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Old 11-05-2013, 09:16 PM
 
4 posts, read 14,785 times
Reputation: 17

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Hello everyone!

I'm brand new to the forums though I'm a long-time reader. First a little background, and I apologize in advance for being long-winded, but I want to give you as much info as I can! We are young newlyweds living in the Dallas Ft. Worth area of Texas due to jobs. We are looking to relocate in the next few years to a city we can call home and raise a family. We've both moved a lot growing up (he's from Ohio and I'm from Missouri) so moving away doesn't bother us and we have family spread all over the country and love to travel.

We are trying to find the most suitable city for us. We know that no place is perfect but we're looking for city suggestions that may not have crossed our minds yet. Here is a little info on our likes and dislikes. Any help you guys have is most appreciated!

DFW is a wonderful area, and we are fond of TX in general, but there are two major things we can't stand anymore: the weather (we HATE heat) and the traffic/sprawl. Sure, we have tons to do and everything at our fingertips- IF we want to drive 30 minutes to an hour or two. The driving is taking a toll on us and on our cars. We'd love a place where we could walk to our favorite coffee shop/bookstore/restaurants! So tired of car culture which is rampant in TX, and would like to escape some of the consumerism that comes with being so close to a big city.

We want to scale back a bit. Ultimately we want a smaller city with somewhat of a big city feel. We don't want huge culture shock, but we're looking to switch to a slower pace, so something of a transition between small town and big city. Ideally a smaller city with a larger city (or cities) within a 3 hr drive, yet we'd like our city to have all it's own amenities and personality (grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops, cultural events, festivals, other things to do, etc) so we would only need the "big city" maybe once a month for big mall shopping, bigger events or big city exploration.

Based on our research, family-friendly college towns seem to have most of what we are wanting. The downside to most of these is the lack of jobs as they have very education-driven economies. He is in the computer/technology/engineering field and I am in health promotion.

We like:
-Nearby colleges for the activities and diversity they bring
-Coffee houses and bookstores, especially local non-chains (love open mic nights!)
-Food quality is also very important to us. We'd love to be near organic farmers markets and health food stores and fantastic non chain restaurants (I admit we're a bit spoiled in this department in TX!)
-Vibrant, lively, walkable, SAFE downtown gathering area (think "Main Street") preferably within walking distance of where we live, though a short drive (within 10 min) could be considered.
-Community feel (not necessarily "everyone knows everyone," but friendly people with community events would be nice)
-Natural beauty, greenery and outdoor recreation (namely trails for running/walking/biking)
-Being near water (ocean is best, but lakes and rivers are very welcome as well)
-Wine and being near wineries/wine bars (Nothing better than some laid back live music, wine and good company!)
-Prefer cold weather over hot (autumn's chilly weather is our favorite, bring on the jacket weather, rain and clouds! We also don't mind winter/cold weather and would MUCH rather live with harsher winters than harsher summers, though we'd prefer avg. snowfall to being buried in heavy snow)
-Road trips, so being within a day's drive to different cities and places would be an asset
-Reading and learning (I will possibly be looking into grad school for health education in the future and we both love taking random classes- painting, cooking, you name it. He is also very interested in Japanese culture- he is learning to speak it and we both love the food and the people! If possible, he would like to have people near our city to practice speaking with but that isn't a deal breaker)

We currently live in Grapevine, TX and here are some things we like about it:
-The downtown Main Street area (though there's not a whole lot down there) and cute surrounding neighborhoods- historic looking yet well kept-up
-Being near a lake
-They have a large running community with a club that meets on weekends
-Decent restaurants, though we do have to drive a ways to get there
-The community festivities around Christmas

