9 Steps to Finding the Best Places to Live

Roadway, streetlamps and small town main street
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In our twenties and early thirties, we gravitated towards large urban centers, where things were happening and we felt connected to the city's pulse. Now that we're older, we find ourselves looking for a mix of both; desiring access to events and activities while maintaining a sense of community and quiet living. This isn't an easy mix to find, so now when we seek the next place to live, we look at the size of the city compared to its offerings.

If you need a little mix of both, then you should look at what size of city or town you prefer. Are you into the urban scene or do you prefer the quiet, easy-going streets of a small town? Does the city you're considering have small neighborhoods that can offer a small-town feel? Can you live in a small town that's close to a larger city, still giving you access to the arts and cultural scene?

To find out which city or town is best for you, you need to compare cities that way you know the cost of living in each of the places you're considering.

  • 01 of 09

    Weather and Climate

    Fall colour, Stanley Park seawall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
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    Weather and climate are probably the most important factors for us when it comes time to choose the best place to live. If you grew up in long, cold winters you may want to live in a place where there's no snow to shovel. Or if you've only known warm and humid climates you may want to explore a place with cooler temperatures.

    When deciding where to live, think about the kind of activities you enjoy and how much weather will affect those activities. Are you a hot weather person, cold weather person or do you like a moderate, year-round spring-like climate? What about the amount of rain or snow you can withstand? Can you tolerate weeks of heat with no rain?

    All these questions will help determine your perfect climate year-round.

  • 02 of 09

    Culture, Entertainment, and Lifestyle

    New York City Times Square
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    Start by making a list of all the things you like to do, including those activities you want to be doing, but can't because your current cultural environment doesn't provide that option. If you're into the great outdoors, you probably don't want to be living in Manhattan or downtown LA and maybe Seattle or Portland would be a better choice. However, if you're into the arts and prefer a night of opera, Manhattan or LA or San Francisco may suit you better.

    While we may not always take advantage of the opportunities that our city or town provides, it's always better to have the option of doing things than having no option at all. And to research your options, we recommend spending some time in your local bookstore, perusing the travel guides/city guides, and doing some online surfing. Most cities have their own website and local online newspapers will list activities and cultural events.

  • 03 of 09

    Finding a Job

    Close up young people working on laptops in a modern space
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    If your career comes before anything else, then you'll want to be in a place that has a lot of opportunity for growth in your field, whether you're a teacher, an entrepreneur or an accountant.

  • 04 of 09

    Good Schools, Transportation, and Medical Services

    Caucasian girls walking to school bus
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    Are you the kind of person who likes to take public transit to work, avoiding parking fees, traffic, and high gas prices? Find a city that has a good public transit system that will allow you the flexibility you need to get to work or to do errands. And if you have family members who require good health care, good schools, then this should be a priority in choosing your neighborhood. Make sure you consider all the infrastructure needs of the entire family before you decide on where to live.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Outdoor Life

    Family walking on pathway through forest.
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    Most people equate a great place to live by the number of outdoor activities available, the number of days you can be outside enjoying the weather and easy access to parks, beaches and all things green.

  • 06 of 09

    Safety and Crime Prevention

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    Research the Internet: Using a search engine like Google or Yahoo or MSN, type in the name of the city and "crime statistics by neighborhood". Identify the risk of personal and property crimes for a location. This should generate some information, depending on the size of the city. Most larger urban areas have detailed crime reports, while smaller towns may only have general information. Either way, this is a good place to start. Contact the local police department. They'll provide details about a particular area. This is probably your best source for information on crime and safety. Most police stations will also provide details on how active the community is if they are involved in crime prevention or community policing.

  • 07 of 09

    Political Climate

    Residential voting sign
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    Think about the way you live, what is important to you and the values you take with you. Ask yourself if you prefer a conservative climate or a more liberal one? How does the city or county usually vote? How important are local politics? Is the social structure of a city or neighborhood important to you?

  • 08 of 09

    Cost of Living

    Groceries in canvas bag on kitchen counter in home
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    For most people, this is a crucial piece of information to access; the cost of housing, food, entertainment, and transportation are all factors in your decision. These helpful tools allow you to measure the cost of living in a variety of cities nationwide.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Spiritual Life

    Old White Church
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    For many people, finding a community that supports one's spiritual needs is important; likewise, some prefer to live in a city that offers a variety of churches, temples, and mosques.

    We suggest searching online for temples, churches, mosques and spiritual centers in town or city you're thinking of moving to. Look for community-strong areas, including activities and events that will support your spiritual growth.