Published On 02/17/2017
For a thousand different reasons, you're considering a move this year, and well you should: It's a big ol' country we have here, and opportunity favors those in motion. But before you start daydreaming of swimming holes, remember: Austin is full. So is Portland, alas. Nashville is getting there. As sick as you might be of your city's high rents, $9 beers, and miserable dating pool, migrating to the same overhyped town as everyone else won't improve your situation. Suddenly you're just another latecomer stuck in traffic, watching the rents go up, the lines get longer, and a pint climb to $8. You're right back where you started, kid.
But as you know, plenty of amazing places are still lurking under the radar. All around the country, cities big and small offer those same amenities -- a creative, laid-back vibe, a food and craft beer scene, a not-yet-ruined cool factor -- at reasonable prices. They might not be the best vacation spots in America, and they might not be top-five name-brand towns. But in terms of overall quality of life and cost of living, these underappreciated cities are all dark-horse candidates to help you author your best move ever.
America’s most affordable, under-the-radar beach city
City population: 69,913
Cost of living index: 90 (10% lower than US average)
For two years running the most affordable beach community in America has been Gulfport. Mississippi's second-largest city has a Downtown set only a couple of blocks from the sand, smack in the center of 27 miles of relatively unobstructed shoreline, right on the Gulf of Mexico. Folks who grew up in this area are flocking back, energizing Gulfport's local scene with new additions like a Downtown pedestrian street lined with bars and outdoor restaurants, and the Chandeleur Brewing Company, which hosts street-closing beer and music festivals all year round.
The entire Mississippi Gulf Coast is nothing like the Mississippi you've stereotyped in your head, and Gulfport is its de facto capital. Just to the west is Bay St. Louis, a funky artists colony set right on the sea, with a main street full of cafes and art galleries. To the east is Ocean Springs, a young beach town boasting a strip of bars along Government St with the densest concentration of live music outside of New Orleans. With the Stennis Space Center and Keesler Air Force Base nearby, the crowd here is always changing, and it's easy to meet others who are new in town -- most of whom will be more than happy to come over to your shockingly affordable beachfront home. -- M.M.