Kim’s Top 15

Inspired by this article (“The 15 best places to live in England and Wales revealed“), I decided to stick my neck out and list the top fifteen places to live in the United States.  Before I do that, though, I need to frame the discussion somewhat.

I have traveled around the United States a great deal, mostly on business but also on vacation and (with Longtime Friend Trevor) on trips to remind me just why I fell in love with this country.  A lot of my memories may now be irrelevant, changed by events and time, but there ya go.  (I loved Portland, for example, when I spent a week there back in 1990, but I believe it may have changed quite a bit since then.)

Also, one may love a place for different reasons.  The DM  article is very careful to state that their top 15 list is based on natural- and architectural beauty.  As we have a great deal of natural but not much architectural beauty Over Here, that’s a bit of a speed bump.  As a general rule, I’m not one to spend hours and hours at a beauty spot in awe of the countryside and whatever — I’m more likely to be found enjoying a local pub or restaurant.

Many beautiful places in the United States have hopelessly fucked-up governments, whether state and/or local.  If one were to live there, one would have to weigh the place’s benefits with the downsides.  (Carmel CA for example is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but given the government of California, its totalitarian attitude, its iniquitous taxes and its shitty gun laws etc., would it be a great place to live?  Only if the place’s beauty is worth more than one’s personal freedom.)  Most of the government-related issues above can be referred to as “The Shit”, and I’ll be doing so as we go along.

In parallel vein, many wonderful places to live have been infested by Californians, New Yorkers, Bostonians, Chicagoans and the like, who bring their horrible habits and screw up Paradise everywhere they settle.  I’m going to try and ignore that phenomenon as much as I can, although the baleful effects of these ticks on places like Colorado, northwest Wyoming, Maine (and, well, you know the rest) can make a once-attractive place unbearable.

I am not a “country” kinda guy, to look at another aspect of all this, so living 10 miles outside Fuck, Nowhere doesn’t much appeal to me.  I like my drive to a decent supermarket to be less than 30 minutes, and the restaurant choices to be varied and fairly exotic, for example, so a town or area where “Bob’s IGA” is the only supermarket choice and “fine dining” is solely of the Applebee’s variety would not suit me.  That “not country” thing extends to beaches and the seaside in general, mostly because of the concomitant heat and humidity which bedevil places such as Florida — although there are a couple of exceptions to this, as you’ll see.

I’ve lived most of my life far away from water, whether the sea, a river or a lake — Johannesburg and Dallas, to give examples — and even when I lived closer to the sea (New Jersey) or to a lake (Chicago), I never actually saw the water, as such.  (My old apartment in Lakeview looked out over Lake Michigan, but I only lived there for less than a year.)  So I wouldn’t mind a bit of water to look at, not at all, and if no water, then I’d like a few hills sprinkled around — after northern Illinois and north Texas, I’m pretty much done with flat.

And all this assumes that I had the wealth necessary to live there — not lottery-type wealth, just sufficient funds to get by in that area.

I’m not going to rank my top 15, because while I’ve picked them, I’m very aware of their downsides as well as their attractions.  There is no absolute #1 or even #2, because all these places have significant problems for me personally, or else I’d be living there right now instead of flat, hot north Texas.  So here they are, as I think of them.

The Maine coastline, or “Down East” (as the locals call it) is one of my top choices.  I know that the winters are long and dreary, but fall and summer are priceless in this northeast corner of the continent.   The scenery is quite lovely and the ambiance is terrific, and best of all for me, if I feel like getting a little bit of foreign culture, cuisine and food, Montreal is just a few hours’ drive away.  (For the same reasons, I could live in New Hampshire, although only in a very few specific areas.)  If I’m going to be specific, I like York, Boothbay Harbor and the area around Camden — also Portsmouth NH which is strictly speaking not in Maine, but it’s not in Massachusetts either.

