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Looking for ideal small to mid size cities
Old 03-02-2014, 09:39 AM   #1
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Looking for ideal small to mid size cities

I realize this is a shot in the dark inquiry but I figure, I've got nothing to lose.
I've been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for over 7 years.
Over the last several years, Chiang Mai has grown too much for my taste. It has become too congested with traffic.They have built 3 more shopping malls just this past year.My non-Thai wife would like to start a small business but the laws don't allow foreigners to start one. We are not interested in moving anywhere also in SEA so
we are considering moving back to the USA. I have done as much online research as I can (best cities lists, findyourspot website etc.) but really haven't been able to get enough realistic info to determine if any city would come close for us. I am hoping I can get some leads here that would further my research.
Now for the specifics,
. looking for cities
with populations of approx 100K to 400K
. we like climate similar to Northern Thailand with mountains
nearby
. I want mild winters so I cycle year round
. I enjoy road cycling so I want
bicycle friendly city and surrounding area
. we enjoy nearby trail hiking
. Although I am still pretty health, I want good hospitals nearby
just in case
. we both enjoy culture and classical music events
. possibly a city with a mid to large university
. since my wife is Asian and younger than me, we want to live among open minded people and I tend to be blue rather than red minded as far as my politics are concerned
. money shouldn't be an issue but like most of you, I am looking for a state that has reasonable cost of living and low overall tax burden coming from state tax, sales tax, property tax and is senior tax friendly on pensions and SS
I know, I am asking a lot, but hey, why not? Thanks
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:19 AM   #2
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Not that you're asking a lot, it's just for the most part mild winters and mountains don't usually mix too well in the states. The bottom of the Appalachians around Knoxville, TN may be a good choice. It's decent size and has a major university, but can get a little chilly during the winter. Nothing like the northern latitudes though.

Another region is southern CA which is going to be considerably more expensive and much more congested.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:23 AM   #3
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Check out the central coast of California. For the USA excellent year around weather. Little traffic congestion. Very bicycle friendly. Great hiking in small mountains. Very blue in politics. Excellent local healthcare. Booming wine industry. Two excellent universities. Extremely safe.

I can't really comment about taxes because we just visit the USA. We don't live there. It's more expensive than Miami or Las Vegas if that helps. USA natives are going to have to comment on these topics.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:37 AM   #4
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The 2 cities that came to my mind were Santa Fe, New Mexico and Salem, Oregon. Both are smaller cities (capitals) but nearer large markets for more culture. Both are near mountains, not real cold, have lots of outdoor experiences and aren't overly conservative. Both would also be less costly than California I would think.
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:15 AM   #5
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Corvallis, Oregon is a university town (Oregon State) with mild winters, but a little smaller than your range (about 55k). It is consistently rated one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Definitely blue-oriented. Also rated as one of the most free of natural hazards, and least religious county in the country. Plenty of hill hiking right on the edge of town, with mountain hiking a couple hours away. (PS - I grew up there).
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Old 03-02-2014, 04:15 PM   #6
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If you want a similar climate to Chiang Mai and reasonable cost of living, you might look at cities in the southeast. Some good cycling cities are Charleston SC, Asheville NC and Chattanooga TN (both near mountains), Cary NC near Raleigh, Austin TX, Orlando and Gainsville FL, New Orleans LA. Charleston, Asheville, Cary?, and Austin are considered more liberal and maybe parts of New Orleans but their states are conservative except perhaps NC. SC, FL, and LA are tax friendly to retirees. TX (and TN?) have no state income tax but property taxes are high in TX. Some of these cities may be larger than you desire. The west is less congested and has more mountains but is generally going to be much colder in the winter.
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Old 03-02-2014, 06:01 PM   #7
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galeno mentioned the central coast of California. To be more specific, I would recommend San Luis Obispo. It only has a population of 46k, but it's the home of California Polytechnic State University. I never lived there, but had a few friends who attended Cal Poly. It's very bicycle friendly.

The other place would be Santa Barbara-Goleta. The town of Goleta is less expensive to live in than Santa Barbara. The combined population of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Isla Vista is roughly 140k. There are bicycle trails everywhere, with quite a few situated along the coastal bluffs, beaches, or water sloughs, where other traffic is not allowed. I lived in Goleta while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. I rode my bicycle along the Goleta Slough every morning and afternoon, to and from school. It was neat seeing all the wildlife in the slough every day. There are also really steep climbs up into the mountains above Santa Barbara. There is no bike lane on N. San Marcos road, but it is little traveled by cars. The views while riding are spectacular.
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:02 AM   #8
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Hi MJ,

I just visited Chiang Mai for the first time in four years and it certainly is busy!! And it is just too touristy for me, at least.

Personally, I would never live in places like Oregon or Santa Fe unless you really like cold weather and a big change from Chiang Mai climate.

