contemplating a move. where to?
January 16, 2014 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Thinking about relocating within the US, and looking for some ideas. Can you help suggest some places?

I’m in a flexible enough of a position to move just about anywhere, but have some personal preferences.

- sees yearly temps between averaging around 25-75. I don’t mind some snow, but I like seasons. (I’ve lived in Boston and DC - I much prefer the cold/snow of Boston, than the DC swamp summers which I consider hell on earth)
- I like nature. I feel comforted by water, mountains, and things that are green. I love to be outdoors, but am sun-wary due to a family history of melanoma
- Is either a “small city” that has access to a larger city, or possibly even in a moderately rural landscape that is max 1 hour from a major city and major airport.
- I’m the type of person that likes dense/walkable city, or being in a more green setting. Suburbs, sprawl, and strip malls are not something I can do.
- Has access to trails and paths that I can run/jog/walk on
- Preferably on the socially left leaning side - but not too granola. Middle of the road but leaning left, would be nice. I'm an atheist, so someplace that's not judgy about that is a must.
- I'm introverted and tend to be more of a listener than a talker, but not an extreme introvert. I like my privacy and quietude, but I also like a sense of community and involvement in local affairs

Among the places I’ve lived, are Cambridge, MA & Old Town Alexandria, VA. I loved the access to paths on their respective rivers, ample parks, walkability to all kinds of things, yet “small city” (and lived-in "older city") vibes. I wouldn’t mind something more nature-y, but open to ideas.

Totally aware that I might not be able to get all of these, but recommendations for fitting most of them would be super appreciated!
posted by raztaj to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Asheville (and some surrounding towns, like Weaverville and Black Mountain), NC comes immediately to mind. A smallish lefty city with an airport and a short drive to larger cities (3 hours each to Charlotte and Atlanta), plus

- mountains
- cool summers and non-crippling amounts of snow in winter
- strong sense of community
- reasonable cost of living

Some of those points are debatable (particularly cost of living--you'll find it's much more affordable than Alexandria, for example, but it's not great by NC standards).
posted by magdalemon at 1:53 PM on January 16, 2014

Portland, Oregon is pretty close if you're OK with the gloom and rain. It's more granola than middle-left, but frankly, that's quibbling. Awesome city.

Filling in some info here:
- It's in the middle of a forest, essentially.
- Lots of parks and trails in the city limits, including some fairly large parks
- Mid-sized city that doesn't feel big. Seattle is 2 1/2 (?) hours away.
- You can definitely find dense and walkable.
- Very liberal, but you can't have it all.
posted by cnc at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2014

I can recommend Baltimore as a fun and beautiful place to live!
posted by stinkfoot at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2014

The Pacific Northwest ticks off most of those boxes. I live in the Seattle area. We get enough seasonality to satisfy me (not all the trees are evergreen, so there's even some autumn color) and even, occasionally, snow. The rest is down to what neighborhood you live in in Seattle proper, or which town. Olympia might be a nice choice for you.
posted by kindall at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2014

San Luis Obispo, CA. It doesn't get quite as cold as 25F but definitely has seasons and the average high in summer is mid 70s.

It's a smallish slightly left leaning college town that's only 10 miles from the beach, is surrounded by many hills (not quite "mountains" though) and lots of hiking options. The town is quite pedestrian and bike friendly and, well, generally very friendly overall with a strong sense of community but without being claustrophobic. As a pale European, I do not find it onerously sunny.

The only thing missing from your list, I think, is it's not really an hour away from a "major city" unless 2 hours from Bakersfield counts.. but 3 hours to LA flies by as it's a beautiful drive. Alternately, and along similar lines, Monterey, CA which is only an hour from San Jose or less to Santa Cruz.
posted by wackybrit at 2:02 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a little more rural than you want, but I'll suggest Boone, NC. College town so probably a bit more liberal (Appalachia State College), great climbing nearby, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. ~2 hours (give or take) to Asheville, NC or Charlotte, NC.
posted by cardinality at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2014

If I were to just read your list outside of the context of the question, I'd assume you were talking about Portland, Oregon.
posted by perhapses at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2014

You might like Pittsburgh - it's green and filled with trees and parks and bike paths, and has four distinct seasons (probably a little colder and a little hotter than you might like). "Middle of the road leaning left" is exactly how I would describe the politics, and it's a very community-minded, neighborhood-oriented city - as a plus, many areas in the triangle between the rivers (Pittsburgh proper, as opposed to the neighborhoods that are also "Pittsburgh" to the north and south of the Allegheny and the Mon) are walkable, and the public transportation is pretty decent (Pittsburghers will argue with this, but try taking the bus in Cleveland). Cost of living (particularly housing) is reasonable, save for groceries - Giant Eagle has a monopoly in the area (but if you've paid Boston prices it will seem cheaper).

Here is a brief, entertaining documentary
where residents explain why they live here.
posted by deliriouscool at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fort Collins, Colorado! Here's why....

- sees yearly temps between averaging around 25-75.
Well, a tad outside of that, but not the humidity that makes it ugly. I'm down the road in Denver, and it's a nice 45 today. Biked yesterday. Occasional cold snap, buy dry and almost always sunny. Fall is super great, spring sunny, snow on occasion and rain. Mostly nice. Summer, usually a week or two over 90, BUT, it's nothing at all like the humid hell you describe. Really not bad.

Snow in Colorado is not nearly so plentiful as you might think. In the mountains, sure. But along the front range, over the last decade, we've had a few storms a year -- and it is ALWAYS sunny in a day or two and melts the snow away. One of my favorite times - fresh snow and blue skies. Much of the east is way worse recently.