I’ve spoken of my fondness for northwest Michigan before — and as with Maine, there is that winter warning — but the area around Petoskey and Travis City is exquisite.  Across Lake Michigan, there’s

Door County, Wisconsin.  Although much of Door County is overrun with FIBs (Fuckin’ Illinois Bastards, as the locals affectionately call them), it’s incredibly beautiful all the same.  My only issue with DC as that the nearest city is Green Bay, and ugh.

Cannon Beach, Oregon.  I know, it’s Oregon;  but Cannon Beach is far enough away from Teh Crazies (I think) to make it a worthwhile choice.  It’s one of the very few places I’ve been to in the U.S. where I actually stopped to look at housing prices.  As was:

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.   The city itself is not that great, but good grief, the surrounding countryside is incredible — not to mention all those lakes scattered around.  Trevor and I once actually looked into buying a cabin up there together, as a “writer’s retreat” kind of thing.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  All my reservations about Floriduh notwithstanding, I rather like FL, FL.  Most of all, I like the restaurant choices (seafood, steak and Cuban!) and because so many wealthy people either live there permanently or vacation there, it’s not a podunk city by any means.  Further up the coast is Boca Raton, also a decent place.  Over on the other coast, I rather like Naples, although the real estate prices are eye-watering, almost Californian if you want to live anywhere with a sea view.  The best thing about Florida is that you don’t have to run away from the weather (except of course in the case of the occasional hurricane), and July and August are in their own way as bad as January and February are in the Frozen North, so there’s that.

Afterthought:  I’ve been to several of the Daily Mail ‘s top 15;  and of all of them, I’d pick Bradford On Avon.

In a heartbeat.  That’s one place where I’d put up with all The Shit just to live there.


  1. We have a house Down East on MDI, which is a little further than Camden. Yes, they do roll up the sidewalks from October to May. But the ocean effect does moderate the temperatures somewhat. It’s still Gray and raw but not nearly as cold as the great Frozen Interior. It’s certainly doable , But the IGA is the only Grocery store and the Applebee’s is a 1 hour drive. if you don’t mind the isolation. A substantial portion of the Population are “Snowbirds” that escape to Ft Lauderdale for the winter. But I agree that the west coast of Fla ( Tampa Area ) is Much nicer than the Gold coast ( and less Hurricane prone.) – Portsmouth NH has no income tax and no sales Tax , but the property Taxes more than make up the difference.

    ……… and since you count is is little short I’ll put in my recommendation for the Denver area. but only Evergreen / Golden and the foothills – not the now overbuilt flatlands.

  2. Another good Florida location is St. Augustine. It is a lot more laid back than south FL.

  3. Colorado is being loved to death, and it ain’t just Californians, they’re swarming here from blue states like vermin, bringing their shitty attitudes with them. My house is worth ~4 times what I paid for it, but I couldn’t afford to buy another now. And we used to have some of the best gun laws in the US, but it’s no longer the case.

    1. And judging by what I see in our current legislative session, the gun laws only get worse from here.

  4. Each night, before I go to sleep, I toy with the idea that the San Andreas takes half of LA and SF tumbling into the sea. Millions, if not, tens of millions, of smug, dead lefties! Well, one can dream, no?

  5. Well NH has been taken over by Massholes. Also, the winters in NH and ME are much worse than you think, even on the coast. I grew up in MA in Methuen, Nantasket, and Dorchester and recommend none of it.

    I lived, now, for 36 years in a rural area of north central Ohio. The smallish town (20,000?) a few miles away has its IGA (Bakers), but it also has a Walmart Superstore and a large Kroger. It has lots of run-of-the mill restaurants, but it also has an authentic Mexican restaurant owned and run by recent Mexican immigrants, and some upscale American style restaurants. There are two colleges nearby, one an elite liberal arts college of the Amherst kind.

    Winters are generally milder than NH, ME or MA, but this February was a horror show, coldest and snowiest since 1989.

    We are a purple state, but gun laws are relaxed. You can do open carry without a permit. There is no waiting period. Try any of that in New England, New York, Pennsylvania…

    In general, you should be looking at small town America in OH, TN, KY, Arkansas, Kansas Oklahoma.

    I reall like the look of NC, but they, like VA, are reliably blue nowadays.

