Where is a good small city with decent weather for happening couple?
March 14, 2016 12:47 AM   Subscribe

We are looking for a small city without cold winters that has a large body of water - no inland towns for us- and is vibrant, cultured and intelligent. We have lived in LA, NY and Miami and are now in Durham, Nc - finding it too woodsy and land locked and way to hot in the summer here. We both work and are in our early sixties.
posted by privatechef to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The first town that comes to mind for me is Portland, OR. Seattle might also be a "small city" for you after LA, NYC and Miami. How cold is too cold a winter for you? The Northwest sees occassional snow but is much more mild in winter than NYC and in summer than Durham.
posted by 3urypteris at 1:22 AM on March 14, 2016

Best answer: What do you consider a "small city"? I also thought of the northwest - if Seattle and Portland are too big (Seattle is big by most standards and growing rapidly), then maybe Bellingham or Olympia, or Tacoma?
posted by lunasol at 2:14 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks - we had heavily considered Portland but the gray rainy drizzle is a big deal breaker. We have visited many times and love the size and liberal foodie town that is Portland but my husband being from rainy gray Holland is not open to it and many people there told us it's a real nine months of gray with an occasional sunny day or two. The other hesitation is that I teach culinary for a living and saw the prices they were getting for classes there - not what I am used to. I need to know there is money somewhere that we move so the clientele could afford to support my business. He is a contractor and does home renovations so that can go anywhere.
We both crave outdoors life and at the same time like great food, music and and urban vibe.
Here is Durham they don't appear to have the income needed to support my business and there are limited out door choices recreationally.
posted by privatechef at 5:39 AM on March 14, 2016

Oakland and Berkeley seem to tick all of your boxes. Great weather (Berkeley is generally a little chillier), lots of entertainment and recreation options, mid-sized cities in a spread-out metropolitan area, right on the bay (with the ocean not far away), and plenty of parkland up in the hills.
posted by clorox at 5:43 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

RE: Portland

Portlanders like to bitch and moan about the weather, but if you look at the stats its really not the horror natives make it out to be. As an example, Oregonians often complain that Independence Day is gloomy. It's not. I once waded through fifty years of data to win an argument about this. Sometimes there's trace rain on the fourth of July, but mostly it's sunny and in the upper seventies/low eighties. (There's actual rain on July 4th about 10% of the time.)

That said, there's no doubt that Portland is cloudy -- with about as many cloudy days as Michigan, Detroit, or Chicago. (We do tend to have more days with heavy clouds though.)

What about rainfall? It's true that we're near the top of the list for number of rainy days per year. (Only Rochester and Buffalo have more.) But most of the time, that rainfall is light. It's a mist or a sprinkle. I've been living in Savannah, Georgia for the past six months, and Portland rarely gets the kind of torrential downpours that occur here. Portland receives about 35 inches of rainfall per year. That's nowhere near the top of the list. (New Orleans gets the most with about 63 inches of rain per year. Miami gets 62 inches. Other wet cities include Memphis, Houston, and NYC.)

Even Durham, where you live now, is wetter than Portland.

I used to have a 90-year-old neighbor who had lived in Portland his entire life. He used to say that the rainy season started October 15th and ended May 15th. From my 47 years of experience in the Willamette Valley, this is accurate. We have five months of great weather and seven months that are less good.

More than half of Portland's rain comes during four months: November, December, January, and February. (Even I, an Oregon native, can find late February a trying time. We start getting warm, sunny days around Valentine's Day, but that's a false spring. Real spring is still a month away.) Another third of the rainfall comes during March, April, early May, and late October. Picking an arbitrary number, average precipitation drops to 0.08" or less starting May 10th. Rainfall creeps above that number again on October 9th.

And here's a not-so-well-kept secret: June and October in the Willamette Valley are glorious. The weather is amazing. Cool mornings, warm (but not hot) days. Green in the spring and color in the fall.

After this vigorous defense of Portland weather, I'll make a confession: Sometime soon, I'm going to buy or rent a winter home somewhere sunnier. As much as I love my hometown, the winter weather gets me down. But I'm happy to live there from April to November. (I'd go back as early as March, but my allergies can't cope.)

Now to answer your question: I'm in the middle of an 18-month RV trip across the U.S. There aren't a whole lot of cities that meet your requirements. In fact, the total that comes to mind is zero. If you're unwilling to compromise with a mild but grey climate, your only options seem to be cold winters or hot summers. There's no place that I've found that's clear and dry all year without getting cold and/or hot.

But maybe look at northern California? North of the Bay Area into wine country or even further up the coast might work for you. Southern Oregon might work for you too...
posted by jdroth at 7:11 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the only area in the US that fits your climate requirements is the California coast. If LA and the Bay Area are too big, maybe San Diego or San Luis Obispo? or maybe Santa Cruz?

