Where should we move? #8485902
February 27, 2018 3:07 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are looking for a new place to live. He's a software engineer, so our location can be somewhat flexible and we're trying to find the best place for our family.

We're currently living in LA but are looking at the prospect of a job change and so are trying to figure out where to move to. We're both from the midwest (Iowa and Missouri), and our family is now mostly in St. Louis and Indianapolis. It would be nice to be somewhat close to family, but it's not a deal-breaker, especially since almost anywhere is closer than where we currently live. We have two young children (3 and 1) and are likely to have one more, so our top priority is somewhere family friendly. Good schools, parks, libraries are a must. My husband is a software engineer and would like to live somewhere with several potential employers, just so we're not stuck in a place with only one job opportunity. So it's probably going to have to be at least a medium sized city. As far as climate, we're somewhat flexible. I would prefer not somewhere overly cold (I spent two years in Iowa and nearly cried at how cold it was), but if the city is otherwise amazing I could probably figure some way to get over my negative feelings towards the cold. Having said that, I love the sunshine of LA but do sometimes get tired of it being 80 in January. Politically, we're pretty moderate and I think we'd like to be somewhere pretty middle of the road. As far as cost of living, since we're in LA, I think most places in the country would be cheaper, but obviously it would be nice to have a house with a yard in a nice neighborhood near parks and libraries. I'm a stay at home mom/adjunct legal writing professor, so if it was somewhere near at least one or two law schools that would be a major bonus.

We've ruled out San Francisco since it's so expensive and we would barely be able to afford a tiny studio apartment hours away from the city. Probably the same with New York.

We're intrigued by the Research Triangle in North Carolina since it seems like it has a number of tech opportunities and is a nice place to live and raise a family. If you live there, do you like it? Are there any specific neighborhoods you would recommend?
posted by McPuppington the Third to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The research triangle is a good idea. Chicago (depending on your opinion of how awesome and how cold it is), Atlanta, and Austin jump out at me, too.
posted by The Notorious B.F.G. at 3:25 PM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Champaign, Illinois, is close (2 to 3 hours drive) to your families (on both sides!). It's a college town with technology-focused Research Park. Cost of living is reasonable. Weather is similar to St. Louis. Family-friendly, with a small-town feel, especially in the summer.
posted by hydra77 at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2018

Are you comfortable throwing out a number you'd think of as reasonable for monthly housing costs -- either buying or renting?

Houston is INSANELY livable, but I get the sense that most folks with school-age kids move to the suburbs instead of the cool interior neighborhoods that my wife and I favor. That said, you still get access to all this city has to offer even if you're down in Clear Lake or whatever.

  • Lower-than-you'd-think cost of living for a city this size (6MM in the metro area). It's not the bargain it was 10 years ago, but it's dead cheap vs. LA or SF or NY. You can buy a home here for $300k, no kidding.
  • Urban Houston is pretty dang blue. It's only some truly egregious gerrymandering that makes my House rep a Republican.
  • Diverse economy. It's not just an energy town anymore, and hasn't been for a long while. There are lots of opportunities here.
  • Easy access elsewhere. We are very well served by air carriers and have two major airports; I think the longest domestic flight I've taken from here was to Seattle, and it was only 4 hours. NY is closer. Chicago is WAY closer.
  • The winter! Traditionally, we get a few bursts of actual cold -- bring in the plants! zomg! -- but 2 days later you'll be outside in shirtsleeves or shorts. This means there's never a time you can't do things outside. It's a little less fun in July -- see below -- but you acclimate.
  • The vibe of the town. Houston is unpretentious and fun. People are generally awesome here, largely I think because it's very much an immigrant town -- most people I know aren't from here, but once they got here they put down roots.
  • There's a thriving arts scene, a LOT more theater than you'd think, great music, wonderful museums, and a world class food scene that starts with $2 bahn mi and extends into high end fine dining.
  • Like watersports? You're in luck, because Houston's all about that, from skiing or fishing in Clear Lake to actual sailing regattas in Galveston Bay, people here like the water. You'll make friends with someone who owns a boat in NO time.
  • It's Texas, which means more, and more diverse things, than you might think. Lean into it, and it'll embrace you.
  • The further out you get -- as with any big city -- the less you see most of these charms. Suburban anywhere tends to be homogenous, boring, and here it's gonna be hella Republican.
  • Ok, sure. Summer here is a thing to be endured. It gets hotter elsewhere -- we're rarely over 95 -- but we more than make up for it with the humidity. We are, in most ways that matter, a swamp town. You know how, in downtown Toronto, there are tunnels to keep people out of the winter? Downtown Houston has the same thing here, except for it's to hide from the heat. All that said, people generally just get used to it -- I'm a cyclist, and I have no problem finding folks to ride with through the hottest months.
  • The other weather thing is that yeah, we're on the Gulf Coast, so hurricanes are a thing. We had a lot of rain from one last year; you might've seen something about it. Generally the city is far enough inland that only serious flooding threatens us, though.
  • It's Texas, which right now means absurd state-level Republicans. That's changing, but slowly -- the current GOP are basically killing themselves here with all the nativist rhetoric, since we're at the forefront of a major demographic change. Latinx citizens aren't super into hearing about how those damn illegals are stealing jobs, you know?