    1. PA does have the instant BR check, so the waiting period is maybe an hour, give or take. And open carry w/o a concealed carry license is legal except in Philthadelphia and Pittsburgh. That said, it is run mostly by the Commiecrats, produced the freakshow currently known as Levine. Up north, around rt. 6 is a nice area, but the winter lasts a looong time up there, especially in the lake effect areas.

  6. I grew up in Traverse City. If you like the scenery there, you should drive along the shores of the Upper Peninsula, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing color.

    1. I’ve done that drive, all the way to Copper Harbor, and it’s unbelievably beautiful.

    2. I would argue that other than perhaps Vermont, the Keewenaw in fall is some of the most exquisite color touring one can do in the US. The hike back to Douglas Houghton Falls (back when it was allowed) is absolutely stunning that time of year. The big spring (don’t ask me to spell it) is also beautiful that time of year too.

      I have been to Petosky and TC enough to recommend them, but they always got too touristy for my tastes during the summer.

  7. Having abandoned the SoCal of my birth and 75-yrs, I found solace on the High-Desert of West Central NV, in what is humorously called a “semi-abandoned mining town” aka “The World’s Greatest Gold Camp”, once the temporary home of two Earp’s, Tex Richard, and various scoundrels who worked the gold and silver lodes of NV buying and selling mines that may, or may not, have existed.
    Why did I come here? For the history, and the solitude; having outlived all my friends, including one who I regularly went fishing with out of Sarasota Bay, where he and his wife had a getaway home on Longboat Key. One of the last trips they made was to the Central Coast of OR from SoCal, to pick up a new Z-06 to drive back to San Diego. Why did they buy it in OR? All the cars in SoCal had been pre-sold, and the waiting list was for years. Yet, someone else who we fished with had a relative who owned a Chev dealership in Newport OR, and he was allocated one or two Z-06’s, but didn’t have any customers that wanted one. They sent me a nice pix of the car alongside an historic marker in Port Orford commemorating the wreck of a lumber “schooner”, which gets me to the subject of living in OR:
    I think you have to confine yourself to the SW Coast (below Newport or even Florence – as they would be as close as I would want to be to either Eugene or Salem). Was seriously thinking of the Winchester Bay/Reedsport/Gardiner area north of Coos Bay and went up there for the 4th of July back in the Late-90’s – it was windy and cold, but very beautiful in a rugged, coastal way. I certainly know its a bad Lee-Shore to have troubles off-shore from.

  8. Gotta agree with you on Bradford On Avon. I spent 8 years in the flatish farmlands of Suffolk. We tried to escape any time we could. Pretty much anywhere north on Penrith or West of Bath worked for me.

  9. “Coeur d’Alene” Stopped outside on a cross-country road trip the year Cali was burning. Beautiful countryside. Traverse City is great, if you can avoid the Michael Moore crowd. Even better on the Mission Peninsula and alson along Rt 22. Thanks for not mentioning my part of Florida, we have too many OK Boomers moving in, though you’re welcome to visit and I’ll buy the dinner and beer.

    1. it is a lovely area. It’s a lot busier in lockdown(s) than we’ve been in the 20 years I’ve been here. Half the county turned up on the river last June; we became the Costa del Streatley for the youth. Lovely to see, apart from the rubbish, and crops being destroyed by kids desperate to get to the river.

      Sat here now, and it’s just birdsong and daffodils. And of course nearby we have the best pub opening again soon.

  10. Moved from central cal 35 years ago to Charleston,SC.Love it,can afford it and the food selection is excellent. It’s a little warm but worth it.

  11. The place I live, north central Kentucky, would probably never make your top ten list – but it would mine. Lot’s of reasons.

    You don’t want country – we have it, in spades. However, you can live in an isolated cabin-in-the-woods and still be within 30 minutes of the states largest city.

    Cost of living – one of the lowest in the country. Taxes are moderate – there are better places, but not many.

    Guns – We have constitutional carry here. However, if you take the time to get a carry permit from the state, you are good in all but two of our 7 neighbors. (…the exceptions are Illinois and Virginia.)

