5 Incredible Places to Live. That You Can Afford.

Many people would say I'm lucky. I live in Southern California. We have a small place at the beach and a cabin in the mountains. Perfect right? To be honest, we don't really enjoy it. Sure the weather is great – but the traffic is insane, the people are rude, and everything is far too expensive.

We've been on a personal journey searching for a new place for our family. Somewhere with decent weather, close to the outdoors, 4 seasons, good people, and most importantly… affordable. Even though this move is 12-18 months away, it has been an enjoyable research project. Here's what I've found.

5 Incredible Places to Live. That You Can Afford:

1. Bend, Oregon


Highlight: With over 28 breweries and 30 lakes within 50 miles, incredible views of the Cascade Mountains, Bend is the outdoor hipster mecca of the Northwest. (This is our favorite)
Population: 79,109
Median Home Price: $274,400
Median Income: $46,459

2. Salida, Colorado

Source: Charles Muhle via Flickr

Highlight: Salida has the pioneer spirit of an old mining town. With downtown storefronts that call back to another era mixed with beautiful rivers, streams, and incredible mountain views.
Population: 5,317
Median Home Price: $225,406
Median Income: $36,160

3. Asheville, North Carolina


Highlight: A charming hippie town filled with enough somber acoustic tunes, fair trade coffee shops, quaint book stores, and organic eateries to take you back to Woodstock. 
Median Home Price: $185,600
Median Income: $39,082

4. Davenport, Iowa


Highlight: Located on the Mississippi River, this town offers world class theatre, symphonies, and views of old fashion riverboats. It's visitors boast of great food, a culture of happy people, and beautiful sunsets. 
Median Home Price: $94,000
Median Income: $63,100

5. Charlottesville, Virginia

Source: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

Highlight: This central Virginia town is bubbling with history, culture, and world class cuisine. No wonder Former President Thomas Jefferson called this place home.
Population: 43,896
Median Home Price: $263,131
Median Income: $44,535

What are some of your favorite, affordable small towns?

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176 Responses

  1. Greenville, SC is a wonderful town with easy access to the mountains and within a few hours of great beaches.

  2. Dale,

    Thank you for your fun posts! I always look forward to reading what you have written!!! You are doing a absolutely great job with coming up with these amazing topics!
    You bring great thoughts/ideas/knowledge right down on the paper and they are just amazing! Keep up the great work! You are amazing!
    Have a great weekend to you and your family!

    1. A little closer to Portland, say Washington County may work for you. City traffic is the pits but you have everything close by. Mountains, beverage mecca (brews, wine and coffee), cultural scene to die for!! The beach!! My mountain home in Gaston, OR is for sale soon. Just sayin’

  3. Louisville, Kentucky! Population with surroumding counties is just about a million, but average sales price for a home is around $170,000 – further taxes are low and there is an incomparable SPRING season! THE DERBY!!

  4. I’m from the Quad Cities (Davenport, IA + four other surrounding cities in
    IA and IL)! I know there are plenty of new shops and businesses opening up in the area, so I’m hoping the QC will see some major progress in the next few years. If you ever need a tour guide or more information about what
    it’s like to live there, don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

  5. Did you check out Austin TX? It is cheaper than most these places and still keeps a hipster culture, is very green, is the Live Music Capital of the world, and has many national parks and lakes around it.

    1. Austin is awesome, but it’s not very affordable, especially compared to the rest of Texas. The traffic is horrifying, the population keeps exploding bigger and bigger, and the moola you have to shuck out to rent or own a home is ridiculous!

    2. Love Austin!!! Seriously. But Like Sunny said below. It’s getting so popular that it will likely turn into another Southern California.

  6. Chattanooga, TN!! Was ranked Outdoor Magazine’s best place to live a few years ago. Tons to do outdoors; great culture; 4 seasons; and a thriving economy!

  7. Ithaca, NY in the heart of the Finger lakes!!!! The winters are not wonderful unless you like skiing, tubing and building snowmen……..however the spring, summer, and fall make up for it!!! Waterfalls, lakes, wineries, and more trails to hike that it will take you a year to hit each one!!! Great local eateries, live music everywhere, great farmers markets, and breath taking views everywhere you go!!! Come for a visit and you will feel right at home!!!

  8. I live in Charlottesville… you would love it. In addition to the detail you included, the mountains are an hour to the west and the Atlantic is 2 hours to the east. Oh, and there is both a Whole Foods and a Trader Joes here.

      1. It gets even better… Wegmans has been approved to build a grocery store here, coming soon. Regal built an IMAX theater in their new megaplex here this last year. Plus we’re about 2.5 hours away from DC while not feeling like we’re anywhere near it.

  9. Grand Rapids, MI! It was just rated top place to visit in the US by Lonley Planet. The people are nice (the first time I visited a man told us to “keep smiling!”) and there are amazing restaurants, performance halls, and festivals like Laugh Fest and Art Prize. You’re also close to Lake Michigan and the blueberry picking is incredible!

    1. Grand Rapids is great! We have a youth leadership summer camp just outside it and love to visit GR in the summer. Prices are great, art is everywhere, and the people really are super nice. The hubs and I have been thinking about moving there for a few years now!

    2. We lived outside Grand Rapids, MI for years and I miss it. Great city and our little town of Hastings, MI was a charming, welcoming, affordable community.

    3. We moved from California to East Lansing, Michigan and love it! Neighbors who care about one another, lower taxes and housing (we got about 3x the house for the same price), college town, etc. Michigan is America’s best kept secret, the land of “Cold Winters, Warm People.”

  10. Missoula, Montana! It’s considered the hipster/alternative capitol of Montana, nestled at the foot of five mountain ranges and right on the Clark Fork River. It’s the home of the University of Montana, so there are loads of cultural events throughout the year, fair trade eateries and coffee shops, breweries, a great music scene, and kooky retail stores. Montanans, in my experience, are some of the nicest people in the western US, and the great outdoors is at your fingertips (Glacier National Park is a mere 2.5 hour drive)! It’s a very safe and close-knit community and, as a bonus, no sales tax in Montana, and gasoline prices are currently the second lowest in the country!

    1. What is median income, home prices, real estate taxes, and are there many county, city, gov jobs? sounds like a nice place to live.

      1. Median income is $42,103, median housing price is $206,000. Not sure on real estate tax or jobs, as I don’t actually live there myself (I’m 6 hours to the east in Billings). It’s a delightful city, though, whenever I visit I just fall more in love. .

  11. I’ll cast my vote for Salem, MA! Super weird people, great beer and restaurants, most everybody is tolerant, and there are plenty of public beaches with free parking. Plus a world-class art museum and the best Halloween party in the world.

  12. I had to chuckle when I read that Bend, OR was #1 on your list! Attached is the view of the Three Sisters from the deck of our vacation home. Absolutely beautiful area, so easy to get around and incredible summer weather and recreation. Only problem for us is that we can only vacation in the winter and we don’t ski so we’re in the market for a relocated vacation home in (warm) Phoenix!

  13. Not to be the daily negative, but have you ever visited Salida, CA? It is very hot in the summers and in the middle of farming country (and not the romantic idea of farms that we all might have; big giant corporate farms amongst some family farms) and just all around gross. There may be some charm down town but I would never suggest anyone move there. The median income alone should tell you it is probably not the best. Kind of shocked to see it on your list.

    1. It’s Colorado. Salida is a neat little town on the eastern slope of the mountains, a couple hours southwest of Denver.

    2. I have lived in Salida for the past 5 years and I love it! In no way is my small town gross. It is beautiful. Not sure where you think giant corporate farms are but I have never seen one here. People actually care about other people and I think this is a real community.

    3. I was born & raised in Salida COLORADO and have never heard it referred to as gross. It is a beautiful little mountain town with a laid back lifestyle, tons of outdoor activities, natural hot springs, the best restaurants and amazing people. Don’t move there if you want to become rich! But is the best place to take a vacation too.

