Greensboro/Raleigh NC questions

I’m considering grad work in Greensboro and in Raleigh NC. (I’ve been accepted in Raleigh, haven’t heard from Greensboro one way or another, but since they’re a relatively short drive one from the other I figure I’ll save money and see them both in the same trip.) Some questions for Dopers with familiarity of either place:

— What should I reasonably expect to pay for a decent 2 BR apartment or duplex in either place? (Middle class, not luxury but not slums)

—What’s traffic like (especially if you can compare it to another metropolitan area like, say, Atlanta)?

—If you’re not from there, what did you like most/least about the area upon moving there?

—Can a decent small house be had for the $80K range? (Townhouse or condo is fine- preferred, even)

— Is there a crime problem compared to other cities?

—Any attractions/restaurants you’d particularly recommend seeing while there? (The only place that’s on my “must do” list is Bennett Place in Durham as I’m a bit of a Civil War geek.)

I can get all the stats and figures from the Internet, of course, but they rarely tell as much about a place as the residents can. Feel free to email if you’d rather not post in the thread.



FWIW I’ll pop in with some opinions. Background: I grew up in Charlotte and spent two years in Chapel Hill (between Raleigh and Greensboro). I also worked awhile at the Raleigh News and Observer, although that was a few decades ago. So, consider my opinions to be secondhand and aged. If my advice contradicts that from someone living there now, go with them.

Generally, Raleigh is bigger than Greensboro, and being near the Research Triangle area (between Durham and Raleigh) saw a lot of growth in the last few decades. More than Greensboro. It’s not on the order of Atlanta growth, or even Charlottes, but there’s a lot of it there. Fortunately, due to the flat geography, there’s still a wide variety of homes in various price ranges.

What I remember from the area is that it’s bleeding hot a lot of the time. Summers were miserable (and I grew up in Charlotte, remember).

I think you’ll find traffic to be more bearable in Greensboro than Raleigh, but Raleigh has a heck of a lot more to do. And what you can’t find to do in Raleigh, you can in Durham and Chapel Hill. In that area, you have three major colleges (N.C. State, Duke and UNC), so you get an intense vibe from that. And March Madness can be an absolutely insane time of the year!

As for attractions, I’m coming up dry in the Civil War area. Virginia, of course, has the battlefields (and you can reach them from I-95), and the South Carolina coast has Sumter. Not a whole heck of a lot happened in central N.C.

That said, I liked the area a lot. If I had my druthers, I’d move back to Charlotte.

I just moved to Raleigh, so I’ll try to answer your questions as much as a newcomer can.

  • We live in a 2 Bdr/2 Ba apartment in North Raleigh and pay just under $800/month. That was comparable to what we found in other N. Raleigh and Cary locations (convenient for my husband’s job). This complex is pretty middle class (not too fancy), but very quiet and I feel safe here.

  • I grew up and went to school in the D.C. area - compared to that, traffic is a breeze. There is definitely gridlock at rush hour, but it keeps moving, at least as far as I’ve seen.

  • What I like most about the area is the huge variety of stuff to do. We moved here from a small town on the Central Coast of Australia (and lived just south of Myrtle Beach before that), so you can take that whichever way you want. I love that the universities are here, there are tons of free museums, lots of festivals, great shopping, and a good variety of restaurants. I would say the big draw to the area are the recreation and outdoor activities. What don’t I like? I’m not sure, but I would say offhand, it would be the competitive Mommies and keeping up with the Jones’ feel, but that’s just my first impression so far.

  • We’re househunting at the moment and it seems that in the areas we’re looking, the prices are right around $110/sq ft. You can get a decent house at around $150-$180k (decent by my standards). We’ve seen some nice townhouses in the $130k range. That’s in Wake County and fairly close in (inside 540). If you get a little further out, or over into Durham County, prices aren’t as high. We saw a killer BEAUTIFUL 3 Bdr house over near Duke that I just fell in love with: granite counters, refurbished hardwood floors, arched doorways, great deck, etc. for about $150k, but it was in a really sucky area (right near the dorms and a student apartment complex). Not good for us (with two little kids), but maybe you’d be more open to options like that.

  • I can’t really comment on the crime - I just don’t know - but, like I said, I feel safe. We take the normal precautions of locking our doors and staying aware.

  • I can’t really comment on local attractions too much either - we’re just starting to do a few fun things (after our huge moving experience and all the househunting we’ve been doing).

If you come to Raleigh, I’d really like to meet you!

