Away We Go - Grandparents Included!
February 15, 2014 3:23 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are pregnant and looking for a place to make our permanent home. The sitch? My parents are coming with us. And while we think it's pretty awesome of them, it's making location hunting that much more complicated.

Our ideal area would be:

1. Kid Friendly - great public schools, lots of activities, low crime, etc.
2. Queer Friendly - diverse/liberal population, other non-traditional families, etc.
3. Senior Friendly - easy to use public transit and/or compact walkability, good hospital/health care system, etc.
4. Not Super Expensive - cost of living wise or real estate wise (assume we have an sufficient but not superfluous income and my parents have a modest but comfortable one)

Our ideal area doesn't have to be:

1. In the USA (though having an established English speaking/expat population would be a plus, especially for grandparental comfort)
2. Any particular geography/locale (we don't give a fig about climate, how close it is to the ocean, etc.)

Our ideal area can't be:
1. SoCal (because we're special snowflakes)

While there are lots of hits in our general searches for any one of our ideals, there's very little overlap for two, and absolutely none for all three. So what we'd ask of you, dear Metafilter, is to suggest places you know of that meet at least two (three would be *amazing*) of our criteria to help us narrow it down a bit. We'll take it from there. <3
posted by givennamesurname to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should add "university town" to your ideal list. Even if there's a town/gown divide (and there frequently is), it's more likely than not that the impact of the university will increase the the positives of kid/queer/elderly friendly. Not the inexpensive part, though.
posted by kestralwing at 3:28 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Columbus, OH actually hits a lot of these. It's a very Queer friendly city- it frequently appears on top 10 lists for LGBT+ friendly cities: Here's one article. Clintonville or the Short North are where you'd want to be for the highest LGBT+ population. The city as a whole is amazingly diverse for its being in Ohio- it has the second largest Somali population in the country (after the Twin Cities), and there's also a fairly large Asian population thanks to the auto industry; the demographics of the city as a whole- socioeconomically and racially- closely mirror the US (which, funny story, leads to Columbus being the test market for a lot of products).

The cost of living is ridiculously low, and it's definitely kid friendly- CoSI (the kid's science museum) and the zoo have both won awards for being the best in the nation for what they do, and there's plenty of other stuff to do besides. Obviously, with the university there's a good health system going on (I was given the go ahead from my doctor at Sloan Kettering to continue my cancer monitoring at the James' when I moved here); in addition to the OSU Medical Center, there are two other major hospitals in the area, Nationwide and Riverside; and for anything more serious/unusual, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are both within reasonable driving distances.

The public transit isn't fantastic-it's entirely bus based- but it is easy to get by without a car in some areas of the cities (the Short North, Grandview Heights). For schools, you'd want to not live in Columbus proper (Columbus City Schools aren't terrible, but aren't the best either), but one of the 'burbs (Grandview, Upper Arlington, Bexley, New Albany, Gahanna) would be best. Grandview Heights/Upper Arlington is probably the best combination for cost of living and quality of schools.
posted by damayanti at 3:40 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Portland, OR; Portland, ME; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; Tacoma, WA (maybe).

The problem with moving outside the US is that you may not be able to. It is generally no easier to get residency visas to move outside the US than it is to get residency visas to move to the US. Unless you have EU citizenship or investment capital, this is very difficult for most places.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah; university towns are a good idea.

I recommend Northampton, MA for everything, so why not this? Northampton hits your "1" and "2" perfectly, your "3" very solidly and your "4" quite reasonably. You may want to get out of Northampton proper to bring costs down a bit, but then you take a hit on the "easily walkable/public transit" side.
posted by Betelgeuse at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

My hometown, Northampton, MA is definitely queer-friendly; not only is there a sizable LGBT population but this population is not just the recently graduated college students - there are grandmas (and lots of parents) too. So you'd have a cohort in the PTA.

I think that the schools are fairly good and if not there are very good private options in the area. Since it is in the midst of five colleges, including UMASS a large state school, there are good cultural institutions and there's always something to go and see. Good places for hiking, cycling, etc.

Public transit is reasonable - buses in addition to transit options devoted to seniors.

Medical options - not the same as in a large city, but fairly reasonable and for serious stuff there are nearby good options.