  14. I agree with Bend, OR. Have some great family friends that moved there a year ago from Soldotna, AK… they still work in Alaska and are able to afford flying back and forth. They also have some great churches there that contend for the faith with Bethel Church in Redding, CA and the House of Prayer in Kansas City. My votes on Bend spiritual, earthy, friendly, you have country and city at your finger tips. A plus for you may be the amount of creative people and entrepreneurs that come from that place. If you start a new business and its good word travels fast and you can gain community support in less than a year. My friend Adrienne Bergonzini started her fairytale photography there a little over a year ago and is killing the industry with her photography and her light.

  15. Check out Marquette, MI
    You have Lake Superior all around you, the lake is moody, so powerful to watch and be in. You have lots of snow, and everything changes with snow – making it seem like a whole new place. Fall is nothing short of spectacular. Spring is well received after a long winter!

    1. I live in the lower Peninsula, but Marquette is my home away from home. Whenever I need to escape from a fast pace life and man made construction I go to MQT for a breather. The breath taking things you can do for free or a small price are nearly incomparable to what you could do by hopping on a plane to any other desitnation. The food there is out of this world, not to mention the friendliness. The culture is growing by the day, and they are really on the up and up with supporting local artists. Not to mention it’s incredibly affordable from housing to wine and dining!

    2. I am from Davenport IA it is a great place to live. I lived in AZ for 7 years and moved back. Then I moved to KY and moved back. Now we are retired and live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Yoopers and the trolls are what they call the people from lower Michigan are amazing people. You must love snow if you want to live here but snowmobiling, and other winter sports are always keeping you busy. You are surround by mother nature at her best.We love our new home in Michigan.

  16. I live in Ontario, Canada now, but if I was looking to relocate to US I would check Tennessee. Four seasons, usually mild winters, beautiful landscapes and very affordable. My 2 cents worth!

  17. Minot, North Dakota is a great place to live 🙂 We have four seasons.Hunting, fishing, camping, lots of beautiful places to see.We also have lots of oil wells to.Many people have came here to work.There has been good and bad with that too. Great place to raise a family! Take a look at North Dakota
    I love reading your site 🙂

  18. We live in Missoula and would agree — great town. Big biking area, lots of nature things, skiing, hiking, etc. Community parks and activities. Real estate taxes would be considered very low compared to S. Cal. ($2200 for home with 10 acres in Ravalli County). Government jobs are available here at the county level. You would have to go to Helena for the majority of government jobs. We do have a large forest service and fire-fighting center here, as well as a top hospital and the University of Montana. Wages are lower than most big places.
    Most not for profits in Montana are headquartered in Missoula. Church-diversity is pretty good and we tend to attract church planters. We considered Bend too and twenty years ago did love it. It grew too much for us and we found a home here and in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula. Beautiful, beautiful place to live. You need to visit.

  19. I live in the Quad Cities, so I was shocked to see Davenport, IA on here! lol. I like living here because there are tons of different stores (from Best Buy to small, local businesses) and restaurants, but you can also “get away” from the city by driving about 15 minutes… and you’ll find yourself in a small town surrounded by cornfields :). In the summer I like to ride my bike along the Mississippi river. It’s pretty flat here in the Midwest and maybe not as breathtaking as Colorado or living by the ocean ;)…. but I’ve explored and found many beautiful places…hidden ponds, parks, and trails that make me appreciate and love where I live. When I go to college, many people don’t understand what I mean by the “Quad-Cities”. I say it’s just like four main cities they grouped together to call the Quad-Cities, but I think it’s more than that. We are all connected, there are businesses, events, and even an airport named after the “Quad-Cities”… I just think it creates a greater sense of community among people who live here. That is all 🙂

    1. I live in the QC “davenport” as they call it. We had record snow and the longest winter ever this year…. But it is still nice with four seasons. And the muddy river is home. Did you notice the insanely stark contrast to income/housing as compared to all the other places? If having time to actually enjoy where you life is important, well that makes it a no brainier. And yep, people are crazy nice here!

  20. As someone who has lived in Iowa for nearly 8 years (and has also lived in TN, about 3 hours north of Asheville and 3 hours away from Chattanooga), I wouldn’t recommend anyone move to Iowa. It is brutally cold here from November to March. Unless you love walking around in -40 F wind chills, shoveling 3″ of snow daily for weeks on end, or have experience driving on snow, I don’t recommend it. Not to mention that Iowa is pretty much the most boring place to live ever. On this list, of places I’ve been, I’d say Asheville is my favorite.

    1. Where in Iowa? How far from Davenport? Everyone that I’ve ever met that said that the Quad Cities was boring never did anything exciting when it was put right in front of them.

      1. I live about 1 hour & 45 minutes away, in the middle of Iowa, north of DSM. While there might be fun things to do in the Quad Cities the state in general is pretty darn boring and the weather is always miserable. We get both versions of hell — in summer it’s hot with 60% humidity and in winter it freezes over with routine temps in -25 F and lower. No matter where you live in Iowa, the weather is terrible.

        1. OK, well you’re not talking from experience of Davenport when you say Iowa is boring. Actually Des Moines is 3 hours from Davenport and if you live North of Des Moines then you are basically no where near Davenport and are just talking about your little neck of the woods.

          1. Mostly I was talking about the weather and how awful it is. And it’s equally bad in Davenport. No matter how interesting the Quad Cities might be, they still get snow dumped on them and miserably cold weather for 5 months a year. And I think that’s a big consideration for people who want to move there — I know that it’s one of the top reasons I’m leaving Iowa forever as soon as I can.

          2. This year. But Iowa is like this EVERY year. I have lived her for 8 years on and off and every winter I spend here is the same miserable, piles of snow — some states get a break. Also, Iowa has worst wind chills than Chicago, MN, WI, or some parts of Canada, even.

  21. Check out Minnesota, the twin cities are amazing, and you can find relatively affordable housing in some of the suburbs!

    1. But you can’t exactly call the weather nice. I’m moving there in May and all I’ve heard about is snow and sub zero temperatures.

      1. Emily, this past winter has been brutal with extended periods of sub-zero temps…prior year wasn’t as bad with the cold, but yes, the cold can start in mid November and run through April/May. Always seems pleasant in March, then the temps never really warm up to the 60s or 70s until May so it seems.

    2. Minnesota is terrible. The people are not nice at all and weather is never pleasant. I lived there for 15 years and am still traumatized.

    3. I live in Minnesota (Rochester) at the moment…25 years here. Rochester is “ok” and the best thing is it is super easy to get out of town to local parks or the Twin Cities. Otherwise, there isn’t much here other than work and chain restaurants for the most part.

      Twin Cities are nice. Non- major roads are horrid during the winter, especially after the snowfall this year. Laid back atmosphere, interesting activities to do all year round, but yes, people can be rather difficult to get to know. Quite a few interesting places to eat out at.
      Weather is warm in the summer, but winter seems to last for 6+ mo…good thing that clothing has improved over the years! Winter can be a bear if you don’t find something active to keep yourself busy. Quite a few folks (I’ve met) are bikers (yes, even in the winter), cross country or downhill skiers.

  22. Since no one has mentioned Nashville, TN I guess I will. My wife and I moved here from Atlanta last week and we love it. The entrepreneurial spirit is not just limited to musicians. There are plenty of start-ups that are thriving from Nashville. It is a great blend of a southern city and modern progression so it is a win-win.

    If anyone is looking to move, I would encourage you to check out Nashville.

    1. Nashville is great! My fiance lives there and is finishing his degree…. we have talked about moving there after he’s done.

  23. Weimar, CA…Some Redwoods…Some Cougars, and a Good amount of Friendly, Earthy, SUPER HEALTHY, Godly & Smart Adventists….well, enough about MY dreams…let’s talk about YOUR FAMILY dreams Dale!….I feel strangely drawn to Oregon. Lot’s of misdirected spiritual energy, so beware and be in Prayer. Bend feels and looks like home and Bend needs Believers like you…so that the pubs can be converted into places for sober public Prayer to The Saviour. I vote Bend-Jesus Peace…

  24. Dale – Joe here from Three Avocados Coffee. We live in a tiny little town (10,000 people) in Illinois called Highland. We’re about 35 minutes from downtown St. Louis, and about 5 minutes from endless farmland. If you go a little outside of here into Bond County, you can get 40 acres and a house for $300,000 or so. We don’t have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but there’s a farmer in town that will sell you freshly butchered organic free range chickens or eggs. I’m new to the small town life, but there’s something to be said for it. Definitely don’t rule out small-town living.

    Peace, brother.

  25. I’m so happy Bend is at the top of the list. As a native Oregonian Bend is one of my favorite places to be. Fantastic restaurants, culture, scenic view, and incredibly friendly people.

  26. I’m live in Curitiba – Brasil,im very happy in this city,and not trade somewhere, but that does not stop me from visiting the places mentioned above…

  27. I lived in Bend and my parents still do! Absolutely love it there, it’s a little piece of heaven! Now I live about an hour or so away from Asheville and I love it too! I’d recommend either!

    1. Same! I was born in Bend and my mom lives there now and I love it there. I found this article because so many friends in Bend shared it on Facebook, thrilled to see (yet another) lovely review of Bend (they just keep coming!).

  28. Not trying to be a negative nancy but here’s a different perspective…. I’ve lived in the Portland Metro Area of Oregon for most my life, about 17yrs……since I was 15/16yrs. old (Seattle, Wa. transplant) and have traveled & spent time in cities all over this beautiful state. It is a beautiful state with a lot to offer and a huge variety of people but something to think about when struggling with depression and/or other mental health disorders is the fact that Oregon is among the top 10 for highest suicide rate in the U.S…..with Portland, Bend & anywhere in Washington County being among the highest cities within the state for higher suicide rates. Oddly, Summer time has the highest rate of suicide compared to the other seasons. I’m looking to relocate as well, I hate it here….and have done a lot of research and studies on the best places to live if you struggle with a depressive disorder. I know that relocating won’t make my problems go away, but when you have tried just about everything and dont want to lose hope because of a chemical malfuntion then it may be exactly what is needed. Besides, the mental health care here is garbage. Also the percentage of drug abuse is one of the highest in comparison to other states….mostly Meth and Heroine. If you have Netflix I recommend that you watch the documentary called “The Most Dangerous Drug in the World” it was filmed mostly in Oregon, its really good, very informative, and helpful to understand how the drug takes over a persons mind when almost everyone you know has been affected by it in one way or another.
    Once again, Sorry to be so negative…I always try to stay positive but it’s hard to be when you live here & I just wanted to give you a different perspective on Oregon and things you may want to look into before moving.

    1. Also, the Oregon suicide rates do not include the people who chose the legal Doctor assisted or “Death with Dignity” route.

  29. Yeah I also live near Davenport (Walcott- 20 min. Driving west). Its a pretty nice place, when you get over the fact that the schools are sub-par and the roads are horrible.

    1. The roads are not horrible. I grew up in Davenport (actual Davenport) and moved to Chicago 2 yrs ago. The road here are shit.

  30. I am from Bend. Don’t be tricked. The median income looks appealing because there is a strong divide between those who have and those who don’t. There is a small elite who make astronomical incomes and it drives the median up. Housing is terrible. The median may cost that much, but most of the affordable housing is 30 to 40 years old, energy inefficient (which can be a nightmare during the winter when your heating bill climbs near to a grand a month for a 1200 sqft house…). Most people life hand to mouth and housing for these is terrible. Bend is great- if you can afford to live the high life there. But do not be duped by the apparent “affordability.” Do your research. I loved growing up and living in Bend, do not get me wrong. I hope to return there someday… probably for retirement. I figure getting my PhD, that is about the time I will finally be able to afford it there again.

  31. Your intro was funny, because I lived in Bend 17 years and moved BACK to Southern California because I just couldn’t stand the weather anymore. If you’re looking for 4 seasons, Bend is not the place for you. There’s about 8 months of winter, 2 months of summer, and then tiny moments of spring and fall. I guess that’s 4 seasons, but highly disproportionate. Like another “Oregonian” mentioned, it’s extremely depressing. On the other hand, it’s gorgeous with a plethora of outdoor activities. Good luck on your search!

  32. I live in the QC “davenport” as they call it. We had record snow and the longest winter ever this year…. But it is still nice with four seasons. And the muddy river is home. Did you notice the insanely stark contrast to income/housing as compared to all the other places? If having time to actually enjoy where you live is important, well that makes it a no brainier. And yep, people are crazy nice here!

  33. I’ve already commented once on Marquette, MI but I can’t go without talking about Detroit. I lived here for 2 years while attending the school. This city has the most genuine people I have ever met. You get high-fives on your jogs, and small talk in any door you walk through. People really care about one another, and there’s a pride in being a Detroiter (whether you were born and raised there or have swooped in since it’s up coming revolution) that is unmistakable. There are SUCCESSFUL professional sports team, so there’s always something to do downtown. We don’t care for the chain restaurants, and root for all mom-and-pop shops. Foodies are in heaven in Detroit, as well culture gurus with museums in every direction. There’s so much history to the city, and history continues to be made with the fight back. On top of having such a diverse, tight-knit, pride-ridden, proud downtown, the metro area only gives it more to rave about. Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Wyandotte really know how to show off! Just complimenting more diversity, culture and love!! Affordability is out of this world..

  34. I grew up in the Quad Cities, about 10 minutes from the Mississippi River and Davenport, IA. The QC is a solid place to live. Relatively inexpensive and there’s a lot of quality in the area. Good universities, good food, good arts. What’s surprised me as of late is the growing number of annual festivals (The Blues Fest, Jamaica My Weekend, and the BIX Marathon, to name a few). Winters SUCK and the flooding can get bad during the spring but unless you live/work near the riverfront it’s not terribly inconvenient. If you’re ever in the area, go to Bad Boys Pizza in Moline, IL. Best pizza in the world (in my humble opinion)!!

  35. Here is my take. If you live in a smaller town most of your life or in the cold, you want the bigger city and warm weather and visa versa. I lived in Bend for 26 years from a 6 year old until I was married with two kids and 32 years old. I can honestly say I have a love hate relationship with Bend. Great place to raise a family and if you like the outdoors like golfing, camping, lakes, hikes, rock climbing, skiing, then you are in heaven. Bend used to have 4 seasons but as many have pointed out it is mainly winter and a short summer now. You can’t beat summer in Bend, the problem is that it is too short. To do any real shopping or anything fun outside of what I listed, you have to travel a few hours to Portland. If you head to Portland during Nov – March, it can be NO fun driving over either mountain pass and very dangerous. We moved to San Diego 6 years ago and have never regretted it. We still have friends and family in Bend and visiting yearly. Every time we go back, we want to go home back to San Diego. A little depressing, small, everything closes early and if you are there during winter and not skiing, then you are chilling inside your home. BORING! Not sure what part of SOCAL you live in but traffic in SD is not bad at all and the people are not rude at all. In LA, YES, I agree 100%. SD is set up in small communities which makes it feel like a whole bunch of Bend’s. I run into people I know almost daily here which is one thing I did miss about Bend originally. The other main negative about Bend is the 55 mph highways and 45 mph parkway. It feels like you can run that fast after driving 75 on the SOCAL freeways.

  36. tl;dr: Davenport is a pretty good, very Midwestern place with a clear, bright future, though no place is Mecca. Well, except for Mecca.

    As a transplant to the Quad Cities from New England, I’ll try to add something.

    Housing prices as noted are very low. And there are some gems here, from Victorians to post-industrial lofts “downtown.” And lots of development in those downtowns is happening, mostly thoughtfully and vibrantly.

    And speaking of downtowns, one of the most notable aspects of the Quad Cities, that affects everything from the logistics of getting around, to the personal culture and overall fabric of the area, is just that. There are 4 distinct, autonomous, and more or less equal downtowns here. The most amazing thing about that, is that helps the city to retain the feel of a much smaller city, while having a population that is really about four-times what it feels like. The downside, is that the “civic energy” can feel split between the downtowns, and they sometimes compete for attention/audience. And there is no sense of nexus, or real center to the area. It also engenders a bit of parochialism. The always-running-joke-that’s-not-really-a-joke here, is that no one crosses the river. And you do find that the Mississippi can be a kind of psychological wall for a surprising number of people. And while the distances and commutes are negligible compared to other cities, the perception of them is relative. I often make fun of myself, when, because of my human nature, I’m bitching about driving to Rock Island from my home in the East Village of Davenport. … 3.5 miles! Maybe 10 minutes. And I’ve lived in Metro Boston! Ha!

    When I moved here in 2000, there were only a few sources of unique food (retail/ingredients and restaurants), good beer, etc. But that has changed tenfold, at least. The local, dominant grocery chain (HyVee) has done amazing things in both areas. And many new, good, wide-ranging restaurants have cropped up, and continue to do so, as have breweries, distilleries and local Esty-eque places.

    The music scene is a bit muted, for some reason (which as a musician, I find frustrating). There is a little, very limited support for local, original music, and a few interesting venues, but most bands I want to see live, stop in Chicago (3 hours away – so not terrible, but no one ever goes as much as they say they’re going to), skip the QC, and hit Iowa City (big college town) or points further west. The justly famous Daytrotter is HQ’d here (and run by a former bandmate), and they are planning an expansion that includes a small live venue, so that might up the ante, as many of “their” bands are right in my wheelhouse.

    On the other hand, the theatre scene here is probably close to unparalleled. It must be second only to the biggies in terms of numbers of regularly producing companies per-capita.

    The summer festival season is full, with mostly pretty good offerings. A few, mainstream drinkfests (that’s a compliment, not a dig!), a few cool, cultured offerings, and a few that are just plain fun. The CVB would probably be OK to put here: Something for Everyone!

    We also have an active symphony, ballet company, and currently defunct, but hopefully returning opera company. And we also have an amazingly beautiful riverfront minor league ball park. And parks systems (that, like many things, benefit from the duplication of having four, basically equal cities) that seem more vibrant and activity-filled than the size-feel of the city would indicate.

    While the main farmers market seems to lack some of the ethos and energy I’ve experienced other places, it’s not for lack of trying (and probably is harmed a bit by the four-city thing). And the support for it is pretty good and growing. Overall, their efforts are admirable.

    I don’t have children, so I can’t speak to the associated issues. But the culture here, is generally stereotypically Midwestern, as you’d expect. Very, VERY nice. And it’s really a smal thing, but people are so nice here, that many develop what I call “blinders” to certain things. I grew up in New England, which has a reputation for a certain brusqueness, but my experience is that the brusqueness is a function of pragmatism, courtesy, and efficiency. Just one example: At a four-way intersection, on a two-lane road, if someone is turning left. In New England, often (not always, but mostly) oncoming traffic will let the person turn, even though she doesn’t have the right-of-way, because it’s best for all the people stuck behind her. And the next time, you’ll be the person stuck behind her. Here, the “blinders” cause the person to not want to tick off the traffic behind them, as well as break the right-of-way “rules.” So it leads to a small lack of imaginative problem solving in instances like that. They’ll also sometimes just “queue up,” as the British say, instead of – say – hanging back going to the next available service person, which should be somewhat more efficient. A minor thing. And far preferred to the opposite: “Every Man for Himself, and Screw You, While We’re at it, Buddy.”

    I will also say, as a dyed-in-the-wool New England Liberal, the political culture here is not dissimilar to NH, where I grew up. A strange mix of Libetarian-leaning agrarian conservatives (the difference here, is they mix much more with social conservatives than in NH) in a pretty healthily blue state. I can’t exacrtly explain it (except for my opinion that the US is really more liberal than conventional wisdom and the loudest rhetoric indicates). But it’s not an uncommon mix across the country. Overall, based on election results, legislative decisions, and overall tone, I find the area to be trending liberal, more than conservative, though occasionally I’m disappointed by something that appears to be the reverse (see crazy Steve King).

    Being a transplant, as I said, from a place that I love and miss, and is in my bones and heart, I will still say, there is no real downside to living here. The river is beautiful, and for me a fine salve to ease my homesickness for the coast. It turns out that to some extant, a big body of water, is a big body of water, is a big body of water. The Quad Cities do not nearly take advantage enough of the waterfront they do have. But that is likely a symptom of it having been industrial for so long. That is (mostly) long gone. But the psychology of the way the people view the river is still changing. New waterfront developments (mostly park,

    It is somewhat bike-friendly, with a great network of recreational paths. It has NOT kept up with other places in considering bicycle commuters, though. It is hard to get to places that are off the mostly parkland bike paths, with few dedicated bike lanes on main roads. As I mentioned, commutes are notably short. Often being rated as among the shortest in the country (though, again, I’ll mention that it’s somewhat relative).

    We do have four, almost picture-perfect seasons here. It is one of the most endearing things about the place. I grew up a bit deeper in the snowbelt. We had four seasons – but winter dragged on a bit long, and spring always felt too short. It made me really appreciate it, though. Fall in northern New England, of course is deservingly legendary for its beauty, and can sometimes have a nice drawn out pace to it. But the switch flips to winter a bit more abruptly than it usually does here. So, I really love how much I get to relish spring and fall here. Fall often extends into November. And spring starts almost like clockwork on March 15. Like the switch flips to “S.”

    All that said (and really the rationale behind my contention that there is no real downside to living here) I have long advised against what I have called since I was a teen the “Mecca-ization,” of some other place (hopefully that is not now an impolitic term). I grew up in a small, idyllic mountain town, and many people I knew Mecca-ized anything that was Other, especially the legendary places. Like Boston, our closest Metro. And as is typical, SoCal with it’s sun and surf and culture. Florida, with much of the same. I’m not implying that you’re disgruntled in the same way as a small-town NH teen. And geographical change is an amazing experience. I think everyone should spent a decade or so living a couple of years each here and there. I feel lucky I did. But, as I’m certain someone as thoughtful as you are knows, the place you pick will rarely (outside of extremes) be as important as the things you do with the place you pick.

    All THAT said: Bend Oregon looks amazing! Hahaha. The only region of the US I haven’t spent ANY time , is the Pac NW.

  37. Happy to see Bend as your #1. I grew up in the Portland rain, and left to attend college in Bend. One comment was correct, it can be difficult to make a living in Bend unless you’re self employed which is why I left to have a career elsewhere. After living all over the country, I came back to Bend and couldn’t be happier. We do not have 8 months of winter, that’s an exaggeration. In fact, this winter was pretty mild except for a couple weekends in February. This week spring is here with weather in the 50’s and lots of sunshine! If you decide to make the move to Bend and are looking for a home, contact me. I’m also a local Realtor!

    1. Yeah, you sound like a local Realtor. What a sales pitch! (They all say that)
      Most of the comments about Bend are pretty darn accurate, and yes, I lived there for nearly 20 years. There’s good and bad with everywhere, I have found. But living a lifestyle you can AFFORD –AND– prosper brings more fun. So done with those freezing cold winters, but sure miss family and friends there.

