While many major population centers are blessed with beautiful surroundings, big cities also have many drawbacks, such as soul-crushing traffic and long commute times, pressure to conform to social expectations, and high living costs. For some, these tradeoffs are worth it. For others, the lure of a slower pace and quieter surroundings wins out. Every year, thousands of working-age people move from big cities to smaller cities, often in scenic areas, that are better known for drawing seasonal tourists and retirees.
Not every tourist-friendly town is a good candidate for a full-time relocation. Many lack economic diversity, with employment concentrated in low-paying service industries. Others, whether due to their popularity with well-heeled tourists or a lack of land suitable for development, are too expensive for the average family.
Tourist Hot Spots Where You Can Put Down Roots
Some tourist towns occupy an apparent sweet spot, boasting ample employment opportunities, reasonable living costs, and family-friendly amenities – not to mention recreational opportunities that aren’t easily accessible for most big-city residents. If you’re thinking seriously about relocating, here are 10 tourist-friendly towns – in no particular order – that should rank high on your relocation list.
1. Fort Collins, Colorado
- City/Metro Area Population: 151,000/310,000
- Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
- Change from Year Earlier: -0.9%
- Average Home Price: $241,000 (national average is $200,000)
- Median Household Income: $49,500 (national average is $52,000)
- Average Commute Time: 17 minutes (national average is 25 minutes)
- Cost of Living Index: 95 (national average is 100)
Fort Collins is the northernmost population center along Colorado’s Front Range. Like other cities in the region, it offers breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains’ foothills and high peaks. Though it’s not technically in the mountains, it’s surrounded by natural areas, from Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area, a great bird-watching spot, to Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, a popular spot for day hikers.
If you’re looking for world-class wilderness, mountainous Roosevelt National Forest lies just on the other side of Horsetooth Mountain. And the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, home to some of the highest peaks in Colorado, is just an hour to the southwest. Homes are a bit pricier than average here, but a lower cost of living makes up for it.
Fort Collins is the home of Colorado State University, the state’s second-largest public university (after the University of Colorado-Boulder). The population is youthful, active, and well-educated, creating a sturdy foundation for a dynamic, entrepreneurial economy. High-paying service jobs abound, as do opportunities in information technology. Since the semi-arid climate is perfect for computer and semiconductor manufacturing, tech giants (including AMD, Intel, Agilent, and Hewlett-Packard) have a big presence. Healthcare is a mainstay as well, with homegrown Poudre Valley Health System employing more than 3,000 locals.
These buttoned-up industries are critical, but Fort Collins is also famous for its lighter side, including unique businesses created by thousands of locals in their late teens and twenties. The city is a hub of the state’s booming beer industry, drawing untold thousands of visitors and tourists. And the city’s most successful breweries, such as New Belgium Brewing Company, earn millions of dollars in annual revenues through national distribution. Even Anheuser-Busch has a major bottling plant in Fort Collins – who ever said business was boring?