Typically the most complete housing listings are in the Saturday News & Observer. If you end up settling on Raleigh, let me know your address by e-mail and I’ll send a copy down. Looking at a month-ago paper that came quickly to hand:

[ul][li]Unlikely you’ll find a decent house for sale in that range.[/li][li]Unfurnished 2BR apartments seem to range around $600 and up.[/li][li]2BR townhouses seem to center on $800, ranging from $695 to $975 on the sample I pulled out.[/li][li]My experience is that traffic is very good compared to the average metropolitan area, with the exception of certain main streets/roads at rush hour. Having survived a trip thru Atlanta, I’d far prefer Raleigh driving (and will happily give you routes around the more congested roads for your tour).[/li][li]Raleigh is* mostly* urban New South in attitude, generally more liberal than the small upstate New York city I grew up in. :wink: But classic Old South bigotry lurks, and sometimes bites when you don’t expect it.[/li][li]Raleigh sprawls more than the average city – while there is a downtown, 90% of businesses are outlying, not necessarily in concentrated areas but scattered. Public transportation exists but is a bad joke, by and large. Hence a car is pretty much a necessity unless you are able to rent near campus (I presume your grad. program is at N.C State) and will have no major need or want to go elsewhere (restaurants, clubs, etc.).[/li][li]Crime is low-moderate – there are areas you don’t want to go, and regular news items of violent crime, but by and large most of the city is safe and comfortable nearly all the time.[/li][li]Mild-to-chilly winters by Southern standards (days in the 40s, sometimes freezing at night) and long hot summers – 90 degree days with high humidity. [/li][li]There are excellent museums, a small but vibrant arts, theatre, and music community, in general the accouterments you expect of a somewhat larger city. From what I’ve gathered the gay community has sparse resources but they are there: a gay (non-porn) bookstore, a few clubs, a MCC, etc.[/li][li]There are no standout tourist attractions that come quickly to mind.[/ul][/li]
If more questions come to mind, write.


[li]Unfurnished 2BR apartments seem to range around $600 and up.[/li][li]2BR townhouses seem to center on $800, ranging from $695 to $975 on the sample I pulled out.[/QUOTE][/li]

:eek: That’s probably true right in downtown Raleigh, but you can definitely live within the city limits for far far less than that.

Here’e a website we’ve been using to You have to register, but it has a good variety and good descriptions, plus virtual tours.

I live in Chapel Hill, so I can’t say much about rent and home pricing in Raleigh, but I can answer some of your other questions.

Pretty bad, although I don’t know how it compares to Atlanta. One of the things I like least about living here is that public transportation is severely lacking; there are occasional buses, but no commuter rail, and I-40 tends to be miserable at rush hour.

I think the combination of minimal public transit and unchecked growth is the worst thing about the area in general. There’s a lot of cookie-cutter suburban strip-mall wasteland, especially around Raleigh, and the occasional ice storms tend to bring everything to a halt since nobody is used to dealing with winter. That’s really about all the bad stuff I can think of – generally, it’s a good place to live, with nice weather and a fair amount of cultural stuff going on. All three universities host performing arts series, and tickets are usually reasonably priced, especially with a student I.D.

No more than anywhere else.

The N.C. Museum of Art is pretty good, and the Duke University campus is absolutely gorgeous, with a stunning chapel.

You know what, sorry about that. You meant per month (rent) didn’t you? I thought you meant $600k to buy.

And, while I’m apologizing, I’ll fix my link, too.

Hey Sampiro,

I did my grad school work in Greensboro, and now live in a suburb (Summerfield).

IMHO, RDU has much more to do and see than Greensboro, whether it be clubs, culture, or shopping. Once I got married and had a daughter, however, I learned to love the (relatively) slow, rural life of Summerfield. Work’s a 20-minute commute on a bad day. My daughter’s school is within walking distance. If we could get a bagel shop, I’d never leave.

Good luck with your grad school search. Drop me a line if there’s anything I can help with: len at touring plans dot com.

If you’re interested in North Carolina civil war sites, you should check out this website which has a pretty good driving tour of Sherman’s march through the Carolinas. I’d also recommend a trip out to New Bern (about three hours from Raleigh), which was actually taken by the Union in one of the few successes for the North in the opening months of action and remained in Northern hands throughout the war. They also have the colonial governor’s mansion fully restored (maybe not your timeframe, but still cool!)

I grew up in a small town about an hour from Raleigh. I love having decent grocery stores, high speed internet access, and cable. I’m not much of a shopper, but there are plenty of malls and stores within a reasonable distance from where I live. Someone else mentioned the sprawl, and I’ll agree that the box store/strip mall/McMansion explosion has created some unsightly areas (Cary has one of the longest, largest continuous strip malls I’ve ever seen). The traffic on 440 doesn’t affect me much; I made it a point to learn various back routes soon after I moved here.

For housing…I’m not familiar with apartment pricing in the area. Older condos and townhomes can be found in the low $100s. Housing in general is noticably more expensive inside the beltline (440).

The RBC Center attracts a wide variety of events (Monster Trucks and concerts!). Of course, it also hosts NC State men’s basketball and the Carolina Hurricanes (seeing the stands full of soccer moms in hockey attire is stragely amusing to me).

Dining, speaking as a former undergrad: my favorite places are Amedeo’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Tripps (if you like frozen margaritas). Avoid the Waffle House and Applebees on Hillsborough Street.

