If you are like our family members or good friends, you are dying to know what our favorite places we have been so far. This is by far, our most frequently asked question, so I narrowed it down to our top 7 favorite places in the USA. It was 6 originally and I kept forgetting more of our favorites. Each location we have been to has had their unique features that made us love them so much. Keep in mind though, that just because we loved some of these locations, doesn’t mean that we would consider living there. I think we are finally at a point now where we are almost ready to make our decision, but not 100% ready to announce yet. Well, here goes our top 7 favorite places, in no particular order!
We visited Oregon late March/early April this year, and although we only saw a small part of the state, we really loved what it had to offer. We spent most of our time in Portland, but we also ventured to the coast for a day trip as well as some hiking areas just outside of Portland.
What we really loved about Oregon:
- Gorgeous outdoors – This state has the landscape that I am 100% looking for, which includes a coastline, mountains, lots of green trees and grass, and lakes! I have a new-found love of hiking, and there are endless opportunities for that here.
- Great foodie scene – I am speaking for Portland here, but I’m sure some of the other major cities are similar. Portland was great for a variety of restaurants, especially Asian cuisine, but also tons of food truck options too.
- People love shopping local – Oregon is definitely a state where shopping local is very important not only to support local business, but to know where your food and products come from. They have tons of farmers markets where you can get fresh eggs, milk and meat, all different kinds of produce, and other local products.
- Ability to escape or be in the city – I really love city life, filled with different people, food, and things to do, but I love escaping the city just as much. In Portland, and I’m sure the same goes for other cities in Oregon, you don’t have to go far to escape the city. You can still be in Portland city limits, but feel like you are well into the country.
- No sales tax – Pretty self-explanatory!
What we did not like about Oregon
- The weather – We DID love the mild temperatures in the winter, BUT we did not love the rainy cloudy days that seem to go on for days and days. It is fair to say Eastern parts of Oregon are not like this. We were told that West of the Cascade mountain ranges tend to get more rain and clouds because the weather gets stuck in the mountains. The Eastern side does not get this same phenomenon.
- Cost of living – Being on the west coast of the country means that the cost of living is just naturally higher. We saw many large, crowded developments being built which WERE affordable, but not our style. If you want a decent sized home and yard, it is very expensive to buy here. It is not nearly as much as Seattle or parts of California, but it was still pretty pricy.
We visited Arizona in February, staring in Phoenix, which was absolutely beautiful. We had dry warm days in the mid-70s-80s and cool nights into the 50s, which was just so comfortable. When we headed North to Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff, it was much cooler, but still mild compared to a New England winter!
What we loved about Arizona
- The diverse geography – Drive to 5 different places in Arizona, and you would think you were in a whole new state each time! Phoenix is a flat, sprawling city, with a few mountains that are great to hike. Prescott was more remote, with more rolling hills, greenery, and trees. Flagstaff was much colder, with snow-capped mountains and wooded areas. Sedona is also cooler, with the most amazing red rock formations everywhere.
- Fun wild west feel – I really loved the western culture in Arizona and it is evident they have done a lot to preserve their history. I loved seeing the native American jewelry stands near the Grand Canyon, as well as the preserved Old Town areas such as Scottsdale and Prescott.
- Great hiking culture – Getting outside to see nature is a big part of Arizona culture. There are so many National Parks, state parks, and other areas to get a great hike in that are too beautiful to miss. Arizona does a great job making sure its residents stay fit, without the need of an expensive gym. This is also where we fell in love with the store REI!
What we did not love about Arizona
- The heat – As beautiful as February was for us, we do know that the Phoenix area gets unbearably hot in the summer time, upwards of 120 degrees! So hot that your shoes and trash bins melt on the sidewalk! That is just too hot for me! Up North it is not quite as bad, so we would consider Flagstaff.
- Varying cost of living – Cost of living was all over the place in Arizona. You could get an affordable place in Prescott, but it was so remote that you had a dirt road and it took at least 30 minutes to get anywhere. Phoenix and Scottsdale were all over the place, depending on the neighborhood and you also couldn’t really get any land.
- Too dry – Arizona is also very dry. When we first got there, we both had bloody noses and had to stock up on lotion, since our skin was getting so dry. I would, however, take a dry heat over humid though!
New Orleans is definitely one of our top 7 favorite places in the USA, but let me be 100% honest here. We would never consider moving to New Orleans, unless maybe we were super rich and could have one of the fabulous homes in the Garden District. But I was so mesmerized by this city. We have not been to a city filled with more culture, character and color as New Orleans.
