When I moved to the Triangle almost five years ago, I knew almost nothing about it.
I’d spent three nights in Raleigh in my life—one as a college student, two for a job interview. My understanding of Durham was based on hazy recollections of a decades-old baseball movie, and I was aware of Chapel Hill’s existence only from watching college basketball.
Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.
And I’m still learning. But that, I discovered, is one of this region’s charms, and its greatest assets—you’ll never run out of things to explore.
So here are seven quick observations, suggestions, and things you should know to get started.
1. The Triangle could (should?) be its own state.
The Triangle’s combined statistical area—Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, plus the surrounding rural counties—comprises 5,510 square miles and more than 2.2 million people. In other words, we’re geographically larger than Delaware and have a larger population than fifteen states.
2. Never, ever say “Raleigh-Durham.”
The only acceptable use of that term is if it’s followed by the word “airport.” Raleigh and Durham are two very different places, separated by twenty-eight miles geographically and a good deal more culturally. Raleigh is a large small town trying to become a big city. Durham is a small big city with arts and culinary scenes that punch well above their weight; it somehow imported its politics from Berkeley.
3. You’ll find smart people here.
Thank the universities, or Research Triangle Park, or a startup culture that has blossomed in the last decade, or all of the above—but chances are, if you strike up a conversation with someone in a bar or coffee shop, it will be interesting.
4. You’ll find nice people here.
That person you strike up a conversation with will also probably be infallibly polite—maybe unnervingly so if you’re coming from the Northeast. Southern hospitality is a thing, y’all.
The Triangle is roughly equidistant from the mountains and the ocean—about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Topsail Beach and maybe three hours or so west to the mountains. So when you need to get away for a bit, you have options.
6. Eat everything.
For being a collection of midsize municipalities, the Triangle has a big-city collection of award-winning chefs: Ashley Christensen, Cheetie Kumar, Andrea Reusing, Matt Kelly, Scott Crawford, Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha, to name a few. But the excellence of our food scene extends beyond the big names. So eat up. And if you gain a little weight, we don’t judge (see number 4).
7. Go outside (when possible).
There’s a meme on Facebook about North Carolina’s seasons that I find mostly accurate. Per the meme, we don’t have four. We have twelve: Winter, Fool’s Spring, Second Winter, Spring of Deception, Third Winter, The Pollening, Actual Spring, Summer, Hell’s Front Porch, False Fall, Second Summer, and Actual Fall. The truth: Summer sucks; it’s like a hot, humid blanket of hostility is draped over the region. Winter usually sucks, too, though it’s a coin flip; you might get beautiful snow, or gross ice storms, or slushy rain. But the transitional seasons—spring and autumn—are perfect. I mean, perfect. When they come, take advantage of them: hike, bike, kayak, go to the Duke Gardens. Whatever your thing is, do it.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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