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Carly's avatar

What is a good Southern (American) city to live in?

Asked by Carly (4360 points ) May 28th, 2011

I’ve been thinking about living somewhere in the South after graduation. I’ve spent a few weeks here and there in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida, but only in really rural areas, which I’m not very interested in

I’m wondering if you could tell me about cities you’ve lived in, and what they’re like.
Thank you. :)

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21 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Knoxville pretty much rocks. The Smoky Mountain National Park isn’t that far away, there are some cool shops and clubs, and there is a thriving local art and music scene.

In before people start making ignorant and judgmental statements about the south.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

Things to do, places to go and people to see. Colleges and technology companies galore.

bob_'s avatar

[ THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK ]

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@bob_

No more bourbon for you.

Blackberry's avatar

Everyone seems to like various modern cities in NC.

TexasDude's avatar

Also, I’ve never lived there, but Nashville, TN, and Asheville, NC are very cool.

Carly's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard, Asheville is definitely on my list of cities/towns to check out this summer. Thanks

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Could you tell us more about what you would like? Is there a particular field of work you are interested, or is job opportunities not a concern? Any particular activities? Would a partner or children be coming with you? What about cost? And how large might be too large?

Carly's avatar

I’m interested in working as a middle/highschool teacher until I finish my MA in Library studies.
I am currently not dating anyone and I do not have kids. My only preferences are that I would like to live in a city that has a lot of large trees, also, I really like wet/humid weather.

chyna's avatar

Savanna, GA, Charleston, NC, Charlotte, NC, Hilton Head, SC (my personal favorite)

WasCy's avatar

I’ve only visited Birmingham, Alabama (Birminhm), and only for a long weekend, but I enjoyed it a lot. In three days I found a great Vietnamese, a great Chinese and a great Greek restaurant (among other things).

Brian1946's avatar

I’ve heard that Austin, Texas is relatively progressive.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It might be worth looking into Charlottesville, Virginia or Richmond, Virginia. Both cities have large trees, depending upon where one choses to live, and since both are east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and west of the Atlantic Ocean, they can get pretty humid without the risk of hurricanes. Both are a short distance from the mountains and the ocean, which is a perk.

Both cities are the homes of reputable universities, although I don’t know if they offer MA programs in Library studies.

marinelife's avatar

Fredericksburg, VA is an adorable small city. It is a college town.

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Tuesdays_Child's avatar

Little Rock, AR and the surrounding suburbs are great areas!

obvek's avatar

I’m looking at your question and the responses, and I feel like there’s an enormous blind spot with respect to the wide range of cultural norms that are to be found among southern cities. Maybe you don’t know enough to be aware of this, or maybe it really isn’t an issue for you (or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about), but in my experience it has been the difference between loving one place and struggling to adapt in another.

Along one continuum, some places can be rather churchy and others more places to party. My own experience is that I loved living in New Orleans (where I grew up) but never was able to feel settled in Chapel Hill (i.e. the Triangle). Comparatively, North Carolina felt significantly more rigid socially or societally, and New Orleans felt way more alive and definitely embraced (and embraces) a looser culture.

Anyway, I suggest you give that some thought somewhere in the process. In the meantime, here’s my rundown. All of these places have large trees and humid/wet weather (although much of the South is in a drought these days)...

Austin- tragically hip, very young, one of the largest universities in the U.S. (undergrad enrollment is something like 70,000), lots of orange wearing longhorn fans, hip/metro mecca for music and food, lots of recreational water areas from a river that is dammed to create a number of lakes, good green space, bad traffic, state capitol stuff (state buildings, government activity), rolling hills/hill country and lots of limestone buildings; the interesting thing about Austin is that it kind of blends the hip food, fashion and music culture with the cowboy and down home comfort food aesthetics; it’s a liberal island in a sea of red that is the rest of Texas. Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin among other big companies.

New Orleans- alive and breathing with soul, beauty, love, tragedy, death and decay. This city celebrates everything with practiced and ritualized abandon. Its problems are sources of entertainment and endearment most of the time, but locals now see for the first time a lot of the corruption being swept away finally, and that is giving long-time residents a real breath of fresh air. Film and television are booming there currently because of generous tax incentives. New Orleans also has a robust Catholic school system, which is different, I believe, from most other cities.