What we loved about New Orleans
- Arts – When we are ready to start decorating our new home, we will be paying New Orleans another visit! Whether you visit a fancy art gallery or a street art vendor, there is tons of really cool artwork everywhere!
- Music – I’ve never been a big jazz fan, but being in New Orleans made me forget all about that. I was so hypnotized by the street musicians in this wonderful city, because they had so much talent, and would perform by themselves or as a small group on the streets all day and all night. You can also catch great music at many different venues, especially on Frenchman St.
- Food – New Orleans has a great mix of French and Creole cuisines, and lots of other awesome choices. If you are a fan of oysters, you are in luck! Oysters Rockefeller, charbroiled oysters, raw oysters, you name it, they have it and do it the best! We were not there during crawfish season, but we would love to go back for it!
- Entertainment – There is never a loss of things to do in the city. You can visit the WWII museum to soak up some history, go gambling at Harrah’s Casino, catch some fun street performers, or go on a ghost tour which is only scratching the surface!
What we did not love about New Orleans
- Poverty and Crime – As fun as the French Quarter can be, the surrounding areas can be quite dangerous, and are surrounded by poverty. Hurricane Katrina really did number on this wonderful city, and even 12 years later, this city still hasn’t fully recovered. On a more positive note, this city is so fun to visit!
- Schools – From what we heard from our hosts, who work in the New Orleans’ school systems, the schools are not the best. If we were to ever live here, we would want our kids to go to a private school.
- Oppressively hot summers – Thankfully we were there in January which was very cool, but we have heard the summers get unbearably hot and humid, and they have lots of rain storms. Never mind the flooding issues!
West Coast of Florida
For years, I have always visited Orlando or the East Coast of Florida to visit family, which is still very nice, but I have to say I love the West Coast better! On the west coast, you have the most incredible sunsets every night, and the softest, whitest sand! It also doesn’t have the same crowding factor that the 95 corridor has. We stayed in the Bradenton area for most of our trip, but we also visited Venice, Sarasota, and St Petersburg. We loved each area!
What we loved about the West Coast of Florida
- Sunsets and beaches – Being right on the Gulf of Mexico, the sunsets are unreal each night! The beaches have the most beautiful bluish green waters and soft white sand beaches.
- Weather – The weather here is a bit milder than we found it to be in South Florida on the East Coast. We had some pretty cool days in January, but it also got pretty warm as well. We did hear the summers can be pretty brutal though.
- Lots of things to do with a family – We found that there were plenty of museums, outdoor parks, YMCA’s, and of course the beach life!
- Average cost of living – We found the cost of homes here to be pretty moderate. The only issue was that finding land is a bit more challenging. That is something we would give up to have beaches that are easy to access!
What we did not like about the West Coast of Florida
- It was vacation land – It was hard to meet people who actually lived here. Many people we met were on vacation, or just visiting for the winter. You will find this all over Florida, which leads me to believe that Floridians get bitter easily. This leads me to wonder what the work ethic is like here as well.
- Hurricanes – I would say the same for any part of Florida, that there is always a risk for hurricanes in hurricane season. We just saw this recently with Irma.
I was looking forward to visiting North Carolina before we even started out on our trip. Having never visited there before, I wasn’t 100% sure, but I had a good idea that I would like it. It has a lot of what we are looking for, which are nice weather, access to the ocean, mountains, cities, university and low cost of living!
What we like about North Carolina
- Cost of living – This is a place where your money goes a lot further, especially if you work for an out of state company. We have found so many affordable homes that meet what we are looking for AND many of which have low tax rates.
- Plenty of outdoor activities – Many places in NC are only a few hours to the beach, mountains, or any other outdoor activity. Each city we have been to has many parks, trails, and other forms of outdoor fitness like B-Cycle bikes!
- Landscape – We absolutely love the landscape in NC. Even in developments, there are plenty of lush trees and green grass. Many places we have been to in the country have cleared all the trees out to build developments, leaving no privacy left. We also love that many communities have lakes! Mountains and beach are only a few hours away from anywhere here.
- Climate – The climate here is very desirable for me. I do like having a change of seasons, which they do experience here, but without the extreme winters of New England, or extreme heats of summer like Phoenix. Summers are on average a bit warmer than Connecticut, but not by much, and winters are much milder! Sign me up!
What we don’t like about North Carolina
- Schools – I cannot fully leave an honest opinion here yet, but from what we have heard, the schools here are hit or miss, and often time are not the best.
