Best Places to Live 2009
U.S. News looked at areas with strong economies, low living costs, and plenty of fun things to do
By Luke Mullins
Posted June 8, 2009
With the decade winding to a close, Americans have grown increasingly reluctant to gas up their moving vans. Last year, the Census Bureau’s national mover rate—which represents the percentage of Americans 1 year and older who moved within the past year—hit its lowest level since 1948, when the bureau began tracking the data. And who can blame us? In the face of a terrifying banking crisis, a historic housing crash, and a grueling recession, relocating to a new city isn’t exactly on the to-do list. But despite the uncertain economy, the nation’s diverse topography presents an enviable menu of great places to find work, retire, or just change your scene.
In selecting our Best Places to Live for 2009, U.S. News took a thrift-conscious approach: We looked for affordable communities that have strong economies and plenty of fun things to do. The cities we selected are as distinct as America itself—ranging from a quaint suburb to a live-music mecca. But whether you prefer hiking through the Rocky Mountains, pulling a fish out of the Atlantic Ocean, or grilling hot dogs at a college football tailgate, here are 10 places that will fill up your daybook without emptying your wallet.
St. Augustine, Florida
As the nation’s longest continually inhabited European-founded city, St. Augustine, Fla., considers itself the oldest city in the United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish Adm. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, this community of 13,000 residents on Florida’s northeastern coast has managed to maintain its colonial charm. Take the Castillo de San Marcos, for example. This remarkable stone-and-mortar fort is located right in the heart of St. Augustine’s cobblestoned historic district. And even though 300 years of violent storms and enemy firepower couldn’t penetrate its walls, visitors can enter the 20.5-acre monument site today for just $6.
But St. Augustine’s appeal extends beyond the history books. With a highly educated workforce, world-class golfing nearby—the immaculate TPC Sawgrass course is located just up the road—and that refreshing Atlantic breeze, this "ancient city" offers enough activities to satisfy even the most fanatical outdoor sports enthusiast. "Fishing, kayaking, boating—we have just about everything," says Donald Edwards, a clerk at the Avid Angler fishing shop. "I wouldn’t live anywhere else."