The 6 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Raleigh Answered

If you are thinking about moving to Raleigh, you likely have some questions. And you are not alone — here are a few things newcomers, soon-to-be newcomers and maybe newcomers want to know.

1. Why is Raleigh growing so fast?

A big reason is that Raleigh is mentioned in almost every Best City list, which puts it on the radar of people across the country looking to make a change. Recent recognition includes America’s Coolest Towns (GQ), Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South (Southern Living), America’s Best City (Busienssweek.com) and Sportiest Cities in America (Men’s Health).

But all that comes back to the main reason: Raleigh is simply a desirable place to live — four seasons, mild winters, good schools, within driving distance to both the beach and the mountains, and well-paying jobs. But yes, it’s no secret that Raleigh is growing and has the pains to show for it. In fact, our growth put the Raleigh-Cary metro area (population 1.3 million) on another list as the 14th fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. and the fastest growing in North Carolina (U.S. Census Bureau).

2. Why is Raleigh the capital of NC?

If you didn’t realize that Raleigh wasn’t always the capital of NC, you are in good company with many locals. When the NC was a colony, the capital was in New Bern and Edenton at different times. However, these coastal locations were easy to attack, so it was decided that the capital needed to be moved. For a while, the legislature used a rotation system, meeting in six different towns, including Raleigh and Fayetteville. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work very well.

The commissioners picked Raleigh based on its location — which is still one of its top selling points today. Even in 1792 Raleigh was connected by a road to settlements both to the east and west as well as towns to the north and south, such as Petersburg, VA and Charleston, SC. Not to mention that UNC Chapel Hill had recently been chartered nearby.

3. Why is Raleigh so expensive?

While Raleigh may seem expensive compared to some rural areas of NC, it’s actually not that expensive. The experts don’t exactly agree on where Raleigh falls in terms of the national average with cost of living — Payscale puts Raleigh’s cost of living at 5 percent lower than the national average while Forbes reports that Raleigh is 10 percent greater. And to make it even more confusing,  Sperling’s Best Places ranks the cost of living at very slightly above the national average. So depending on where you are coming from, you may find Raleigh expensive or you may find it a pretty affordable place to live.

4. Why is Raleigh called the City of Oaks?

A quick drive around downtown will answer your question — the many beautiful (and big) oak trees around the city. Raleigh’s new logo, unveiled last year, even uses its nickname by using a modernized version of an oak tree for the symbol of the city.

5. Why is Raleigh called The Triangle?

Actually, the term the Triangle doesn’t just refer to Raleigh, but an eight-county region which includes Wake, Durham and Orange counties. If you draw a line between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, the shape is a Triangle — hence the nickname. “The Triangle” stuck after Research Triangle Park, a large business center located between Raleigh and Durham with over 200 companies that employee over 50,000 people, was created in 1959.

6. Why does Raleigh drop an acorn on New Year’s Eve?

For Raleigh’s inaugural First Night New Year’s Eve celebration in 1991, the city had artist David Benson create a giant copper acorn as a nod to the city’s nickname “City of Oaks.” While it’s not quite the apple drop in Times Square, Raleigh drops the acorn twice each Dec. 31st — once at 7 pm for children, and a second time at midnight to bring in the New Year.



Jennifer Goforth Gregory