Where to live in the US?


#1

My wife and I are getting sick of the cold winters here (upper midwest), but I can never really think where to move to. Does anyone have any ideas where nice places to live in the US are? Here are some items that would be important:

  1. We don’t want to live in a big city, and preferably a place where we could get at least 1/2 acre lot. Not just constant miles after miles of development.
  2. Need to be able to afford a house without too much of a mortgage. We currently have paid off about $200K of our house and owe about 50K.
  3. Someplace it isn’t uncomfortable for people left of center on the political spectrum.
  4. Not uncomforable for nonreligious people.
  5. Good public education.
  6. Weather: Winters that aren’t harsh. Can get cold but no more than 2 months of regular sub freezing temps. Want the majority of the year to have weather where it is nice to get outside and play tennis, bike, etc…
  7. We like the mountains, but it isn’t mandatory. Mild weather is more important.
  8. Want to avoid any impending big problems like water shortage, lots of tornados, etc…

I realize that it may not be possible to satisfy everything, but does anyone have any ideas? I’m just spitballing here to maybe fuel some ideas.


#2

Smaller town in the Pacific Northwest would fit most of those requirements. The trick would be to balance affordability (#2) with avoiding the far-right, deep-red country (#3 and #4). I’m more familiar with the bigger metro areas, but maybe someone who lives outside those (like @Nesrie) might have thoughts.


#3

Pacific Northwest is what I am eyeing eventually for retirement, so I can’t speak to the public education, but it otherwise fits all your criteria. Even the smaller towns 45 minutes outside of Seattle though have houses going for 300k+ for a shit hole with a half acre lot. But that’s all about location so I imagine there are deals to find.

Currently live in OC which fails 1 and 2 in a big way, and maybe 8 I guess if you are worried about water shortages. Otherwise it’s a lovely place to live if you can afford it. Some of the best weather in the continental US.


#4

bonus to the Pacific NW, lots of wine country, if that’s what you are into.


#5

Oh, and while you know this I am sure, I am not sure most people fully grok i - it rains a lot during the winter.

I love rain, but after 2 straight weeks of non stop weather I found it depressing. I thought I would be immune to that, but it turns out not.


#6

Sounds like California to me.


#7

I would say Vermont except:


#8

Please don’t move to Seattle, we’re all full up kthxbye


#9

I would like to suggest my hometown to you: Davis, CA.

  1. The lots are a little smaller than you want, but it’s not a big city and surrounded by farmland/preserve
  2. A good house can be gotten for ~700K, tops the Cannery is overpriced ;) and everything else above that is paying a premium for the Highway access to Sacramento or living right next to UC Davis / The chancellor’s residence. The whole town is bikeable, end-to-end in < 30 min IMO.
  3. You’ll be fine.
  4. You’ll be fine.
  5. DJUSD is great.
  6. It hits 105’F in July and 35’F in January, any snow is a snow day. I biked all-year growing up.
  7. You’re about a 2 - 3 hour drive from Lake Tahoe
  8. They’ve built water-infrastructure to draw from the Sacramento river instead of the wells which are running low. Water will be pricier than it’s been in the past, but it’s available.

#10

You can tell it’s a cold day in the mid-west :)


#11

Come to Greenville SC!

3, 4, and 5 look—at a glance—like dealbreakers of course.

On education, SC is always near the bottom, but I think the school districts in Greenville are actually pretty decent. That may just be the biases of what friends tell me though, I don’t have any kids.

As to politics and religion, you’d be in a red state that’s not going to go blue anytime soon, and you’d be close to some very rural, very red communities. But Greenville itself feels pretty modern and moderate. The religious situation is similar, you’re in the Bible-belt, and in fact, Bob Jones University is here. But I don’t think it’s a hostile place toward the irreligious (as long as you’re not actually at Bob Jones).

Take that with a huge grain of salt, as I’m personally right of center politically and active in my Presbyterian church (PCA, the conservative side of Presbyterians), so my perspective isn’t objective. But I really do love this city and I don’t think you have to vote Jesus or believe in Republicans to live here and love it too. I hope I’m not wrong.

