Ideas where to live in the US?

My wife and I are getting sick of the cold winters here(upper midwest), but I can never really think where to move to. Does anyone have any ideas where nice places to live in the US are? Here are some items that would be important:
1) We don't want to live in a big city, and preferably a place where we could get at least 1/2 acre lot. Not just constant miles after miles of development.
2) Need to be able to afford a house without too much of a mortgage. We currently have paid off about $200K of our house and owe about 50K.
3) Someplace it isn't uncomfortable for people left of center on the political spectrum.
4) Not uncomforable for nonreligious people.
5) Good public education.
6) Weather: Winters that aren't harsh. Can get cold but no more than 2 months of regular sub freezing temps. Want the majority of the year to have weather where it is nice to get outside and play tennis, bike, etc...
7) We like the mountains, but it isn't mandatory. Mild weather is more important.
8) Want to avoid any impending big problems like water shortage, lots of tornados, etc..

I realize that it may not be possible to satisfy everything, but does anyone have any ideas? I'm just spitballing here to maybe fuel some ideas.

We moved to Grand Junction, CO two years ago, kind of on a whim. We wanted to be near the mountains, but Denver is too expensive and crowded. We'd never heard of GJ before, but there was a job opportunity for my wife here, and we decided what the heck, we'll rent a place for a year and if we don't like it, we'll move on.

Turns out it's pretty awesome and, after 2 years of renting, we're now starting the process of house hunting and settling down.

To your points, the cost of living here is about half of what it is in Denver and you can get a pretty decent place for $250k. Getting into the mountains from Denver is also a massive PITA, with i70 constantly backing up in the winter and even in the summer can be super slow, but heading into the mountains from this side is wide open highway with low traffic year-round.

The Grand Valley area is fairly red politically, but there are a few universities and colleges here and the population is getting younger and more liberal every year. Probably on the same political spectrum as any similar sized midwest town. As far as religion goes, I've never experienced any issues there, but we don't have kids and are probably insulated from a lot of religious stuff simply due to the fact that our circles don't include stuff like school, sports, and whatnot, where (I assume?) most of that discrimination occurs.

We're having a particularly snowy winter here this year. I actually had to shovel snow off the driveway once. First time I've dragged the shovel out in two years. Very mild in the winter, but still with half a dozen massive ski resorts within a couple hour drive. It does get hot in the summer, in the 90's with dips into the 100's for most of the summer, but the humidity is basically zero throughout that period, so it doesn't feel as bad as it sounds. Having lived in Iowa for 15 years, I'll take 105 degrees here over 90 degrees there anytime. Weather is also very calm in general - 0% chance of tornadoes. Oh, and if the heat gets to you too much, you can be up on top of the Grand Mesa in about 45 mins where the temp is always about 30 degrees cooler than in the valley.

Tons, just tons, of outdoor activities here too, which we love. The Colorado river runs right through town and makes for great rafting and kayaking. We do at least 8-10 overnight trips on the river each year. World class mountain biking and hiking too.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend it.

Edit: Really, the best part of GJ is that it's so close to a lot of totally amazing places. 2 hours to Telluride, 2.5 hours to Vail, 2 hours to Aspen, 1 hour to Moab... Doesn't get more awesome than that.

Edit 2:

Edit 3: This is one of our absolute most favorites places to camp in the area. You put in the river in the morning right in GJ, and get to this site by the afternoon. There's no road access at all, so it's nice and secluded. Train tracks running along the river are really cool when the Amtrack comes through after dark and the headlights light up the canyon walls. I'm super excited now just thinking about when it will be warm enough for our next float! Late April maybe if we get just a bit lucky!

Rural, cheap, welcoming of left-leaning, non-religious people, good education, access to mountains, no tornadoes or water shortages: Vermont has you covered. The winters, though...7 out of 8 isn't bad?

I'm hard pressed to think of non-urban non-cold places that are also politically/religiously welcoming and have good public education. Perhaps areas near college towns? A friend of mine from college is now a law professor at University of Alabama and she and her family like it there?

Also, I recall someone telling me recently that the town where Walmart's corporate HQ is located (google says Bentonville, AR) is a surprisingly diverse and cultured place bc of the educational requirements of the jobs, but I have zero knowledge of how reliable that anecdote/observation I heard was.

Why kind of work would you be hoping to do in the new location? That'll probably be a good constraint to consider.

We asked many of those same questions a long time ago and ended up in Oregon with the exception we like cities so Portland's medium size was a big draw. (Housing has increased a lot since then)

I lived in Denver for 5 years. It's definitely crowded and expensive, so I'm sure Serengeti's recommendation for Grand Junction has a lot of good info for you.

