Where should I live?
October 14, 2013 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a home in a gay marriage state.

I've been trying to leave Atlanta for two years now, but I just don't know where to go. My wife and I have decided to make moving to a gay marriage/strong gay rights state a priority. Right now, that would be California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Maryland, Washington and Washington DC. It also seems like New Jersey will be joining this month and any state that is very likely to join the team in the next 2-3 years is worth considering as well.

I'll try to keep this short and organized.

My family - East coasters, southern at the moment, but I don't know if that will stick.
Her family - Kansans.

-access to nature of the quiet, relaxing, exploring variety more than sporting. Think casual hiking and swimming vs. rock climbing and skiing. We love parks, urban trails, leafy streets, etc. as well.
-jobs in the art/design/creative/communications sector. I'm a graphic designer, she's an illustrator.
-affordable cost of living. See above. : ) Honestly we both grew up in very low cost areas and the idea of ever buying a 400k+ home seems ridiculous. I know that rules out a lot of cities. We don't need to be in the best, coolest, safest neighborhood ever though.
-detached single family homes with at least a small yard. We like privacy and quiet.

-some level of walkability and charm. That being said, we have a car, and we don't want to give it up.
-milder weather. I don't care for the cold, she doesn't care for humidity. We know we will have to compromise here.
-easy drive (5 hours or less) to multiple outdoor recreation areas (mountains, ocean, lakes, whatever) as well as proximity to a few other sizeable cities.
-family friendly. We want kids in a few years.
-down to earth, friendly culture.

Misc. Data Points:
- Atlanta checks several of our boxes: gay friendly (but no gay rights to speak of), good size, some affordable cute neighborhoods, decent job availability. We should really like it. But the culture of the city bothers me. It is too image focused. Also I abhor the traffic. Mostly it just doesn't feel like home. I feel bad criticizing Atlanta, like it is a romantic partner who tries really hard to please you but you just can't fall in love.
- I like Kansas City okay, but it is just so isolated and I'm afraid of getting bored. I also felt like I was the weird, loud, quirky friend when I lived there, even though I don't particularly think of myself as being any of those things.
- We wanted to like North Carolina, but Asheville has no jobs, Durham felt way too small and sleepy, and Raleigh felt like what Atlanta must have been twenty years ago. And, of course, the deal breaker is again the lack of legal protections for our family.
- My wife loves Portland, and in theory I'm a fan of the Pacific NW, but I'm concerned about the rain, the lack of jobs, and that we're probably already priced out of Portland.
- I am really interested in Minneapolis, but my wife thinks I wouldn't last the winter and she is probably right.
- We are essentially homebodies. My priorities are a pretty, comfortable home, a supportive, friendly community, a stable job, and enough urban amenities to keep us creatively stimulated and entertained.

So I am looking for neighborhood, town and/or city recommendations in a gay marriage state (or state where you think gay marriage will happen any day.) I am open to pretty much anything, except please don't try to convince me that Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, etc. are actually really gay friendly. I agree that there are cities and neighborhoods almost everywhere where we would feel comfortable, but we're really looking for legal protection at the state level as we get serious about starting a family.

Thanks for chiming in!
posted by ohsnapdragon to Grab Bag (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would try and look at the Maryland/Delaware/Southern NJ area. Lots of big cities (and their attendant job markets) within easy driving distance, mildish climate, and plenty of outdoor recreation. The only problem I see is the cost of living thing, but I think if you are willing to look at less desirable urban neighborhoods or more remote suburban/rural situations you might be able to find something.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:58 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Weather-wise, California ticks your boxes. It's just so damn expensive in the cities.

You'd have to find a place where you could work, and then pick a neighborhood that you'd enjoy in the suburbs of LA, San Francisco or Sacramento. Personally, if you're tech inclined, Silicon Valley has some charming areas. Although I wouldn't own a home in California for love or money. If you can be life-long renters, it can be really viable.

My friend Joe has an apartment in the Western Addition neighborhood in San Francisco and it's rent controlled. He's lived there...has it really been thirty years? So you can imagine how cheap it is!

Here's a list of the San Francisco neighborhoods.

The houses are nice and rents affordable in the Richmond/Sunset area.

The good news is that salaries are commensurate in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, so while the rents seem stupid, it's all good.

I lived in Oakland and San Jose. Oakland is a lot nicer than it used to be. And I LOVED it back then.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on October 14, 2013

Minnesota is your choice. The winter can be long and cold, but you get used to it. It also opens up a lot of recreational activities like skiiing and such.
posted by sanka at 6:03 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your likes in a town sound like how my husband describes the years he spent living in Olympia Washington.