It fits the rest of your criteria well! You could also consider Asheville NC, they’re definitely more progressive. Better music scene, less interesting city overall, but you could still drive 45 minutes to visit Greenville on the weekends!


#12

I do have a lot of personal pride in Greenville, and I think it’s at least somewhat warranted. We’ve been showing up on a lot of those “Top 25 Cities to visit!” list for a few years now. I know to some extent those can be fluff and just the result of some dedicated marketing efforts, but I think there’s got to be some amount of legit recognition that this is a pretty nice place.

A random article example I just saw on twitter today:


#13

I think that the area around Missoula, MT fits the bill, but I’m prejudiced. Though perhaps it’s too cold for you…I consider it fairly warm given that it’s low elevation, sheltered by mountain ranges all around, etc.

Very liberal and not religious. (Though I got along well there as a libertarian who is, so it’s pretty chill.)


#14

Western North Carolina (Asheville) fits the bill in many ways, but truly a lot of this depends on exactly the needs for a couple of items:

  1. Asheville, North Carolina (100K city, approx 400-500K in four county area) is spread out into suburbs and closer towns nearby. It’s in a valley within the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can find lots as big or small as you would like.
  2. There is a lot of variance in pricing due to the spread into nearby towns like Biltmore, Arden and Black Mountain being the closest.
  3. Asheville in North Carolina is similar to Austin in Texas. Strangely it is a leftish hot spot, owing to a long period of people living there that just want to be different from the rest of the state. Similar to, “Keep Austin Weird,” Asheville has the same feeling.
  4. There is a little bit of every kind in Asheville, but note that it’s still within the Bible Belt. There are a lot of churches, but most aren’t pushy in any way.
  5. Education is okay, North Carolina is so-so on the K-12 level and it really depends on the school. We have a TON of public universities though and they are all fairly good.
  6. Asheville gets 1-3 heavy snows per year but is mild overall and also has mild humidity. See below for temp averages.
  7. Mountains surround Asheville but they aren’t like living in the Rockies, for sure. Older, lower in elevation and more gentle slopes. A key here is that Asheville is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway and also on the Appalachian Trail. Outdoor activities abound.
  8. You’re all set here. No water shortages and tornadoes are rare there.

Additional information: Ashville has always had an artistic segment of the population there and hosts quite a few art and craft events throughout the year. It is also one of North Carolina’s largest craft brewing hotspots and unless it has changed recently, hosts the largest amount of breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S.

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#15

I have friends in Asheville and it’s a lovely city with some incredible restaurants and a generally hippy vibe.

It’s also in North Carolina, a state that has had some of the worst Republican shenanigans in its state-level government in recent memory. YMMV.


#16

You might look into Santa Fe, NM, to see if that is kind of your vibe. It’s a relatively small town + government capital + strong sense of community identity + a lot of highly educated retirees and immigrants from all over the world.

But affordable… not especially. Your proximity to the main square will determine how much many hundreds of thousands your mud hut will cost. It’s also New Mexico which means there’s basically no middle class, so you’ve either made it or you haven’t (and there’s not much of a way to make it in New Mexico itself).

The climate is also mountain desert, which might be exactly what you want or the opposite; it’s pretty high and dry (7,000’+). But a ton of hiking groups, fly fishing, the Santa Fe Opera and arts, public events at the square, ect.

It really is one of the few places that has a definite history and identity in the US even if that diminishes into low end US strip mall that is the rest of New Mexico 10 miles from the square.


#17

Quite true. To be fair though, a lot of states with leftist hotspots have the same issue. West and northwest locations are better in that regard for sure. I didn’t know if rob meant being able to live and have conversations with people of like mind or if he meant overall for the state itself.


#18

One of the biggest challenges with living in low key, not major city areas is the job market. The jobs are just not here. I’ve almost left more than once, actually had boxes packed, when I got my job offer.