The winters there were mild, but like they said, summers can get hot. I had a hard time with the altitude and how dry it was, and coming from the East Coast/Maryland, I missed the water culture. But, the mountains are incredible, and there is a really strong outdoor/fitness culture in Colorado. And I didn't miss the humidity in Maryland.

Now I'm out in Oregon, outside of Portland. I like the climate a lot, or least what I've seen of it the last 18 months. There's a good mix of sun and rain, and this winter has been very mild. Summers have been similar to Denver in that there can be extended periods of 90+ weather, but it doesn't have the humidity of the East Coast either, so it's much easier to handle. The beaches are a little over an hour away, there's skiing not too far away, and I generally like the feeling that there's a lot nearby to check out. Colorado sometimes felt a little isolated if you weren't necessarily into as much outdoors stuff.

Housing prices in the Portland area are high, though it seems like they're softening lately. Further areas away from Portland are more affordable, but I can't offer any concrete info there. We're still renting. But hey, they say a recession is on the way, so maybe we'll get lucky and houses prices will plummet in a year or two.

For the eclipse, my wife and I traveled up through southern and western Oregon.
It seemed really nice. The best I could describe it is less developed SF Bay Area.
I have no experience actually living there but it seems like housing is much cheaper
than the bay. Lots of space too.

Not Western Washington.

I mean, it ticks a lot of your boxes, but the prices are cray-cray, even in out of the way towns. And at some point in the next century, the entire area's going to slide into the ocean when The Big One hits.

If you were wanting to do Oregon but avoid Portland (costly and changing quickly), you might check Corvallis. It has a lot of city conveniences while still feeling small. I think it's the closest feeling city to Portland in Oregon while still being small. That's probably where I plan on ending up if not somewhere on the coast. I currently live and work in the Portland metro area.

Asheville, NC pretty much checks all of your boxes though housing can be tricky to find sub 300K, though still possible, more so if you're willing to go even further out of town.

See also Chattanooga, TN and Roanoke, VA.

Thanks for the replies.

Grand Junction seems like a nice place and very pretty. I think I prefer living someplace a bit more green, but would love visiting there. There is some strikingly pretty scenery.

Vermont would probably be too cold for what we're looking for but probably does check off a lot of the other boxes. I really want to get away from the very cold winters with a bunch of snow.

My wife would be looking for a job at a smaller college / university where the focus is on teaching and not research. Some research is OK, but not the focus and not too high pressure.

The Pacific Northwest has always been on my short list of places to live. We have been to Rainier, McMinnville OR, the Olympic Penninsula and San Juan Islands. I'm not sure we could find housing we would be happy with for what we could afford. I looked on realtor.com for houses <= 325K, at least 2000 Sq Ft and what I did find seems like they had seen better days. It's a shame because I think we'd like it in parts of Oregon and Washington. If I bump it up to 400K I start to see some houses I'd be fine with.

Asheville, NC was recommended to be by some others and has potential. The crime index is kinda high compared to what I'm used to - more than double. I'm not sure if that is limited to specific areas or if it's more widespread.

It's tough to find what I want in a place that is affordable.

I can tell you where not to go.

Corvallis is a university town (Oregon State). The campus is very nice and relaxing. Just sayin.

I wouldn't call Vermont cheap... The property taxes are pretty astronomical. My parents pay more than twice what I pay despite our homes being of similar value. But yeah I'd return in a heartbeat if I could.

I have no idea on some aspects but maybe some parts of Arizona? We don't match the political part exactly but we are slowly getting better. For temperature i am thinking central to northern Arizona?

Arizona doesn't have a lot of green but in the right places you can find it. The main reason I stay here is because I can work in Phoenix and have desert not far off. Then if we want cold we can just drive North to Flagstaff for a weekend.

Don't forget the wildlife. Quail are super cute. Those hats!

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://trepanddoc.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/quail-1.jpg)

Also Mexican food! tacos tacos tacos!

robc wrote:

Asheville, NC was recommended to be by some others and has potential. The crime index is kinda high compared to what I'm used to - more than double. I'm not sure if that is limited to specific areas or if it's more widespread.

I would say crime is not an issue. There are a couple of housing projects that are problem areas but certainly I feel safe everywhere I go, at least from my privalaged viewpoint. Also, I would guess the stats are only for the city of and not Buncombe county. We live one county to the west in a rural area (but only 25 minutes to town) and we don't lock our cars or our house during the day and have never had a problem in 14 years.

Central Maryland is a good spot. The rural areas can be pretty religious and conservative, but they are not usually aggressive about it (unlike Pennsylvania or central/southern Virginia). The state and surrounding ones have every type of terrain, from small mountains and the Appalachians to a huge estuary (Chesapeake Bay) to the seashore, with big cities (Baltimore/DC) and smaller cities (like Frederick, quite affordable and growing with lots to do), and also a lot of rural communities in the central Piedmont. Moderate to warm weather but with definite seasons. Average is about 1-2 feet of snow per year, for reference. The state is Blue overall, but with a strong sense that bipartisan cooperation is good, rather than bad. We also have a good employment situation with the Federal government driving a large part of that.

