Where to live in the NE US?
August 28, 2017 7:19 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are late thirties and experiencing a bout of severe wanderlust. We have way too many options and need more advice. We currently live in Atlanta, and if I have to endure one more 90F excessively humid summer here that lasts six months I'm going to lose my damn mind. So where to?

I telecommute and work in tech; she's going to do some side hustle stuff for a while. I have wide flexibility in terms of my location. If I had my dream, I'd live on the coast of Scotland, but that isn't feasible right now. Important stuff to us: Mountains, cooler weather, excellent Internet connectivity speeds, farm to table living, left-leaning politics, good culture, learning opportunities, maybe a decent small-scale tech scene, reasonable economic development/future, music, coffee. Being within a few hours of NY and BOS would be great. I will be traveling a lot, so access to a good airport is important but it can be a couple of hours. I'm not a college grad, and so maybe it would be useful for me to go back to school at some point in the next few years. Winters don't scare us.

We recognize it's going to be hard to find friends our age. I could use some good intellectual company, too. Places we've considered: Ithaca NY, Lenox or Great Barrington MA, Hartford CT, Quiet Corner area CT.

These are all good spots, and tick most of our boxes. We've noodled over some Boston suburban towns, but nothing serious so far. Burlington VT, Boston, and New York are out for cost and some other reasons. Mass is scary because of taxes, but otherwise OK. Ithaca feels too far away from things. Quiet Corner has me worried a little bit due to what seems like increasing opiate problems. Similar story with Hudson Valley; the economic depression has me worried.

Where would you live up in that part of the world if you were so inclined?
posted by arimathea to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Northampton/Amherst, MA. Go further west into the mountains if you're willing to trade culture/restaurants/people for nature.

Brattleboro, VT and/or Greenfield, MA might be another option, but it's not nearly as vibrant as Northampton/Amherst.

I think your fears about the Hudson Valley are overstated, at least in parts. Take a look at Hudson or the Annondale area (e.g. Red Hook or Rhinebeck), perhaps?
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:30 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Taxes in Massachusetts aren't nearly as scary as people think. The area around Northampton, Massachusetts, might suit you. Great weather, good mix of rural and urban life, CSA's up the wazoo, a progressive political scene, and decent Internet unless you head up into the hilltowns. Northampton to BDL is about a 45-55 minute drive depending on traffic. We don't have mountains here, but we have hills that are called mountains, and the Green and White Mountains, plus the Adirondacks, aren't that far away.

With UMass Amherst and the four colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith) in the area, there's a lot of cultural stuff going on. Plus Hampshire Community College, Westfield State, and several public and private colleges in the Springfield area. Good museums, too.

If you have specific questions about the area, feel free to memail me.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:31 PM on August 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Portland, ME?
posted by msbubbaclees at 7:40 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you've basically described the Pioneer Valley (though I'm not sure about the tech scene.) Someone once described it to me as "where East Coast hipsters go if they don't want to/can't move all the way to Portland, OR", and I think that sums it up pretty well.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:53 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about driving? You can get commuting distance from Burlington and be somewhere decently cheap. Otherwise it hits everything on your checklist ( I don't mean to quibble with your other reasons, just tossing that out there) and there's also Montpelier. I travel a lot for work and the BTV airport is good for most destinations except other tiny airports. I live about 50 minutes south of Burlington and it's also pretty easy to get a bus to Boston or drive to Manchester NH. Springfield VT may be the town you are looking for in a few years (some serious tech investment going in there) but it's not there yet.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 PM on August 28, 2017

I asked a similar question years ago and we ended up in New Paltz, NY. We love it and wouldn't live anywhere else. Surrounded by farms, crunchy, creative types, CSAs, good restaurants. Really most of the Hudson Valley is distinctly beautiful with a very high quality of life.

