Where to move that has sun
October 10, 2016 6:01 PM   Subscribe

I just can't take the grey drizzle anymore, where should I move? Details inside.

I'm an early-mid-20s woman who's lived in the greater Seattle area my entire life. I get seasonal affective disorder in fall-winter and it seems to get worse every year despite my best efforts. I feel like a normal person during the summer but every fall the doom and gloom sets in and doesn't lift until next summer. I'm also just ready to move on elsewhere. I've saved up quite a lot of money from living with my parents, and figure if I'm going to move, now is the time before I put down roots here and it gets harder to just pick up and go.

Things I would like in no particular order:
1. Sunny days. I can take cold sunny days or hot sunny days, the glowing sky orb just needs to be visible much of the time.
2. Queer friendly (which unfortunately rules out a lot of sunny places)
3. Decent cost of living/rental prices
4. Job market with prospects for someone with a BSc in Biology and little experience
5. Some form of nature, bonus points for water/beach nearby
6. Dog friendly

I know I'm looking for a unicorn, so I'm not expecting a perfect match. Let me know if you have any ideas, thanks!
posted by Orca to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you can handle Seattle economically, I've heard San Diego is similar and checks your boxes.
posted by booooooze at 6:11 PM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Southern California, but also New Mexico or even Texas might be for you. Maybe... tri-cities or Walla Walla?
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:16 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

So this is going to sound weird, but if you're really okay with cold and snow... I find the Boston area surprisingly sunny. I moved here from a place that went grey for months on end, and truly, if it's not actively precipitating, it tends to be very sunny here through the winter. There's gobs of science jobs and a whole lot of access to nature (both beaches and mountains). I'm up on the north shore, and I've never lived anywhere so dog obsessed - the woman at the wine shop gives me hell if I go in there without my dog. Dogs are everywhere. Similar cost of living as Seattle, which means you can definitely do better on that axis.
posted by amelioration at 6:16 PM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Raleigh, perhaps.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:29 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

The politics of most of Colorado aren't especially gay-friendly, but Boulder is an exception. East of the Rockies, Colorado is very sunny. and here's a list
posted by theora55 at 6:29 PM on October 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Flagstaff, Arizona.
posted by Oyéah at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Salt Lake City is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the US.
posted by Oyéah at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Denver. I'm a queer lady who has lived in central Denver off and on for decades. The cost of living is rising, unfortunately, but if you're used to Seattle costs, it should be fine. Boulder is okay, too, but Denver is more of a real city. The mountains make up for the lack of water or a beach.
posted by heurtebise at 6:38 PM on October 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you can take the heat:
Tucson, AZ
Austin, TX

If you can't take the heat:
Denver, CO (no, really)
Flagstaff, AZ
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:50 PM on October 10, 2016

This map might be helpful, charting average daily sunlight across this US.

Maybe Miami?
posted by crazy with stars at 6:55 PM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Austin meets your requirements, though cost of living is rising like whoa.
posted by superlibby at 6:56 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Colorado; nearest thing to Cali of the 70's, and with all the Texas independance without the Texas part of it. Smaller lakes and streams; but the expanse of the Rockies compensates.
Come quick; real estate is begining to show the Cali and ATX effect.
posted by buzzman at 7:00 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Philadelphia! Better weather than much of the northeast/midatlantic, plenty of sun, definitely queer and dog friendly, some of the best city parks in the country, and a couple hours from beach/mountains/nature. The cost of living isn't the greatest, but it's better than a lot of places people have mentioned. There are a lot of research schools in the city, which is a great place to start looking for STEM jobs without a lot of experience.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:08 PM on October 10, 2016

Madison, WI is very bright and cold all winter long; queer friendly; much, much cheaper than Seattle; rich in jobs, with a major research university and lots of biotech firms; dogs everywhere; no part of the city is far from water. The city is an isthmus.
posted by escabeche at 7:10 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was also thinking that Boston checks all of your boxes. Portland, ME also would be a good choice, although the job market is a little smaller there.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2016

I wouldn't pick a city farther north than latitude of San Francisco without spending a chunk of time there in midwinter. In my own experience, not just the presence or absence of clouds but also the sheer angle of the sun at midday makes a difference in how you handle the depth of winter if you have SAD.
posted by Creosote at 7:34 PM on October 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's worth noting, per crazy with star's map, that Seattle is literally the darkest major city in the country, with the possible exception of Pittsburgh. So if your goal is simply "more light than Seattle" then you could move just about anywhere outside of the upper Midwest or inland New England and be substantially better off.