Here are some cities with other qualities we love based purely on research:
-Charlottesville, VA (LOVE the walkable downtown with non-chain restaurants, festivals, family friendly environment, active culture, close to wineries, college town where cultural events abound, as well as art walks, wine tastings, live music. We would probably move here, but we hear the job outlook isn't so hot for us. The other possible downside would be hot/humid Virginia summers, but it's not as bad as places further south)
-Ann Arbor, MI (also a college town, bike friendly/walkable, diversity and Japanese presence, health and tech oriented workforce, great libraries and bookstores, art galleries/art fairs, good farmers markets and outdoor recreation. We are actually strongly considering this city. Can anyone guide us towards or against it?)
-Ithaca, NY (near water, perfect weather for us, lots of learning opportunities, college town with so much of what we like, yet we hear the politics can be very in-your-face liberal and we're pretty middle of the road as far as politics go. We're not huge on politics and it honestly doesn't matter which way the city swings [we know many college towns swing liberal and that's fine with us] but wouldn't want the politics of a place to make it super uncomfortable. Not sure if that is actually true or has any bearing on the situation. Also NY taxes aren't very appealing...)
-Saratoga Springs, NY (low crime, good for families, near water, Saratoga Performing Arts Center which has music concerts, ballets & wine/food festivals; easy driving distance from NYC and Boston. Not sure there's enough to do here though)
-Seattle, WA (too large of a city for what we're wanting and housing/cost of living is too expensive, but has water, culture, great food, lots of outdoor activities and is beautiful)
-Beaverton, OR (also beautiful with outdoor activities, has tech jobs, rainy, chilly weather with mild summers, I've also read that it has a high Japanese presence. Also close proximity to Portland though I'm not sure if that would be "big city" enough for us)
-This last one may sound silly, but I drooled over the fictional Town of Stars Hollow (set near New haven, CT) from the Gilmore Girls TVs series! Perhaps a bit too small but so many qualities we love like the community feel, festivals, weather, close proximity to big cities.

We are considering somewhere in either the Pacific Northwest, Northeast (though cost of living could be painful in some areas), and in general, the northern half of the U.S., for weather reasons. We're willing to consider other areas too if the heat isn't too terrible!

Can anyone recommend any other cities with many of our desired qualities? Thank you so much in advance!
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Old 11-05-2013, 10:44 PM
 
Location: St. Louis
136 posts, read 234,180 times
Reputation: 111
Have you considered St. Louis? It certainly isn't the "most walkable, culture-rich" city (it's no San Francisco or Boston), but it's close to what you seem to be looking for. It's a small 'big city' (or a large 'small town'), it has urban, walkable neighborhoods; there are streets like the Delmar Loop, and Euclid Ave in CWE, that compensate for the not-so-lively Downtown, and is a five hour drive from Chicago if you miss that big city experience. It's hot only two months in a year (typically, July and August), with a rather chilly (and beautiful!) Fall. Also, the cost of living here allows one to live a higher quality of life compared to many other cities, and the suburbs are perfect for families to live -- the city has tons of stuff for kids to do.

Edit: I should mention that the Benton Park and Soulard neighborhoods in STL seem perfect for you to live.

Last edited by NewStLouisan; 11-05-2013 at 10:52 PM..
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Old 11-05-2013, 11:03 PM
 
Location: Metro Atlanta & Savannah, GA - Corpus Christi, TX
4,475 posts, read 7,295,726 times
Reputation: 2217
That WAS a long post. I tried to read through as much of it as I could.

Have you considered the Twin Cities? Minneapolis and Saint Paul are VERY pedestrian friendly and it, in fact, is the 2nd most bicycle friendly metro in the nation behind Portland, Oregon. There are plenty of things to do that involve getting closer to nature. Minnehaha Park and falls, for example, is smack dab in the middle of the city and you wouldn't even know it when hiking the trails!
As a matter of fact, the light rail has a stop there!

Downtown Minneapolis has a big city feel and very walkable while Saint Paul is slightly on the smaller side but equally as nice.

Check it out! I highly recommend it.
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Old 11-06-2013, 01:04 AM
 
29,946 posts, read 27,406,003 times
Reputation: 18529
I'm surprised Madsion, WI wasn't on your list.

But I think you should probably look into Richmond, VA and Louisville, KY.
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Old 11-06-2013, 05:52 AM
 
56,674 posts, read 80,973,859 times
Reputation: 12530
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mutiny77 View Post
I'm surprised Madsion, WI wasn't on your list.

But I think you should probably look into Richmond, VA and Louisville, KY.
Same here about Madison, as well as Burlington VT.

I think you would do fine in those NY locations and you could consider sections of the bigger Upstate NY cities as well. Taxes can be an issue, but overall cost of living is around the national average. For instance, in Syracuse, you would probably like this area of town: UNPA - University Neighborhood Preservation Association

Greater University Hill* ? Syracuse, New York
Westcott, Syracuse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Westcott
Welcome to University Hill!
The B.I.D. Crouse-Marshall

Adjacent neighborhoods like Scottholm and Meadowbrook would allow for close access to these places, while having that neighborhood look you want. Meadowbrook Dr
Syracuse, NY
http://goo.gl/maps/XbBVV

