Our Short List of Liveable Communities

We have now traveled more than halfway across the country. Some people say we’re going way too fast. But wait — hold on, there is a method to our madness. Not too long ago, we decided to haul butt through states that we knew that we probably wouldn’t end up living in, and hurry up to get to places that might better meet our relocation criteria. During the first visit, we’ll spend four or five days in an area. Then, if we feel it’s a contender, we’ll return for ideally at least a month, once we’ve traveled the U.S.

With this in mind, here are the top contenders for us, based on what we’ve seen so far. We plan on revisiting the following areas next year:

Contender #1: Colorado: Carbondale / Glenwood Springs

Sustainable Choices Farm, Carbondale CO

Liked:

  • Stunning forest scenery with abundant rivers and lakes
  • Majority of the population seems outdoorsy, active and globally aware
  • Area has distinct seasons
  • There are a ton of sports and activity choices for staying healthy
  • Bike lanes and paths are everywhere, connecting important areas
  • Tourism occurs all year (we may run a tourist-based business eventually)

Disliked:

  • Access to Carbondale is difficult; a busy two lane highway is the only way to get out of town for shopping
  • Glenwood Springs is built into a deep valley; scenery isn’t expansive enough
  • Astronomical real estate prices

Other areas to consider; Salida and Durango

Business Ideas:

  • A resort or campground for humans
  • A dog resort or something dog related

Contender #2: Minnesota, Southern Lakes Region (Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, up to Bemidji)

Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Likes:

  • Affordable real estate, low cost of living
  • Area has distinct seasons
  • Lots of water, hills and greenery
  • Affordable cost of living
  • Super nice, friendly, outgoing people
  • Most people are smart and enlightened; lots of support for National Public Radio
  • Many choices for road travel between towns, via county roads
  • Tourism in the area seems good
  • Food quality is good; lots of small farms and places to buy fresh produce
  • Local university in Bemidji adds to a laid back, progressive attitude
  • Relatively close to Minneapolis and Fargo

Dislikes:

  • Short growing season (May to late Sept.!)
  • Super cold winters
  • Flat topography
  • Downtown Bemidji; seems depressed
  • No major cities are nearby — it’s on the outer reaches of where city folk will drive for a weekend

Other areas to consider:

  • South of I-94, closer to Minneapolis (Wilmar area)

Business ideas;

  • Resort on a lake, supplemented by internet business
  • Hobby farm, supplemented by internet business

Contender #3: Duluth, Minnesota

Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth, Minnesota

Likes:

  • Sophisticated, hip city attitude
  • Woodsy yet near urban life
  • Lots of outdoor activities nearby during all seasons
  • Healthy tourism base
  • Bay and harbor give the San Francisco / Eureka feel, without damp, salty ocean air.
  • Real summers despite that coastal Northern CA feeling
  • Town is very bikeable and skateable; lots of paths
  • City’s strip mall area is banished to outer reaches near Hermantown
  • Inexpensive drinks and food at bars and restaurants
  • Lots of seafood choices
  • Relatively affordable (as long as you don’t buy on the Lake)
  • Seems like they have excellent small business support via Chamber and SBDC.

Dislikes

  • Cold and icy winters
  • Steep hills
  • Potential for continued overcast conditions during summer
  • Some areas in city are quite depressed
  • We heard some rather racist comments when having conversations with a few different locals; things we’ve never heard out West. Kind of a shock and made us wonder if that’s really common or just with a few ignorant people?

Other areas to consider;

  • North Shore
  • Two Harbors
  • Cloquet

Business ideas:

  • Area needs another RV park
  • Downtown business of some sort (coffee house, bookstore, etc.)

Contender #4: Western Wisconsin (Eau Claire and regions surrounding it)

Western Wisconsin

Likes:

  • Woodsy and foresty
  • Lots of lakes and rivers
  • Good farmland, smaller parcels suitable for hobby farm
  • County roads give lots of driving options
  • Seems Eco-Groovy, more recycling than we’ve seen in other places
  • Chippewa Falls is fun!
  • Small towns seem to be thriving; houses are well-maintained
  • Two hours from St. Paul, and Madison
  • College-town influence is there
  • Good climate most of the year, milder winters than up north
  • Slower pace of life
  • Good organic farmer support

Dislikes:

  • Mucky water and ag runoff is in a lot of areas
  • Locals are nice to strangers like us, but not as chatty or open as they were in MN and SD; they’re more reserved.
  • Eau Claire access sucks; navigation is terrible
  • Eau Claire has an extremely small downtown area, mostly bars
  • Eau Claire isn’t biking or walking friendly; few trails outside of downtown area (it seems)
  • Local Co-Op is too small
  • No biodiesel anywhere
  • Not enough tourism (good? bad?)
  • A little behind the times; technology is retro

Places to Check Out:

  • Wisconsin Rapids
  • Communities along Hwy 27, north of Augusta and Fall River
  • Mondovi and surrounding areas

Business Ideas:

  • Hobby farm with internet business
  • Biodiesel fueling station
  • Main Street type of business (see same in “Duluth.”).

