Where should I live in the US?
June 6, 2016 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm lucky enough to have a job that I can work 100% remotely. I'm currently living in the Los Angeles area and looking for a change. Where in the US should I move? Details inside.

I've been living in the LA area for many years now and am looking to move! The question is...where? Tell me about your favorite city/town and why you think I should live there. Below are my criteria - if it matters, my current income is $70k with about $30k in liquid savings, and I'm single with no kids. My work is very stable and completely remote. I also plan to rent for the foreseeable future.

- cheap/inexpensive cost of living. To me this excludes the "top tier" of expensive cities - SF, NYC, LA, Chicago, etc. I don't have a set limit of what I'd like to pay, but I love a bargain so this is probably the most important factor to me.
- I'm interested in anything from medium-sized towns to large-ish cities. I don't want to live in a tiny town in the boonies but also don't want to live in the heart of a metropolis.
- the only weather I don't care for is brutally cold winters and snow. Heat doesn't bother me at all.
- don't care about sports teams or big cultural centers.
- no geographic preference - open plains, mountains, swamps, I'm down for whatever.
- fast internet, even fiber would be good.
- some history or character to the area is preferable. I don't want to live in the land of strip malls (I've had my fill in LA!)

Thank you!
posted by allseeingabstract to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Dude: Remote Year -

I'm from Pittsburgh and it's pretty great
posted by jessca84 at 10:04 PM on June 6, 2016 [11 favorites]

Fresno is substantially cheaper than LA., yet, with a half a million people, it is the fifth largest city in California. It can be over 100° F in summer, but winters are mild. It can get down to freezing at times, but snow is uncommon. It has its own International airport, plus easy access to parks and national forests.
posted by Spanish Ash at 10:44 PM on June 6, 2016

Um, Fresno is a really, really not so pleasant place in my experience. My mother lives there and I visit her frequently. It's hot AF during the long summers, the air and water quality is terrible, there is a huge meth problem, and the metro area is pretty much just shopping centers and suburban neighborhoods surrounded by hours of industrial farmland to get anywhere nicer.

I would suggest Asheville, NC, a cute liberal haven in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Great hiking, not far from beaches, winters are snowy but not super cold. Amazing restaurants and art & music culture.
posted by ananci at 10:54 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Chattanooga, especially the fast internet part.

Our weather is almost always mild, if hot in summer. The cost of living is low, and we're within a couple of hours of Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville (OK 2.5 hours), Knoxville, Asheville. Theater, music, festivals, great restaurants, and hey, you could meet for me for lunch! ;-) It's a nice place for people interested in outdoorsy things (which I am not), and there are plenty of things to keep one busy if you prefer in-of-doors.

Most people class us as a small city, but we seem to get bigger (in terms of attractive qualities) every year. I'm from New York State, but have been very happy here almost 18 years.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:54 PM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

I don't know if it's too small for you, but Astoria OR is a neat town. It's about a 4 hour drive to Portland along US-30 in case you need anything that can only be provided by a big city.

It's loaded with history; Astoria was a trading town established in the early 19th century by John Jacob Astor (hence the name) and the area is beautiful, with gorgeous beaches, nearby mountains, and lots of trees. Lewis and Clark spent a winter near there. (There's a national monument now for that.)

But the biggest attraction is seafood. Since it's at the mouth of the Columbia, there's all kinds of fishing in the ocean and in the river, especially salmon. You can also get fresh Dungeness Crab there, which some people have told me is the best kind of crab there is. (I'm not a big fan of crab, myself, so I can't personally attest to it.) And there are several other kinds of shellfish and regular fish that are easily available there, freshly caught.

Since it's right on the ocean, you pretty much can't get really cold winters. For that matter, hot weather is also pretty mild. You do get major storms sometimes in the winter but they're wind-and-rain, not snow. (I would be surprised if it ever snows there.)

Of course, someday the planet is going to wipe that whole area off the map, but it's the same kind of risk you've been living with in LA all this time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:06 PM on June 6, 2016

Lafayette, Louisiana.

In the last few years we have been showing up on the lists of happiest and best cities in the US, occasionally topping the list. Housing is relatively cheap. With the oil downturn, renting a house is even more so.

There is heat, and a lot of it. It does get cold in wintertime occasionally when a front comes in and it may snow for a few hours every couple of years, but is about as far away from brutally cold as you can get in the continental US.

Lafayette has had the Fastest residential internet in the world in recent years. The previous city government created a utility that provides network, TV and phone. Their network is 100% fiber and up to 2GBS. There is peer-to-peer 1GB connection on their network within the city. There are a few other options as well (cable, DSL) but not as fast.