I only ever visited there, but I felt the same as you about North Carolina, and Olympia felt NOTHING like NC to me.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:03 AM on October 14, 2013

Maryland (specifically near-ish Annapolis) is probably the best of the list: if you don't like cold, anything in New England isn't going to suit.

On the other hand, the way things are going, if gay rights is the major incentive to move away from Atlanta, a place you otherwise really like, then why not hang on a little longer? After all, even if you & your wife were to get pregnant *today*, it'd still be several years before you need to worry about schools; plus the way the pendulum of history is swinging, sooner or later single-sex marriage will be legal in Georgia, too. Think about it: even as recently as the Y2K celebrations, would you have thought we'd have 14 states plus DC permitting single-sex marriages? And having equality-minded voters in the rest of the states will only speed up approval there, too.
posted by easily confused at 6:04 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Iowa is probably pretty cheap, what about that?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:12 AM on October 14, 2013

Also: Durham, North Carolina is hardly sleepy, or gay unfriendly, but the majority of this state is vehemently not on the same page. Having a kid would be an issue here for you.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's a lot more to Oregon than Portland. You should take a trip to Eugene. Or better: While you're there, take a trip from Seattle on down to Northern California.

Unfortunately you, like me, would never survive through Minneapolis or Burlington. I actually find Iowa winters incredibly brutal too.

That being said, what if you looked at companies where you'd love to work, and then proceed backwards from there? Jobs are tricky.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:15 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Except for the cold you're describing Burlington but if you're from the southern US you wouldn't survive a Vermont winter.
posted by koolkat at 6:19 AM on October 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't think you can choose a perfect place. Tradeoffs abound.

(A slight derail:

As an Asheville native, I'll tell you that the town is gay saturated and friendly, but is surrounded by a lot of bad stuff, not the least of which is the strong, judgmental, negative religious part. I love many of those folks, and have friends/family in that camp, but it is a frustrating place to live when you are confronted daily with the baby jesus, homophobic preachers, the never ending Civil War, and political evil on the scale being practiced in NC now. Due to gerrymandering, it will be a long time I fear before NC gets back to being part of the progressive south. Jobs in the flatlands exist, but NC and Texas are brothers in arms when it comes to rocketing backwards.

end of derail)

I live in Vermont now. Its major downside is cold. It is extremely progressive and politically polite. I cannot imagine a better place to raise kids. Good and bad are both here, as everywhere, but I really feel like Vermont sees good with the upper hand. If I were moving here, I think I'd prefer Burlington, which has a more Asheville vibe, than where I am in central Vermont.

The northeast is blue, blue, blue. People here are friendly and helpful. Those who aren't will still pull you out of a ditch. Neighbors mean something. They don't leave you guessing what they think, though. Very direct, the northeastern manner.

Montreal, Boston, NY (aka The Center of the Universe) are close. Nothing like NYC anywhere else. The West is milder, of course. All depends on what you want, and that is going to change every decade.

Have fun! Good luck.

I won't list the downsides, which are mostly nuisance, not fundamental.
posted by FauxScot at 6:20 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Minneapolis really does fit all your criteria (or at least those I know something about, I can't speak to the jobs in art/design) except for the weather. We have one of the best park systems in the country, access to lots of nice nature further out, and a decent economy. My house cost $230,000 at the height of the housing boom, and it is in a safe neighborhood and has three bedrooms, a nice little yard, and a detached garage. We also live near one of the best elementary schools in the city.

The weather in Iowa is a little milder in the Winter, though it can be pretty hot and humid in the Summer. Have you looked into Iowa City? It might be worth finding out if there are jobs in your field there.
posted by Area Man at 6:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

-milder weather. I don't care for the cold, she doesn't care for humidity. We know we will have to compromise here.

How cold is too cold, and how humid is too humid? Because both of those conditions exist in nearly all the gay-marriage states except for California and Washington. Is Maryland too humid (it's not going to be that different from Atlanta, just a shorter humidity season)? Is it too cold?

The impression I've gotten these days is that LA is more affordable than San Francisco, because there is more of LA than there is of SF. You cannot hope to luck into a rent-controlled apartment in SF these days - the rental market is extremely tight and very expensive (and longtime renters are getting legally evicted at increasing rates). It's a little less crazy in the East Bay, but the crazy is moving there, too. And buying a place in SF - well, if $400K blows your mind, you're going to have some adjusting to do.