People have mentioned Boston, which definitely is sunnier, queer-friendly and has a big market for biotech jobs. On the downside it's pretty expensive.

San Diego sounds like it would fit all your criteria, though I have no particular knowledge of the area myself. I also wouldn't write off the South and Southwest. Sure, states like Texas and Arizona might not be terribly queer-friendly as a whole, but cities like Austin, New Orleans and Phoenix have large, vibrant LGBT communities.
posted by firechicago at 7:48 PM on October 10, 2016

Los Angeles, with some caveats.

On your criteria:

1. Yeaaahhhhhhhh! The stereotypes about California sunshine are 100% true. If anything, it's too sunny here.

2. Pretty damn great! Definitely up there with the great liberal/queer friendly cities in the US like SF, NYC, Seattle, Miami, Portland, etc.

3. This is a little more iffy. My perception is that it's about on par with other major US cities including Seattle, but rents have gone way up in the four years I've lived here, and they continue to climb. It can be very difficult to find an affordable place, especially if you plan to live on your own. It's definitely not going to be cheaper than Seattle, but if you do OK in Seattle you can probably find something.

4. Maybe? Unfortunately, I can't weigh in on the science job market since I don't work in that field. That said, it's a major city with reasonably good job prospects in general. It should be easy enough to do your own research on what the job market is like for your specific area of interest. One thing that is tough in Los Angeles compared to other cities is that it can be hard to get a service industry type "day job" to tide you over. There are a lot of actors and other creative types who snap up flexible gigs in restaurants, bars, cafes, etc.

5. Yes! The east side of town and San Fernando Valley tend to be more affordable, but even then, the beach is only an hour's drive away and there's tons of hiking and nature. Also, Long Beach has a thriving LGBT community and tends to be more affordable than other beachy parts of town like Venice, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, etc.

6. Depends exactly what you're looking for, but I'd also give this a tentative yes. If you're looking for wide open spaces to train your Border Collie, probably less so unless you are very wealthy/willing to live really far out of the city. If you're talking easy to find pet-friendly rentals, dog parks, outdoor cafes, dog walkers and daycare, etc, then yes, absolutely! It can be difficult to find an apartment share that will allow large dogs, though.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

What kind of bio degree? Do you want to do biotech or go to grad school or study wolves? It makes a big difference.

Havingn said that you can substitute teach almost anywhere.
posted by fshgrl at 8:18 PM on October 10, 2016

Hawaii. Cost of living is "high" here, but only in some respects, so without knowing your specific budget it's hard to say if it would be too high for you (it's significantly cheaper than Manhattan/Brooklyn/SF for example). Very dog friendly; tons of nature. There's a lot of science-y research stuff going on here, so I'm sure there are relevant job opportunities.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:24 PM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

St Petersburg, FL. I know! I know! we were for years know as "God's Waiting Room" but no longer! The St Pete of today is cool and hip and in the middle of a Craft Beer, Food and Art Renaissance.
1) Sunny days? We are known as the "Sunshine City"! For years the evening newspaper would be given out for free if the sun did not shine. Maybe twice a year they would hand out an edition. Oh and we have the Shine Mural Festival now in it's second year and just a very groovy thing.
2) Queer friendly? Check! We have one of the largest gay pride parades in America. The most popular traffic reporter in the area is openly gay, and we have the wonderful TGLIFF if you are a film buff
3) Rents? Prices have been increasing lately but compared to the west coast it's still cheap for what you get. Lots of new construction downtown.
4)Jobs? Tampa right next door has lots of opportunities for someone with a Biology degree what with USF's CAMLS facility and the college itself.
5) Nature! how about Boyd Hill Nature Preserve as for beaches we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the US but don't take my word for it, ask US News and World Report
6) Dog friendly OMG YES!!!! here is a event with a movie about dogs where you can bring your dog. Let's not forget the Dog Bar where you and your best friend can both get your drink on.
Extra credit! Lets combine 5&6 with: dog beaches!!!!!
posted by HappyHippo at 9:06 PM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you can afford it San Diego sounds perfect for you. We are in the Seattle area too and mostly like it but a couple years ago in the dead of winter Portlandia did an episode where some of the characters take a trip to San Diego and my husband I were basically crying with desire to go there.
posted by the marble index at 9:09 PM on October 10, 2016

Another vote for San Diego. However

Understand that it is a beach town, a military town, a college town, and a border town all rolled into one. It's the best and worst of all of those things.

