I've only visited Asheville and frankly it's been a few years and I live in Chapel Hill. Personally, I would pick Asheville if I could find a job. DH would move in a heartbeat. He's drawn to the mts, though, and that would be nearly enough for him there. I'll try to rate your areas of interest...- pretty crunchy area.
Asheville could make a case for being the crunchiest place in the Southeast. Raleigh definitely has areas of crunch, but doesn't have the crunchy reputation that Ashevegas has. Carrboro and Chapel Hill have a lotta crunch, too. Durham has a fair amount, too. Raleigh is, of course, much bigger than Chapel Hill/Carrboro, and it has the accompanying sprawl, but has cool stuff going for it, too. On a scale of 1-10 crunchiness I would give Asheville a 8.5 (gotta leave some room for the uber crunchy cities like Portland), Chapel Hill/Carrboro an 8 or 8.5, and Raleigh a 6.5 or 7, Durham a 7. My hometown gets a 2, fwiw.
Chapel Hill/Carrboro is very liberal in a college town kinda way (way more Obama supporters than McCain — in fact I don't think I've seen a McCain sticker or sign). Durham is liberal in a college town + blue-collar + African American + urban kinda way. There are more McCain supporters there because it's a bigger town, but it always goes blue and often extremely decisively so. Raleigh is leaning more left lately, but there are plenty of moderates and plenty of Republicans. They're likely to go Obama this election, but Wake county voted for Bush in the last two presidential elections. They have a progressive mayor now.
I think Asheville itself is pretty/very liberal, but the surrounding area outside the city is likely to have plenty of folks like you meet in SC. I just checked on epodunk and Buncombe county (Asheville's county) went narrowly for Bush the last two elections also. Durham county and Orange county (Chapel Hill/Carrboro's home county) went for Kerry and Gore decisively.- decent job availability.
I recently posted a link to an article I read that said 12,000 new folks have moved to Raleigh (not the triangle in general) in the last year. I think the job scene is pretty good here. I've heard it can be trickier in Asheville, but I've no first hand info there.- college where I could do some grad work
. Plenty of those in the triangle. In Raleigh you've got NC State, Meredith, St Augustines, Shaw, Wake Tech, and probably a few others I left out. In Durham you've got Duke, NC Central, Durham Tech. In Chapel Hill, UNC. In or near Asheville you've got UNC-Asheville, Asheville-Buncombe Tech, Warren Wilson. Not too far away are Mars Hill, Montreat and a bit further away Western Carolina (WCU might be too far, not sure).- good educational opportunities for the kids.
Can't speak too much to Raleigh on this, but I think the public schools have a pretty good reputation. The Chapel Hill/Carrboro public schools have an excellent reputation. Durham public schools I've heard mixed things about, but most folks I know who go there are pretty satisfied. They have some interesting charter schools and magnets. Plenty of Montessori to go around. There are a lot of Waldorfy preschools/nurseries around CH/Carrboro/Durham. There's a Waldorf school in Chapel Hill and a variety of private schools in CH/C-Durham. There's also a very big and active secular and inclusive homeschooling community.
On Asheville, I've heard good things about their schools, but couldn't really tell you any details. I'm sure some of the Asheville mamas could, though. I think it's sort of a magnet deal with some schools?- pretty, hilly, not a flat void.
Well, you know about Asheville. Beautiful.
Raleigh's no Asheville, but it has its moments. In general IMHO the piedmont terrain is prettier than the coastal plain/sandhills terrain until you get all the way to the beach. There's a nice mix of hardwoods and pines — definitely more deciduous trees than further south and east (where I'm from btw). There's a thread at city data with pictures that might be helpful — http://www.city-data.com/forum/ralei...hill-cary.html
. I haven't looked at them. In general Chapel Hill, especially campus, is very photogenic. There are hills here (a lot in my neighborhood). It's nice—not Asheville—but nice.
hth — I think the triangle area is worth a look, but if I could find a job in Asheville I'd probably go that way if I was just starting out. Right now we've been in Chapel Hill 20 years and I'm finding the thought of moving west a bit daunting, plus I don't like cold weather and it is colder in Asheville. The triangle is hot in the summer (doesn't bother me much since I'm a lizard
) and up and down in the winter (70 one day in January and barely above freezing the next week). You'd get more snow in Asheville and a less hot summer, though still plenty warm (80s most likely, maybe an occasional 90 vs high 80s+low 90s here with an occasional 100+ in Raleigh and the triangle).
ETA: I like www.epodunk.com
for poking around and learning stats on different areas.