Scottholm Blvd
Syracuse, NY 13224
http://goo.gl/maps/XwGwd
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Old 11-06-2013, 08:12 AM
 
4 posts, read 14,785 times
Reputation: 17
NewStLouisan, I'm actually from the St. Louis area! I grew up in the suburbs and while I have some fond memories, the city itself isn't exactly what we're looking for in terms of safety and a community feel. In fact there were times in parts of downtown we were tempted to run red lights at night because of some shady characters and parts of town. Now I know you'll find parts like that everywhere. But it seemed that most times we ventured to places we wanted to see around STL, whether to the Fox theater, the Loop, Forest Park, City Museum (which is really cool and you should check it out if you haven't!), zoo or Cardinals game (I sure do miss them though!), we were a bit uneasy.

For 2013, St. Louis itself actually ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the US (St. Louis - In Photos: The 10 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities - Forbes).
In a comparison over time (2002-2009), it came in as the most dangerous city, with a crime index of 530 compared to the national average of 100 (1. St. Louis: The 11 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities - US News & World Report).
Crime has gone down over the past few decades but it's still scary high. I'm not sure we'd feel safe living right downtown raising kids. The summer humidity and Mosquitos were pretty terrible there too. That being said, it is definitely cultural and beautiful and I absolutely love going back to visit. I don't think it's quite what we're looking for but thank you for your response!! I know the St. Peters/St. Charles/O' Fallon suburban area pretty well and those definitely felt safe (most parts) but maybe too suburban for us. The closest thing we loved was old town St. Charles. Check it out if you haven't and visit Picasso's on Thursday nights for great music and coffee or drinks!

WanderingImport, I will take a closer look at the Twin Cities! I just checked it out briefly and was impressed. I'm wondering if you or anyone else know(s) if Stillwater, MN might be a good place for us? Seems to have that walkable, small town charm/community feel with coffee shops bookstores and water, while being close to the Twin Cities. I'm checking that out as well as other areas nearby and the TC themselves. The area looks promising; thanks for the recommendation!!

Mutiny77, thanks for the Madison recommendation, I am now checking that area out as well! Love the water, influence of University of Wisconsin-Madison, quality of life seems high and we'd probably be able to find tech and health promotion jobs there. We considered KY and parts of TN and VA (so beautiful!) but concluded we may want to be further north due to weather. But I will look into Louisville and Richmond more closely to see if they make a good fit!

Ckhthankgod, thank you for the great info on Syracuse! I will definitely peruse those and try to learn more about the area. I hear it has the most snowfall out of any larger US city- do you think that would be an issue at all? We're used to some snow, but that sounds a little daunting! I'm checking out Madison from your and Mutiny77's suggestions and that area looks really great, too. I will add Burlington, VT as well!

Thanks for the great suggestions so far, everybody!
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:04 AM
 
Location: Sandy Springs (ATL)
1,874 posts, read 2,365,456 times
Reputation: 1572
Are you a journalist? You make the LONGEST posts ever! Just picking at you.

Also, look into the Sacramento area. It has a nice walkable downtown and is in close proximity to Napa Valley for world renown wine, Lake Tahoe for fishing and mountain skiing, and San Francisco for...SAN FRANCISCO. I do believe that entire area is highly looked over for an area that offers so much within so close proximity.

Best of luck to you.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:13 AM
 
56,674 posts, read 80,973,859 times
Reputation: 12530
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adventurelover View Post
NewStLouisan, I'm actually from the St. Louis area! I grew up in the suburbs and while I have some fond memories, the city itself isn't exactly what we're looking for in terms of safety and a community feel. In fact there were times in parts of downtown we were tempted to run red lights at night because of some shady characters and parts of town. Now I know you'll find parts like that everywhere. But it seemed that most times we ventured to places we wanted to see around STL, whether to the Fox theater, the Loop, Forest Park, City Museum (which is really cool and you should check it out if you haven't!), zoo or Cardinals game (I sure do miss them though!), we were a bit uneasy.

For 2013, St. Louis itself actually ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the US (St. Louis - In Photos: The 10 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities - Forbes).
In a comparison over time (2002-2009), it came in as the most dangerous city, with a crime index of 530 compared to the national average of 100 (1. St. Louis: The 11 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities - US News & World Report).
Crime has gone down over the past few decades but it's still scary high. I'm not sure we'd feel safe living right downtown raising kids. The summer humidity and Mosquitos were pretty terrible there too. That being said, it is definitely cultural and beautiful and I absolutely love going back to visit. I don't think it's quite what we're looking for but thank you for your response!! I know the St. Peters/St. Charles/O' Fallon suburban area pretty well and those definitely felt safe (most parts) but maybe too suburban for us. The closest thing we loved was old town St. Charles. Check it out if you haven't and visit Picasso's on Thursday nights for great music and coffee or drinks!