Nthing the suggestion that you start by looking at job markets and work your way backwards.
posted by rtha at 6:24 AM on October 14, 2013

Somewhere in WA (Olympia or Tacoma, maybe?), or somewhere western MA.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:43 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nothing is going to meet all your criteria, I think Maryland is probably the closest. You are not going to find too much walkability; though it's better than California. Maryland is quite humid, but is really only "sticky" from late June through September. Maryland has all four seasons, but the weather is quite variable year round.

You can find some great houses in safe neighborhoods for well south of $400k, even $300k, in Baltimore. I generally would not recommend the suburbs of DC, as the costs are higher than the rest of the state, it's been drained of all of Maryland's charm, and the traffic is hellish. Of course the job market may make that worthwhile. Maryland's Eastern Shore is conservative and has none of the things you want except recreation. So, I think you are basically looking at Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Howard and Harford counties.

In any of those areas, you will be 2-3 hours from the mountains, the ocean, and Philadelphia. New York will be 4-5 hours away. You will be 90 mins or less from DC, and much closer to the terminal Metro stations.
posted by spaltavian at 6:58 AM on October 14, 2013

As far as California goes, I would recommend two areas.

The first is more ideal for your needs and wants, but more expensive- that's to look into living on the central coast in Santa Barbara, Arroyo Grande, or San Luis Obispo. San Luis in particular is a very walkable, artsy, green college town with plenty of relaxation and recreation around it. You have the beach, the hills, you're not far from LA, the Santa Ynez wine country, not far from Big Sur, there are amazing farmer's markets every week. It's a great place to live if you have kids, too. (Look up San Luis's creek that runs through it's downtown- a great place to take kids for a walk, for example.)

I always tell people that it is essentially heaven to live in... if your career fits there (design may work or may be a challenge), if can swing the money, and if you can put up with a few nerdier college kids here and there (Cal Poly is a tech school, mostly).

Your second, more affordable California option is Sacramento. It's always overlooked in California but I really like it. You're not far from the Sierras and Tahoe for lots of hiking and camping, San Francisco is just a couple hours away (or less if traffic is good). The city is very green, its downtown near the Capitol is walkable, it has an excellent park greenbelt stretching along the American River for biking and jogging. There are plenty of great restaurants, and it's a slower pace than a bigger city like LA or SF, or even SD. You could probably fly easily to the east coast from Sac's airport, it's big enough that it runs non-stops to almost all major cities. I would imagine as it's the state Capitol there's a good chance you both could find jobs in design. Finally, it's a more family friendly city than somewhere like LA or SF (unless you're moving to distant suburbs).

Plus, it's probably the most affordable liveable city in California. If you want cheaper than Sacramento in California, you'll have to go for a small inland town, or somewhere like Fresno/Bakersfield/Redding etc., which are not my favorite places.

One last bit- Seattle is expensive and pretty far from other major cities (except its neighbors like Tacoma, and Portland which is about a 3 hour drive). But, it's a tremendously beautiful, walkable city that is not as cold and rainy as you might think.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:00 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree that Minneapolis really fits your criteria quite well. The cold really isn't that bad UNLESS you don't dress for it. If you get a cute fleece/wool hat, nice scarf, warm gloves and jacket, you'll be fine. For me, getting bundled up is a nice little ritual before I leave the house. And I walk out into the cold air all impenetrable with my cozy warm scarf and mittens. It's quite nice, if you ask me!

The people I hear who whine about the cold are the ones in thin jackets, with those thin spandex gloves and nothing on their head. That would be cold.
posted by hannahelastic at 7:04 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm gonna suggest you check out New Jersey, even though it might seem to not fit at first glance.

-access to nature of the quiet, relaxing, exploring variety more than sporting.
--NJ has tons of lakes, forests, camping areas, beaches, etc.
-jobs in the art/design/creative/communications sector.
--NJ has easy accessibility to Philly or NYC, where there are tons of creative/comms jobs - plus, North Jersey has an increasing number of these jobs
-affordable cost of living.
--eh, if you live in a more rural area, it's low(er) cost, but that said, NJ does have the highest average property taxes.
-detached single family homes with at least a small yard. We like privacy and quiet.
--Totally doable. Lots of nice suburban and even rural areas.