Oh, and high speed internet is common in the suburban and urban areas. Like I said, consider Frederick for a low cost area.

How about Lancaster PA? It's a nice upcoming city but its not huge. There are a lot of culture here. A lot of Hispanic, Vietnamese, etc. I've never seen a city with so many different types of places to eat. People might think Lancaster is a rural area with the Amish, but it's definitely not that. But drive 15 min out of the city and you can experience that. Housing is affordable depending on where you live. I live in an upscale neighborhood. One of our neighbors is an Amish family. My wife and I sometimes walk there and buy a dozen eggs or black berries. It's kind of cool.

Weather is ok. Humidity sucks in the east coast, but it's tolerable. Real winter maybe 2 months a year. It's 2 degrees now, and 56 next week. If you like biking, you'll like it here. It's huge here. Nice views for that. Plenty of people to do it with groups.

For your wife, there is Franklin and Marshall College in the City. Small state university Millersville nearby. Elizabethtown College 25 min away. And York College 30 min away.

Plus you will be close to Philly, NYC, Washington DC, and the shore.

PA is red, but they are not pushy here. It's a good mix.

To Robear above, traffic in Maryland sucks!!!

All I can say is, I was offered a job that pays significantly more than I get paid now but would mean I would have to relocate 30 min west to York PA, and I turned down the job... We love it here. Thing is, they called me back and offered me more money...

That's when you ask them to let you work from home

I can see here some houses in Florida in USA for sale below 250 000USD. Also there are some options. Weather is good here most of the time, maybe some rains and wind from time to time but it's good as a change. Have you thought about Florida?

Lenny88 wrote:

I can see here some houses in Florida for sale below 250 000USD. Also there are some options. Weather is good here most of the time, maybe some rains and wind from time to time but it's good as a change. Have you thought about Florida?

Rule #1 of real estate: Don't buy real estate that's about to be literally underwater.

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Corvallis is a university town (Oregon State). The campus is very nice and relaxing. Just sayin. ;)

I think if my wife finds a school in Oregon / Washington that is hiring in her field we will definitely investigate that area.

Stealthpizza wrote:

I have no idea on some aspects but maybe some parts of Arizona? We don't match the political part exactly but we are slowly getting better. For temperature i am thinking central to northern Arizona?

My wife has mentioned that area, but I just don't know if it is for me. I just think I need more greenness outside. I liked visiting outside Tuscon and it was beautiful - just not the beauty I want to see every day.

Robear wrote:

Central Maryland is a good spot.

Maryland could work. If an opportunity pops up it would be worth investigating that area.

Balthezor wrote:

How about Lancaster PA?

That could also work. We used to live outside of Philly. I've biked around Lancaster - we lived in Chester County.

Lenny88 wrote:

I can see here some houses in Florida for sale below 250 000USD. Also there are some options. Weather is good here most of the time, maybe some rains and wind from time to time but it's good as a change. Have you thought about Florida?

I think I would be too worried about hurricane damage.

My wife said primary college hiring season is typically in the fall (to start the following fall) so I think we will need to see what is available.

On one hand I'm itching to ditch the winters here. On the other I wouldn't look forward to the expense of moving. We do like our house here. It's nothing special but it fits our needs, is in good shape, on 1+ acre, and set back from the road so we have a good amount of privacy.

Robear wrote:

Central Maryland is a good spot. The rural areas can be pretty religious and conservative, but they are not usually aggressive about it (unlike Pennsylvania or central/southern Virginia). The state and surrounding ones have every type of terrain, from small mountains and the Appalachians to a huge estuary (Chesapeake Bay) to the seashore, with big cities (Baltimore/DC) and smaller cities (like Frederick, quite affordable and growing with lots to do), and also a lot of rural communities in the central Piedmont. Moderate to warm weather but with definite seasons. Average is about 1-2 feet of snow per year, for reference. The state is Blue overall, but with a strong sense that bipartisan cooperation is good, rather than bad. We also have a good employment situation with the Federal government driving a large part of that.

Oh, and high speed internet is common in the suburban and urban areas. Like I said, consider Frederick for a low cost area.

I'll second this!

Greenville, SC is a decent fit.

It's still the south so you might have the odd religious strain here and there and it's definitely the right-er side of centrist politics, but the climate is good, housing is reasonable, and the schools are decent.

