SANTA FE, N.M. (NEWS RELEASE) —Delectable dining scenes. Friendly, walkable neighborhoods. Unparalleled access to outdoor adventure. Nowhere in the country ties all of these qualities together quite like Duluth, Minnesota—OUTSIDE magazine’s #1 place to move to and the winner of its 2014 Best Town Ever title.
Highlighting Duluth’s exceptional livability, OUTSIDE sent a writer and videographer to provide marquee reporting on the lakeside escape for the magazine’s September cover story. Also in the September issue are OUTSIDE’s Sweet 16 picks—runners-up to the Best Town title that showcase the vibrant cultural scenes and outdoor spirit of America’s prime real estate.
“Every year, when OUTSIDE releases its annual Best Towns issue, the editors receive threats from residents of places like Bend, Oregon, and Missoula, Montana, suggesting they will cause bodily harm for encouraging hordes to move to their personal paradise,” said OUTSIDE magazine editor Chris Keyes. “But the passion of people who really care is turning once forgotten mill towns and depot stations into vibrant towns boasting elegant bistros, art galleries, elaborate trail systems, restored rivers, and tremendous open spaces.”
FOR A SLIDESHOW OF THE 16 BEST TOWNS EVER: computer OR mobile
The O-Score Explained: What makes a Best Town? OUTSIDE tapped a rocket scientist (seriously) to combine factors including access to outdoor adventure, healthy eating options, green, open spaces, unemployment rates, median incomes, and an editor’s choice variable to summarize how livable a place is, with 100 being the outdoorsman’s perfect paradise.
The Sweet Sixteen Best Towns include:
• Boulder, Colorado (O-Score: 91): Home prices are high here (citywide median: $489,500), but you can find one for as low as $330,000 in North Boulder. CU-Boulder is the major employer, but the tech industry continues to grow (median household income: $56,206).
• Ithaca, New York (O-Score: 89): The Fall Creek Neighborhood, where homes are priced around $200,000 (citywide median: $184,400), is close to the scenic Cascadilla Gorge. The universities are major employers, but there’s also a growing tech industry (median household income: $29,230).
• Duluth, Minnesota (O-Score: 88): You can find homes in the Riverside neighborhood for $140,000 (citywide median: $148,600). The largest employers are St. Mary’s/Duluth Clinic Health System and the local branch of the University of Minnesota (median household income: $41,311).
• Portland, Maine (O-Score: 88): Back Cove, a neighborhood on the water, has Victorian houses in the $200,000 range (citywide median: $241, 700). L.L. Bean and the Maine Medical Center are two of the area’s largest employers (median household income: $ 44,487).
• Charleston, South Carolina (O-Score: 84): James Island, a ten-minute drive from Folly Beach and downtown Charleston, has homes for $265,000 (citywide median: $225,000). The city’s largest employers are the military base and the Medical University of South Carolina (median household income: $50,873).
• Anchorage, Alaska (O-Score: 83): In Spenard, an up-and-coming neighborhood with houses around $265,000 (citywide median: $277,100), cafes have outdoor seating, a farmer’s market supplies local veggies, and trails lead into the woods. The Anchorage satellite of the University of Alaska is now the system’s largest and employs some 2,200 people. Tourism and the oil and gas industries are also economic drivers (median household income: $76,495).
• Burlington, Vermont (O-Score: 83): Look for a colonial home priced around $300,000 (citywide median: $259,500) in the diverse Old North End neighborhood, close to the lake. If you can’t land a job at UVM, try the health care sector or Burton, which is head-quartered here (median house-hold incomes: $43,135).
• Missoula, Montana (O-Score: 82): The Upper Rattlesnake Valley has houses around $599,000 (citywide median: $238,300); it feels rural, but you’re a ten-minute ride from downtown. The university is the largest employer, but there’s also a growing biotech industry (median household income: $39,076).
• Minneapolis, Minnesota (O-Score: 81): Golden Valley, with homes priced around $250,000, is a great base for families who want quick bike access to parks and downtown. Young couples and single folks should head for the hip Uptown neighborhood and homes in the $270,000 range (citywide median: $216,800). For employment, try the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, and companies like Quality Bicycle Products (median household income: $48,881).
• Provo, Utah (O-Score: 80): Neighborhoods on the Wasatch Front like East Bench offer mountain views, access to trails, and home prices in the $300,000 range (citywide median: $210,300). The most common jobs are in the software and tech industries (median household income: $40,288).
• Asheville, North Carolina (O-Score: 80): West Asheville has 1920s-era bungalows going for as little as $189,000 (citywide median: $195,500). Outfitters, health care, and the food and beverage industries make up the largest share of the local economy (median household income: $42,333).
• Nashville, Tennessee (O-Score: 77): Hillsboro Village—near leafy, landscaped Vanderbilt University—is a walkable neighborhood with homes priced around $369,000 (citywide median: $165,00). The city is a regional hub for education, manufacturing, and health care (median household income: $45,982).
• Houghton, Michigan (O-Score: 76): Any house in town is well situated, but look for one in the $100,000 range close to Portage Canal for the best access to local restaurants, Lake Superior , and trails (citywide median: $130,000). The largest employers include Michigan Tech and Portage Health (median household income $23,912),
• Montpelier, Vermont (O-Score: 74): Opt for the Meadow neighborhood, less than a mile from downtown and next to Hubbard Park, which has homes around $300,000 (citywide median: $208,300). State government dominates the area economy, though foodies can also find work at Cabot Creamery or the New England Culinary Institute (median household income: $60,587).
• La Crosse, Wisconsin (O-Score: 74): To bike everywhere, set down roots with a $120,000-range home near the burgeoning downtown (citywide median: $129,100). For employment, look to the University of Wisconsin (median household income: $39,014).
• Louisville, Kentucky (O-score: 73): Head to the perpetually hip Highlands, where houses go for $185,000 (citywide median: $139,400) and you can run or ride Cherokee Park straight from your door. To make a living look to health care and to companies like GE, Ford, and UPS (median household income: $44,111).