-some level of walkability and charm. That being said, we have a car
--Many NJ neighborhoods are walkable, and charming/historical. And nearly all of us have cars because they make it easy to access all the great things in-state and nearby
-milder weather. I don't care for the cold, she doesn't care for humidity.
--Another 'eh'. NJ has 4 distinct seasons, winter can be quite cold, summer can be quite humid.
-easy drive (5 hours or less) to multiple outdoor recreation areas (mountains, ocean, lakes, whatever) as well as proximity to a few other sizeable cities.
--Totally perfect here, tons of outdoor recreation (NY mountains, PA skiing, NJ beaches, Delaware Water Gap) within 2-3 hour drives. Depending on your location in NJ, typically 2 hours or less to both Philly and NYC. Even shorter by train. Boston is decently close, as is DC.
-family friendly.
-down to earth, friendly culture.
--Doesn't seem like it if all you watch is TV about New Jersey, but this state is very, very friendly.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:10 AM on October 14, 2013

Please don't move to South Jersey. It's fairly economically depressed and culturally wouldn't be a great place for a gay couple. Real estate is also fantastically expensive. It is not affordable. I grew up there and have watched my peers struggle with rent and mortgages.

I think you would really like Beacon, NY. It's within commuting distance to NYC, houses can be found in the 100-200k range, there is a ton of outdoorsey stuff to do (we belong to a CSA, live within driving distance of several hikable mountains, there is a huge climbing/hiking culture here), fruit picking within season is a huge thing,. Beacon itself is walkable, culturally rich, packed full of great restaurants, gay friendly, family friendly, and beautiful. Winters can be cold, but the infrastructure is better at dealing with snow than any other place I've lived; whereas, say, in Northern Virginia, the world shut down when it flurried, here the roads are cleared within hours.

The upstater blog is a good place to get a feel for the various little charming towns here.

All this isn't to say I don't love Jersey in some ways--it's diverse and the people I love live there--but my husband (also a Jersey native) and I can't believe the enormous improvement in quality of life and affordability between upstate and Jersey. We never want to live anywhere else, and are sad when we go other places and, homebodies that we are, are always happy to come home.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:21 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised no one has spoken up for Charm City--Baltimore--yet. I think it ticks a lot of your boxes--parts of it are walkable although the most walkable parts are mostly row houses, it's the most affordable part of Maryland, there's good variety of large city, county and state parks in a half-hour radius (Maryland is a surprisingly park-heavy state) and you're less than 3 hours from the ocean and the mountains. It's less than an hour from DC and less than 2 hours from Philadelphia, 4 hours to NYC on a bus line like Bolt or MegaBus. Unpretentious. The biggest "if" might be the schools--a native Baltimorean would have to speak to whether one can find decent schools in some neighborhoods. You get the occasional 1 ft snowstorm that shuts the place down for a few days, but overall winters are certainly milder than in the midwest or new england (on average think highs in the 40s, lows around freezing for Dec/Jan, rare to dip below 20).
posted by drlith at 7:23 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, I see now that you're thinking kids. In that case, I should recommend New Paltz, NY, which is where we live. Everything I said above is still true--culturally rich, affordable, gay marriage friendly (the mayor was marrying people back in 2004), has its own mountain range, farms and CSAs, wonderful, walkable downtown, very family oriented, and the schools are incredible.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:24 AM on October 14, 2013

All you need to survive a winter in Minneapolis is the right clothing. I think the hot humid summers are a bigger pain in the ass.
posted by padraigin at 7:25 AM on October 14, 2013

All you need to survive a winter in Minneapolis is the right clothing. I think the hot humid summers are a bigger pain in the ass.

As they say in Norway, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
posted by Area Man at 7:34 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is not enough love for Rhode Island in this thread. Providence is totally walkable, and you are 20 minutes from mountains and beaches, hiking and swimming. It has a thriving arts community. It is on Boston's doorstep, an easy drive or a 40 minute train journey. NYC is three and a half hours by train. If you don't want to live smack in the city, Elmwood is lush leafy avenues and single family homes, and on the doorstep of Roger Williams park. Homes are easily had for well under $150K.

The weather is what you're going to get in 90% of the places on your list because it's the North East. Winters are snowy.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:35 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll rundown western and non-commute-able upstate NY, but I'll note that I don't really think of the Newburgh or New Paltz areas as being affordable except in relation to NYC proper.

Anyway, once you're out of areas where you could reasonably commute* to the City on a daily basis,

*Access to nature -- check
*Affordable cost of living -- big ol' check in boldface with exclamation points next to it
*Including detached homes -- yup
*Walkability and charm -- available but not universal, and will cost more
*Family friendly -- yup
*Down to earth/friendly -- can't say for all of upstate but WNY is very midwestern-friendly rather than eastern-brusque


*Milder weather -- well we have mild summers and... less mild... winters. Actually they're not super cold like MN, just snowy.
*Jobs -- oooh, that one's a miss

I often tell job candidates, etc, that while I wouldn't necessarily want to be a single 25-year-old in WNY, it's a great place to be boring grownups.