There is plenty of history and character, but there has been an explosion of strip malls and shopping centers in the last decade. Probably nothing like LA. And New Orleans is just a few hours away. There may be a few cities with more history than New Orleans, but not with as much character. Lafayette is a much safer place for day to day living, though.
posted by Yorrick at 11:46 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah... I'm from Fresno, don't do it. Ananci has it nailed.

I've lived all over and really loved living in Midtown Sacramento. Super cute, super convenient, good coffee shops, Victorian houses and leafy streets, very human scale, very walkable, etc. I worked remotely and had no car and it was no problem; I even took the train to Davis to volunteer at the UC Arboretum. There's been a couple other questions/comments on midtown Sac. Some of the neighboring goldrush towns are cute too.

I'd also consider Albuquerque - only visited though!, or maybe Savannah GA.
(All my other suggestions are up north.)
posted by jrobin276 at 11:50 PM on June 6, 2016

You may be able to do all of the above and give yourself a raise, to boot. You can live in income-tax-free Washington State (Vancouver, WA or the environs), and do your shopping in sales-tax-free Portland, just across the Columbia River. Zillow says the median house price in Vancouver, WA is $251,800. December average temperatures are 34F-46F. I would consider it.
posted by Atrahasis at 12:06 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

You say you can handle hot weather (and I believe you), but if you're contemplating moving to a place that's hot AND humid in the summer, I recommend trying it out during the hot, humid part of the year before committing to the move.

I lived in DC for six years after growing up in Texas, Montana, and Colorado, and never did adapt to the humidity.
posted by Bruce H. at 1:12 AM on June 7, 2016

- cheap/inexpensive cost of living. To me this excludes the "top tier" of expensive cities - SF, NYC, LA, Chicago, etc. I don't have a set limit of what I'd like to pay, but I love a bargain so this is probably the most important factor to me.
Austin Texas -- If you ask ppl who live here and have lived here in Austin, they will moan and sob and say that "Oh god it's so expensive now !!! No one can live here now !!!" Coming from LA you'll be flippin' and trippin' behind the costs of housing here.

- I'm interested in anything from medium-sized towns to large-ish cities. I don't want to live in a tiny town in the boonies but also don't want to live in the heart of a metropolis.
Austin Texas -- It's pretty much right in your wheelhouse on this matter. It's not huge, it's not some monstrous horror show of concrete and unhappiness but it's plenty big enough. I *do* live pretty much right in the heart of the metropolis -- dead across the river from downtown, a condo about the size of my shoe right on the river -- and there's trees and birds and blah blah blah. If you move into one of the new condos across the river from me it'll feel more like what you don't want, but you don't have to move into one of them, there are great neighborhoods that have houses and trees and whatnot.

- the only weather I don't care for is brutally cold winters and snow. Heat doesn't bother me at all.
Austin Texas -- One of the things I feared would be on your list would be "I can't stand hot brutally humid summers" because that is, to me, the biggest downside of ATX. This year the spring has been absolutely fantastic, it's barely gotten above 90F and here we are into June; normally, the mid-90s grab you by the throat May 1st and don't let go until the end of September. I've lived in Texas since 1977, in ATX since 92 -- this is the sweetest spring that I have experienced. It does rain here, as a recent look at your TV news will tell you. Myself, I have an umbrella. I ride my mountain bike on the hike/bike trail every day and I have not drowned yet, though I will confess here and now that last Friday night on the last three miles of the ride I came close, the rain hammering down; god, what a storm!

- don't care about sports teams or big cultural centers.
Austin Texas -- No pro sports teams, no big cultural centers. There is UT, which is I think the largest university in the US, so if you want to call that a cultural center you could if you'd like. Nothing in the way of world-class museums or what-have-you, though UT does have a nice if small collection of art, and a library with Important Papers from Important Writers etc, one of the few Gutenberg bibles on the planet, etc. The cultural thing here is Austin itself, a continually unfolding series of music festivals and hot-rod festivals and art festivals and motorcycle festivals and gay pride festivals and film festivals and high tech festivals on and on and on. It's like living in this unrolling stream of festive happiness, it unwinds right under your feet as you're walking; I call it Disneyland For Adults. And plus if you *do* want/need museums etc, San Antone is an hour down the road and has two absolutely world-class art collections (biggest secret in the world), Houston is two hours and a half away and has spectacular museums and cultural jive out the wazoo, Dallas three hours and a half and also has spectacular museums and cultural jive out the wazoo.