    Weather – I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true. Here, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a day or two and it will be different. Summers are generally hot and humid June through August, and winters are cold and grey December through March. Not much snow, but when it does, just stay home. Spring and Fall are gorgeous.

    Whisky – It’s the bourbon capital of the world. Oh, that’s right. You hate bourbon. Never mind.

    Restaurants – We have em, but not like NYC or Chicago. (We’re a lot of things here in KY, but “cosmopolitan” isn’t one of them, though there are parts of Louisville that are trying their best to be a mini-San Fransisco with all that that brings.)

    Politics – It’s a mixed bag here. Currently, our governor is a Democrat but our legislature is Republican. (…but even our Democrats tend to be a lot more centrist than those goofs in NYC, Chicago, or SF.) One of the nicest things about this state is that we are *not* ruled by our cities.

    The best thing about KY? – It’s entirely personal. I was born here. My extended family is here. And my ancestors have been here since the place was settled.

  12. Every time I consider moving out of the flat lands of central Oklahoma I think more about medical centers and specialist doctors than good restaurants. Part of getting old I guess.

    Even so I’ll add a few of our favorite places to the list:

    Texas Hill Country. We fell in love with Fredericksburg some years back. Yeah you have to deal with the hippie infestations out of Austin but the countryside is pretty, the locals are friendly and the food and drink is great.

    NW Arkansas. Stay east of the I-49 corridor and you’ll find pretty little towns, good people and decent hunting and fishing. Depending on your sense of humor and degree of tolerance, Eureka Springs can be fun or a place to avoid. We like it although I don’t think we could deal with its quirks all year.

    Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Beautiful countryside in the early fall, redneck heaven all year around. Great hunting and fishing, good people, and you can see snow every month of the year. A little lacking in good medical care but Green Bay and Marquette aren’t all that far away.

  13. Chris r52, I was stationed in Charleston when I was in the Navy. Since then, it has become one of my favorite places of all time. If I ever decided to relocate, it would be on my short list of places to move to.

    (The first winter I was stationed there, it snowed for the first time in about 50 years. It wasn’t much, maybe a half inch – (…you Michiganders just shut up!) – but it shut the place down cold. It was fun!)

  14. Itdavel ~ I lived in Central Oklahoma for about 16 years decades ago and lots of things were delightful including being able to keep a 22′ sailboat in the water on Lake Hefner for almost nothing in fees and then racing on the weekends where two boat clubs overlapped courses and lots of fun fresh water racing going on. Yep there were some real fine places to eat and more than chicken fried steaks with lots of nice people for neighbors.

    Now I live 45 miles west of Fredericksburg here in the Texas Hill Country with an fantastic HEB grocery store with staff who love their jobs, great fish and meats along with all the other good stuff including fine wines. Driving through the hills makes me feel happy and I have traveled a fair amount of Europe and the US and enjoyed seeing all of those fined places too.

    Mostly enjoying life is living in a reasonable, decent place and then just enjoy living. Having said that I used to visit friends and family in the Seattle area and Northern CA, Saint Helena where my sister in law and family used to live and boy did they screw those places up, picture book beautiful and full of loonies.

    1. We moved to Norman 40 years ago and it really isn’t a bad place. We do suffer from periods of craziness in our local government when the idiots at the university decide that they don’t have enough to keep them busy and get involved in politics. We grew up on the east coast – Marge in Philadelphia and I’m a Jersey boy – and my job brought us out to Norman. I taught at the Postal Training Center for 26 years as a USPS employee and another 10 as a contractor and retired for good about 2 years ago. I always regarded “home” as the place I could make a living. We’re pretty comfortable where we are and despite my comments above about other nice places I think that they’re just comments about nice places. I’m not ready to endure the trauma of another move. The next one will probably be to the cemetery back in Pennsylvania and I won’t care.