*I'm sure there are people who commute from Albany to NYC, but that's whatcha call an unreasonable commute
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:43 AM on October 14, 2013

I'll note that I don't really think of the Newburgh or New Paltz areas as being affordable except in relation to NYC proper.

I stalk New Paltz real estate. Houses go in the 200k range all the time--examples. Property taxes are high, but that's because the schools are excellent.

Don't move to Newburgh, though. Newburgh is a shithole.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:48 AM on October 14, 2013

You're describing Minneapolis. Also, I would take Minneapolis winters over Atlanta summers any day. As others have said, cold can be solved with clothing. I'm not sure what solves Atlanta summers.

That said, for me one of the big downsides to Minneapolis is that not being from Minnesota seems to make you a permanent outsider. I moved here for grad school and don't intend to stay, so perhaps people who moved here intending to stay have a different perspective, but I find it kind of frustrating. (This is partly solved by the people not from Minnesota hanging out with each other.)

Vermont is a good shout as well, though I worry about the employment situation. Every time I visit my mom, there's a story on the radio about how there are no jobs in Vermont and everyone who graduates from college leaves. (I'm contemplating where to move when I graduate and every time I think "I could move to Vermont. I wouldn't mind living near my mom", it is rapidly followed by "You can't move there without a job offer in hand. It's inviting disaster.")
posted by hoyland at 7:57 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are parts of Connecticut that fit your criteria -- the main hitches are cost of living and appropriate jobs being in the same part. If you check out the state in any meaningful way for housing, you're probably going to be looking at some of the exurbs of Hartford and New Haven, and totally ignoring the southwest corner...though that's where the appropriate jobs often are. It's not unusual for CT residents to live in one part of the state and work in another, but it's hard to recommend it.

I grew up in western NY and return to it often -- I can vouch for ROU_Xenophobe's assessment, but would add that the attitude toward snow is considerably more hardcore than the I-95 corridor. I'd also say, very quickly, that "western" and "upstate" NY are not interchangeable terms.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:59 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a gay southerner who hates the cold (anything below 75F qualifies). I moved to Minneapolis 4 years ago and love it here. The Twin Cities are great - a medium-large metro area that still manages to have something of a small-town feel about it (I particularly got this vibe when I lived in St Paul) and is not overwhelming. The winters take some getting used to - the driving in snow/ice in particular, if you're not used to it - but honestly, I went home a couple of years ago for Christmas and the upper 30s-humid Louisiana temps oddly felt colder than the dry barely double digits I'd left in MN. I have not really experienced the the 'Minnesotans don't friend outsiders' trope - they can definitely be more reserved, but in my experience the southern habit of talking to strangers and not being afraid to initiate conversations goes a long way.
posted by Bourbonesque at 8:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have to pick just one place for the rest of eternity? Why not try out NYC (or surrounding areas) or San Francisco (or surrounding areas) for a year or so? You might find that the standard of living/community/resources are worth the extra cost of living. There is a palpable value to living in a community that not only legally recognizes your relationship but wholeheartedly embraces it. If you do plan to have kids, that will benefit them as well. Being accepted and unquestioned as a co-parent is very different from an institution being legally required to grant you certain rights/access. This may outweigh the value of a detached house with yard.

Since either of these cities should present many job opportunities in your field, I don't see a move to one for a few years as causing any kind of career set-back, and could boost your resumes for a later move to suburbia. The salaries are also usually higher in these cities than in smaller cities with a lower cost of living.

Inwood/Hudson Heights are very LGBT-friendly and relatively affordable, right next to Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill Parks, free street parking (if you choose to keep the car), easy access to NJ/upstate, 30 mins to midtown via subway. Yeah, there's winter, but in the city it's actually not that bad (certainly better than Minnesota). Yes, there are a lot of people, but everyone basically minds their own business (I feel like I get more privacy among the 8mil new yorkers than in many small towns where neighborhood gossip seems to be the preferred pastime -- people may be around you a lot in NY but they couldn't care less about what you're doing). And in the right building, you'll have quiet.