  38. Being a natural born Quad Citian from Davenport Iowa there are good and bad to the city. We do have all four seasons and winter can start as early as the beginning of October and go into April with the snow. We are called the Quad Cities because we sit very close to the Illinois border and the four original cities included Davenport Iowa, Bettendorf Iowa, Rock Island Illinois and Moline Illinois. This was before all the smaller towns wanted to be known as the Quad Cities also…lol. If you cross a bridge from Davenport or Bettendorf IA you’ve crossed into Illinois. We have a humid climate. In the Fall the leaves change colors which is beautiful. We have plenty of festivals in the Summer. Winters are the coldest in January and February with sub below zero temps off and on. We have great dog parks, and plenty of beautiful parks also. We are approximately 2 1/2 hours from Chicago. We are friendly people but you may live next to your neighbors for years and never know them as some of us just keep to ourselves. We have plenty of casinos if you like to gamble for pleasure off and on. The Mississippi River surrounds us if you like water sports like water skiing, jet skiing, or boating or tubing. The population of the whole Quad City area is approximately 300 thousand with Davenport being approximately 95 thousand people on its own. We have a decent school system. Interstates I-80, I-280, and I-74 are very accessible from Davenport. Northwest Davenport is probably the area you want to live if you like the country area but are within a few miles from town. Iowa city is 46 miles away which has a very large hospital(University of Iowa) and so is the large VA hospital. Cedar Rapids is 1 1/2 hours away. Moline Illinois(approximately 5 miles away from central Davenport) has an International Airport. We have tons of different types of cuisine restaurants to choose from along with plenty of places to shop. The Bix Beiderbecke is huge here along with the Blues Fest, Sturgis Fest, Rib Fest, Festival of Trees Fest…just to name a few. Come check us out…I think you’ll like it here.

    1. By the way…if you ever come to live or visit here…you have to try Adolphs Tacos, Harris Pizza, and Whiteys Ice Cream… Totally delicious. 🙂

  39. I live in Davenport, have all of my life except for a five year period. No clue how it made this list, but the river is filthy, most ppl wont even swim in it. World class theater? No idea what hes talkng about. Weather here isnt horrible, but i wouldbt say its good. Blistering hot in the summer and bone chilling cold in the winter. As for the ppl? Twenty, even ten years ago i would have said that most ppl here are good ppl, but thats not true now. Ppl here are incredibly rude and crime just gets worse and worse every year. If your looking to move somewhere, you could do MUCH better than Dport. The only good thing i have to say about this place is that its home and my family and friends are here.

    1. I agree. I lived in Davenport for 23 and hated the place.(except my friends)..the weather especially. Nothing to do in the frigid winters and muggy with bugs in the summer. It ties for the 10th coldest winters of the 50 states (tied with Michigan) and that statistic includes southern Iowa which is usually a lot warmer than Davenport. Variety of job opportunities in my field was horrible and the flexibility for part time work in a technical area as I raised my children at home was also bad . I returned to CA 5 years ago and am finally happy again. If you don’t push yourself beyond your limit you can afford it easily. As for rude people…you find them everywhere.

      1. I agree. Where do you get the median home price of 94,000. I can tell you that those are not the areas you would want to live in. The average home value is actually 113,000 and the average price sold right now is 129,000. I also don’t know where the average household income of $63,100 comes from. It is closer to 51,000. Jobs are a major downer in the area as stated above. Not a lot of choices to move around with. If you find a good job you like, you are set. Sorry if you can’t find what you like. Too cold.

  40. I live in Bend and it is not affordable for much of the people that live here. Locals call Bend poverty with a view. Everything on the west side is great and the rest of the town is ugly. You have to be a lawyer, doctor, dentist, law enforcement or city worker to afford to live here comfortably, Central Oregon is the meth capital of the state. People from Cali or Washington come here to live because they sell there home’s there for big money and come here and buy homes and jack the prices up here so local people who work here cant afford it, Bend is driven by tourism nothing else no industry here to put people to work, the micro brew crap is going to fade and then what’s Bend going to have the largest population of alcoholic’s.

    1. Just want to say ,I am from CA, it is not called Cali, what bunch of hillbillies call it that ? ,,,…Visited Bend, sucks…fake wanna be trendy people is what I met and saw…dry and boring….moved to WA….have the mountains and the ocean…

  41. I live in Bend. It is not affordable.

    Bend is great if you’re retired from Silicon valley, wear only North Face jackets, shop at REI and Trader Joe’s regularly, and can afford to drop around $400K for a house.

    If you’re not rich, Bend is not good. I have a good job, supposedly, and I can’t really afford to buy a house here, also can’t afford to pay for Bachelor season passes, all the expensive ski gear, or go to a brewery more than maybe once a month.

    I also don’t see how it’s a “hipster mecca.” Mostly what Bend has are old people who enjoy an active lifestyle. Some of them are for real, but a lot of them are really just athletic poseurs that wear name brand workout clothes all the time.

    It’s also a terrible place to be young and single. Most of the young people who aren’t already attached here to a spouse are looking to get out because there are nothing but tourism McJobs. Everyone else is married or retirement age.

    So by all means, come to Bend! If you’re rich and already have a family or rich and retired, you’ll love it.

    1. I think it’s more hipster than you think. But it is pretty snooty at times and the housing is incredibly overpriced AND there are no jobs! Just wait around – about every 10 or so years (taking global warming into effect) we get a REALLY nasty winter. Bend definitely needs more diversity and it’s happening slowly. Maybe that will change for the better with the OSU campus coming.

      1. THANK YOU! For mentioning diversity! That was a major culture shock when I first moved from Cali to Bend back in 1982.

  42. Salida is NOT even a little affordable. Thanks to Hollywood exposure and the influx of the ‘affluent’, families that have been there for generations can’t afford their property taxes anymore. It’s ridiculous and sad.
    Who wrote this?? They don’t have a clue.

  43. I live in Bend too. You’re median home price is about $100K-$150K short! But it is absolutely beautiful here and I’m always grateful for living here.

  44. I’ve lived in Bend my entire life. It’s mountains are beautiful. It offers an amazing outdoor lifestyle. It is still small townish. I think there is nothing better in the entire world than Bend OR summers. I read the comments and many are true. I’m not sure of your sources, but Bend is a very difficult place to make a living. It has been called “poverty with a view” as long as I can remember. If you have money coming in and telecommute you’ll probably love it. We do not have four seasons. Spring is non existent, although we’ve had some nice weather the past few weeks. The last several years Summer hasn’t started until July. We have gorgeous Falls, but winter usually begins the first of November and you are in it until June. As soon as Sept 1st hits the mornings and evenings are cold again. There is a very short growing season here. We do not plant flowers until Memorial Day weekend because of the cold nights, and then have to start covering everything at night as early as the end if August. Hope that info helps.

      1. I agree! You’ve described Bend accurately. I’ve lived here most of my life. Interesting no mention of taxes. It has become a tourist destination. The poverty here is incredible. Hard for the average family to survive. High fuel prices always. We own our business and get along fine. But so many families and young adults have to relocate to make a living. Real estate and rent is very inflated! Long winters, short and lovely summer, short and beautiful fall. Bend is beautiful no doubt!! SHORT growing season for sure! It’s where we live and give back to our community. Home of two generation bend high graduates! Go Lava Bears!

  45. My wife’s work with John Deere brought our young family of four to Davenport in 1988. Now our two sons live here with their wives and growing families. Quality of life is very good. Cost of living is excellent. Beautiful change of seasons here, although this winter was VERY challenging. Davenport Schools Foundation provides annual learning experiences with cultural partners — ballet, art and music museums, library, wetlands learning center, zoo, science museum, etc., so every child gets exposure to our offerings early in life. River views are breath-taking. People are “Iowa-nice,” which makes life enjoyable even on bad days. Traffic is decent. Housing is affordable. Come see for yourself!