Opiate problems are pretty much confined to city centers (Kingston, Newburgh) but both are also up and coming. Beacon, Rosendale, New Paltz, Rhinebeck--any of those are pretty much exactly as you describe.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 PM on August 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I split my time between the Hartford suburbs and the quiet corner. I'm familiar with Lenox, and lived in Ithaca some time ago. Feel free to memail me with questions.
posted by slateyness at 8:13 PM on August 28, 2017

Just in case you don't already know this, northeastern summers can be pretty hot, humid, and miserable, at least closer to the coast. Not for as long as southern summers, but I felt very surprised by my first summer in Cambridge, MA--and betrayed by everyone who claimed "no one has air conditioning, you don't need it here."
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:11 PM on August 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

If New Paltz is affordable for you, run there like your life depends on it! Close enough to catch shows in NYC on the reg. So much great hiking. Amazing community. I truly miss it.
posted by jbenben at 9:53 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe Concord, New Hampshire. It's pretty close to the Manchester airport, and while it's not in the "real" White Mountains yet, there are some nice foothills. Bigger mountains are but a short drive away, as is Lake Winnipesaukee. It's about 2-2.5 hours from Boston. Might be a little too small, but worth checking out at least.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:23 AM on August 29, 2017

If Ithaca is too distant but on your list (and coming from Atlanta I agree it would probably be a major culture change though it ticks every box and I can answer any questions you have) I'd suggest Northampton MA. I know Hartford well and I don't think it is what you are looking for environmentally. Portland ME is another possibility.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:32 AM on August 29, 2017

Buffalo ticks every box, except the Mountains, and you are only a few hours from the Adirondacks. PLUS there are a couple of great Great Lakes, a Wonder of the World, and easy access to Canada. You are on the other side of BOS and NYC, BUT Pittsburgh and Cleveland are close by, and the Airport will get you just about anywhere.

Our tech, medical, food, culture, and arts scenes are continuously growing and developing, there is money being put into great works, and the snow isn't nearly as bad as everyone assumes it is.
posted by RhysPenbras at 5:11 AM on August 29, 2017

I will yield to what slateyness says about CT's quiet corner, since they have more current info, but I grew up there and would actually steer you away from it (or at least advise you to choose your specific town there very carefully). Pretty much the only thing I would count on there from your list is cooler weather, and maybe farm to table living. You may be able to find more culture and left-leaning politics near the University of Connecticut campus, but not in the town where I grew up (it's not that you wouldn't find people who lean left at all, it's just that you'd find just as many people who skew right, and that snarls up local politics like whoa).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2017

I'm a former Atlantan and I'm enjoying my life in Pittsburgh. I'd never really seen the point of summer other than agony and sweating through my clothes until I moved here. The summers are glorious! We got through this one without air conditioning except for two weeks. It's nice to be outside, the insects don't eat me alive, and there are no waterbugs. I discovered that I actually like hiking and kayaking.

I like that we aren't too far from agriculture here. There are lots of small farms in the area that we have direct connections to as a source of our food. Last Saturday we picked apples in the suburbs and are currently harvesting veggies from our small city garden. We have chickens and so do many of our neighbors. We live within a 10 minute commuting distance of downtown.

Pittsburgh is a great place for tech and CMU (the whole reason I moved here) is a great resource both for education and feeding the startup ecosystem. I've worked for startups and larger companies in the area for over a decade and there is a lot of choice if you have technical skills. The tech scene is pretty accessible and I would be happy to make introductions.

I like the culture here. The art scene is accessible, there is a lot of public creativity and the libraries just added Drag Queen Story hour. The people are frugal and not flashy, but the living is affordable. Plus, no one asked me if Jesus is my lord and savior since I moved here (a regular occurrence in my GA home town).