The last 10-15 years have been really good for it: IMAGE(https://assets.simpleviewcms.com/simpleview/image/upload/c_fill,h_476,q_75,w_777/v1/clients/greenville/082_3_8320_jpeg_28c91e95-28a3-4f2b-a913-0ca10e9536d8.jpg)

robc wrote:
tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Corvallis is a university town (Oregon State). The campus is very nice and relaxing. Just sayin. ;)

I think if my wife finds a school in Oregon / Washington that is hiring in her field we will definitely investigate that area.

Keep in mind that while Oregon is one of the cheapest places to live on the West Coast, it’s cost of living is still well above average for the United States, especially in terms of housing. I rented houses in Omaha and Iowa City for half of what I’m paying for a one-bedroom in Portland, and places like Corvallis or Eugene are only slightly cheaper.

On the plus side, though, we’ll probably fare better during the impending climate apocalypse than a lot of the rest of the US.

Are irreligious people experiencing a lot of harassment? I've been completely without religion for coming up on 20 years, and no one has ever said boo to me about it except one relative, which takes geography and the new neighbors out of consideration.

As far as the other stuff, I don't know. I live in a huge city. It's so cold here, it nearly froze recently!

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Are irreligious people experiencing a lot of harassment? I've been completely without religion for coming up on 20 years, and no one has ever said boo to me about it except one relative, which takes geography and the new neighbors out of consideration.

I’ve experienced no harassment of any sort here in the PNW, but it was a weekly occurrence in the Midwest. Mostly passive-aggressive “just trying to help you” microaggressions (hey we need to talk about why you won’t come to church with us, etc) rather than actual harassment, but it builds up.
But here no one cares, for the most part. Oregon is pretty homogenous racially but there’s a lot of diversity in beliefs* and people don’t really proselytize.

*If you live in any of the moderately-sized cities in or near the Willamette Valley.

I loved my visit to AZ back when I traveled for work there. A surprising diverse environment from desert to snowy mountains. You seem to pick your climate. But then again I might swing hard for Vermont or GJ, CO. SC is really cool from our visit last year and Alaska seems awesome just stay south of the artic circle

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Are irreligious people experiencing a lot of harassment? I've been completely without religion for coming up on 20 years, and no one has ever said boo to me about it except one relative, which takes geography and the new neighbors out of consideration.

Come visit Nashville! We have delicious hot chicken, charming honkytonks, and lots of passive-aggressive harassment about anyone who doesn't go to the right church.

trichy wrote:
Fedaykin98 wrote:

Are irreligious people experiencing a lot of harassment? I've been completely without religion for coming up on 20 years, and no one has ever said boo to me about it except one relative, which takes geography and the new neighbors out of consideration.

Come visit Nashville! We have delicious hot chicken, charming honkytonks, and lots of passive-aggressive harassment about anyone who doesn't go to the right church.

These accounts from you and ruhk are interesting to me, because I think a lot of people would expect similar stuff in Texas, and I never see anything of the sort.

I also know a good number of very devoted Christians who would never remotely speak to someone in that manner. You know, if you really believe you're a despicable sinner who has been miraculously forgiven, you should be desperate for other people to experience that, but not haughty or condescending at all.

I still want to visit Nashville, though! I was very tempted to visit last Fall when the US Men's Soccer Team played a game there. Everything I hear about the city sounds great.

Fedaykin98 wrote:
trichy wrote:
Fedaykin98 wrote:

Are irreligious people experiencing a lot of harassment? I've been completely without religion for coming up on 20 years, and no one has ever said boo to me about it except one relative, which takes geography and the new neighbors out of consideration.

Come visit Nashville! We have delicious hot chicken, charming honkytonks, and lots of passive-aggressive harassment about anyone who doesn't go to the right church.

These accounts from you and ruhk are interesting to me, because I think a lot of people would expect similar stuff in Texas, and I never see anything of the sort.

I also know a good number of very devoted Christians who would never remotely speak to someone in that manner. You know, if you really believe you're a despicable sinner who has been miraculously forgiven, you should be desperate for other people to experience that, but not haughty or condescending at all.

I still want to visit Nashville, though! I was very tempted to visit last Fall when the US Men's Soccer Team played a game there. Everything I hear about the city sounds great.

You should! The chicken is totally worth the trip alone. I think they marinate it in a mixture of buttermilk, cayenne, and silent judgment, and it is DELICIOUS.

Actually, Nashville is an amazing city, even with all its flaws. Great food, great culture, and a really diverse range of neighborhoods. The only reason I'm not pitching it for robc to come live here is the housing market. It's spiked pretty high the last few years, especially for a city in the south. Add in the BRUTAL traffic, and it's a bit bumpy for newcomers.

trichy wrote:

You should! The chicken is totally worth the trip alone. I think they marinate it in a mixture of buttermilk, cayenne, and silent judgment, and it is DELICIOUS.

I don't know how authentic this recipe is, but it's absolutely delicious!