My only suggestion might be McAllen, Texas -- but no mountains. Although the city and surrounding cities might meet your criteria, the extended metro area is larger than your parameters. And a knowledge of Spanish is helpful. But certainly a very ethnic community. I have never been there. Low cost of living. Also, there must be some smaller cities near Austin along the Texas Hill Country. Supposedly, Lance Armstrong originally located to Austin for the biking and access to hills.

The only other set of locations I might consider on climate grounds are in Florida, particularly southern Florida, but I don't know Florida very well.

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Old 03-03-2014, 06:51 AM   #9
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If you want a similar climate to Chiang Mai and reasonable cost of living, you might look at cities in the southeast. Some good cycling cities are Charleston SC, Asheville NC and Chattanooga TN (both near mountains), Cary NC near Raleigh, Austin TX, Orlando and Gainsville FL, New Orleans LA. Charleston, Asheville, Cary?, and Austin are considered more liberal and maybe parts of New Orleans but their states are conservative except perhaps NC. SC, FL, and LA are tax friendly to retirees. TX (and TN?) have no state income tax but property taxes are high in TX. Some of these cities may be larger than you desire. The west is less congested and has more mountains but is generally going to be much colder in the winter.
I can't speak for most of these but I would not recommend Orlando. I lived there before Disney and it was nice but now it is large, with lots of traffic, constant tourists, no mountains, cycling safety is marginal unless on a bike path like Rails to Trails, etc. As far as politics is concerned a great deal of the state is red. Just look at who was elected as governor in the recent past - Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, and Rick Scott.

Cheers!
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Old 03-03-2014, 06:57 AM   #10
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Sounds like a college town is your best bet. Very few college towns (if any) lean "red" politically so that's likely not going to be a concern.

Also, you say you prefer mild winters but it also has to be asked: can you endure brutally hot summers? If not, the number of places that have mild winters and not brutally hot summers reduces the potential list of places, and in combination with a college town they are likely to be pretty pricey.
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Old 03-03-2014, 12:52 PM   #11
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I think you should consider inland Mexico. San Miguel de Allende springs to mind. But there are many choices of every climate you might want. And working should be OK. Just apply for a working visa.
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:02 PM   #12
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A little larger than your population range, but Austin TX is otherwise a very good fit. Hot summers though...
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:14 PM   #13
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A couple of additional towns I would suggest are Charlottesville, Virginia, and Chico, California in the Sierra foothills.
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Old 03-06-2014, 09:31 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the suggestions.
I am aware of a number of the cities that have been suggested here through my online research. I do suspect the Southeast might be closer match weather wise. I lived most of my life in NYC so I don't know if I would feel comfortable living there.
I have I was hoping that some of you who do live or have recently lived in the places you suggested might share your personal thoughts. PM me if you want to share them privately.

Thanks H2O for the PM
Hi Kramer. Hope you are enjoying PI
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:47 AM   #15
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I lived most of my life in NYC so I don't know if I would feel comfortable living there.
I spent the first 22 years of my life in NYC (well, Brooklyn), and I have to say that in my experience the days of "damn Yankee" attitudes are long gone. So if it's a cultural thing you're concerned about, I would say don't worry about it. People are people, pretty much everywhere.
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Old 03-06-2014, 03:34 PM   #16
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I live in Chapel Hill North Carolina and love it. A University town with excellent medical facilities. Very liberal for the south. 2 hours to the mountains and 2 hours to the coast. Good weather (although a little cold today). Many cultural activities. Good biking. The town is bike friendly and it is a quick ride to a rural area with good roads to bike. Also there is a great bike trail on a closed railroad line. Near the cities of Durham and Raleigh with lots going on. Chapel Hill has free bus service and is very walkable, I hardly drive my car. Excellent restaurants.

It is pricey for the South, but would be cheap as compared to NYC.

PM me if you need more info. Come visit you will love it..

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Old 03-06-2014, 03:57 PM   #17
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Take a peek at Asheville NC...
'Course we're partial to Leesburg, Fl, but no mountains...
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Old 03-06-2014, 04:01 PM   #18
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Based on what you're saying now, I'm starting to zero in on North Carolina, perhaps in or near the Research Triangle area.
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Old 03-06-2014, 04:16 PM   #19
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Based on what you're saying now, I'm starting to zero in on North Carolina, perhaps in or near the Research Triangle area.
I agree. I lived in the Triangle for several years, and I think it would be a very good match (although NC taxes are quite high for the southeast region). You will find lots of transplants from the northeast there, so I think you'd feel almost at home in that area.
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Old 03-06-2014, 04:34 PM   #20
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I like NC of the many place we've lived, but the income tax is pretty stiff. Last place was FL; tax went up but car and home insurance went way down. Not as much as the tax went up.
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