- The redneck small towns – We have not seen a ton of this. You really have to go to some small rural towns to see this, but there is a hillbilly redneck feel in some areas, but I will take that over the ghettos of some other cities!
Austin was our 2nd stop on our adventure, and we really loved it. We visited mid-October to mid-November and we really the climate that time of year! It is a really unique city with a mix of working professionals, hippies, and folks who have lived there forever.
What we loved about Austin
- Lots of outdoor activities – Even though this is a busy city, they have done a great job with their Riverwalk as well as their greenbelts, which are preserved pieces of land meant for recreation. There are also tons of parks, swimming holes, and place to hike.
- Foodie Scene – From food trucks to fine dining, Austin has it all! Our favorite were the food trucks and BBQ!
- Carefree lifestyle – From living the lake life, playing a guitar on the beach of a swimming pool, to laying in a hammock in the woods, the people of Austin love getting out of the city and chilling just has hard as they do working.
- Tech Hub – This is a big part of why this city is booming so quickly. It is a big tech hub with big names like Google, Facebook, Amazon and other smaller startups. This is key for work for my husband, but it also brings a lot of other jobs to the area.
- Friendly people – Never in my life has a complete stranger started talking to me for 5 minutes and offered their number to call for more advice. This happened to me TWICE! Drivers are more considerate, strangers are easy to talk to, and I felt like making new friends would be easy here.
What we did not like about Austin
- Very hot – We did not get to explore this when we were there, but we heard it gets super-hot and humid in the summer here. It is actually one of the hottest cities in America! OYE
- Nothing surrounding Austin – We found once you left Austin, there was nothing for miles and miles. It is not like some major cities, that are surrounded by attractive smaller towns. We did not find this here.
- Crowded housing with rising costs – We were told that 170 people were moving to Austin EVERY DAY! It has been dubbed the new Silicon Valley, because so many people from California are flocking to a more affordable place to work at the same companies. The roads aren’t ready for all the new people, and housing is getting more crowded and expensive.
Since Colorado was one of our places to see and consider for living, we spent 5 weeks here, mostly in Denver. We got to see all over including Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Breckenridge, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs. We fell in love with the snow-capped mountains, outdoor activities, and really nice people.
What we loved about Colorado
- Landscape – I am not sure it gets much better than Colorado! Many areas are flat, with a clear view of the Rockies! They consider Colorado “high desert” so it is not as dry as a desert, but there is still some green trees and grass.
- Mixed politically – Depending on the city, it can be super conservative, super liberal, or somewhere comfortably in the middle. I think it is a healthy mix where you have proud military supporters, mixed with others looking to save the earth by encouraging recycling, using natural products, and smoking weed if that’s your thing!
- Some areas of more affordable homes – Colorado was all over the place for home affordability. Boulder was super expensive, but had a lot of nice homes and great things to do. Denver was hit or miss depending on the area that you are in. there’s a lot of gentrification happening in Denver, so areas that used to be fairly dumpy are actually really nice now. Colorado Springs had a good mix of affordable homes especially as you left the city center. If you want to live in the middle of nowhere you can get land and a big home for really cheap.
- Lots to do – I know Colorado is a huge state, but we found there was something to do everywhere. There is skiing in the winter and kayaking and hiking in the warmer months. There are also lots of great restaurants and breweries, plenty of live music, museums, and other artsy activities.
What we did not love about Colorado
- Cost of living in some areas – This was hit or miss! The areas we found desirable were a bit on the pricey side.
- Winter and Spring Hail – I had to search hard for a negative here. From what everyone told us, winters are nothing here so I am putting it mildly. Apparently, it does snow a lot BUT it melts very quickly, as they say it is sunny 365 days a year in Colorado. I love the look of winter, but don’t like driving in it! They don’t even plow the roads most of the time because it usually melts so fast. The hail is a big problem here. They have hail storms that dump huge chunks of hail, totaling cars and ruining roofs.
- New towns being built – One thing we hated (same goes from everywhere else in the country) is all the new developments being built. They basically take an open plot of land, level out any trees or vegetation, and build a whole new town. I’m talking neighborhoods, shopping centers, schools, everything. A whole new town. I just like towns that have some history to them, and these areas really lack charm.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our 7 favorite places in the USA. The “perfect place” does not fully exist but we have at least narrowed it down to some of our favorites! Now if only we could take the best of each city and make our own utopia! One can dream, right? The good news is, that we have visited so many great places. We can always go back to visit on vacation to still experience them without living there. So…where do you think we will end up living?
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