Places Better Than Here: Help me find a better life
July 21, 2019 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Working family here, late 30's, two middle school-aged children and a second grader... getting burned out in our current situation and need a breath of fresh air. I'm in tech, she's in insurance (although she has PM skills), looking for affordable living near a beach (driveable), left-leaning politically, somewhere we can relax and do our lives the best we can (raising children, activities, etc.)

I've seen many of the other threads, so I'm wondering if those same destinations hold true. I'm a bit worried as of late about some of the cities near the coast due to climate change, hurricanes, so unsure if that holds true. I can afford maybe 200k - 300k housing right now. Maybe you guys can help me cut through the clutter.
posted by MMALR to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It would be helpful to know how close to a beach you want to be (15 minutes? Within 2 hours?) and what kind of beach activities you’re looking for, e.g general lounging, surfing, etc.
posted by permiechickie at 1:45 PM on July 21

Can you say more about where "here" is and what about it is burning you out?
posted by Bebo at 1:50 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]

Important: would a good lakeshore satisfy your beach craving?

I still don't know an answer for sure, but it's getting real expensive to live near actual ocean beach pretty much anywhere except the places where hurricanes are inevitable.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:50 PM on July 21

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a nice, livable city with affordable real estate. It's less than an hour to the Lake Michigan beaches (Grand Haven, Muskegon), if the potholes don't eat your car on the way there. The city itself is left-leaning, though Michigan has taken a turn to the right since I lived there.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:16 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]

What's burning you out about your current situation? Lonely? Too expensive? Climate? What activities?
posted by jrobin276 at 2:46 PM on July 21

Come to (Southern) New Jersey! That budget will get you a house in many of our left-leaning counties. Taxes are ... high... but the schools are good, you can be less than an hour from the shore, and Philly is your friendly neighborhood big city.

Disclosure: I live here so I’m definitely a NJ cheerleader.
posted by kimberussell at 4:34 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]

Grand Rapids, MI is an interesting suggestion. I live in Southern California (left-leaning near the beach but, regrettably, not on your budget -- or mine, really). My company's home office is in Grand Rapids. Visited for the first time last year.

While there, one of my co-workers started telling me about Michigan's world-class white-sand beaches. I thought he was pulling my leg. (It was the middle of February, mind you.) No, he was serious. Once the snow thaws and the weather warms up, apparently they are very nice.

I really liked the city. Just be ready to see the Devos name all over the place. Except the airport. That's named after area man, Gerald Ford.
posted by klenwell at 6:00 PM on July 21

Money is a big factor as well. A lot of companies here rely on pensions to keep you locked in, but they generally pay a lower salary. It's stopping us from realizing some dreams we'd like to keep before our kids are all grown up.

@permiechickie - I think we'd ideally like to be an hour at the most from a beach. We generally like to lounge and relax at the beach.
@Bebo, @jrobin276 - We are currently in central Illinois. I think we are tired of being in an area that we've thoroughly explored. We get to Chicago quite a bit and love that, but I think we want less hustle and bustle. I work in the Ag industry, and I'm concerned about it's future due to climate change and this year's weather (it's been horrendous on the industry and I think it's a glimpse into the future). We have some family here, but nothing keeping us here.
posted by MMALR at 6:13 PM on July 21

posted by sulaine at 6:37 PM on July 21

Austin, Texas? The closest beach is Galveston which for Texas is a pretty nice place.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:53 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to address (beach + left-leaning) and talk about Florida. Orlando is an hour from lots of nice beaches -- it has inexpensive housing, it's growing and pretty diverse. St. Petersburg has a lot going for it, but housing is pricier. South Florida has some great beaches, but might not fit your idea of "relax". Jacksonville is getting more purple these days, and the beaches are pretty nice.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:13 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]

Have you thought about the Pacific Northwest? Seattle is impossible, but both north (Everett, Bellingham) or south (Tacoma) are interesting, economically vibrant, and near more beaches (salt and freshwater) than you could visit in a decade. (talking about Western Washington)
The only caveat is sunshine. It's not that rainy, but it is gray in the winter.
posted by kestralwing at 8:40 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]

Florida has all the strikes against it when it comes to climate change:extreme heat, coastal and inland flooding, increasingly severe storms.

What about Boise? It's affordable, it's not on a coast, it has a river, it has both outdoor activity and lots of cultural events. If beach is negotiable, it might be a good choice. It also has some tech companies and a University. It may not be as left-leaning as you want.