If your husband is Dutch would be willing to move to the EU? Northwestern Iberia also has this kind of climate.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:35 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I went to college in San Luis Obispo, CA. It's a 20 minute drive from beaches to the north and south. It has a cool little downtown with interesting shops and a definite college town culture. The Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly has numerous touring events come through every year. It's right next to Morro Bay and about an hour away from Hearst Castle. I don't know too much about the outdoors activities nearby since I'm not an outdoors guy, but I remember going off-roading on the beach at one point. It doesn't get much below 40 in the winter and gets up to 90 about 1 to 2 weeks in September/October.
posted by zompus at 9:06 AM on March 14, 2016

Response by poster: We have tried many of the places mentioned as in visiting; don't want to overpriced real estate of Berkeley and Oakland and SLO is a sweet town but might be too "retired" for us.
It is a challenge, which is why we have moved around a bit - I think you are right there is nowhere in this country that fits. Maybe Santa Cruz, but Ca. is so expensive now which is why we left LA.
Its not the rain as much as the gray on a consistent basis that is the resistance to Portland. We have asked our friends who live there, some can handle it others not. I prefer downpours that we have here on the East coast actually to drizzle.
EU is intriguing- we have talked of this, so maybe that is an option to explore further.
We aren't ready to retire and won't be for about ten years so going to the EU is a tough one for work ...
posted by privatechef at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2016

Response by poster: Where in Southern Oregon? jdroth?
posted by privatechef at 9:48 AM on March 14, 2016

If I were you, I'd try the coast in northern California or southern Oregon. You're still going to get some of the greyness you're trying to escape, but it'll be mitigated by warmer temps than if you were in Portland or Seattle.

Florence, Oregon might be too far north for you, but it's popular with many older people I know. (Even folks from California.) Coos Bay is bigger. Medford and Ashland are inland but are larger and have more cultural opportunities. (They get hot in the summer though.) Oh yeah -- lots of retirees are drawn to Bend in central Oregon. It's in the high desert, which means much less rain than west of the Cascades. Tends to be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer, but there's lots of sun there and plenty of river and lake opportunities. Yeah, research Bend.

In California, look at Crescent City and Arcata. The latter is (I think) sort of a hippie town. (I could be wrong. Double-check me.) On this RV trip, we really liked a tiny town called Ferndale. Check it out. Another possibility for you might be Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, on the edge of wine country. These cities are close to San Francisco, but I suspect property prices are lower. You're not on the coast, but you're within half an hour.
posted by jdroth at 10:18 AM on March 14, 2016

What about Savannah, GA, or Charleston, SC? It does get hot in the summer, but that's what the beach is for.
posted by cleverevans at 11:02 AM on March 14, 2016

ventura, california!
posted by changeling at 2:15 PM on March 14, 2016

posted by ctmf at 8:18 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

What about Key West, Florida? It's a much smaller city, but it has the art, culture, affluence, sea, liberality, mild temperatures, and foodies you're looking for. The eastern third of the Old Town is tourist central, but the western two-thirds and all of the New Town are not. The primary disadvantage, besides the cost of housing, is that it's not easy to get to anywhere else.

(I see you used to live in Miami, so you know about KW - but maybe you could help us out by explaining why it's not what you want...)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:43 PM on March 14, 2016

I think you have requirements that are mutually exclusive. You need to live in a sophisticated small city where people have enough money and interest to support your business. Unfortunately, cities like that generally have expensive real estate. Now add your climate preferences!

On the West Coast, if Oregon and Washington are too rainy, what about Northern California? Mendocino, maybe? I haven't been there in years, so others will need to comment. Or Santa Rosa? Further south, Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara? I suspect that real estate prices will be high for all of these.

In the East, Cape May, New Jersey? Or is that too cold? Or too small? Or too New Jersey? Annapolis? Savannah? Charleston? St Petersburg?

Good luck!
posted by islandeady at 5:31 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to all the replies and we are now thinking we might just stay where we are or consider Asheville, Nc - three hours away. Most of the places people mentioned we have visited or wouldn't consider such as Florida- haven lived there once that was enough. It's nice and all but a bit too Americana.
Cape cod - crazy touristy- dead in the winter- New Jersey?? Really?? No way.
It's cold, expensive and its New Jersey.

Who here has lived in Asheville and whow're your impressions?
posted by privatechef at 9:09 PM on March 16, 2016

Kind of surprised no one has mentioned New Orleans.
posted by balmore at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2016

Response by poster: We have decided we are living in a pretty cool place and although we miss the ocean, oh well. We can visit. Everywhere else has something not so great; weather, demographics or such. Thank you all for the replies and Durham it is!
posted by privatechef at 1:28 PM on March 26, 2016

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