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Old 11-14-2009, 11:42 AM
 
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I'd love to get some feedback on the Wilmington area. I will be setting up an alternative health care business in the next year and feel like this area might be a good fit for me...

What is the general vibe of the town like? Is there a little bit of a hippie/laid back artsy sense to it or is there just a sense of 'old money' here? Any idea of what types of people flock to the area, age-wise and other-wise? I know there is UNCW, so that leads me to think there is still maybe a bit of a liberal feeling there, maybe some great restaurants and food? Is there a local farmers market? How is the surfing and what beaches are best? How big is the town? Are there other towns that might suit my needs better than this one given my above questions?

Additionally, what is the downtown like? How seasonal is it...can you feel the seasons changing or does it seem too far south for that still? How far of a drive is it to some decent hiking/ mtns?

(To give you some reference points on my experience, if this helps, I grew up in Western Massachusetts around the Amherst/Northampton area and have spent the past 5 years in FL (Daytona, New Smyrna Beach, Gainesville). I am hoping to find a town that has great restaurants, live music, markets, a general educated and liberal feel, all the while maintaining a great beach/surf feel with relative close proximity to mountains for good hiking. The mountains part is less important, but might as well be picky, right?

Thank you to all who offer your thoughts!!!
K
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Old 11-14-2009, 08:35 PM
 
Location: carolina in my mind
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I've either lived in or visited often the Wilmington area for the last 10 years. I'm currently in my early 40's. These are my experiences:

It has a more liberal feel than the majority of southern towns. It does have a hippie/laid-back/artsy side. (Of course, I'm that type, so I gravitated to those parts of the culture. However, I fit right in there - so it is present.)

I'm of the opinion that Wilmington has some very good restaurants - lots of ethnic choices, too, for such a small city.

There is a local farmer's market. There are also two good-sized health food stores that carry fresh local and organic produce.

I'm not sure of the size of the city. I think I read somewhere that the population of the city itself was somewhere around 100,000, but don't know how old that data was.

Wrightsville Beach is supposed to have some pretty good waves, so I hear. Not a surfer myself.....but I am aware that surfing is popular in the area.

Downtown has lots of clubs and restaurants, as well as a lovely riverwalk lined with shops and more clubs and restaurants. I'm not a club-person, so cannot speak for the nightlife, other than it seemed to be pretty college-age/20's dominant, from my observation. Although, I was in a couple of places that had live music more suited towards my generation. There is a vibrant live music scene in Wilmington, much of it due to the presence of the college, I'm sure. Love the downtown during the day!

You can feel the change of seasons some years more than others. Many winters I have spent there have been very warm, more like spring in the northern states - highs from mid-50's to mid-70's. And then again, winter of 2005, for example, was quite cold - seemed more like north of the Mason-Dixon line weather. BUT the cold weather snaps never last that long - winter is usually very short -- maybe a couple of months of colder weather. Spring and fall are the best times of the year - usually 70's and 80's and not so humid -- and not so crowded with tourists. Summer is HOT! End of story.

Your hiking trips may take awhile. I used to have an alternative health practitioner in Black Mountain. I lived about 45 minutes south of Wilmington at that time. It took me about 5 1/2 to 6 hours to get there. So, you're probably looking at somewhere in that range to the mountains - minimum maybe 4 to maximum of about 7 hours.

Speaking of alternative health practitioners... Wilmington seems to be very open to them. What kind of alternative health care do you do?
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Old 11-14-2009, 09:21 PM
 
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This is EXACTLY the kind of feedback I was hoping for! Thank you so so much for taking the time to write such a detailed and succinct response. I would love to get more of the same from others...

Would you say it picks up a lot during the summer and has a touristy feel? Is that when folks with $$ start to roll into town? I spent only a summer there and was younger so my perception and memory are likely not clear.

I am an acupuncturist, chinese herbalist, and medical qigong practitioner. Thank you for asking. And by the sounds of it, my services could be needed there if you had to jaunt 5 plus hours to get treatments.
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Old 11-14-2009, 09:42 PM
 
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The closest mountain town would be Boone which is 5 hours. I can make it to Durham in 2 hours and from Durham it takes me 3.5 hours to Asheville and 2.5 to Boone. I drive faster than most. Charleston SC is only 4 hours from the mountains. Charleston is bigger than Wilmington but my impression is that Wilmington is a bit more artsy and less touristy.

It is a very small city:

Population (2008) - City 75,838 - Density 1,849.8/sq mi (714.2/km2) - Urban 161,149 - Metro 347,012
but you are not far from RDU which offers a lot of culture. I like the downtown a lot and the river walk is a great addition I just discovered.