All I'm saying is give it a try. You might like it. If not, then you move elsewhere, buy a house, have a baby, and tell stories about that "year you lived in Manhattan."
posted by melissasaurus at 9:26 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My take on PDX from my visits is that most of its rain is drizzle/mist.
posted by brujita at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2013

Except for the cold, Western Massachusetts, specifically Northampton (The Paradise of America!) seems to fit the bill!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 10:02 AM on October 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yes, you are describing Western MA exactly, especially the Pioneer Valley, which Northampton is located in. It is a wonderful place to live. Yes, it's cold here in the winter, but not like Minneapolis. And it's warmer than Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, upstate and western NY (about the same as NYC, but sunnier and snowier in the winter, less windy and grey)...probably Iowa too but I haven't been there so I'm not sure.

Don't move to DC. It's a dysfunctional hellhole with the worst weather in the world.
posted by john_snow at 10:31 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah I usually don't recommend my hometown of Sacramento to people, but it ticks all of your boxes with the exception of maybe jobs and housing. I definitely know people with creative jobs, but they're not as easy to come by as they may be in other places. And although Sacramento is better than most places in California when it comes to affordable housing, it's still not great. Especially in Midtown, which is probably where you'd want to live if you want to walk places yet have a detached home with a small yard.

Lots of parks, lots of access to nature, 100 miles to San Francisco, it never snows, rain is minimal, summers are hot but dry, rarely humid. As I said above, midtown is charming and walkable but you can still have your car, gay friendly, family friendly, less than two hours from snow AND the ocean, and an even shorter drive to mountains, lakes, rivers, etc. Lots of parks. Most people seem down to earth to me (people moving here from elsewhere have said that locals seem a bit hard to get to know) and if you need a more crunchy, collegey vibe you can go to Davis. And if you need to spend time in a big city, you can drive or take Amtrak to San Francisco.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:54 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing Western Mass. It really does meet all of your criteria except weather (and fall is so glorious it's making my memories of the unpleasant humidity from this past summer fade!). Northampton has to be one of the best places to be a lesbian... ever. The area is absolutely beautiful, NYC isn't too far (or Boston), it's not prohibitively expensive like NYC or the Bay Area, there're creative/arts jobs...

And really, most of the time the weather is fine/nice.
posted by lysimache at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2013

Nthing Northampton, MA. It fits all of your criteria but weather.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 11:48 AM on October 14, 2013

New Jersey, specifically the northeast part, would fit most of your needs and quite a few of your wants. The one issue would be high cost of living, although comparatively higher salaries would offset this to some degree. Living in more affordable areas may mean a significant commute, especially if you wind up working in NYC, so take that into consideration as well. It gets pretty cold in late December-early March and hot/humid in July and August, but with plenty of lovely weather in between. Bonus: awesome beaches!

Massachusetts, particularly western Mass, also fits most of your criteria with a few exceptions: single family detached houses are the exception rather than the norm, and while winters are quite a bit longer (late November-early April) and snowier the summers tend to get just as humid and gross as they do in the NYC metro area.
posted by fox problems at 12:23 PM on October 14, 2013

Oh come on, you obviously need to move to Ithaca, New York. It seriously ticks every one of your boxes except maybe the cold, and it has charm in spades...

(I feel like I've written about this so many times already, so I'll just point you to this list of Top 10 mentions for Ithaca. Just look at the list, please. Or look at this list.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:08 PM on October 14, 2013

Seconding Providence, RI. It's affordable, interesting, and it's not as cold as Vermont or western Mass.
posted by mareli at 2:46 PM on October 14, 2013

Your likes in a town sound like how my husband describes the years he spent living in Olympia Washington.

I live here now, and yeah, pretty much. The weather is pretty mild, and the famous rain is mostly slow/drizzly. Actually, the important thing about the weather is that it's cloudy most of the winter, which combined with the latitude can make it pretty dark. So that's important to take into consideration. But when it's nice here, it's pretty amazing.

Oly specifically is something of a small town; it would be a *tiny* town if it weren't for the state government and the college. There's a strong arts scene, as far as I (not an artist) can tell. It's got decent proximity to Seattle and Portland, mountains, lakes, the Sound, the ocean, etc. Housing prices went a bit goofy during the boom, but nowhere near Seattle's.

For a bit bigger/grittier feel, I lived in Tacoma for 10 years, and it's surprisingly cool.

