We live in the foothills and love it.
Charlotte and Asheville offer the city life that we grew up with and are about an hour away. Sports, theatre, dance, nightlife, restaurants, etc. Of course if you're a NASCAR fan, this is Mecca.
The University system is solid and a definite draw.
The mountains are also about an hour away when you need to get away from it all. If you fish, hike, camp, this is a paradise. Of course, don't forget about the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cool B&Bs up that way.
The beach isn't a tough haul either. 3-5 hours will put you firmly into sand & surf. Myrtle Beach for the boardwalk-treading type (yeah, I know it's SC). Real getaway old school beaches abound at the Outer Banks, and the inbetween stuff around Willmington.
We get 4 seasons, we don't get earthquakes nor live in tornado alley, we get enough snow to make it fun (skiing is OK), etc.
I moved here from GA, and can't understand why my parents didn't stay here in the first place.