Carolina Living: From the Coast to the Mountains — Life in the Carolinas offers excitement and culture for all
The Carolinas (both North and South) are welcoming an influx of new residents these days and who are discovering a way of life that’s about more than just warmer weather. But there’s not a single “Carolina lifestyle,” because each of the states’ distinctive regions have something special to offer.
The Lowcounty of South Carolina
The South Carolina Lowcountry stretches along the Atlantic coast from Georgetown County to the Savannah River and includes the historic city of Charleston, the towns of Walterboro, Beaufort and Bluffton, and barrier islands from Kiawah to Daufuski.
A big part of the Lowcountry lifestyle is on local dinner tables—the savory “Lowcountry cuisine.” A variety of factors have contributed to its evolution: an abundance of local seafood resources, especially shrimp and oysters; converted marshlands that were once home to America’s original rice industry; and the influences of Caribbean and African cultures. The result has been the creation of Lowcountry dishes like she-crab soup, okra gumbo, Frogmore stew, shrimp and grits, Hoppin’ John and chicken bog that make every evening meal a tasty adventure.
With a semi-tropical climate, outdoor recreations are an important contributor to the Lowcountry lifestyle. Scottish merchants established America’s first golf club in Charleston, and the region today is home to renowned resort layouts like Kiawah’s Ocean Course and Hilton Head’s Harbour Town Golf Links, as well as many other top-rated private residential courses, especially in the Charleston and Hilton Head areas.
Likewise, the mild year-round Lowcountry climate has made the area a destination for tennis players and tournament fans. Most of the region’s resorts offer tennis facilities and instruction, while Daniel Island in Charleston is the annual host of the Family Circle Cup, a major stop on the women’s professional tour.
Charleston is also the regional hub for cultural events that play a significant role in the Lowcountry lifestyle. In addition to numerous live-music venues around town and touring shows at the North Charleston Coliseum, the Spoleto Festival USA has been an international celebration of the performing arts in Charleston since 1977.
Upstate South Carolina
The Upstate region of South Carolina (also known as the “Upcountry”) derives its name from the higher elevations in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Home to the cities of Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson, the Upstate lifestyle is as much a product of its history as its topography.
While all Carolinians love their music, the strong Scots-Irish heritage in the Upstate seems to have produced a toe-tapping background melody everywhere you go. And not just the traditional bluegrass music so often heard in the states of greater Appalachia, though there’s plenty of that. The Upstate musical lifestyle also includes everything from the annual Blue Ridge Fest in Pickens, featuring golden-oldie performers, to the country-rock sounds of Spartanburg’s own Marshall Tucker Band to Broadway musicals and symphony orchestra performances at The Peace Center in Greenville.
In fact, a revitalized downtown Greenville has become a key component of the region’s lifestyle, with riverside nature trails, unique shops, restaurants, art museums and special attractions like “Shakespeare in the Park” performances. Open-air trolleys make it easy to get around, or the area can be explored on two wheels, as both Greenville and Spartanburg have been recognized as Bike-Friendly Cities by the League of American Bicyclists. The Upstate is also home to the USA Cycling Pro Championships.
But urban amenities are just a part of the Upstate lifestyle for folks who enjoy the great outdoors. There are more than 80 golf courses in the region, plus numerous highland streams for kayak/canoe trips and whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River. The fishing is also excellent in the crystal-clear mountain lakes. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails criss-cross the region, from leisurely state-park circuits to difficult climbs up steep slopes, some leading to one of more than 35 waterfalls in the area.
The North Carolina Mountains
While the South Carolina Upstate is a “foothills region,” the real mountains are found across the border in North Carolina. A significant stretch of the Appalachian Trail runs through the North Carolina mountains, along with hundreds of other highland trails, so hiking and camping are an important part of the region’s lifestyle. Mountain biking and horseback riding are also popular activities, as well as canoeing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. For residents who enjoy less strenuous pursuits, the local hillsides and valleys are home to numerous—and often spectacular—golf courses.
The region’s higher altitudes also make the North Carolina mountains perfect for those who love the winter-sports lifestyle. Snow skiing, snowboarding and ice skating are just a few of the cold-weather recreations that are available at a dozen destination resorts in the region.
However, the North Carolina mountain lifestyle is about much more than outdoor recreation. This is a region rich in culture and creativity, displayed at venues like The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone and the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum. Highlighting the region’s summer events calendar are the Grandfather Mountain Scottish Highland Games and Folkmoot USA, an international celebration of music and dance. The North Carolina Apple Festival in Hendersonville has been a fall tradition for more than 60 years, perhaps second only in popularity to the extraordinary autumn colors that are the signature image of the North Carolina mountain lifestyle.
The thriving city of Asheville offers residents a variety of urban lifestyle options, from the lively downtown area with its concert halls, art galleries and award-winning restaurants to the exquisite Biltmore Estate located just outside of town. And the mountain lifestyle can include visits to a one-of-a-kind Carolina destination at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.