FWIW, I went to Atlanta last September for a few days for a conference and did not enjoy the experience very much. The humidity struck me as entirely insane; same temps as here, but I thought I'd melt!
posted by epersonae at 3:21 PM on October 14, 2013

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone! A lot to think about here. Can anyone compare winters in these northeastern places like Providence, Baltimore, Northampton and Ithaca (or New York in general) to winters in Kansas City? That's been my only real experience with winter and while I didn't like it, I know I can live with it. I'm having trouble mentally measuring the difference between "too cold" and "way too cold" and "ridiculously too cold."
posted by ohsnapdragon at 3:33 PM on October 14, 2013

The stereotype of Maine is that it is too cold. Tomorrow is predicted to be 67. And, as said above, when you have warm clothing for cold weather, you deal. Portland, Maine is a fabulous small city, accessible for both walking and driving, and home prices are reasonable.
posted by miss tea at 4:01 PM on October 14, 2013

I can't compare those cities to Kansas City, but I can rank them warmest-> coldest, if it helps. It's Baltimore, Providence (due to the coastal proximity), Northampton, Ithaca. And Ithaca will get the most snow, by a bit.

Providence is a good suggestion, I think. I'm not a resident, just a frequent visitor. Artsy, lots of students, walkable, some of the best restaurants in the Northeast, quick train ride into Boston, proximity to beaches. I have no idea about the schools, however.

You really can't go wrong with Northampton either, especially if you are interested in walkable and a good vibe. It's basically the best town to visit in New England IMO. There is a rail trail in town and a number of hiking trails in the area. The job market might be a bit tougher there, however.

Very specific parts of NJ might be okay for you too. I'm thinking specifically of Red Bank, which has a nice downtown and is walkable. Cost of living isn't spectacular, neither is anything else on the list. That's what you get in the Northeast, pretty much. The job market might be a bit more promising in NJ.
posted by smalls at 5:11 PM on October 14, 2013

I grew up in western MA, and it gets cold. I'm told it's not Minneapolis cold, but among the reasons I moved away from MA was that I find the winters there to be very difficult. Temperatures below 0F with wind chill are not uncommon, although mostly they'll hover between 20-30F. You'll get around 2-5 ft of snow a year overall, sometimes a lot at once. I don't know how cold is too cold for you, but Massachusetts winters are no joke.

Having said that, though, let me also say that I don't think I've had more enjoyable springs and falls than in MA. If you can make it through the winter, which I personally struggle to do, the rest of the year is very, very nice, at least in my opinion.

The schools in and around Northampton are generally very good, rating very high on the MCAS, and I grew up with a lot of people from Northampton who lived in picket-fence houses with yards and such. It can be a very idyllic place, and I certainly didn't suffer for having grown up with a good education and in relative safety. If I were thinking about raising a family, western MA would be right at the top of my list of places to put down roots, despite the freezing winters.
posted by Errant at 7:44 PM on October 14, 2013

I'm queer and a parent and I just moved to Boston from Memphis. It is unbelievably, wonderfully amazing. The "tone" or "climate" or "atmosphere" of this city is just so harmoniously in line with my sense of self.

Yeah, the weather isn't really very fun in the winter. I moved here sort of bracing myself for it. I learned to layer. I got a nice long Lands' End parka and I stocked up on sweaters and scarves and hats and boots. You know what? I dealt, last winter. I was fine. I get excited when it snows, though, so your mileage may vary.

Oh, and this summer was the most blissful thing I've ever experienced. You know those perfect spring days when the high is 70 or 75, the ones there are 3 or 4 of per year? We had like 3 months of those, interspersed with a few hotter weeks in July. None of that 100 degree soup weather at all.

Since you want affordability and less traffic, I'd suggest Northampton or somewhere else a bit westerly, or even Providence, as some have said. It's amazing here. Love the northeast.
posted by woodvine at 8:14 PM on October 14, 2013

Des Moines does get hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but I felt less heat and cold in Iowa than I do in much milder Oregon because Iowans have well-insulated homes and workplaces. It's also inexpensive, with very little traffic, and a small but friendly community of young, interesting, creative types.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:39 PM on October 14, 2013

Baltimore's winters are a few degrees warmer on average than Kansas City's, fwiw, and it looks like Providence is close to on-par with KC (yay Gulf Stream Current!) As you move inland and farther north in New England it will be progressively colder and snowier. Ithaca is a bit warmer than Minneapolis in the winter, for example, but it actually gets more snow.
posted by drlith at 4:18 AM on October 15, 2013

Can anyone compare winters in these northeastern places like [...] Ithaca (or New York in general) to winters in Kansas City? That's been my only real experience with winter and while I didn't like it, I know I can live with it. I'm having trouble mentally measuring the difference between "too cold" and "way too cold" and "ridiculously too cold.'

I don't know about winters in Kansas City, but I've been colder in New Mexico than I have in Ithaca. In fact, I've been colder and more snowed under in Cambridge, MA than in Ithaca, but that's (partly) my own fault.