I live in a valley, basically a bowl. There are mountains around me, rivers. My former co-workers thought I was nuts because I bought a house so far away from work… a 26 minute commute. Housing seems expensive because of the lack of jobs. It’s a red county but despite the brought read on the map, it really is 60/40 not like 80 / 20. Weather, winter is mild, often no snow at all but if you want it it’s not that far to go enjoy it. Summer is hot, we’re prone to fires lately but I can’t remember the last time we had water restrictions. The cost of housing is often talk about because of the lack of jobs but you can still get some fairly nice hoses for under 300k. Public education isn’t usually great, but not like no one graduates poor. There are sports and music and sometimes they go to state, it’s just not oozing with money the parents don’t have.

I don’t know too many people though who have left and didn’t want to come back. I don’t fully understand that sometimes but… the hustle and bustle, it’s largely not here. My parents won’t go to some restaurants because it’s too loud which is what happens when other people go to the restaurant too. I don’t even own a snow shovel, and I didn’t own when I did commute. My battery died, and after I jumped it, I went to a local big box store and had it replaced in about 30-40 minutes… only person in line. Our rush hour is rush minutes and it usually turns a 15 minute commute into 20 minutes. Public transportation is awful, so I drive. The airport is tiny, the gates are basically just numbered doors, but there is an airport right here.

Oh and mountains, the people in the midwest and east only think they have mountains. Our mountains say high to those cute hills.


#19

There are areas of California that would fit his list. Most the larger areas would of course be to expensive, but there are areas that are still reasonable. And even though I live in what would be considered a conservative area I don’t really see that come up in the day to day life.

A little anecdotel advice…

My neice moved to Des Moines for a job opportunity. She was told it didn’t get that cold and that when it did snow it didn’t snow much. Well, her first major purchase after moving their (other than a condo) was a 4 wheel drive vehicle because of the icy roads. I have other friends who purchased a place in the California foothills and were told about the same thing. They both now drive 4 wheel drives.


#20

The Pacific NW has always been on my short list of where I think I’d like to go. We took a trip to Mount Rainier and loved it. Then went to the coast in Oregon and up to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands. We loved it there and Rainier was one of my favorite places. Housing always seemed pricey, but it does depend on the salaries. My wife would want to work at a smaller college / university where there is more of a focus on teaching and less on research. Some research is OK, but not where it’s the focus or you’re pressured to come up with something big. She already did that in big pharma.

My guess is it may be colder than we’re looking for :-)

I wouldn’t be living in Seattle, is that OK? :-)

While the rest sounds good, I don’t think we could afford a nice house.

Damn straight! Plus, when we were in Grenoble the highs were 30s and 40s - still comfortable to walk places. I don’t want to hate going outside for 3 months!

A lot of it does sound lovely :-) . I have a question and I hope it doesn’t come across as insulting. The crime index on city-data for Greenville and Asheville is over 2X the rate where I am now. Do you find crime to be an issue? Is it mostly confined to particular areas that are easily avoided?

I love Glacier National Park - maybe my favorite, so living relatively close to it would be a big plus. Missoula does seem more mild than than where I am, but not by a lot. Missoula also has a high crime index. Is it mostly in particular areas?

It certainly gets the temps right! I’ll need to look into this area more, along with @WhollySchmidt 's Greenville recommendation.

I did like visiting the Southwest, but I think I need to live where it’s a little more green. Thanks for the recommendation :-)

I meant mostly being in an area where I wasn’t a complete outsider for our views - having better gun regulation, accepting of people who aren’t white Christians - I’m white but I hate it when people assume other groups are bad and expect me to be in agreement, etc. I don’t think I’m way off to the left, but I certainly disagree with most of the current Republican platform and leaders. I actually voted Republican for my first couple elections until the era of GW Bush started turning me off.

I love big mountains and it’s one of my draws to the pacific northwest.I’m not sure what part of the state you are in, but we were considering Walla Walla, WA ten years ago. The housing seemed expensive and maybe more of a red area then we would like. Also seemed pretty dry. Temperatures seem pretty good and not that far from Rainier.

Mostly Northern CA?