WanderingImport, I will take a closer look at the Twin Cities! I just checked it out briefly and was impressed. I'm wondering if you or anyone else know(s) if Stillwater, MN might be a good place for us? Seems to have that walkable, small town charm/community feel with coffee shops bookstores and water, while being close to the Twin Cities. I'm checking that out as well as other areas nearby and the TC themselves. The area looks promising; thanks for the recommendation!!

Mutiny77, thanks for the Madison recommendation, I am now checking that area out as well! Love the water, influence of University of Wisconsin-Madison, quality of life seems high and we'd probably be able to find tech and health promotion jobs there. We considered KY and parts of TN and VA (so beautiful!) but concluded we may want to be further north due to weather. But I will look into Louisville and Richmond more closely to see if they make a good fit!

Ckhthankgod, thank you for the great info on Syracuse! I will definitely peruse those and try to learn more about the area. I hear it has the most snowfall out of any larger US city- do you think that would be an issue at all? We're used to some snow, but that sounds a little daunting! I'm checking out Madison from your and Mutiny77's suggestions and that area looks really great, too. I will add Burlington, VT as well!

Thanks for the great suggestions so far, everybody!
It can snow a lot, but what that information doesn't state is that it is for the metro area, in which snowfall can vary. much of the higher snowfall totals are in Oswego County to the north and decrease the further south you go. This is the case with the Buffalo and Rochester areas in terms of the distance away from the Great Lakes. Life also goes on, as the area has the infrastructure in order to remove the snow in a timely manner. So, what may shut places down for days, may delay things for an hour or so, if that, here the overwhelming majority of the time.

Also, with Ithaca and Syracuse, you would be close to wineries as well due to the proximity to the Finger Lakes and other regions that have a winemaking culture nearby. You can get to mountains within an hour and a half to 2 hours from Syracuse too. An hour and a half north, you have the 1000 Islands too. So, you have quite a few outdoor options within a short radius and there is a Japanese meetup group in the area: The Syracuse Japanese Language and Culture Meetup Group (Syracuse , NY) - Meetup

Here are a few streetviews of the area of syracuse, that I mentioned earlier: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Westc...350.12,,0,2.22

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Marsh...1,12.2,,0,3.39

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Syrac...137.94,,0,7.83

and of Downtown Syracuse, which has cultural festivals throughout the year mainly in this area: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Syrac...87.44,,0,-1.94

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Syrac...,354.62,,0,5.4

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Syrac...04.14,,0,-5.61

Home Downtown Committee of Syracuse

Ithaca also has a high and diverse Asian population(around 16-17%) and I would believe may have some groups that are involved in Japanese culture.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Currently living in Reddit
5,655 posts, read 5,703,964 times
Reputation: 7280
I can't speak to the West Coast cities, but will comment on the Eastern suggestions.

Ithaca is beautiful and has a lot of what you want, but it really is pretty small and doesn't give you much in the way of day trips to other cities (save Syracuse/Rochester). NYC is 4 hours.

Saratoga Springs also a nice area but probably too small and more an old money "summer" town - lots of tourists, especially August. You're close to Albany and SW Vermont.

In both cases winters can be brutal (though not as brutal as the Burlington, VT suggestion).

Maybe a smaller town in Western MA (Pittsfield area) or NW CT (Torrington, Litchfield) might work as they meet several requirements even without being college towns and get you within about 2 hours of NYC or Boston. Lots of indie businesses and strong arts communities.

Another dark horse candidate I recently visited: Staunton, VA, not too far from Charlottesville. Not sure if that's going to feel a bit isolated though, being on the west side of Blue Ridge Mtns near the WV border. It does have an Amtrak station.
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:20 AM
 
21,201 posts, read 30,396,116 times
Reputation: 19635
Charlottesville is a wonderful option and hits nearly all of your criteria other than being near ocean/rivers. The surrounding wine country is beautiful and of shockingly high quality wines for the most part for those unfamiliar with Virginia wines. Just as an aside heat/humidity is nothing compared to what you're used to and you might expect a few weeks at most of unpleasant conditions. Like most anywhere jobs can be somewhat difficult, but surely wouldn't eliminate it as an option without trying.
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