      We attended the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at LBJ state park a couple of years ago. What a great event. It was openly religious with real Christmas carols (Not “Frosty the Snowman”), Bible readings by a couple of local clergymen and women, and a live nativity scene courtesy of the local Catholic parish. I commented to the park director that I was surprised they got away with such a service in a state park. She smiled and said “Well, we’ve found that God still lives in Texas.” If I was exiled from Oklahoma, I could live in the Hill Country.

  15. I sold my Arizona home this month (in the Sky Islands), where the weather was great but the politics were not. None to soon as the border is wide open and the Border Patrol have become social workers and bus drivers. I’ve given my much younger wife notice that she has 3 years to pull chocks and pop smoke because I am not gonna die in Northern Virginia.

    I used the proceeds of the Arizona home to pay off the 78-acre family farm between Rocky Top and Clinton, TN with frontage on the Clinch River. Close enough to Knoxville to allow my wife to practice her specialty into her dotage, and close enough for me to get necessary supplies like beef and bourbon. I’ll lease 60+ acres to a nearby cattle ranch, fence off the rest and plant a big ol’ house above the river. Already have a builder and the ever-increasing home prices of NOVA ensure I’ll have enough to never have a house payment again.

    I’ve been all over the world courtesy of the US Navy and have seen enough of other countries. This year will mark my 15th year in Northern Virginia (although non-consecutive) and it’s longest I’ve lived anywhere in my 63 years. From now on, my travel will be limited to the Free States and a trip to Wales every summer so my wife can visit her sister. That’s the only trip I plan on taking by plane.

    I’ve moved 21times since I joined the Navy in ’75. I’m done.

  16. I’m an Exurbia sort of guy…I like having a city within a day trip, but don’t mind an hour’s drive. My comments:

    1. Winchester, VA. Hell, anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley is jaw-droppingly beautiful. And reasonably close to major cities. But I have ties to Winchester. It’s a decent-sized town, with Washington an hour away.

    2. The tragic part about California is that there are still glimpses of what was once a fantastic place to live. San Francisco would have been gorgeous in 1950. Los Angeles in 1960. San Diego is the last vestige of that once-beautiful land.

    3. As far as natural setting goes, Tillamook, OR, is hard to beat. But it’s in the middle of nowhere. Fly into Portland and then drive three hours.

    4. Having said that, I’m looking at retiring to the West Virginia panhandle. Virginia may or may not be a lost cause, but I don’t want to take chances.

  17. Bradford on Avon is a solid choice; hereabouts you might consider Stonehaven (on the coast) and Banchory (inland).

  18. My beautiful wife, who hit 3/4 of a century this year grew up in San Carlos CA, on the inner side of the San Francisco peninsula, a view out their picture window of the inner bay and she went all of her first 12 school years to a private school in Palo Alto. Her dad was an executive with Matson Shipping lines, he oversaw the building of the Matson Princess in the 1950’s and enjoyed riding the train to work each day, the club car in the evening for his martinis. One evening he was driving home and almost hit a kid riding in a bicycle, he went on home, sat down and thought about what might have happened. Then he went into the next room where my wife’s mom was sitting and gave her his car keys and told her he was either going to have to give up driving or his evening drinking and he was more than willing to stop driving. Wife’s mom loved to drive and they had a late model Cadillac so that was fine with her and that fine old man lived the rest of his long life as a gentleman who liked his evening drink or two. It kind of take living in a special type of city or suburb to stop driving and get on with living a good long life.

  19. Me, pick just one?

    2003, my Very Significant Other got sick.
    Naturally, we acquired a 1997 Ford CF8000 commercial truck to convert to our concept of an ExpeditionVehicle.

    In less than a week, we completed our conversion while selling everything, then hit the road from Oregon with the vague goal of ‘south’.

    Twenty-four months twenty-four thousand miles around south America.
    Alaska, Panama, all over north and central America.
    Summers at remote mountain lakes, winters on isolated Baja beaches.

    Since 2017 or so, we ‘workkamp’ with about thirty other Perpetual Travelers at a small organic teaching farm near the outskirts of Eugene Oregon.

    After nearly two decades full-time live-aboard… a stand-still house?
    I would have a hard time choosing just one place to live.

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