Pittsburgh was a good choice for us. I sometimes wish we lived closer to the ocean, but that is why I have a flight booked to Boston next week.
posted by Alison at 6:30 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hanover, NH? Where Dartmouth College is. Ticks all your boxes except maybe super duper high-speed internet access, which is available in several towns nearby (fiber-optic) but not yet in Hanover, though there is 4G. There is almost-direct bus service into and out of Boston's airport and train/bus station multiple times daily. Lots of music, arts, coffee, farm to table culture, left leaning, many learning ops. Summers are on the cool side, though Hanover is in the "banana belt", being in the Upper Valley. Still, mostly low 70s to mid-80s for highs in July and August this year. Small, but a vibrant culture for its size.
posted by mmw at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

(I might choose Pittsburgh over New Paltz for access to Drag Queen Story Hour. Pittsburgh suddenly seems a Win-Win!)
posted by jbenben at 7:13 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I live just outside of Albany NY, which is more affordable than New Paltz/ further downstate Hudson Valley areas. It is not as liberal/crunchy as the college towns mentioned, but does have everything else you ask for, a number of colleges, an airport, and more job prospects than smaller towns.
posted by metasarah at 7:29 AM on August 29, 2017

Yeah, nthing the Pioneer Valley in MA (Northampton/Amherst). There are a TON of people here who do remote work, especially tech stuff, and there are a lot of coworking spaces for folks into that sort of thing. Taxes here aren't as bad as rumored and we get decent services out of them - not like other places I've lived!

Re summers, Rhiannonstone, it didn't used to be so hot and humid in the summers. I grew up without AC and it was fine. Warmer, stickier summers are fairly new to us. This summer has been downright cold.
posted by john_snow at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2017

I will yield to what slateyness says about CT's quiet corner...

The Quiet Corner will likely be too quiet for you, and only checks a few things off your list. I agree with EmpressCallipygos, for the most part. A big benefit for me is that I'm close to a rail line to NYC, and farm to table is for real here and there is decent hiking in the hills/the berkshires are close. But I also only spend half my time or so there, for lack of culture/entertainment etc. I'd recommend Litchfield maybe, and the NYTimes just wrote a long article glorifying Salisbury. A few of the suburbs of Hartford might be much closer to most of your criteria.

If you can do without the mountains being so close, and are happy to substitute the shore, I'd look at South Norwalk, CT as very much meeting the rest of your list, and maybe Providence RI.

Northampton, MA sounds like a best bet for you.
posted by slateyness at 9:48 AM on August 29, 2017

Hartford per se does not seem like a good choice to me. It's a very troubled city. But there are lots of nice places in the towns around Hartford. No mountains, though.

Altitude is the key to being cool in the summer. That's why people go to the Poconos, Catskills, Adirondacks, etc.

I'm not sure that Pittsburgh is truly NE, but it could be a good choice. It certainly has the tech scene - Carnegie-Mellon!
posted by SemiSalt at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Portland Maine since 2013 and feel like it checks off most of your boxes. Logan Airport is a 2hr drive/shuttle bus ride away if you can't get where you're going from the Portland Jetport. White Mountain range nearby. Great food, more coffee than you can drink, lively arts scene, farm to table, internet, liberal, fun. Coastal, so the winters are slightly less extreme and the summer and fall are absolute perfection.
posted by donnagirl at 12:42 PM on August 29, 2017

For those of you coming back to this thread, my partner and I settled in Beacon, NY. Beacon had an urban feel with a resurgent local economy downtown. Apartments of the style we were looking for were more feasible and the close access to NYC swayed us. We did spend a lot of time looking at other areas in the Hudson Valley. New Paltz didn't wow us, but Hudson, NY did and we might end up there at some later date. We love Beacon so far and really enjoy the area.

Portland was a little far out for my partner. The five colleges (Northampton/Amherst, etc) area was great (especially downtown), but traffic was a little bizarre for us and reminded us too much of the terrible traffic situation in Atlanta, our origin. We also felt like we wanted to be closer to Boston or NY. Beacon has us fairly centrally located at all the places we would want to visit, at the cost of an hour drive to non-local things (e.g. IKEA, Whole Foods).

Since we moved to Beacon, we've been spending a lot of time in Paramus, NJ and Danbury, CT for shopping. We enjoy CT, and should our situation change Danbury might be another eventual destination.

I want to thank everyone for all their help!
posted by arimathea at 9:50 AM on January 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

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