posted by uberchet at 3:59 PM on February 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I moved to Columbus, OH (well, a suburb, really) several years ago and love it. Very affordable, good schools, one of the best library systems in the country, great parks, lots of fun stuff to do with the family (we have a 4yo). Weather could be sunnier, but it's honestly not too bad. Close-ish to Indy (about 3hrs), but not so much St. Louis.
posted by noneuclidean at 4:01 PM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Durham is swell! I moved here from Toronto several years ago, and thought I would HATE it for many reasons (size, politics, "coolness", etc), but none of those have proven true. Durham is small enough that it feels like a community with real neighbourhoods, but it is growing and "revitializing" (read: gentrifying....) quickly, is politically and culturally diverse, is full to bursting with young families, has lots of hip foodie and music things (not so much on the theatre and other performing arts side, though the dance scene is trying to make something happen), and just has a boatload of good vibes and good times to be had (craft beer and AAA baseball and a great farmers market and 70 billion family and dog-friendly places).

The proximity to Duke, UNC, and NC State means there is an abundance of university-adjacent things going on all the time (talks, lectures, exhibits, film festivals, etc) that are often open to the public. If you can get connected to the university library system, you're golden; no idea what the public library is like? RDU is a not totally terrible airport for a small hub, with many daily direct flights to convenient places.

I live in the lefty enclave of the Old West Durham/Watts Hillandale/Trinity Park neighbourhoods, and I mostly love my 'hood...but house prices here are going up absurdly (compared to the rest of the city), and availability is rare (though not impossible to find), and this particular set of neighbourhoods is kind of a Duke/tech/affluent enclave and doesn't exactly represent the actual demographics of Durham (i.e. it's disturbingly white here), so I'm not sure this is where I'd settle unless it was important to me to be close to Duke (which, right now, it is). Rockwood is apparently the new hotness, but there are loads of other great neighbourhoods in Durham.

I can't speak to schools since we are kidless, but Mr. Dorinda works in tech, and almost everyone I know (outside of school) is a tech/computer person, so there's no shortage of opportunity in that realm. I think Durham (but not South Durham, which is bland and suburby) is waaaaaay more livable than Raleigh or Cary (unless you are into a more suburban vibe), Chapel Hill would be my second choice of triangle locales.

It's cold-ish in winter, but not Toronto-cold, and not for long.
It's deadly hot and suffocatingly humid in the summer.
The beach is two hours to the east, and the mountains are 3 hours to the west.
posted by Dorinda at 4:07 PM on February 27, 2018

The Research Triangle ticks all your boxes except "close to family." I lived in Cary for a year and have a ton of friends and family in that area. Do your research about school districts. They have some of the best public schools in the South, and some of the worst, in pretty close proximity to each other.
posted by xylothek at 4:17 PM on February 27, 2018

Seattle proper sounds like it may not be a great fit for you, but you might really like its east-side satellite cities of Bellevue / Redmond / Issaquah / Sammamish. It's a beautiful area with great schools and parks. Housing is expensive --- probably on par with LA --- but your husband will have to beat tech recruiters away with a stick.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:20 PM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rule out Texas, I wish I had. It’s a weird mix of expensive but with horrible infrastructure, horrible heat, and horrible politics.

It may well be the most-overrated-state—among-Californians. Also anti-Californian (or perceived Californian) sentiments run high.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:35 PM on February 27, 2018

You should live on Bozeman, MT. Very family friendly. Software jobs, good library, amazing park. Arguably the best quality of life in the US. But if can't stop tailgating, it won't work so don't try.
posted by Kalmya at 5:00 PM on February 27, 2018

But more positively, I will second Colombia OH as having nice stuff and relatively low cost of living. I am there right now, attempting to move back.

As mentioned above, many great large parks close by, also an arts scene, tech opportunities, etc.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:00 PM on February 27, 2018

You'd probably like several of the inner-ring suburbs of Pittsburgh. Given Pittsburgh's size (the city limits specifically--unlike other cities, Pittsburgh did not expand its city limits to engulf streetcar suburbs past like 1900, so parts of town that would be considered city neighborhoods in other cities are technically suburbs here), you can live in a suburb and still be a 15 minute drive from the cultural and university districts. Two law schools (Pitt and Duquesne), lots of tech. Weather is not super awesome, but it's not Iowa by a long shot. It's really family-friendly here. Tons of museums, special events and festivals, initiatives like City of Play and Open Streets. We have a five year old and it's an embarrassment of riches.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:43 PM on February 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just out of curiosity, where did you live in Iowa? I live in SE Iowa, and while it does get cold like the rest of the state (though not bone chilling like up in the NW), we do not get near the amount of snow down here.

Des Moines has a nice tech start-up community going and Iowa is ranked first on best state to live by US News.

posted by Fukiyama at 5:54 PM on February 27, 2018

It may well be the most-overrated-state—among-Californians. Also anti-Californian (or perceived Californian) sentiments run high.