What about Fargo, North Dakota?
posted by Altomentis at 11:08 PM on July 21

Central IL is wonderful. Can you try to make more trips to Chicago or Lake Geneva for your water experience?
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 11:10 PM on July 21

Have you looked at North Carolina, maybe a bit outside the triangle? Coast within about an hour, less risk of hurricanes than Florida. Possibly not as left-leaning as you'd like in the smaller towns but if you stick closer to a university town you'd probably find plenty of like-minded folks. Not too distant of a drive from your family.
posted by vignettist at 1:30 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]

South jersey for sure. You are close to awesome beaches, nyc, phila, and dc, and the beach towns each have their own scenes and special atmosphere. Middle township in cape may county is really affordable right now.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:58 AM on July 22

Seconding the St. Petersburg, FL recommendation. Yes housing has gotten pricey for this area but it's still an amazing bargain compared to anything in California or DC/NYC/Boston. You can definitely find a good house within a couple miles of the beach for MMALR's budget of 200k - 300k. St. Pete is very progressive and you may also consider Gulfport, a gulf front town with a tiny beach, the city borders St. Petersburg is and is very left-leaning while also being full of families and kids, while having a more "small village" feel.
posted by caveatz at 7:54 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]

Plymouth, MA might be good for you. My ex moved there and my kid went to high school there, and I was impressed with the district- it isn't know to be an amazing one, but it was good enough and they have poured a lot of money into their schools. There is a commuter rail that brings you right into South Station, and the city of Boston. Another option is Maine, though they aren't super left leaning in parts- there are a lot of very affordable communities there.
posted by momochan at 10:05 AM on July 22

Raleigh NC. It is left-ish, most likely more left than anything in central IL. It's walkable, it has lots of things to do, great food scene, arts scene, and the median housing cost is just a little over $200k. Within an hours drive is all sorts of outside for you to relax and lounge in, and some truly amazing beaches are only 2 hours away. In addition to the ocean, there is the sound, which is more estuary-like, and is really good for kayaking, swimming, nature hikes with wildlife, etc. If one of your big qualms is that the area you're in has been explored to death, there's plenty more to do in the triangle-Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham. Each city has it's own to offer. And each part of the NC coast is going to offer you a different beach experience, including the Outer Banks, which is touristy but fun, and has a lot of pirate history.
It is the south so it's going to get warmer, but Raleigh is far-enough away from the shore that flooding isn't a big problem.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:27 AM on July 22 [3 favorites]

Duluth MN ticks all your needs, if you're willing to also love the outdoors in winter as well. We have the longest freshwater public beach in I think the whole USA.

So, plenty of fresh air. A good beach (and loads of other lovely shoreline)--hey for that cost you could probably live right on the beach on Park Point depending on your home needs. We are totally left-leaning, (though we currently have a Trumpist congressman, BOO! but he's likely to get tossed out). Everyone else like city council, mayor, governor, senators are all fairly liberal. Pretty easy living, but also sometimes hard to find a good job, depending on what you do. As far as climate change goes, we will get an increase in erratic weather, but in the short term will be wetter/snowier and slightly more warm when we're not supposed to be. The caveat of course is that if you aren't willing to love winter, you shouldn't move here. The good part is that I grew up in IL and winters there suck! We are colder, and so generally speaking, once it snows, it stays snowy (and pretty!). Also while late fall and early winter are dark and cold, the sun returns in January (unlike Chicago, where things stay cloudy and nasty), and despite the cold, we embrace winter sports and activities.
posted by RedEmma at 2:39 PM on July 22

Corvallis, OR is partway between Eugene (1hr) and Portland (1hr 20) and is an hour from the beach.

NH: Nashua is an hour and Manchester is 40min from the coast, and they are both about an hour from Boston (driving).

NW Washington is stunning, esp the islands.

If you go above the 1hr mark, you can find some spots in CA. You're father from the beach than you'd like, but there's the Sierras on your other side to explore too. Pretty much anywhere in the valley is in your price range (Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, Redding). You could also try Ukiah, Chico, or Palm Springs.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:22 PM on July 22

Central IL is wonderful

With the exception of Champaign-Urbana (U of I), central IL is solidly Trump country. IL is a blue state by virtue of the fact that it includes Chicago—and a whole lot of downstate folks would happily redraw state boundaries to exclude the City.
posted by she's not there at 11:30 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]

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