When you say “the Triangle,” it can encompass many meanings around here. We sometimes refer to it meaning the major cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, and other times we mean to include all the communities in the counties of Wake, Durham and Orange. That’s a lot to encompass, especially considering that Wake alone has 11 other towns and cities within its limits, each with its own pluses and minuses. With that in mind, let’s give you a quick review of each of them, in alphabetical order:
Apex – Here is a town that definitely did not live up to its name for a long time until growth and overflow from nearby Cary virtually forced it to increase in size and residents. Unfortunately, planning did not occur at the same rapid pace, so now it is a big pain to go there on the main, overcrowded roads of N.C. 55 and U.S. 64. It does have several historic properties and a nice antiques gallery downtown, so living there is leisurely. But don’t come running to us complaining about how long it takes to enter and exit there.
Cary – Get ready to hear people tell you incessantly the name is an acronym for “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees,” “Concentrated Area of Relocated Yuppies” and “Can’t Afford Raleigh Yet.” Funny, no? Seriously, Cary has grown over the last few decades from a quiet Wake County town into an ever-expanding behemoth that is now the sixth most populated city in North Carolina, though you might wonder why. It combines Southern efficiency (e.g., crowded and poorly designed streets designed to get you lost, slow and/or reckless drivers) with Yankee hospitality. God help you if you are trying to paint your house or even plant something that is found violating town ordinances – they will treat you as if you had committed a federal offense. In short, Cary has an identity crisis, attracting many new residents (yes, including many Northerners) while not having the same variety of cultural attractions that one can find in Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill (although they do have a nice amount of community parks). This is surprising, because it has one of the most educated populations in North Carolina. Maybe they really can’t afford Raleigh yet. Anyway, just yell, “New York Yankees rule!” and you will fit in.
Fuquay-Varina – The temptation is strong to pronounce it other ways, but you actually are supposed to say “FEW-kway vuh-REE-nuh.” Back in the 1980s when “One Night in Bangkok” was a hit, a local radio station did a parody titled “One Night In Fuquay” that made fun of its small size and lack of nightlife. The comments remain valid today. As the southernmost town in Wake that leads to Fayetteville, it gets a lot of knocks about its limited attractions and inconvenient traffic patterns. U.S. 401, N.C. 55 and N.C. 42 all merge for a couple of miles downtown, making it look much busier when driving than its residential population would suggest. But if you are looking for a city that reminds you of “old Wake County” and does not look to be growing too big anytime soon, especially since it plans to lie outside Interstate 540 (the “Outer Loop”) when it is completed, this is your place.
Garner – This is another big grower like Apex was with Cary, only Garner borders Raleigh on the south. Garner comes across sometimes as Cary Lite, with expanding town limits, winding roads and shopping centers galore, albeit without such restrictive appearance guidelines. However, it is the closest city outside of Raleigh in Wake County to get onto I-40 East, as well as reach the Alltel Pavilion. That may be enough to entice you to live there, so enjoy.
Holly Springs – If you want to live between Apex and Fuquay-Varina – and who does not? – Holly Springs is your choice. If you don’t, make another choice. Actually, despite having those two towns being the closest ones near it, Holly Springs has grown somehow from under 1,000 people in 1990 to more than 13,000 by 2004. Like Apex and Fuquay-Varina, it is finding that its infrastructure is not keeping pace with its growth. If you want to help make up that difference, here’s your opportunity.
Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon – These three towns used to be the inconvenient places where you had to endure stoplights on U.S. 64 on your way east to the Outer Banks (or, God forbid, Rocky Mount or Wilson). Now with the 64 Bypass in place, and Interstate 540 (the “Outer Loop” – see here about to open near the Bypass exit at the outskirts of Knightdale, they are the towns expected to grow in eastern Wake County. They remain small towns for the most part in size and outlook, although Zebulon does have the distinction of having the AA Carolina Mudcats baseball team. But they have mostly better infrastructure than some of the other outlying Wake towns such as Holly Springs, so they may be your destination of choice. Just keep in mind that Zebulon, as the easternmost city, will take nearly 40 minutes to reach the airport, the longest amount by far of any Wake County city.
Morrisville – If you have ever desired to live as close to Raleigh-Durham International Airport without having to live in Durham County, Morrisville is your spot. Traffic is horrible due not only to people from the southwestern end of Wake County going to the airport through the town, but also because it borders Research Triangle Park. And you can hear airplanes fly over at a fairly regularly pace. Still, it has been growing in population anyway, probably due to aviation nuts and people working at Research Triangle Park who do not want to have a long commute. If either one of them is you, go for it.
Rolesville – When you have to give a PDF document on your Web site for people to download on directions on how to find your town, and you are located in one of the most populated counties in North Carolina, not to mention lying less than a half hour drive from Raleigh, chances are you are not doing the best job of selling your community. For the record, Rolesville lies off U.S. 401 heading north to Louisburg in Franklin County. We know, that direction does not help you either. Well, it finally broke the 1,000 mark in population according to the 2005 census results, and it does have three stoplights on the road, so somebody must be living there – right?
Wake Forest – Wake Forest University was located in Wake Forest until it relocated some 90 miles west to Winston-Salem in the 1950s. Needless to say, the ability of a town to make a college decide to leave it does not speak well, and Wake Forest has been having somewhat of an inferiority complex ever since. Higher education has not disappeared from Wake Forest completely, however – the town is home to the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, so you better watch what you say around there (and don’t drink or dance around the students and professors either!). Also, Wake Forest is for people who want to say they live in “north Raleigh” without spending the money needed to live there. It is off U.S. 1, so at least it has a decent major road getting you south to Raleigh and north to Interstate 85, where it connects with the highway at Henderson. But again, boasting about how easy it is to leave a town does not speak that highly about it, does it?