One other thing that I've noticed. The population seems extremely fit. Perhaps that is the youth of the area. It is very easy to strike up a conversation with a strange and people seem very happy and good nature.

The surfing is quite good for the east coast. It is similar to central florida. OBX is more consistent and has probably the biggest swells on the east coast. But Wilmington has a lot more charm than Kitty hawk.
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Old 11-14-2009, 10:54 PM
 
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Thank you so much, V. You guys are fantastic for getting back to me with such details! I'm so happy with all this feedback already....really appreciate you taking the time for me. Good karma to you!!!
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:34 AM
 
Location: on the Beach
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While I do not surf, from the people that i've talked to that do, the surfing is pretty good out on wrightsville. I always see quite a few people out there on the weekends and theres a good variety of local and chain surf shops. There are some people who prefer carolina beach (which is further south) to wrightsville, but for the most part the surfers that ive talked to like wrightsville's waves.

it's currently about 65 during the day and 50-55 at night, which I think is warm, other people tend to think this is cold though. during the summer it can get rather beastly hot, at the end of july through august seems to be the worst, it frequently got over 100* this past summer

the downtown area itself makes the town feel small and close-knit, but the surrounding area with its plethora of strip-malls seems typical of any middle-sized city. The downtown area has several good restaurants, and shopping areas. At night all of front street is a big bar area, drawing in the military and college students.

Hiking should be closer than 7 hours, since you can get to Atlanta in 7 hours. It just depends on what kind of hiking you want to do. Most people around here are active, but there's a lot of biking or running. There was more of a gradual change in seasons it seems like, and not a lot of typical fall like weather.

In the summer there are a lot of tourists. But near the end of September some places cut back on their hours etc due to a lack of tourists. this seems to be truer for some of the food places especially, which open extended hours only in the summer months.

I personally miss a lot of things in wilmington. I've lived in smaller cities up north that had more, but it's a fun place, is close to a nice beach (wrightsville) and has a decent cost of living. I'm not sure what the market is for alternative health businesses, but you should probably come visit and see for yourself if you like it or not.
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Old 11-15-2009, 04:02 PM
 
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Again, amazing & helpful feedback! Thank you all again so very very much...

I have to figure that even when it is hot in the summer you get a nice coastal breeze, right? What do you think? In Gainesville, FL now (central FL) and it feels like I'm living in a pot of soup for most of the summer. Nothing like the time I spent living on the coast of FL for sure...

I'll have to check the market out and visit the town to get a feel, but this is truly a great start so far.
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:44 PM
 
Location: Raleigh, NC
10,401 posts, read 19,425,752 times
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Quote:
I am hoping to find a town that has great restaurants, live music, markets, a general educated and liberal feel, all the while maintaining a great beach/surf feel with relative close proximity to mountains for good hiking. The mountains part is less important, but might as well be picky, right?
You are aware that Wilmington is a good FIVE HOURS from the mountains, right? Nowhere in the southeast are you going to find both beaches and mountains within an easy drive--have you looked at California/west Coast? I suspect CA would have a much greater demand for alternative medicine, as well.

Wilmington is kind of small, and despite the college kids, I wouldn't say it's known for being especially liberal (although NC's only openly lesbian state senator is from there!). You might look a tad farther south at Charleston, SC, which is a decidedly larger city, and I get the impression that College of Charleston is more liberal and UNC-Wilmington (based solely on the folks I've known who went to each).
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Old 11-15-2009, 10:23 PM
 
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Hi and thank you, Francois! While I don't think I could transform myself to becoming a west-coaster, I DO think Charleston could be a good option as well. Can you (or anyone else here) tell me more about it and compare it more to Wilmington??? THX!
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Old 11-16-2009, 07:18 AM
 
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before we moved to wilmington we carefully considered charleston as well.
my husband and i would fall under the liberal, crunchy granola types.
charleston is very touristy , can hardly call wilmington that, although we have a good amount
of people coming year round to visit the coast. charleston also has more of a deep southern old money feel to it, it has more upscale shops and a much prettier downtown area.
charleston has no easy acces to beaches, very hard to find parking , [ some may insist the same about wilmington area beaches , we just have never had a problem] and surfing is better around here.
kitesurfing is what my husband is into . on top of that wilmington has a more laid back regular city feel to it , great choice of music venues , has the greatest radio station we have ever listened to, the penguin.
we looove charleston but mainly for a fun place to visit.
wilmington area provides several beaches where you can drive your four wheel frive car onto.
there is a difference between the feel of the beaches , nc being more rugged .
wrightsville beach is host to several surfing contest every summer.

i would def. say that wilmington seems more liberal leaning than charleston.
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