Expense - I think that Northampton is more expensive than some places but now having lived in the NYC area for a few years, it doesn't look so bad. Finding employment can be difficult because it is a small place and it is a desirable place to live. Pretty much everyone and their dog has an advanced degree.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:58 PM on February 15, 2014

oh, victoria, bc. it's close to the US-Can border, it's full of seniors AND queer young university types, it's left-leaning, the climate (although you say you don't care) is way more mild and also less rainy than anywhere else. it's sleepy enough that crime is no big thing, plus, it's canada. no guns at all.

It's not super cheap, but not so expensive. and the houses have huge yards with fruit trees in them. and you can have chickens.

Also, it's on an island; people are relaxed and having a good time. and you can take a fast ferry to seattle in a few hours if you need, or vancouver in 90 minutes.

it also happens to be (very) close to the ocean, which is gorgeous, and grounding. it's totally the best.
posted by andreapandrea at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another smaller-town option would be Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Good bus service, excellent bike accessibility, many neighborhoods within walking distance of downtown, a fairly diverse population (especially in Urbana) because of the U of I. Excitement? Not so much, but there is a local art scene. Good schools and parks? Yes. Pretty easy train ride from Chicago? Lots of family-friendly activities? Also yes.
posted by daisystomper at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC
posted by kirst27 at 4:31 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ithaca, NY. Fits all your requirements.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Davis, CA
posted by invisible ink at 4:51 PM on February 15, 2014

Minneapolis/St. Paul hits some of these, but (1) it would take a bit of hunting to make sure the price point will work, and (2) the combination of bitter weather and so-so public transit, in my experience, make it a tiny bit less senior-friendly than you might be looking for. Portland, OR or thereabouts might be closer, of the places I've lived.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:07 PM on February 15, 2014

Schools aren't the best in Portland -- Oregon poorly funds education -- but otherwise it should make your list. Plenty of folks live here without a car at all.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding Ithaca, where I live, and where my mom is moving to. Feel free to pm for any details.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

My Minneapolis existence is pretty much all old people, liberal people with kids living in inexpensive houses, news articles about how great the schools are, and "diversity." I'm not sure how well these things really integrate together, though. During the polar vortex years you will find out it's not the case that you don't give a fig about the climate. I like Portland better, but it's quite a bit more expensive and I've never heard anything good about the schools.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 5:38 PM on February 15, 2014

Yeah, the cold, snowy weather makes my car free lifestyle much more difficult. How are the grandparents with icy sidewalks? The bus that lets them off in a deep snowbank?
posted by SandiBeech at 5:58 PM on February 15, 2014

Metro Mobility is a Twin Cities (i.e. Minneapolis/St Paul) program that exists specifically to assist disabled and elderly folks with getting around. A boardgaming meetup I go to, for example, has a regular attendee that arrives via Metro Mobility, and you see the vans/trucks going everywhere, every day.

You can also find condos with views out over lake Harriet for under $200k, so depending on neighborhood you choose, things can be pretty darn affordable.

Education system here is one of the best in the country.
posted by kavasa at 6:03 PM on February 15, 2014

If you're really open to thinking outside the box, Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) stacks up very well against your criteria. The general vibe is a nice balance of small city/art hub, and as a place to live it's certainly kid/queer/mobility friendly.

Oh, and the Australian health system isn't too shabby either.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 8:34 PM on February 15, 2014

Madison, WI is one of the best university towns around. It has a vibrant all-ages population. The bus system is more than decent, the biking options are even better, and we even have multiple car-sharing companies. Definitely friendly to both queer folks in general and queer families; I would be happy to connect you to some two-moms friends if you would like more information.

The housing cost is not the cheapest, but that's what you get in an awesome town :) It's still very doable, and there's a wide range. What I would specifically mention is the large amount of two-and-three-flat older homes, particularly on the nearish east side (granola land). Although many are better suited for the grad students who now occupy them, there's a ton of families and creative living arrangements (co-ops, house sharing, etc.) that could work nicely either for your family or as friendly neighbors.

The social activities at all price points are super great. Your senior parents are probably not to the retirement community stage yet, but what I like is that there seems to be a concerted effort to welcome and keep seniors engaged in urban life downtown. Plus we are a refuge for old hippies who never left, so people are physically and intellectually active in every way.
posted by Madamina at 10:08 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was also going to say university towns. Ann Arbor, mi. Although it may have a higher cost of living than Columbus or Madison.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:44 PM on February 16, 2014

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