Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC
Ann Arbor, MI
All worth a look.
All are a bit more expensive than the median for their respective states, and that IS an issue in some of them (a rather vocifierous one in Chapel Hill - the local anarchists have whipped up some low grade class rage, and the LEED-certified condo project downtown is in financial trouble).
Most have reasonable weather - Ann Arbor and Ithaca might be the coldest, but there's far worse in both of those states, and you have 4 distinct seasons. Both NY and MI have gone through a lot in recent decades, but their business history, which does continue with big recent successes like Wegmans is nothing to sneeze at.
Very close to all of them either have a great deal of natural scenery in town, or within a few hours' drive. North Carolina - Triangle area specifically is very start-up-friendly, and you have the highest mountains east of the MS River, and the largest chunk of National Park Svc-protected beach within a few hours in 2 directions. Chapel Hill once drew international fame for it's indie-rock music scene; there's still a TON of that going on around here, along with a large, large visual arts and literary community. Hillsbororough - just west of Durham - has evolved into one of the largest writers' colonies in th Southeast. Chapel Hill and Carrboro have elected 2 out gay mayors (one of whom was re-elected 3 times), along with a few out city councillors, so they (along with Durham) are very freethinking communities in that regard. NC also elected an out lesbian state legislator from a heavily right-leaning coastal distirict, but she knew the district, and campaigned the old fashioned way - getting to know people, doing the work, emphasizing family roots in the area, and here spotless record on Wilmington's city council - so when it comes to those kinds of potentially divisive left/right issues, NC is much more of a place where it's all about the candidate, and his or her effectiveness. Smear tactic have a hisory of backfiring, at least during the last decade or so.
Athens GA I'm a tad less familiar with. An hour from Atlanta, so it's easy to connect to some A-list infrastructure. Summers are HOT. Local arts and music community is very much a part of the city city and the civic identity - Howrad Finster's sculputure gardens are still around somewhere, N Georgia foothills and mountains are an hour or so due north of town. Athens - 110,000 - is the largest city E of the Mississippi (I believe) NOT directly on an interstate, which to some degree holds off the encroaching cul-de-sacs of Atlanta (100 miles away) at bay. I85 bypasses the city by about 20 miles to the north; I 20 by the same distance to the south, and I always got the distinct impression that they like it that way; the N Georgian countryside, especially as one gets closer to the Appalachians - is beautiful, and much of the land between Athens city and I20 is national forest; lots of deep old growth, so it's very pretty.