Keep an escape fund. Go live there for a few years. Don't veg out too much.
posted by jbenben at 9:14 PM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tucson is queer-friendly and hella sunny, and it's one of the cheapest places to rent and drive in the country. It offers outstanding hiking and biking, and it's also extremely pet-friendly (compared to my experiences renting in Boston). Dunno about job prospects for your flavor of biologist, but you could see if the University of Arizona job site (www.uacareers.com) has anything promising listed.

Cons: you do have to live in Arizona, and it's unpleasantly hot from mid-May to November-ish.
posted by kwaller at 9:35 PM on October 10, 2016

If the world's your oyster, I'd say try Hawaii in a heartbeat. Ever been? Cost of living isn't great, but you can make some lifestyle adjustments, and the baked-in benefits of living in paradise are pretty sweet. Nature is absolutely everywhere, and yes, beaches and water and warm days and balmy nights. Roundtrips to Seattle are in the $450 range with reasonable planning ahead, making it easy and compelling for family and friends to visit you.
posted by mumkin at 12:36 AM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was curious as to what Sara C. would say. (Since I was going to say LA, with caveats, myself.). You absolutely can find a place in LA or Orange County that is Seattle-priced. But it'll be far from the beach/the hipsters. And it might not be affordable in 5 years.

Some less-than-obvious places you should look: Long Beach, West Adams, around USC, Alhambra, Inglewood, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton.

If money weren't an issue: Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, West Hollywood.

I love LA. I fled the grey myself, and I could never go back to that.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:42 AM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry, also Northridge and maybe Van Nuys. North Hollywood may already be too costly, but it can't hurt to look.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:43 AM on October 11, 2016

If I were you, I might try Albuquerque. I've been there many times at various points in the year, and as someone coming from the East Coast who also has SAD, it was bordering on miraculous. In my experience of the city, even in the chilly winter months it is extremely and blissfully bright with sunlight. The weather all year round is pretty amazing, in fact. Winter is maybe in the 40s Fahrenheit during the day (sometimes warmer), although the nights can be cold. Summers are hot but with virtually no humidity. Spring and fall are beautiful. The city is 5000 feet in elevation, nestled in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains to the east, with views of the mountains from everywhere in the city. There are tons of beautiful mountain trails within a 20-minute drive or so of downtown. There's also walking along the canals of the Rio Grande, in the other direction. And tons of Southwest nature (Grand Canyon, etc.), as well as Native American reservations, within an easy day/weekend trip. I believe it to be fairly dog-friendly, especially in the woodsy areas by the foothills. Super cheap cost of living compared to anywhere else I've lived in or been to in the US. Only two caveats. First, I don't know about your job prospects with a BSc in Bio, but I do know that they have a med school, so research assistant jobs there might be a good place to start. Second, I don't know how queer friendly it is. I believe NM/Albuquerque is a pretty blue place (far more than nearby Arizona, for instance). I would say it's worth looking into.
posted by ClaireBear at 6:59 AM on October 11, 2016

San Diego is especially perfect if you're looking for biology jobs. the areas around UC San Diego (my alma mater) are packed with them; look into La Jolla when job searching. as mentioned, SD is a college & military town and so forth, but the uptown areas of Hillcrest (the gayborhood), North Park, Normal Heights, University Heights, South Park & Mission Hills are super liberal with a thriving queer scene. I lived there 12 years & live in the Silver Lake area of LA now -- which I love, but rents seem to be about a third more.
Someone mentioned Long Beach -- another great option, sort of San Diego meets LA with another thriving queer scene. not sure about bio jobs though.
posted by changeling at 7:58 AM on October 11, 2016

Houston has some of your points including sunshine, reasonable rent, job market in the bio sciences, dogs, and beach and nature access. The city is notably queer tolerant, evidenced by the fact that the recent mayor's sexuality was No Big Deal.