  46. Lots of interesting comments about Bend. I have lived here for 8 years but am a native Oregonian from the rainy side of the mountains. I have not only made a living in this town in spite of the terrific downturn in the economy and the subsequent high unemployment. I chose to bring my kids here to be near family and ended up buying my own house because I love it so much. There are good schools and there is a lot to do outdoors and with kids. Bend has a small town feel, even though the population is over 80K. There are many different types of people here and sure you will run into snooty types and posers but my experience has been to connect with a great community of people who are open, accepting, caring and fun. I have a lot of single friends, many who are happy being single and maybe that is why people who are single and don’t want to be feel like it’s not a good place to meet a mate. I don’t know. I met a native Bendite and we got married a couple years ago. I wasn’t looking or hoping for a dude to call my man so I can’t really speak to the disappointment of others. I don’t think you have to be “rich” to live here but that is a subjective term. I have friends who are as young 18 and self-supporting on $11 or less in a good safe neighborhoods. That said, they have roommates and no debt so they don’t need a lot to be okay.

  47. I was born and raised in San Diego, CA, and finally packed it up and moved to Bend with may partner in 2009! Haven’t looked back since! While no place is perfect, I have found Bend to be a refreshing change and the perfect combination of small town charm and big city amenities. Everyone has been welcoming and you always get a friendly smile wherever you go. I’m a local real estate broker and have worked with many clients moving from out of area plus out of area investors so I can see why some say the area is not affordable, but how many places can have such a broad range of housing options from under $100k to $10m? I think Bend is one of those unique places that has something for everyone and the weather sure bets the gray, wet weather west of the Cascades. The new OSU campus will be a huge boom to the area, too. Just need more industry to attract and retain the youth population!

    1. Who really wants to live in any homes for under $100k here! Unless your taking about a 1 bedroom unit. There is nothing great for much less than $175k-$200k for an average sized family. Even then, you will not get what you WANT. I’d have to spend $250-300k here to get most of what I wanted and I’m not fancy, just want to live in a “move-in-ready” home. Heck, I stopped looking at houses a year ago so it’s probably $50k more now!

      1. Everyone always wants a nicer home than they can afford. I moved to a different house last year and, of course, wanted homes beyond what I wanted to pay. You can live in a newer 3 Bedroom with over 1200sf near the Old Mill for about $175k, a large 2 Bedroom townhouse for about $150k on Butler Market Rd, a quality 3 Bedroom townhouse in NW for about $200k, and a brand new 3 Bedroom home with over 1700sf in great Gardenside for under $250k. You won’t find any options like it in many other cities. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, it’s probably time to rethink what you want. I’ve worked with some past buyers for over year/year and a half so I know it can be a lengthy process, but it all comes down to compromises. One of my clients just bought a 3 bedroom home with about 1400sf on almost 1/2 acre lot just south of Reed Market by 15th for $200k and it was in great shape for a 30+ year old house. I think the Pahlisch homes at McCall Landing and the new Hayden developments are great values. New Hayden Home in SW’s Aspen Rim just sold for about $230k with nearly 1600sf and custom upgrades. Showed another home in NW in River’s Edge Village with over 1800sf, quality Pahlisch finishes like quartz counters, etc. for $339k. Obviously, if you want to be in NorthWest Crossing, you can’t find hardly anything there less than $400k. A house I sold there in 2012 for $285k just came on the market for $375k and sold within days. I did have a recent buyer elect to go to Redmond for a better value over Bend and know many people have been doing that. I moved from Awbrey Butte to small acreage on the Eastside and did lament on the lack of inventory since I had really been looking for a different place for several years. Did I compromise? You bet I did! Ended up with a more traditional-style home with all bedrooms up (wanted a more modern single-level ), built in 1993 (wanted newer), and didn’t get to stay in NW. Positives add that I have a great Cascade View , huge yard for dogs, an RV garage, and house was updated in 2006/2007. I’m doing some bathroom remodeling, but that’s only due to taste preferences. Sure, I would’ve loved to have been in Tetherow or up high on the Butte, but I gave up location for space and privacy. Compromise is definitely not a dirty word…

  48. Bend, OR is beautiful and I feel lucky to live here in terms of the natural surroundings. However, affordable is not correct. While this native Oregonian doesn’t have a problem with people from CA and WA, it is true that you have sold your homes for big bucks and moved here which has increased the cost of living. Unfortunatly living wage jobs have not increased. Besides that Bend is rural so you can expect to pay more for groceries, gas, and the like because it has to come from further away.

    I lived in Denver for about 5 years and the cost of living is more here yet I made twice as much there. I have a degree and I got a job at “good” company when I moved here and made much more than minimum wage but it’s not enough to support a family or even pay the basics. Now I opened my own business, we’ll see how that goes.

    While there are a lot of great people here there are also those that we call “bendy”, snobby and unhappy souls! I thought it was hillarious that you’ll find bumper stickers and signs “Be nice your in Bend”. It’s not very “nice” in terms of the way people drive (pulling out in front of you even though nobody is behind you for a mile) or act. You won’t see a lot of smiles or here a lot of “howdy’s” and never mind manners! Don’t expect to get a lot of “excuse me” here!

    It’s my home and I love it here but don’t confuse anyone on the affordable, nice little town. There are lots of great things about it affordable is not one of them.

    1. I have to agree and disagree. Wile income sucks, we’re at about half the median or less, the people are awesome. Guess it just depends on what your looking for. If you look for rude people you’ll find them. I have had so many people wait patiently and even smile when I was new to down and got mixed up in the round abouts. Some just stop and chat for no other reason than to chat. Especially when one of my kids starts complaining or venting to someone they don’t even know… very thankful for kind and understanding people here in Bend.

    2. I was born and raised in Bend; I agree with your assessment. Just to comment though–the “snobbery” comes from ill treatment. Many moved from California to Central Oregon in the eighties..and drove up the cost of homes (there was a time you could buy a house in Bend for 4K..and it wasn’t..that long ago)..then apologized to their out of town guests for our “backward ways”. Those ill-mannered folks you’re talking about? Ask them how long its been since they moved there. They’re not locals. I love Bend; I lived on the west side before the prices went crazy. I’ve thought about moving back, but when I go home to visit? It feels a little like Disneyland.

    3. Bend is often referred to as “poverty with a view”. Fortunately, it hasn’t been that way for me at all. Have always done well, financially here an have a great job with a solid employer. I have also been a homeowner here since 1991 and although I came from So. Cal., I didn’t have a butt load of money to invest in anything. Things have always just fell into place for me here and have had opportunities presented to me along the way since I moved here that would have never been available to me in Cal. By the way, there are more transplants here then natives. The population has grown quite a bit and it isn’t quite as quaint and friendly as it once was, but I think that comes with population growth. I live outside of Bend about 20 minutes where there are less people and it is a little more relaxed.

  49. I don’t know about the other places, but do NOT go to Davenport. It looks NOTHING like that picture!! Would be a horrible place to live!

    1. I live in Davenport now, and that is pretty much EXACTLY what it looks like.If anything the river front just keeps getting better and better as we grow and flourish as a community. It is a great place to live. I have been here 10 years and love it.

      1. I agree, that picture is exactly what it looks like here. This view is looking across the river from Rock Island, IL, east of the centenniel bridge. Davenport has problems but no more than an average city of our size. I have lived here for over 20 years and never had a problem. If you don’t go looking for trouble it probably won’t find you. We have a TON of festivals during the spring and summer, the majority are free and right along the riverfront. We have muesuems, concerts all the time, great parks, the east village, a rich history, we’re only 2.5 hours from Chicago (not too bad of a drive), a really diverse culture and people,and so much more. They are also currently revitalizing downtown and making it really nice. I also think if you can afford those other places you can afford the nice neigborhoods davenport has. Check out McClellan Heights neighborhood. Gorgeous homes and a ton of history behind them. Davenport is an amazing place to live!

    2. Davenport is a poorly run city and is nothing like the pic. Move to Bettendorf which is part of the Quad City area if you move here.