Every Christmas, WRAL (Channel 5) completely lights their tower, complete with a big star on top. The lights stay in place year round, so they just have a big lighting ceremony. It’s quite a thing to see.

Moved from GQ to IMHO.


I moved from Greensboro about a year and a half ago.

80K is going to be on the low end for a house or townhouse right in town. Our house was in the $130K range, and they were building so many houses in that price range that we weren’t able to sell it for any more than we paid for it after three years. If you don’t mind a little bit of a drive, you can get more house for your money in one of the surrounding counties.

Traffic is really not bad at all. GBO is spread out enough that you don’t have everyone going in the same direction at the same time. (Of course, I moved there from the traffic nightmare that is Lexington, KY, so nothing would have seemed that bad.)

I didn’t notice crime being a particular problem.

Try some Vietnamese food. (Long story as to why GBO is a destination for Vietnamese food.) There’s a place called Saigon on High Point Road that’s probably my favorite spot in town.

I’ve commuted in the D.C., St. Louis, Boston, and San Francisco Bay, and Raleigh areas. IMHO Raleigh is a breeze. There are parts of 40 which well-and-truly suck to drive on, but there are plenty of relatively uncongested alternate routes & secondary roads. I’d recommend the north / north-east side of Raleigh (But avoid Capital Blvd.)

As far as prices go, there are a lot of brand-spanking-new subdivisions right now with unoccupied homes because the supply exceeded the demand. I don’t know what 80K will get you, but it seems like a good time to buy.

Truthfully I think Raleigh is a boring city, but then again I’ve spent most of my adult life in Washington DC and Boston - two cities with a hell of a lot to see & do. But there are art & science museums, plenty of camping areas, and the mountains & beaches are both reasonably close by. Throw in the occasional dope-fest & you should be able to occupy your time :smiley:

Hope this helps,

Sampiro, I sent you an e-mail.

Sampiro, are you going to do anything at UNC-Greensboro, my alma-mater?

Let me tell you this. Greensboro is one big suburb. Sort of (ie, mind-numbingly) boring, but gently pleasant. However, the Revolutionary Battle of Guildford Courthouse occurred just north of town. Greensboro is named for General Green, the patriot general of that battle. UNCG does provide a rather liberal leaning bastion of learning if that’s any help. There are other smaller colleges like Greensboro College and Elon nearby. Traffic wasn’t really that bad to me since, like C3, I also grew up in the DC area. But when March Madness is in effect, the Greensboro Coliseum is the center of gridlock.

My parents live in Raleigh but I had never been to that city before they moved there. Like Greensboro, it is pleasant in a suburban kind of way, but the mindset there is definately one of movers and shakers. Raleigh is very concious that it’s THE CAPITAL and takes itself seriously. This translates to my outsider view as a rather yuppie atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of DC.

Really? I lived in Raleigh for seven years (initially for grad school) and now Cary for two. I was never aware of any “We’re the Capital” mentality. Perhaps your parents hang with an elite crowd to get that impression. Do they live “inside the beltline” by chance? The majority of the North Raleigh soccer moms and dads are more concerned with the state of the local school system than state governance. I will grant that there is a certain yuppy contingent buying $$$$ condos downtown but that is a relatively new phenomenon.

Sampiro, I would agree with what others have said about real estate, although I would skip the paper listings and head to a realtor’s website such as . I found being able to search, sort, and map much more user friendly.

Traffic overall isn’t bad, especially if you will be mainly traveling within the city. The biggest hangups tend to be traveling in/out of RTP at rush hour but you should be able to avoid that and it is nowhere as bad as I have heard Atlanta is anyway (as long as it isn’t snowing).

I grew up in upstate NY suburbia and the thing I most liked about Raleigh was having so much within a short drive, but that is more a suburb vs city thing than Raleigh specific. I do like being within a couple hours drive of the beach and the mountains.

Crime in Raleigh isn’t particularly noteworthy. Sure there are some rough areas but they are mainly in the “historic” (i.e. dilapidated) areas of the city. Here or way out in the boonies would be your only chance of an $80K house. There do tend to be some panhandlers on Hillsborough St by NCSU, but I don’t think they usually give anyone much trouble.

I can’t think of any must-sees. There are a lot of nice parks and such but this isn’t a great time of year for them. The art museum is pretty nice as well as the museum of natural history. If you like seriously overpriced steaks, the Angus Barn off of 70 near the airport is a Triangle institution.

The Angus Barn. YUM. But I also like Don Murrays homestyle buffet. Probably a prime health code violator, but deeeelicious.

I have to admit that my impression of Raleigh as a self-important city is mainly due to the media. The local news particularly. They do like to dramaticize every little thing in the the RDU region. My folks are just outside of 540 NW of the city.

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.

Sampiro, I sent you an email.

Hell, Sampiro, I just found this thread! If I’d seen it sooner, I wouldn’t have bothered with my Cary, NC, thread!

If we both end up down there, the coffee is on me!