This is one of those subjective things. The seven years I lived in Austin I never heard anyone talk about California one way or another, whereas I’ve spent four years in California hearing about how horrible Texas is from people who have literally never been there.

I wonder if Louisville might interest the OP. Blue city in a very red state, so it kind of balances out to middle of the road. The winters aren’t bad, and neither are the summers. Close to Indianapolis (1.5 hours if memory serves) and not too far from St. Louis though I’m not sure of the drive time. Growing up nearby I had friends who went to what seemed like good schools but I was a kid so my perspective wasn’t the same as a parent’s obvs.
posted by Smearcase at 6:32 PM on February 27, 2018

I would move back to Lawrence, Kansas, in a heartbeat. The University of Kansas is there, so there is a law school in town plus another in Topeka, about half a mile away. It’s an hour from Kansas City, so there’d be job opportunities there if there aren’t enough in Lawrence. I found it a great place to raise kids, but it’s been quite a while since I lived there, so I can’t promise, but it could be worth researching further. It’s a blue island in a red state.
posted by FencingGal at 6:43 PM on February 27, 2018

Louisville. Close to family, the city itself is politically moderate, lots of great parks, some great public and private schools.
posted by deezil at 7:17 PM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

As far as housing costs, we currently pay about $2,500 a month, so it would be nice to stay within that all in (mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc.). But of course less would be better! We don't need a mansion, but like I said, it would be nice to get a decent-sized house with a yard.

In Iowa, I lived in North Liberty and worked in Cedar Rapids, and my husband grew up in Dubuque and went to grad school in Iowa City (which we loved, except for my dislike of the cold).

These suggestions are great so far, thank you! Keep them coming! I've never thought of Pittsburgh, so it's great to add that to our list. And Columbus and Louisville seem like interesting possibilities too.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 7:21 PM on February 27, 2018

I grew up in Cary, went to high school in Raleigh, and lived in Durham for 10 years. I love the whole Triangle. There are excellent schools (though not every district; check it out) and parks (check out Umstead, for example). The whole area is incredibly green and park-like. Public libraries are good; I used the Durham one fairly frequently. Plus you are 3-4 hours drive from gorgeous beaches or gorgeous mountains.

A word of warning: RTP is currently the nation’s second-hottest housing market by some measures. Prices aren’t nearly as high as the Bay Area or Seattle, but it’s still very hard to avoid getting outbid or sniped by a cash buyer. It’s not impossible to buy, but it’s not easy. Be prepared for that.

I currently live in Austin. It reminds me a ton of Durham, and I love it culture-wise. But traffic is stupid and so is the housing market. Right now it seems like you an have a house with a yard for under three-quarters of a million dollars, or you can have a commute less than an hour each way, but not both.
posted by snowmentality at 11:45 PM on February 27, 2018

Chicago is the one that stood out to me a lot too. I come from NC and it's not a bad place at all. I like the research triangle a lot.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:57 AM on February 28, 2018

How about Memphis? We have lived here for twelve years now and we also have family that are in St Louis/midwest (Cincinnati). Both of us grew up there and moved here for jobs, etc.

Cost of living is excellent, we currently live in Midtown in an old historic home with lots of character, yard, walkable neighborhood, etc. We have Fedex, Autozone, International Paper, and other very large companies here, so those may be some options for your husband's job search. We also have the U of M law school. As for kids/school, my husband works for the Shelby County School Board and he knows them in and out (I say that because Memphis public schools seem to always get a bad rap), so we fully intend to send our 5 year old (and the one currently baking) to the public schools here - they are wonderful and there are some really great options within the city. There are several good private schools here, too, if that's your thing.

Weather is great (unless you hate summertime heat and humidity), traffic is basically zero unless you need to get on the highways (can you tell we are lazy Midtowners?) and even then it's not all that often.

We have a ton of parks, here are the two biggest:

Memphis has gone through a huge revitalization recently - it is light years ahead of where it was when I moved here 12 years ago. Tons of cool shops, amazing restaurants, not to mention live music options.
posted by elisebeth at 11:26 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

From somebody living in the Research Triangle area: It’s good and the economy is good (in the urban areas). Of the Triangle, Durham has the cheapest housing* and the lowest-ranked schools, Chapel Hill has the highest-ranked schools and some of the most expensive housing, and it is also pretty isolated relative to the rest of the Triangle. The various political districts of Wake County basically represent everything between those extremes: Cary has good schools, expensive housing, and on average best proximity to the various tech business districts (aside from downtown Durham). Raleigh is the big city, with all that implies: There are urban neighborhoods, sprawly exurban areas, new houses, old bungalows, etc., adjust prices according to school quality and/or appeal to trendy people.

*(Housing prices in Durham were so far below the rest of the Triangle that there’s been a kind of whiplash in the past couple years, with skyrocketing prices and massive volumes of new construction; Durham is still cheaper than Cary but now it’s not necessarily cheaper than places you might want to live in, say, Apex or Raleigh. YMMV; if you’re in Southern California I suspect you’re going to wonder what the locals here are fussing about.)
posted by ardgedee at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2018

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