15 Affordable Small Towns We Love

Vibrant communities loaded with charm and character, these small towns are our favorite budget-friendly picks.

Perri Ormont Blumberg

El Dorado, Arkansas or Florence, Alabama, might not be on your radar—yet—but affordable small towns like these are gaining attention nationwide and with good reason: They offer budget-friendly real estate, plenty of cultural activities that are kind to your wallet, and superb access to nature and outdoor recreation. Read on to find your ideal spot for affordable living in the South.

P.S. Got your sights set on retirement? Check out our best places to retire!

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

If you dream of living in an artsy coastal town, consider Bay St. Louis. In Old Town, wander the shops, galleries, and restaurants along Main Street, Second Street, and Beach Boulevard, and check out the municipal pier and harbor, which opened a few years ago. Or ramble the L&N Train Depot (which houses the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum and Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum). Because of its proximity to New Orleans and affordable real estate, you'll find lots of commuters mingling with NOLA ex-pats and artists who wouldn't dream of settling elsewhere. A pedestrian-friendly downtown makes it easy to meander the galleries and restaurants without a car. Or stay put at Sycamore House for a few hours and savor their shrimp and grits platter; it's one of the best in the state.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Picture downtown streets shaded with giant live oaks and lined with locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants, all with cottagey storefronts. A municipal park overlooks the waterfront, where you can hop onto a pedestrian walkway that’s part of a bridge soaring over Biloxi Bay to the casinos and resorts of Ocean Springs’ larger neighbor. The cost of living is excellent; the scenic boat rides to barrier islands are a treat; and the arts scene is on par with what you would expect for a city ten times its size (the population hovers at around 17,652). There's a plethora of cultural opps like visiting the Walter Anderson Museum of Art and Shearwater Pottery, or taking a cooking class at Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education. With a pedestrian-friendly layout, you can even swap your car for a bike downtown. Don't miss the Gulf Islands National Seashore – Davis Bayou Area, where the Davis Bayou Trail weaves through a coastal forest and two local bayous in one two-mile stretch.

For more information, visit gulfcoast.org.

Original article: http://www.southernliving.com/travel/most-affordable-small-towns-to-live-in#affordable-small-towns-ocean-springs-Mississippi