From BBQ to Sweet Tea
Ten Things I Love About North Carolina
I’ll never forget the feeling of crossing over the North Carolina state line on I-77 South when moving here from Northeast Ohio back in November of 2013. It was a completely different feeling crossing over that state line, knowing that this would be our new home, rather than just a vacation destination for a week. I was so excited to be moving to The Old North State and being able to experience all that North Carolina has to offer and everything that makes North Carolina unique. From the food to the geography to the weather, there is a reason that North Carolina has been on many top ten lists for states to live. The following are my top ten favorite things I love most about North Carolina.
Agriculture is one of the top industries in North Carolina, which is nearly a $100 billion industry. Top commodities include tobacco, sweet potatoes, poultry, eggs, pork, trout, cotton, soybeans, and peanuts. There are many other commodities included in North Carolina’s agriculture, including Christmas Trees, craft beer and wine, and seafood, to name a few. In fact, the Christmas Tree for the White House came from the mountains of Western North Carolina in 2018. The annual North Carolina State Fair held at the NC State Fairgrounds in Raleigh every October and the Got to Be NC Festival, also held at the NC State Fairgrounds every May, celebrate North Carolina’s agricultural industry.
My absolutely most favorite meal is BBQ, which is one of the most popular meals served in North Carolina. There are two main types of BBQ served here, Eastern and Western. Eastern BBQ is a vinegar based sauce while Western BBQ is a tomato based sauce. My preference is the sweet taste of Western style BBQ. I love a heaping pile of pulled pork, smothered with sweet tomato based BBQ sauce, along with a side of baked beans, coleslaw, hushpuppies, and a glass of sweet tea. For me, it is heaven on a plate!
One of the things I was most excited about when relocating to North Carolina was being able to enjoy the sweet taste of diet Cheerwine anytime I wanted. Cheerwine, founded in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1917, is a cherry flavored soft drink that has a one of a kind taste. I have fond memories of having Cheerwine when visiting my Aunt in Hillsborough for New Year’s before moving here. Since moving here, I enjoy diet Cheerwine regularly.
North Carolina’s distinct diverse geography offers a plethora of places to explore, from the mountains in the West, to the coastal plains in the East, to the Piedmont of the North Central, to the Sandhills of the South Central. Living in the Raleigh area near the center of the state, it’s only about a 3-hour drive to the mountains and a 2-hour drive to the coast, which makes for ideal weekend family getaways. We can leave home on Friday afternoons and be at the beach in time for dinner, wake up to the sunrise on the beach on Saturday, and enjoy a full day playing in the sand. We stay through lunch on Sunday, then are back home mid afternoon in time to unpack and relax. This is one of the draws of living in the central part of the state.
5. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Founded in Winston-Salem in 1937, Krispy Kreme doughnuts are a staple here in North Carolina. The original glazed donut rings are absolutely delicious, especially when they are fresh and warm out of the oven. You can find Krispy Kreme doughnuts at just about any gas station across North Carolina. A one-of-a-kind event featuring Krispy Kreme doughnuts is the annual Krispy Kreme Challenge, hosted the first Saturday in February at NC State University campus in Raleigh. The challenge, which began as a dare between some NC State students, includes a 2.5 mile run starting from the Bell Tower on NC State University campus to the Krispy Kreme store on Peace Street in downtown Raleigh, eating a dozen glazed doughnuts, then running the 2.5 miles back to the Bell Tower, all in under one hour. The event has raised over $1.8 million for UNC Children’s Hospital. I completed the Krispy Kreme Challenge in 2019, finishing in just under 50 minutes. However, I had to force myself to throw up afterwards and my jaw hurt for days from eating a dozen doughnuts in under ten minutes at the midpoint of the race.
6. Longleaf Pine Trees
The popular song, Wagon Wheel, begins: “Heading down south to the land of the pines.” North Carolina is known for both its Longleaf pine and Loblolly pine trees. The sandy soil found in much of the state allows the tall pine trees to thrive here. There is nothing like getting out of a vehicle on a hot, humid summer day and getting hit with the scent of pine trees. Pinehurst Resort, founded in 1895 and located in the Sandhills region in the South Central part of the state, was established as a retreat where the scent of pine was believed to have health and relaxation benefits for vacationers.
7. NC State University Wolfpack
The University of North Carolina (UNC) system includes seventeen institutions across the state. However, in my opinion no one takes more pride in their university than the North Carolina State University Wolfpack. NC State is one of two land-grant universities in the state and the largest university by enrollment. Our family joined the Wolfpack when relocating here by default, as I work full-time for the university. We love being a part of the Wolfpack, having attended numerous football, basketball, and baseball games over the years. Held on the third Saturday in August each year, Packapalooza, one of the largest street festivals in Raleigh, celebrates the relationship between the university and the Raleigh community. There is so much pride in NC State that New Belgium Brewing Company partnered with NC State and launched Old Tuffy lager in 2019, which helps support scholarships and student success at the university. Go Pack!
8. Small Country Towns
While there are small country towns across the country, there is something special about the small country towns here in North Carolina. Throughout my travels across the state, I have enjoyed taking the road less traveled through some of the most rural parts of the state. I prefer backroads and state routes over the Interstate. Although it typically takes longer to get somewhere, I enjoy the scenic beauty of the small country towns. Many of these towns were once thriving from the mills, textiles, and tobacco, but have changed over time with a shift in the state’s economy and industry. It is a great feeling when enjoying a meal in a small country town where everyone knows everyone else. The locals are so friendly, kind, and welcoming, which you don’t see a lot of elsewhere today.
9. Sweet Tea
My other favorite beverage in addition to diet Cheerwine is sweet tea. Nothing goes better with a plate of BBQ or sitting on a front porch on a hot summer day sipping on a cold glass of sweet tea. While sweet tea is served at just about every restaurant across the state, some of my favorite places to get sweet tea are Bojangles and Smithfield’s Chicken N’ Bar-B-Q. However, I also enjoy making it and always had sweet tea in our refrigerator our first few years of living here. To make our sweet tea, I would simply fill a two quart jar with hot tap water from the sink, while stirring in two cups of sugar (yes, I know that’s a lot!), and adding 4-5 Lipton’s tea bags and then let it sit in the fridge for 12 hours. It’s a delicious recipe!
One of the things we enjoy most about North Carolina is the weather. Coming from Northeast Ohio, where it is gloomy and gray throughout much of the year, seeing Carolina blue skies and sunshine here on most days makes us happy! In addition to the abundant sunshine, the warm climate makes it comfortable to be outside 9 months out of the year. There’s nothing quite like being able to wear a fleece jacket on a 50 degree day in the middle of winter. The summers can be brutal, with temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s and high humidity. However, the mild winters and warm falls and springs make up for the hot summers. As people say here, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a day or two.”
Whether you live in North Carolina, visit here for vacation, or have stumbled across this blog post, these are just a few of the things I love best about North Carolina. My family and I have enjoyed living here over the past six plus years and are now happy to call North Carolina home.