10 Responses to “Our Short List of Liveable Communities”

  1. Lived in Minnesota

    Fergus Falls-Detroit Lakes, very pretty in the summer but in the winter…did you see the Coen Bros. movie Fargo? The scene where the character buries the money in the snow by the side of the road… Speaking Fargo, you’re nearest large city.

    Duluth is a nice small city plus a college town, be aware that in the summer it can be very cool down on the lake shore and hot on top of the hill. About this time of year the ice will be breaking up on Superior and the prevailing winds drive it ashore on Minnesota Point. Two Harbors is nice but I prefer Grand Marias or Bayfield in Wis.

    The Mississippi River valley from Red Wing to the Iowa border on both the MN & WI sides of the river is beautiful. Winona and Wabasha in MN LaCrosse on the WI side with several beautiful towns on Wis 35, Stockholm, Alma, Nelson. Inland a few miles in the bluff country; Lanesboro, Houston, Rushford. I have friends living in Spring Grove.

    Eau Claire, say hello to Jake Lienenkugel when you meet him. Try the Black River area. Typical Wisconsin downtown; a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, a feed/hardware store and one intersection with a flashing light, there will be a bar on each corner. Rural upper midwest communities aren’t rural California, Vermont, or the Berkshires.

    You may want to gather information on Galena, IL. A town that time forgot and urban renewal missed since it was close to a ghost town between WWII and the late 60’s when hippies discovered it. Nearest city is Dubuque, IA, but Chicago is about 100 miles away.

    I can recommend a few great towns in Missouri and Arkansas, but you’d need to live in Misery and Arkansas.

    If your considering the upper midwest and those brutal winters, the Berkshires (western MA), southern VT, the Catskills and Finger Lakes areas in NY.

    The Asheville, Morganton area of NC are nice. Charleston is very pretty but southern. Biloxi, Natchez and several Gulf Coast towns are lovely but culturally distinct.

  2. I spent a year in Colorado Springs, and would have loved to have stayed (but the guy came back from sabbatical and wanted his position back!). It’s still on my list of places to end up. It’s close to the major ski areas, but it’s on the “front range” and doesn’t get much snow itself. It gets about 300 days of sun a year, which was a BIG bonus in my book. Winter was mild-ish (nowhere near as bad as MN!), and summer was fantastic (sunny, with highs in the 80’s). Denver is only 90 minutes away, but CO Springs doesn’t ge the smog that Denver does. Decent biking opportunities. Garden of the Gods. Pike’s Peak. Wow!!!

    However, there are lots of beautiful places in this big ol’ country, so keep looking until that best place for you comes along.

  3. I’ve heard good things about that area, we definitely plan on going there. Thanks for the info!

  4. Jim and Rene:
    I just returned from Asheville, NC. What a great trip! Asheville is a small-medium size city with a sense of community, beautiful architecture and nice weather. Close to the Blueridge Parkway. You will also find that it may be the right size for business, especially if you decide to engage in a camping/campground type of enterprise. Make it a point to stop by there on your way down to N Ga.

    Picture is on the way

    Take care and happy traveling

  5. Hey guys just dropping in quickly (Lunch al Desko here at eBay). Works been nutz! New HP goes live on Monday. Any way its a great escape to take a few mins and read how you guys are doing.

    I vote for Contender #1: Colorado: Carbondale / Glenwood Springs.
    I have considered moving to Colorado before so maybe we could all be together again 😉

    Take care.
    //A

  6. Hi Judy, thanks for visiting! I’ve lived in Phoenix before, about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could live there again, it’s soooooo hot! I do love the desert, but in wintertime like most wimpy coastal people. Carbondale is definitely more our speed.

  7. We live in the Phoenix area and love it here. I highly recommend our area to you, but it sounds like you want somewhere with the change of seasons instead of our desert environment. I know all the areas you talk about fairly well, and especially the Carbondale area. We have friends who live there and visit them often. It’s a beautiful part of Colorado and a lovely place to live. Our friends are in the country and are often snowed in during the winter. They don’t mind that at all and are always well prepared with food, fluids and all needed supplies. They love living in the Carbondale area. Good luck with your search!

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