- I don’t mind some snow, but I like seasons.
We got 'em. All 4.

- I like nature.

Mountains, rivers, trails, pines. Kinda brown in winter. We all take sun precautions 'cause it is sunny a lot.

- Is either a “small city”
that has access to a larger city, or possibly even in a moderately rural landscape that is max 1 hour from a major city and major airport.

Fort Collins is a smallish college town (CSU). It does have a suburban sprawl in outlying areas (farms too), but if you live in old town you've got plenty of stuff in bike or walk distance.

- Has access to trails and paths that I can run/jog/walk on


- Preferably on the socially left leaning side - but not too granola.

Pretty close. The U is leftish, and the town... mainstream middle. Boulder is granola. Neither would be judgy about your atheism.

- I'm introverted but a sense of community and involvement in local affairs

Fort Collins fits that well.

I went to college there and often regret not staying.

Good luck!
posted by ecorrocio at 2:40 PM on January 16, 2014

Hood River, OR is just a bit outside Portland. Mountains, rivers, walkable town, beauty, and big city access nearby.
posted by artdrectr at 2:50 PM on January 16, 2014

Northampton, MA is a groovy lil city. Also check out New Bedford, Ma.
posted by vrakatar at 3:01 PM on January 16, 2014

Providence and/or Newport, Rhode Island?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:05 PM on January 16, 2014

You might like Michigan. All four seasons, miles and miles of beautiful beaches and plenty of national forests. The "Michigan attitude" is friendly but reserved -- you'll wave at your neighbors (maybe) and pull a stranger's car out of the snow, but you don't really ask names and no one gets up in your business. Grand Rapids & Ann Arbor are cities that come to mind for you; Grand Rapids particularly has easy access to Lake Michigan and the northern woods for your nature-carousing pleasure. The cities (except Detroit) are more like towns with a few sky scrapers -- fifteen minutes max on any by-pass and you're in the middle of a cow field. There are plenty of small towns too within easy driving distance, many of them (like mine) very walkable (both to beaches and shopping!).
posted by mibo at 4:31 PM on January 16, 2014

Albany, N.Y., fits your description well, as does Friday Harbor, Wash.
posted by jgirl at 4:36 PM on January 16, 2014

Colorado advocate here. Boulder, Fort Collins, Golden and Denver all have everything you want. They are all very diverse towns that attract people from all walks of life (not just the hippies!) and of any age... take your pick based on population size, you won't be disappointed!
posted by mrrisotto at 4:58 PM on January 16, 2014

Seconding Providence, or really any place in tiny RI.

Providence a great little city with lots of Universities and a good rails to trails path, walkable streets, and density. It does get some snow in the winter (it's an hour from Boston so the climate is similar but a smidge warmer usually). The ocean is close by, however there are no mountains to speak of.

My training group could leave the city limits and be able to run through wooded areas like Lincoln Woods within a few miles. I also didn't own a car for a number of years when I lived there and was able to get anywhere in the city on foot. It's compact.

Finally, T.F. Green airport is a very short drive away, and there's now a train stop near it so it's accessible from Providence via public transportation.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:02 PM on January 16, 2014

I also agree with mr risotto and eccorocio.

Boulder might be too granola. Denver is bigger although can feel small town in the neighborhoods. Fort Collins - great.

Recently moved to Florida from Denver and I miss Colorado like an ache in my bones. It's amazing.
posted by Kitty Cornered at 6:04 PM on January 16, 2014

My wife and I moved six months ago to Burlington, VT, and I'm pretty sure we're never going to leave. It ticks all of your boxes pretty fully.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:29 PM on January 16, 2014

I am surprised that no one has mentioned Madison, Wisconsin. It hits all your requirements exactly, with the exception of colder-than-25 weather during the dead of winter like now!

* Nature: The rolling hills to the west of town, all the way out to Spring Green and southwest to the Driftless.
* Compared to Boston, Chicago, DC? Small city. Live in the denser university area to really get that feeling. But Chicago is accessible a few hours drive away.
* Very walkable and bikeable. Madisonians are crazy about their vast network of walking/biking trails, and the city keeps them snow-free all winter long -- because they are used all the time.
* One of the main centers of Midwestern Left activism in the '60s and still liberal now. The state has an asshole rightwing governor at the moment, though.
* Introverted is practically a Northern Midwestern stereotype.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:09 AM on January 17, 2014

Decatur, GA. A suburb of Atlanta. Atlanta is a green and tree filled city (as me about the tree that damn near crushed my house, or the tree that DID crush my car.) Decatur is a sweet little pocket of older homes, a funky downtown and the county seat of DeKalb County.

Crunch granola, accepting and fun.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on January 17, 2014

I'm much like you and checked out many of the places mentioned above, along with San Luis Obispo, Bellingham, Portland, Seattle, Tucson, SF, Eugene and a bunch more (I used to travel a lot). And I just moved to Asheville and love it. Too damn cold right now (I came from Florida), but when the sun is out you can see what it's gonna be like in spring, and I can't wait. Beautiful. And people are nice. Really nice, so nice that it makes a Floridian wonder: "Hmmm, what are they up to?"
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:19 AM on January 17, 2014

I agree with the folks suggesting Colorado, and also that if too granola is a problem, Boulder is probably not quite right. Fort Collins does seem like a nice fit!
posted by freezer cake at 9:07 AM on January 17, 2014

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