I've moved to Ithaca twice. The first time I didn't know what to expect (never even been in snow before) and winter was outright fun to start with - cross country skiing was a novelty, sledding was a hoot and a half. It was almost March before the drizzly sleeting gray skies started dragging me down.

And then, knowing what to expect for winter, I moved to Ithaca a second time - this time from Sydney, Australia. It's not *that* cold here. And we get less snow than Syracuse, Rochester, or Buffalo - far less. And you learn to really appreciate a sunny day. And when global warming really kicks in, we'll be sitting pretty in a temperate zone in Ithaca. Temperate, I say!
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:25 AM on October 15, 2013

Ithaca is not too cold, but is quite snowy/rainy/slushy. The other 3 seasons are beautiful enough to make up for it. If lack of sunlight is a concern for you, stay away from upstate New York. While Ithaca isn't too bad on this point, the cities along I90 (Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany) are gray for the majority of the year - even on "nice" "warm" days, there is no sun -- I find it extremely depressing. By contrast, in NYC, it might be chilly or snowy, but the sun will almost always be shining - it makes a huge difference.

While I'm on this point of sunshine, I realize that no one mentioned Denver. Same-sex marriage is currently prohibited there, but civil unions are recognized -- there is also a steady trend of Colorado going blue in elections (and a majority of eligible voters support same-sex marriage in the state), so it may be a place to keep an eye on for the future.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2013

Delaware is actually a good fit for most (all?) of your metrics and is much more affordable than surrounding states (I'm looking at you, NJ and MD. I may joke about Delaware a lot, and it's not the most exciting state, but it's got a lot to offer. Let me know if there are Delaware specific questions I can answer....
posted by JMOZ at 3:04 PM on October 15, 2013

Actually, I pulled out my computer to follow-up (instead of the short phone-based answer):

-access to nature of the quiet, relaxing, exploring variety more than sporting. Think casual hiking and swimming vs. rock climbing and skiing. We love parks, urban trails, leafy streets, etc. as well.

We live in Northern Delaware, and were able to (for significantly less than $400K) get a house on 2+ acres of wooded land (with a creek running through the back). Across the road from our place, there is a many-acre wooded park with hiking trails, and within a 30 minute drive is canoeing, kayaking, etc.

-jobs in the art/design/creative/communications sector. I'm a graphic designer, she's an illustrator.

If you lived near Wilmington, commuting to Philly is entirely reasonable (30 minutes or less). Delaware itself seems to be doing ok economically, but I don't know the market for your kind of job. I don't think it's awful, but again, I just don't know.

-affordable cost of living. See above. : ) Honestly we both grew up in very low cost areas and the idea of ever buying a 400k+ home seems ridiculous. I know that rules out a lot of cities. We don't need to be in the best, coolest, safest neighborhood ever though.

Lots of affordable options throughout the state.

-detached single family homes with at least a small yard. We like privacy and quiet.

Again, this is downright easy, and well within your price range. If you want to be in the "city" of Wilmington, this is still doable.

-some level of walkability and charm. That being said, we have a car, and we don't want to give it up.

Where we are, it's a bit of a walk, but downtown Newark (where the University of Delaware is) is very walkable, as is downtown Wilmington. Or, you could consider Rehoboth Beach (downstate, and one of the most gay-friendly places on the east coast), which is charming, walkable, and close to affordable for a beach community. I don't know jobs.

-milder weather. I don't care for the cold, she doesn't care for humidity. We know we will have to compromise here.

It does get cold, but not very. Lows in the 20s are not uncommon in the winter, but it's rarely colder. It gets humid sometimes in the summer, but nowhere near as bad as Atlanta. (I grew up in Florida; THAT is miserable.

-easy drive (5 hours or less) to multiple outdoor recreation areas (mountains, ocean, lakes, whatever) as well as proximity to a few other sizeable cities.

Within 2 hours, you have NYC, PHL, Baltimore, DC for cities. There are LOTS of outdoor recreation opportunities (most of the state of Pennyslvania, everywhere in NJ, much of Virginia, etc.) nearby.

-family friendly. We want kids in a few years.
-down to earth, friendly culture.

The whole state feels like a small town in a lot of ways; there are (at most) 2-3 degrees of separation from virtually anyone in the state.... It's actually kinda weird, but I'm finding I like it.

In summary, you might consider Delaware, the Small Wonder. (Yes, our slogan is lame. Ah well.)
posted by JMOZ at 3:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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