  50. Don’t move to Bend. Leave it for the locals. Especially if you’re from Cali, don’t come.

  51. I think you should check out Boise, Idaho! 🙂 Grew up in Bend and moved here a couple years ago – I miss Bend’s beauty but Boise has become a close second on my list & it’s made a lot of the top ten lists this year, even Time Magazine!

  52. I am a fourth generation Bend native. While I sometimes reminisce about the Bend I grew up in(in the 60’s and 70’s), I really do enjoy all of the growth and the changes it has brought. There is so much more opportunity now than there was in the 70’s and 80’s and even the first part of the 90’s for people to live their dream here. I enjoyed a really long and good paying job here for many years and then decided on a career change, went back to school at COCC, graduated last spring and had a job in my new career in July. My husband has done the same. We have owned two homes-not mansions-but nice comfortable homes. It is all what you want to make it-or not make it-

  53. Bettendorf, Iowa is a suburb of Davenport, Iowa and boasts a great school district, friendly people, very low crime rate, and is located on the Mississippi river. You should look into it.

  54. Your stats about Davenport, IA are all wrong. According to most recent statistics (2011), Davenport has just over 101K people, median income is $41,672 and mean housing cost is $120,100. I grew up there. Not a bad place, but certainly not an exceptionally wonderful one.

    1. I was wondering about these statistics as well. In reality, they’re not far off if you are looking at the entire Quad Cities metro area. Factor in Bettendorf’s income and Rock Island’s home prices, add up the populations of all four cities, you get close to these numbers.

  55. I live in Bettendorf and it is no more of a “suburb” of Davenport than Rock Island is to Moline. All five of the cities (don’t forget East Moline is a city of its own) contribute greatly to the culture and diversity the Quad Cities has to offer. Yes, the mention should clarify the statistics as the whole Quad Cities metro area but frankly for simplicity sake, Davenport is the only one that is ever mentioned on a map in most cases anyway simply because it is the largest of all of them. The Quad Cities is a fantastic place to live!

  56. I’m thinking about moving to Bend from SF Bay Area, what is the job market looking like for Bend?

  57. Newfoundland Canada, it’s affordable on a island we have beautiful scenery and nice beaches, all the town here are mostly by the ocean and the people are some of the most friendly In the world.

  58. I have lived in San diego, Santa Barbara, Charleston SC .
    And other towns . Moved to Bend Oregon seven years ago when the town was growing to a really nice town .
    People were happy economy was booming . Then it all fell apart people moods changed agressive driving for a small town. Business shut down or bankrupt . Housing prices came down to where they should have been in the first place but are still very proud of their area their real estates in.
    Bend is still recovering the past year building has picked up and the out look is more positive . Oregon State University is building a four year college here Open fall 2015.
    That should bring a younger crowd
    help the economy .

        1. uhm honestly? lol i can count the # of college students who pay tuition with their own $…its either daddies or student loans and neither will pay to move and settle cross country…lets be real here

  59. I moved to Blue Jay last year and I’m here now! I feel the exact same way about SoCal. I saw your follow up post where you moved out to Bend, I might just follow you. Your website is really inspiring, thank you.

  60. Please take Asheville, NC off that list. I struggled to find an affordable apartment there and it’s impossible. Get ready to pay about $800+ a month just for a studio apartment, as long as you don’t run into unscrupulous landlords that seem to saturate that entire area. I had to rent a room about 16 miles from Asheville and still had to pay $550 for a 10×12 foot bedroom. Utilities were included, but driving back and forth to Asheville every day cost me about $280 a month in gas.

  61. It was so refreshing to read your article – last year my husband and I moved from San Francisco to Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Both the prices and the people drove us away. Now, we’re living in the Blue Ridge Mountains right in between Greenville SC & Asheville NC, and are so far loving it! To be fair, I’m a native born Southerner so I feel right at home, but my Bay-Area-Born man feels just as comfortable and pleased with our choice (as long as we don’t talk politics with the neighbors!)

    Living in between two cities has been a pleasure – as was previously stated, Asheville is a tough nut to crack, so it’s just a fun place for us to visit (not live in). People hold resentment towards the town because the odds of getting a decent paying job are slim to none (of course if you’re retired or self-employed, then you’re exempt). I mean, it’s a tourist town, not a financial center. I work in healthcare, and even that industry seems impossible to penetrate! And alas, Asheville is getting expensive, crowded, snobby, and losing it’s funk a little bit: even the Hedge-funders are moving their interests to the region. Check out Black Mountain, NC instead – it’s 20 minutes up the road and more closely resembles your description of Asheville. Same issues with employment though.

    Greenville, SC is great because it’s far cheaper, not crowded, has a decent amount of jobs, and is relatively unknown. Not to mention it’s beautiful parks, revitalized downtown, and the Swamp Rabbit Trail (look it up… it’s one of my favorite things here).
    I’m not saying that Greenville is a perfect place to live – it is a Southern town after all, so if you act like a city-slicker jag-off, you might not get that great hospitality that would otherwise make the Carolinas feel warm and welcoming. Folks here are generally humble, hard workers and don’t take kindly to spoiled brats (I’m not saying you’re a brat! Just a warning not to come off as one).
    But that being said, there are a bunch of bike-riding hipsters, sweet (beer) bottle shops, and coffee appreciators littered about. Oh my God, and the BBQ.

    But it doesn’t matter what I say about these places – I think that anywhere you move in this massive, incredible country will bring you a completely unique experience that will provide a better quality-of-life than San Diego. It’s funny, people around here always say “Why on Earth would you leave California to live here!?”
    …You know why.

  62. We agree! We live in Southern Cal and complain about the same things. Fortunately my husbands parents own an organic blueberry farm in WA that we plan to move to in a year after his service is military is over. We just want a peaceful place to raise our little ones, build a beautiful house and run a family business. We have to remember what really makes us happy rather then the big hype. I think California is over rated but a great place to visit. Good luck to your family!

  63. Two of my favorites here- Davenport and Charlottesville! So glad to hear they are also affordable. If you can handle to cold Madison, WI is another gem- culture, politics, good eats on the shores of two lakes.

  64. Bend is a far cry from SF Bay Area. A nice outdoors kind a town. But….been here 9 years now and it’s grown quickly. Much more populated than I wanted thinking about moving to the edge of the city with an acre or two. Still….on last bit of my discontent….it does snow here. I

  65. Hello I am looking for a 4bdrm and 2bath house to buy, I would need to know about the economy jobs, friendly people, affordable place to raise two children one 8 and the other 1year.old, I am wanting to got back to get my master in social work and my daughter is trying to finish her internship in nursing. Her husband works for the post office. my telephone number is 916-745-5811 and my email is keira1234@yahoo.com very kindly, Renee

  66. Asheville may be an affordable place to live for retirees and hipsters with rich parents. I am a native of this mountain oasis and I love my home, but I am living far below the poverty line. We have the highest unemployment rate in the state and our wages are measly (hence the term, $8/hr Asheville, though many wages are below that). The sad thing is that way too many people are moving here and driving up the cost of living, which in turn means that those of us born here or with strong roots in the area cannot afford to live here any longer so we are moving away. The number of out-of-state license plates I see on my daily commute are increasing each day. We are slowly losing our originality (no more Bele Chere, or LAAFF). With so many transplants, southern hospitality is slim to none. I could go on and on, but in short: If you’re thinking of moving to Asheville, PRETTY PLEASE WITH OKRA ON TOP, DON’T!!!

