I went to dinner the other evening and noted that nearly 50% of the license plates in the parking lot were Florida plates. We get that a lot up here in the North Carolina High Country. It’s a nice place to visit. And to relocate.
My life’s roots are pretty straightforward: DC > MD > FL > NC. After nearly three decades of living in the Sunshine State, I transitioned about two years ago full-time to the Appalachians.
The Case For Florida
I loved living in Florida — South Florida, to be precise. It’s one of the most popular destinations in the country, and it’s easy to see why. Though they are engaging cities on so many levels, there is much more to South Florida than just West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Up and down both Florida coasts are cities and towns with beautiful beaches, unique shops, excellent culinary options, oodles of entertainment choices, lively nightlife scenes, and some of the most striking real estate in the USA.
Bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and the other by the Gulf of Mexico, it’s easy to understand the allure of this particular paradise. One doesn’t have to worry about snow and brrrr in the Sunshine State. You may have heard, too, that the state is a favorite retirement destination. It’s also home to Mickey and his mates. And Florida’s tax structure is one of the most favorable in the USA — it is one of only nine states with no state income tax, and its corporate tax rate of only 5.5% is beneficial for businesses.
What’s not to like about living the Florida life? As the late Jimmy Buffett says, “If there is a heaven for me, I’m sure there is a beach attached to it.”
The Florida defense rests.
The Case For North Carolina
After 14 years as a part-time North Carolina homeowner and two years as a full-time resident, I fully appreciate — and endorse — the migration to the Tar Heel State, particularly to the High Country.
First, there are the seasons. Four of them, to be exact, each with its own distinct seasonal appeal. Each season is an unambiguous signal that you’re not stuck. Sceneries change vividly with the seasons here in the mountains, along with changes in coping clothing. I have come to understand that if you know only the sizzle of the summer, you are poor. Every season in North Carolina is a reset from the last — a new landscape painted for the mind and the soul.
Unlike “flat” Florida, North Cackalacky boasts diverse landscapes, from the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains to stunning coastal areas. The highest elevation in Florida is Britton Hill at only 345 feet. (The ubiquitous Mount Trashmores don’t count.) The spectacular changing of the foliage colors in the fall and skiing opportunities in the winter are mountain draws for North Carolina, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west.
John Muir’s “The mountains are calling, and I must go!” quote is a simple but flawless characterization. North Carolina’s elevations are a source of awe and beauty. With every mile traversed, panoramas change. The majesty of the mountains is, truly, year-round magic.
Like palm trees in Florida. But not.
Needless to say, you can only truly compare these two states if you talk about the weather. You’ll get no argument from me that, in winter, the peeps who are smiling generally live in Florida. Life’s a beach. In Florida, they salt margaritas, not sidewalks.
It’s actually August’s weather that inspired me to pen this blog. Florida’s temps have been hotter than a jalapeño’s armpit — 90-100F+ temperatures and matching humidity numbers have been layered onto most Floridians for weeks at a time. Those of us living here in the High Country this month have gutted our way through nighttime temps in the 50-60F range and daytimes ranging from 70-80F. The average yearly relative humidity in, say, Ashville, is 76.
Granted, we’ve both experienced pretty wet springs and summers.
Roughly speaking, you have four months of “outdoor” weather in Florida versus 7-8 months in North Carolina. Yes, winter in the Appalachians can be rugged, but significant dumps of the white stuff are not frequent. Residents prepare. And layer. Boone, the largest town near me, typically receives on average 25 inches of snowfall annually, far higher than the lowland areas in the rest of North Carolina.
Though I never failed to experience delightful Christmases in the Sunshine State, I always felt it bizarre at Christmas for it to be sweltering outside. Want to click a picture-perfect snapshot for the Yuletide? Spend the holidays in the Appalachians.
And then there are those 14-21 named storms that always seem to be forecasted for the Sunshine State. North Carolina also has an abundance of coastline, presenting a more temperate climate. There, it does not get as cool in the winter and not as warm in the summer as the rest of the state. But, to be sure, hurricanes track to NC’s coast.
Ones Both The Same
Look, I get it. Like most anywhere else in this great country, FL and NC have both appealing and not-so-desirable characteristics. Each state presents a unique lifestyle, each subject to one’s interests, yearnings and viewpoints.
The two states actually have a lot in common. Abundant opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and water sports. Wonderous and unforgettable state parks, national forests, and scenic byways. Cute “walking” towns. Enviable beaches. Local festivals, art galleries, music venues, and historical sites. Outstanding local cuisine.
FL has surfing and jet skiing. So, too, does NC … and also snowboarding and skiing.
Both states are home bases for some of the country’s most rabid sports fans, professional and college.
Both states offer an excellent quality of life.
Both states have goober governors.
I’ve been blessed to make wonderful acquaintances and friendships in both states.
That said — Winner Winner Chicken Dinner (or barbecue)! — North Carolina is known for its welcoming communities. The Tar Heel State prides itself on a strong sense of Southern hospitality, offering a rich cultural tapestry with a blend of traditional Southern heritage and diverse influences.
Folks’ personal warmth is abundant and genuine in the High Country. Perhaps that’s because Florida is only “south” in the north, whereas North Carolina is “south south.”
One Man’s Verdict
Both states present a strong case for relocation and permanent living. I reckon that’s why there are snowbirds amongst us.
I have always embraced the view that you are where you’re supposed to be. So we’ll call it a tie … depending, of course, on your personal preference. Life needs more sweet tea and sunshine. So let’s embrace’em both.
But, for me, right now, the choice is clear. “I’m going to Carolina. I’m going to Carolina in my mind.” Well said, Sweet Baby James.