Biloxi- Is probably a bit more on the churchy side, although the waterfront is now home to 9 casinos including a full-sized Hard Rock. Biloxi is right on the gulf, which means miles of beachfront. Biloxi is also home to an Air Force base and close to a NASA facility (the Stennis Space Center). During Katrina, Biloxi took on a 30–40 foot storm surge for 12 hours, so lots of beachfront property was leveled, and there’s still evidence of this although they are rebuilding. I was really impressed to know that the Biloxi area was home to two very eccentric and prolific artists (George Ohr and Walter Anderson) who lived and worked in two different eras.

Memphis- Memphis reminds me a lot of New Orleans, except you have to substitute blues for jazz. Memphis has its act together in terms of having a decent spread of amenities and attractions, but it’s also kind of a relic and kept as a museum to its heyday in the 50s and 60s where it gave birth to Rock & Roll and was integral to the civil rights movement. FedEx has its world headquarters in Memphis and basically owns the airport from 10 p.m. until morning. If fact, Memphis is one of only a few aerotropolises in the world which means that an ungodly amount of stuff passes through. This means that Memphis gets a lot of culture passing through.

Chapel Hill/Durham (and Raleigh)- This area certainly has a critical mass of universities, pharmaceutical companies, scientific research, technology ventures, and barbecue, but North Carolina, to me, runs a little weird in its day to day operations. These might be petty complaints, but you can’t buy liquor anywhere but a state sanctioned liquor store; the place where you get a driver’s license is called “Driver’s License”—like this is the name on the building presumably because people are too dumb to understand “Department of Motor Vehicles”; and the popular grocery chain when I was there was called Harris Teeter and their produce was abysmal. That area of North Carolina is also tobacco country, so there’s legacy there if not current influence. Chapel Hill is basically a college town dressed pretty well—UNC-CH is a well-funded and leading-edge school. Durham is a medium-sized mix of hip and broke down and is in all quite charming although not without visible tragic poverty and drug abuse. Duke University is also quite the institution although it is referred to as “the plantation” among cynic locals. They host a huge modern dance festival every summer, which is something to see. I don’t know as much about Raleigh, but the state university is in Raleigh.

Charlotte- banking epicenter, gigantic churches, manicured landscapes everywhere, not for me.

I don’t remember the trees in Tulsa, but I liked Tulsa alright. It has a lot of oil money, which funds the art, and there’s a river that runs through town or near town which is really nice for tubing in the summer.

Oklahoma City is very churchy and their most popular attraction is a monument to the time 168 people died from an act of domestic terrorism. Wow! Where do I sign up? OKC is now home to one of the best NBA teams in the country. Their hip area is called the Brickyard District, but it was dead when I rolled through town on a recent Sunday evening.

Wow, are you still with me? So here’s what I think this points to… I think different places in the South have different personalities and they can vary significantly. If I were you, I’d add “compatible personality” to my criteria and pay attention to what comes up as you start looking around. It really made a big difference for me.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@obvek The NC licensing is not all under the DOT.
The auto and truck licenses are from an independent ( read franchised organization ).
The drivers licenses are state DOT but under the counties

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@obvek I wholeheartedly agree with you on adding ‘compatible personality’ to the criteria. The cost of living should probably be another, and maybe even more so.

I have lived in Memphis for almost 20 years, and if it wasn’t for the job that I loved and the lower cost of living, I never would have stayed here this long. The behind-the-times culture that resides here is mind-boggling considering how large it is.

obvek's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer, can you elaborate on what you mean by “behind the times”? I’ve been (very casually) toying with the idea of Memphis as a place to live. I love to visit.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Please note that this is just one person’s opinion. When it comes to change, it just seems to slow down here. A banal example is when a new mall was being built in the outskirts of the city limit, and Nordstrom was interested in taking up residence. The message essentially was, “We aren’t ready for that.” I wish I could locate one of articles on it.

When the Houston Oilers moved to Memphis, I attended a couple of games. The attendance on the Memphis side was always paltry compared to the out-of-town team’s. The team didn’t last long here.

From what I understand, the public school system leaves a lot to be desired. A fair amount of co-workers either enroll their children in private schools or home-school them, depending upon time and/or funds.

In all these years of living in a city where the population is almost 50% black/50% white, I have only seen one interracial couple, and they relocated from Chicago. And it isn’t limited to couples…I don’t see people of different races going out to bars, shopping together, etc., as I have in other cities. I still hear a lot of, “I’m not racist, but…”

If I were in your shoes, I would study up on the school systems if you plan on teaching here and continue your own education. Again, please do not take my word to prevent you from considering Memphis.

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