  67. The Wenatchee Valley in Washington state. Google photos do not do this area justice. It’s a combination of several small(ish) towns, Chelan, Wenatchee, Cashmere, Leavenworth. It’s relatively conservative, however there’s also a good size “liberal” population in the mix that helps to make anyone feel comfortable there. Arts and crafts, plenty of history, great outdoor recreation from the river and lakes to the hills and cascade mountains surrounding it. Great 4 seasons, with low humidity. Hot summers, mild snow in Wenatchee increasing as you head toward Leavenworth in the winter. Cost of living is very comparable to Asheville, but what is so awesome about this area (besides all of the amazing fruit trees for fresh fruit in the summer: Apples, Pears, Apricots/Peaches, Cherries) is it has the cheapest electricity in the nation due to the dams on the Columbia. We heat and cool our homes, heat our water, and obviously flip our lights on with electricity. In a two bedroom poorly insulated house in the dead of winter, using electricity to keep us warm our highest monthly energy bill was $90. We’re currently here in Vermont and these people are paying anywhere from $400-$800/mo. in the winter to heat their homes and that doesn’t include their electric bill for their lights O_o Anyways…… Check it out some time, it’s great! Note: There is a large Mexican population there now. Which is good and bad. Some jobs require you to be bilingual, and you’re dealing with uninsured illegal immigrants on the road, BUT there is nothing like authentic Mexican food at restaurants and Taco Wagons…. AMAZING food that you can’t get in other places that don’t have that prevalent population.

  68. Thank you Dale for an interesting article. I live near Chicago and love our forest preserves, bike paths, and love love love the music scene. There is so much to do here. Though I like a lot about where I live, my heart is calling to the Mountains, more nature and less severe winters (which up for grabs in these present climate changing times). Telluride captures the essence of my dream town if it was a little bigger. It has a sense of community, music, festivals, art, mountains, nature, hiking, biking, a good consciousness. It’s location is a bit far away from major towns and airports ( we visit family all around the country and like to travel in our RV). Would love other folks ideas about towns like Telluride. I look forward to visiting some of the cities mentioned here. Thank you.

  69. Nice article and we are in the same boat as you were. We have lived all of our lives in So Cal CA and its just way to expensive. I make GOOD money, but I can’t afford to live here and put kids through college. Plus my father has ALZ so we are helping them also. We have done a ton of research and what we are looking for 5+ acres, small farm, cheaper cost of living, all 4 seasons, and more peaceful than So Cal CA. We are moving to WA its about a 30% decrease across the board in all expenses plus I can get the house and property I want for about 400K less than you can in So Cal CA.

  70. Bend is becoming a disaster due to the Californians coming here. Housing had gone crazy and now there are tons of jobs and NO housing!!! I wish Californians would maybe go someplace else! Every person I ask says they are from California… I love Oregon and been here all my life after traveling around and seeing the rest of the country, I decided to stay home. Our former Gov. McCall always said “Come to Oregon and enjoy…. but go home!”

    1. America is home you silly goose. People can move wherever they damn well please. These are taxpayers, many who served in the military to protect your freedoms. One would think you were whining about illegal immigrants for crying out loud. If you can’t find a job, create one for yourself, that’s how it is in any place…or move to a city…or move to another country!

  71. AMEN to the sister who commented below me! I’ve lived in Bend my whole life and in a few short months I’m moving to Iowa because I CANT AFFORD TO LIVE in bend any more. Sorry but this article is very wrong. Yeah maybe if you come from California and bring some smog and a snooty attitude you can buy a nice new house. Well for the hard working preschool teacher who was born and raise here will soon be homeless because the rental market it so crazy! And if you do move here from California. Get used to us trying to make you go back to California for at least the first 5 years.

    1. This is a free country where Americans can freely move from state to state, just like you can freely move to Iowa. If you don’t like this freedom, by all means, move to another country.

      1. You keep saying “it’s a free country, we do what we want!” but what you fail to realize is that sentiment goes both ways. No, they can’t stop you from coming in but YOU can’t stop them from hating your guts and telling you so. Freedom doesn’t work only for you – which is precisely the attitude that they find so disgusting. You tote freedom but definitely don’t understand it. If you face criticism for ruining other places by moving there from California – well, feel free to cry yourself to sleep at night. They can’t make you go back and you cannot make them accept you. Sorry.

  72. For all you in Oregon blaming Californians for moving in and “ruining” it…and telling them to GO HOME, last time I checked, Americans are at HOME whenever they move to any of the great 50 states. You are not your own country, you do not have the privilege of shooing people out, especially fellow taxpaying Americans…this is a free country that many men laid their lives down for…sorry you chose a profession that didn’t pay a lot…that’s the case for many of us. And you think Californians have snooty attitudes? Take a look in the mirror.

    1. Except that people from up north and from california etc are basically pissing off people where ever they move to. Also you make it to expensive to live. So….no we can just want you gone.

  73. This is a positive attitude, wish more people from Bend thought like you! Good for you making the most of your lives and embracing change!

  74. I lived in southern CA for 35 years. There is a small community off of I-15 that is wonderful bcuz it is known as country in the city. Hard to believe, it has a growth control policy that means it can only be built on a certain percentage of available land each year. It started out as flat land in the 1970’s.

  75. Michigan is a beautiful state. Along the west coast. Petoskey and ferrysburg are great places

  76. We need to do a better job of keeping Bend a secret. I am moving there in 18 months……..

  77. I have lived in Charlottesville (UVA alumna! Go ‘Hoos!) and now am close to Asheville. They are both great! I’m not sure how affordable Cville is, though… It seemed awfully pricey and traffic was kind of bad, too. Maybe I just saw the student-y parts 😉 But it’s gorgeous, has lots going on and is close to some absolutely beautiful Blue Ridge scenic parks and drives. If it were 20 degrees cooler year-round my husband and I would make it home! Lynchburg, VA is about an hour away and, while quieter, is a sweet little town too 🙂

  78. Pollard, Alabama.

    One of the only South Alabama towns proud of never having been the home of ethnically-divisive folks where those of European and those of African descent are concerned. The town provides many free services to its residents, services that other towns and cities charge for. Residents of Pollard get free water, free bush-hog service and free garbage pickup. And then
    there’s a service you won’t find anywhere else. If your cow dies, it will be hauled away by the town truck if you call the mayor.

    Life in Pollard is quiet. There are no stores, no factories. The streets are paved, and empty lots are keep mowed. Things have always been peaceful in Pollard. That’s just the way life is.

    Pollard escaped the civil-rights turmoil that plagued most of Alabama. Blacks and whites make up about equal parts of the population. The town did not even hold municipal elections for many years.
    Those who wished to serve would just go down and qualify to run for office every four years. They would always get into office without opposition.

  79. I live just across the Mississippi River from Davenport. Many of the 30-40 year olds from the Illinois side are looking to move to Davenport or Bettendorf, IA. There is great food and shopping in Davenport. We have several local brewery’s and museums. And I am not endorsing a political party here but, Iowa has the state services on point. We almost never hear about programs in Iowa being cut due to funding problems.

  80. I Live In Grand Rapids, Mi for about 15 years now. … It’s Beautiful. Great Honest and Hardworking People… And so the opportunity to become 1 or to improve your professional life style… so you can change professions, a matter of taste or living demands, Great Colleges, Work opportunities, diverse kind of work opportunities. There is an attractive place to live in or to go to for entertainment or leisure time spending. Different Landscapes, recreational attractions, Michigan Lake.. Hummm , Like a Sweet Water Ocean.. a Romantic place to keep on going and enjoying. Sport Practicing opportunities…, Concerts or events Amazing ! There is a great variety of Food,,,to every taste and budget, Now, new brewing beer all flavors.. kind of interesting. I love THE GRAND RAPIDS BALLET, Very competent as well. My Son Danced since he was in first grade, until He got Graduated, and… oh, Boy !!!! , I can tell The Difference, How Healthy… Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Honor Student, Healthy Spirit !!! and what a benefit but A Blessing , along with Resurrection Life Church, Pastor Duane Vander Klok with His Walking By Faith traditional broadcast in addition to Complement! , and all this blessings and Yes, Art Price, other attractive activities to choose from, all weather, all seasons.. Yes .. Winter Sports…so get warm, Chill out … get the best of Both Words… Now new generations are welcome to keep shinning… Might as well , thinking to take advantage of many benefits is not to be concerned off…

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