Of course it is very hot and humid during the six months of summer, and when it rains it can rain a lot.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:23 AM on October 11, 2016

I came in to say Denver as well. It's not water, but there sure is nature! I think it ticks the rest of your boxes nicely.
posted by freezer cake at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2016

Denver. Denver. Also Denver. No beaches, but the lack of water comes with a distinct lack of bugs. I never enjoyed nature time so much as I did when I lived there. I am from CNY and found the winters to be extremely mild there, mostly just wearing a sweater and a fleece or down vest.
posted by xyzzy at 12:10 PM on October 11, 2016

East coast transplant (Toronto, Canada) here. I moved to LA for undergrad and grad, and now I live in San Diego.

San Diego is... the beach, microbreweries, hiking trails, and great weather. In my opinion (which I find tends to be shared with other east coast transplants, northern Californians and generally anyone from a large metropolitan city), it is otherwise conservative, devoid of any sort of culture, heavily military, and not diverse.

If that sounds harsh, it is probably because having lived on both coasts (including New York, DC, and San Francisco) I find San Diego lacking in substance. The areas changeling describes are tiny, and tend to get boring pretty fast. On the other hand, biotech jobs are plentiful. Again, this is just an opinion, and YMMV.
posted by Everydayville at 12:55 PM on October 11, 2016

If you look at Austin, be sure to check out my old hometown of San Antonio as well. SA is sort of the furthest extremity of northern Mexico, making it different from the other big cities of Texas in a positive way. It really is cosmopolitan, though not in a glamorous way. It has a queer scene and nightlife of its own, but is also close enough to Austin to allow you to visit friends and see shows. (I am straight, but I know from current, quality second-hand experience that there is a legit gay community there.) It is not an official cool place, though, so rents/purchases seem to be still where I left them in 1995, allowing for inflation, of course. Forget about renting...buy yourself a little house on the near West Side for $60,000.

It's hotter than hell. Don't move there until the summer revs up again and you can understand what's up.
posted by 8603 at 1:29 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys! This is excellent, I have a lot to look at now, I'll be sure to comb through everything here. Right now Denver and Salt Lake City have caught my eye. California sounds amazing but it looks wildly expensive and I already find Seattle out of my price range.
posted by Orca at 6:18 PM on October 11, 2016

I concur with Everydayville about San Diego. Some of it at least. There is a definite bro vibe that I don't see in LA or Long Beach.

I wouldn't write off SoCal before you price places. I'd compare some of the less-obvious places here that I mentioned above to SLC and Denver. You may find it's still too costly/not worth the proce difference. But, you may not!
posted by persona au gratin at 1:13 AM on October 12, 2016

I'm a born and bred Seattleite, and lived there until age 35. Moved away due to a combination of factors: wanted more sun, arthritis couldn't handle the cold anymore, and a great job offer in Orlando, FL. Spent almost 10 years there, then moved to Phoenix, AZ, where we've lived for over a year.

Both Florida and Arizona have plenty of sun, and roughly equivalent costs of living. Florida has no state income tax, but Arizona's tops out at 4.5% (New Mexico next door tops out at 4.9%), which is much better than California's top rate of 13.3%. Both AZ & NM also definitely have queer-friendly areas, and good job markets.

Florida has the beach within an hour drive of anywhere, but as a native of Seattle, the east coast just felt wrong. We had to discover new brands and stores for nearly everything. I was up for a change, but I wasn't really prepared for everything to change. It was all so different, even after a decade there, it never really felt like "home."

Even though we don't have the beach here in Arizona, there are so many more familiar things, which immediately made me more comfortable. And while it does get hella hot in the summer, now that I've experienced both, I'd much rather have Arizona's 110° than Florida's 90° with 90% humidity.

TL;DR: the desert is pretty decent. Check out the Phoenix area, as well as Flagstaff, Tucson, Santa Fe, Albuquerque.
posted by themissy at 9:18 AM on October 12, 2016

Durham, of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. Also known as the Research Triangle (plenty of biotech jobs!) Surprised it was only mentioned by one other person, considering it matches your needs exceedingly well. Beautiful outdoor activities nearby, with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Outer Banks not too far away in either direction.
posted by houseofleaves at 7:44 PM on October 12, 2016

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