- no geographic preference - open plains, mountains, swamps, I'm down for whatever.
Austin Texas -- I live right on the Colorado river, which runs right through town, and has this great 10.2 hike/bike trail that goes around it, it's gorgeous except LOOK OUT FOR THE FLIPPIN' POISON IVY MY GOD IT'S EVERYWHERE but other than that it totally rocks. Austin is jammed with parks, you can canoe and kayak and run and bike and do those silly-looking-things that look like 1940s big honkin' surfboards and ppl stand on them poling around like they're in Venice or some shit. Great swimming holes, amazing swimming pools -- you could move here just because of Barton Springs Pool. Lots of bike trails, easy and not easy. Austin is a beautiful city, both in its natural setting and also in it's gorgeous new skyline. Austin is called the "City of the Violet Crown" because after sundown, in the gloaming, on the western horizon there is this rich, gorgeous purple-blue line which holds for 15-20 minutes; I stopped on my bike ride last night, on a pedestrian bridge running over the river and watched its beauty for five minutes or ten, looking west over the river. I cannot recommend this highly enough; it really is lovely.

- fast internet, even fiber would be good.
Austin Texas -- ATX is one of the first cities that Google has plunked high speed fiber into; I'm typing this on a free account that gives 5mbps down and 1mbps up; if you want to plunk down fifty bones a month it is absolutely screaming fast, like 100mbps. I like free, 5mbps plenty fast enough for net cruising and/or streaming movies etc. It's not in every neighborhood yet but it will be, and Google is moving fast to make that happen, they are totally killing Time Warner Cable and that absolutely brings forth a song of joy in the depths of my heart.

- some history or character to the area is preferable. I don't want to live in the land of strip malls (I've had my fill in LA!)
Austin Texas -- Character out the wazoo. I mean, it's the capital of the state of Texas. It *was* the capital of the *country* of Texas. The capital building itself is really cool, and you can watch both houses (state senate and state representatives) in process when they are in session, and see them write, debate, and enact the disgusting, vile laws which their constituents demand of them. (Austin is a Free Zone, in which human beings think clearly and sometimes act with civility, but if you drive forty-seven minutes in any direction you are then in Texas.) Texas has flown under six flags -- Spain, France, Mexico, Texas, the Confederacy, and the US. Truth be told, for at least 200 years it flew under the flag of the Comanches, the best horsemen of any of the Plains Tribes, and among the most savage and fearless of any fighters, of any epoch, of any place. You want to read about a character, read about Quanah Parker, one of the most amazing human beings to ever trod this ball of mud and water, an unbelievable story, and unbelievable life, a Texan. Ppl think Geo Bush is a Texan -- Bush is a big candy-ass. You want to read about Texans, read about Sam Houston. Quanah Parker. Bigfoot Wallace.


Okay, so I'll admit it -- I sortof like Austin. If I'm going to live in the US I'm going to live in Texas, and if I'm going to live in Texas I damn sure intend to live in Austin, because why on earth would I live anywhere else? Given your requirements, it's possible that you would like Austin also. Take the California tags off your car as soon as you can and put on Texas plates, and don't tell anyone here that I recommended you to move here; many of the ppl who moan about it being more expensive than it was 47 years ago blame it on ppl moving here from LA, and they get all frowny when I tell them to welcome their nice new neighbors, who just want to live in a wonderful place, same as anyone else would.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:15 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

Pittsburgh is pretty boss and meets all of your criteria other than internet. However, we have Google, Uber's self driving car division, and Occulus here and I have to think that fiber has got to be just around the corner for us.

The cost of living here is outrageously low for a city of its size, but be aware that employers know this and our salaries are commensurate with that. But it's still incredibly easy to have a pleasant, middle class life on not very much here.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:44 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

You might look into midwestern college towns: Bloomington, Indiana; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; or Iowa City, Iowa.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:28 AM on June 7, 2016

Came to suggest two cities. Looks like dancestoblue already has Austin covered really well.

Second suggestion - Baltimore. I know, I know.... last year had some bad moments, but believe me it is an awesome city with a lot going for it. Lots of history and character. Inner harbor area is a great place to live. Under Armor HQ is in the area, attracting some great people working in the area. Lots of fun places to eat and drink. Great seafood. Winters are quite manageable, unlike NYC/Boston/Chicago. Super easy access to east coast cities -- DC/PHL/NYC/BOS by car/train/flight. Three major airports within an hour's drive (BWI, DCA, IAD). PHL is about an hour and half away by car. Only downside I see for you is Comcast internet, not cheap, not fast like fiber, but should be good enough for most people.
posted by thewildgreen at 6:50 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Florida. Specifically, the northern half. South Florida is too expensive.

