re out in the country again after only a few minutes of driving. I’m originally from Cleveland and then lived in Virginia Beach for 12 years, and Raleigh is much smaller in terms of central city and sprawl size than those areas. If you like outdoor activities, this state offers a lot of variety too.
You’ll also find the people here to be intelligent, polite and educated, for the most part. It makes for some pretty pleasant, civil living.
What I like least is, oddly, the winters. We’re in a zone where one can never be sure when a storm comes through what we’re going to get. A lot times we get freezing rain, which sucks much more than snow. The area will be paralyzed during these times too. Fortunately that season is short though. Spring and fall are just wonderful here.
Not a small house, but you can get condos in that price range. Personally I don’t care for any of the townhouse or condo communities I’ve seen in this area, but that’s just me. I don’t care to be hemmed in on all sides, and most of the newer ones at least are pretty large and high-density. If I was going to look for someplace over on that side of town, I’d probably look in northern Durham or northern Wake counties. It’s prettier and your traffic will be better.
No. Durham probably has the worst crime in the Triangle, and I still don’t consider it bad at all. If I recall correctly, Chapel Hill and Cary have the lowest crime rates in this area and are rated quite well as compared to national figures.
You may also be interested to know as a gay man that this area is pretty gay-friendly (maybe because the universities here tend to attract a more liberal-minded crowd). Duke University hosted the NC Pride festival on their campus this past year - an organization I volunteer with had a booth there and we all had a really good time.
This is only about 10 miles away from where I live. From there, I’d suggest paying a visit to the American Tobacco District campus if you’ll be coming when the weather is warm. There are a number of restaurants there and you can stroll through the campus and get something to eat - depending on when you go, there may be performers in the main gathering area too. The Durham Bulls baseball park is right there too, but I’m thinking you aren’t a sport fan, correct?
Another place to visit in Durham is Ninth Street. This is right by the Duke University Campus. My favorite restaurant there is George’s Garage and the Regulator Bookshop is a must.
If you are up for BBQ, you also won’t be too far away from Allen and Son. I pass by this place every day on my way to work. It’s a hole in the wall but the BBQ is fab-u-lous.
I recall that you like theater, so you might want to catch a play at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham too. There’s also the Carolina Theater, which has movies and various sorts of live productions.
If you are more interested in Raleigh stuff, email me and I’ll look up some more things, plus feel free to ask any other questions you want. These are just the first things that came to mind as being within a reasonable distance of Bennett Place. This area has a pretty good music scene, too, and I can tell you more about that if you like as well.