I moved from New York City to North Carolina almost 2 years ago. Here are 7 things that surprised me most.
By Susie Heller,2023-05-28
- My partner and I left New York City and moved to Asheville, North Carolina.
- I was surprised our cost of living didn't drop too much, but I love having easy access to nature.
- The liquor laws in the city are very complex, but there are plenty of local breweries to check out.
I moved from New York City to Asheville, North Carolina, almost two years ago with my partner and our three-legged dog. Before deciding on Asheville, we considered over 100 cities.
We were able to whittle down our list by assessing each city by certain criteria. There were some things we loved about New York: high walkability, diverse population, LGBTQIA+ communities, and good food. And then there were the things that we wanted that New York lacked: access to nature, a slower pace of life, a smaller city size, and a rental market that included single-family homes.
We found all of that in Asheville — and more.
Almost two years later, I regularly say y'all, and I'm used to the city's quirks. But our first year in town was full of surprises that even our extensive planning spreadsheets couldn't predict.
I actually know my neighbors
I lived in three buildings over the course of four years in Brooklyn. In each building, I knew maybe one neighbor, and even then, most interactions were limited to head nods of recognition in the elevator or laundry room.
There were exceptions, of course. In March 2020, one of my building mates collected our emails so we could stay in touch during those first scary days of lockdown in New York. But I still found that most New Yorkers lived up to the busy and barely home stereotype — myself included.
When my partner and I moved into our place in Asheville, we were surprised when our neighbors approached us to say hello. Now as people have moved in and out, we always make sure to offer that same welcoming.
To be candid, the exchanged names and pleasantries here didn't turn into friendships, but they did create a sense of community on our tiny dead-end street. When I broke my wrist, a neighbor knocked on our door to check in and give me some plastic wrap so I could shower without damaging my cast.
New Jersey isn't the only US state I've lived in with scary driving conditions
Growing up in New Jersey, I was always scared of driving on the eight-lane Garden State Parkway — or worse, over the George Washington Bridge into New York City.
When we moved here, everyone assured me that driving in North Carolina would feel like child's play. But given that Asheville is nestled in the mountains, the driving here isn't exactly smooth sailing through flat lands.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for especially scenic views in the fall, but the road is certainly windy. Though the speed limit is 45 miles per hour, folks often speed down the small road, which doesn't have guard rails.
That said, with a capable driver behind the wheel, the views are well worth it.
I've found some amazing vegan food
Asheville is home to some really good food and seriously talented chefs. In 2022, Yelp even called it a top US foodie destination.
The food here is as good as everyone says it is — from the biscuits and gravy at Biscuit Head to the seasonal menu at Chestnut . But honestly, my favorite meals I've had have been at vegan restaurants.
Plant is hands-down the best restaurant in town, and it just happens to be vegan. Some vegan spots put meat substitutes center stage, but vegetables are (fittingly) the main attraction here. Start with the cheese plate, which features the local plant-based cheese brand Darë , and save room for scratch-made desserts.
The Trashy Vegan is a food truck-turned-restaurant with a small menu that consists of plant-based cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries along with a weekly, innovative special — like "corn ribs."
Rosetta's , a vegan soul-food spot, is another standout. The wide-spanning menu has something for everyone, from Buffalo cauliflower to a mind-blowing veggie burger. It would be remiss to talk about the restaurant without mentioning its pay-what-you-can, slide-scale meal, which consists of a plate of brown rice, pinto beans, and tortilla chips for $3 to $6.
Food entices people to visit the city, but the prices at some of Asheville's most acclaimed restaurants are deterrents for many locals. According to US census data , 12.4% of folks in Asheville fall below the poverty line. This menu item is really an act of community care that exemplifies how mutual-aid efforts keep the city's most vulnerable populations afloat.
The cost of living is high here, too
Living in New York , I became accustomed to high prices. See a movie for $20? Sure. Rent a windowless bedroom that doesn't have real walls for $900 a month? Sign me up. Grab a happy-hour beer for $10? A bargain.
I thought that leaving NYC would mean getting a lower cost of living, but I wasn't quite right. Asheville actually has the highest cost of living in all of North Carolina, according to Citizen-Times . That same 2021 report said rental costs have increased by over 58% since 2010.
We also ended up in a rental market that was almost as competitive as the one we left behind in New York.
The Asheville liquor laws are beyond confusing
North Carolina has some pretty strict laws around booze . For starters, you can only purchase liquor at the ABC Store. The stores are immediately recognizable with neon green signage and are operated by North Carolina's Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
I was used to buying alcohol at grocery stores and corner shops in New York City.
Whether you're out to eat or buying a six-pack with your groceries, North Carolina has strict rules around purchasing alcohol. From Monday to Saturday, alcohol can be purchased between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Previously, liquor could only be sold after 12 p.m. on Sundays, but the "brunch bill" in 2017 amended the law so liquor sales at restaurants could start at 10 a.m. ABC stores are closed on Sundays.
There are also rules related to alcohol pricing in bars and restaurants. Happy hours are prohibited as are any specials that give away "free" drinks — like buy-one, get-one deals. That said, establishments are allowed to promote drink specials that last all day rather than one hour.
What the city lacks in bars, it makes up for in breweries
In some cities, there's a Starbucks on every corner. In Asheville, that's true for craft breweries — there's a reason they call Asheville Beer City, USA.
The city is home to at least 30 breweries, all of which put their own twist on grain, hops, yeast, and water.
Craft beer has been a major part of the city since 1994 when Highland Brewing first opened. From local spots like Wicked Weed and Archetype to big names like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, there's no shortage of spots to grab a cold one.
The mountain air is healing
When we moved to North Carolina , we were intoxicated by the idea of having private outdoor space and the ability to spend time in nature, especially after living in New York City through 2020.
While in New York, it was a struggle to find outdoor space worth spending time in. Taking a midday break on a fire escape above a dumpster or on a residential roof where neighbors let their dogs pee wasn't exactly relaxing.
During the 1900s, Asheville was a health destination for those with tuberculosis , as doctors believed the mountain air and mild climate were healing, according to USA Today . The city had a number of "sanitariums" and boarding houses for those who were sick, and some officials even pushed for the construction of a national tuberculosis treatment center.
This healing property drew in Edwin Wiley Grove , a millionaire who made his fortune on pharmaceuticals, whose doctor suggested that the mountain air could help his health in 1888. By the late 1890s, Grove, inspired by the Biltmore Estate, broke ground for the luxe Omni Grove Park Inn . The craftsman-style resort boosted tourism and is still in operation today.
Even if it's just the ability to step outside and take a deep breath that doesn't smell like garbage, I think the mountain air definitely has some healing properties.Read the original article on Insider