No state income tax. Great weather. Decent cities.

Depending on your particular interests, one of the 3 major cities of the northern half of Florida could suffice: Tampa, Orlando, or Jacksonville.

Gainesville if you want a college town.

Or you could pick a not-too-expensive (as compared to South FL) smaller seaside town if that interests you, say, Volusia or Brevard counties.
posted by glenngulia at 7:30 AM on June 7, 2016

Just as a guide, on the east coast you want to be no farther north than Philly, and if you go more inland, farther south than that. Then there is the question of the southern culture. If you want to stay out of Dixie for cultural reasons, you have a narrow band including Delaware and Maryland. Since I like the idea of a college town, I'll mention Newark, DE (pronounced New-ark), and Chestertown, MD (probably too small). There are others, of course.

If the south appeals, there is the Research Triangle of NC,, and also Asheville.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:42 AM on June 7, 2016

Look. I'm gonna throw you a bit of a curve ball.

Come to Mississippi.

Cspire has started rolling out fiber access in many cities across the state. I am lucky enough to be in one of those cities and their service is phenomenal.

It gets hot in the summer, sure, but we only get one good snow a year so it makes winter weather kinda special.

The Jackson Metro has plenty going on for a young person. Lots of music, food, and goings on.

If you are looking to expand your comfort zone, I can guarantee that Mississippi is the place to do that. Good people with a good heart and terrible politicians.
posted by GreatValhalla at 8:03 AM on June 7, 2016

I'd suggest Kansas City, MO: fun city, great amenities (if you don't wanna talk about transit), decent prices and good connectivity.
posted by scruss at 8:29 AM on June 7, 2016

You might look into ... Madison, Wisconsin ...

Although my hometown of Madison, WI seems to be mentioned in just about every "what US city should I move to?" AskMe, I don't think it would be the best choice for the OP. It has "brutally cold winters and snow," and it's intensely sports-focused. I like Madison, but it can be a little alienating since I have no interest in sports.
posted by John Cohen at 9:34 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I will also second Austin; you don't mention food in your post but in addition to its other features enumerated by dancestoblue DAMN it's got a great food scene, from low-end to medium-high-end (Franklin BBQ, the Salt Lick, Odd Duck, Qui, Barley Swine, Olamaie, Emmer and Rye, a countless landscape of food trucks).

For similar reasons, I can also suggest Nashville and Charleston, although they are smaller and less weird.
posted by zingiberene at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in Carrboro, NC and it hits a lot of your criteria:

- 2 miles from UNC, 20 minutes from Durham
- free buses, walkable
- cheaper than where you are now, character
- I work remotely and there's a large community here that does so - RTP has a free coworking space.
- Good tech scene, nice food co-op, really strong sense of community
posted by melodykramer at 10:29 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gotta second Lafayette, Louisiana. It's got everything you're looking for. The biggest drawback is that the food is abundant and delicious and very, very bad for you.
posted by waffleriot at 10:35 AM on June 7, 2016

One caution with Pittsburgh: it is above-average gray and dreary, comparable to Seattle. But it does have some neat neighborhoods.
posted by salvia at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2016

Thank you all for the very thoughtful and well-reasoned answers! I'm looking forward to doing more research on each of these cities :)
posted by allseeingabstract at 1:54 PM on June 7, 2016

For Florida, I have several cool, liberal young-ish (thirtysomething) friends who have moved to St Petersburg and Gainesville in the last few years and love it.
posted by lunasol at 3:14 PM on June 7, 2016

I don't know how I missed your weather preferences, but I somehow did. Anyway, I should subsequently note that contrary to popular belief, Pittsburgh does not get lake effect snow and the temperature and snowiness of our winters varies wildly. It's not tropical by any means, but this year winter was so mild that the parsley and tarragon in my herb garden became perennials. But every now and then we get a polar vortex year, and that's not so pleasant. Overall, climate change has been pretty good to us.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:25 PM on June 7, 2016

salvia: "One caution with Pittsburgh: it is above-average gray and dreary, comparable to Seattle. But it does have some neat neighborhoods."

Another caution - it is indisputably a sports town, and as someone who pretty much loathes professional sport, it made living there much less enjoyable for me.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:07 PM on June 7, 2016

As a Pittsburgher (well, 45 min northwest), I don't recommend it. Housing costs are great, but the weather is dreadful. While this past winter was moderate, it was atypical. Winters can be very cold and pretty snowy. As for the cloudiness, I'll paraphrase Louis Black by saying there are times you want to slit your wrists just to see some color.
posted by ReginaHart at 7:21 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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