Lists

Outside's 10 Best Places to Live in America, Including 2 in Colorado

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Number 5: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Subarus topped with kayaks. Trailers stacked with rafts. Teenagers toting inner tubes. The streets of Glenwood Springs are a dead giveaway: this is a river town. The Colorado and the Roaring Fork meet here, and on any given evening in the spring and summer, locals gather with coolers of beer at put-ins like Grizzly Creek and Shoshone to raft Class III rapids and mellow flatwater through a 1,700-foot canyon....

Number 4: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Stop at this riverside city of 68,000 on a summer Saturday and you’ll see families lazily tubing and cyclists tackling the 30-mile rail-trail system. But what sets Eau Claire apart is its music scene, which was going strong long before native son Justin Vernon’s group Bon Iver won a Best New Artist Grammy in 2012. Things got louder this July, when Vernon debuted his Eaux Claires Festival, with acts like Sufjan Stevens and the National joining his band....

Number 3: Iowa City, Iowa

“It’s like Boulder with an Iowa-nice twist,” is how one 20-year resident of Iowa City describes this bucolic river town of 72,000. No, there aren’t any mountains. No legal pot, either. But the city does have a pedestrian mall to rival Pearl Street, a university with more than 30,000 students, and a bike-crazy culture. Unlike Boulder, it’s affordable. The median home price of $178,000 will get you a mid-century bungalow....

Number 2: Port Angeles, Washington

In the final throes of this year’s contest, Port Angeles (population 19,000) staged an impressive fight. Homeowners put placards in their yards reminding passersby to vote, businesses made pleas on sandwich boards, and locals stood on street corners with signs. The town ended up coming in second to Chattanooga—which has almost ten times the population—by just 2 percent of the vote....

Number 1: Chattanooga, Tennessee

When I was growing up an hour south of Chattanooga in the eighties and nineties, the city was best known for MoonPies, those sinfully delicious chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow hockey pucks. Fast-forward a couple of decades and I’m standing in a juice bar on the edge of downtown, wondering what happened to the corny place I once knew. Now it’s all nitro cold brew and tech startups, like the love child of Nashville and Silicon Valley, but with more singletrack....

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts