Peter Lyons

The Ranking of the Cities

September 26, 2008

OK, the wheels are pretty much all in motion on the house front. Sadly, there's not much inventory in my budget in Louisville right now, so I may have to wait for something to come on the market. That is unless I decide to settle for one of the towns slightly farther from Boulder.

I wanted to post some brief thoughts on each of the cities I toured this year, so here goes.

Santa Fe, NM

I liked the architecture here and a lot of the visual feel of the city. It's actually a lot smaller than I had imagined in terms of cultural activity. Kind of a sleepy town in terms of restaurants and night life. The overall age demographic leans toward retirees. Probably has the lowest diversity of outdoor activities to offer of all the places I went.

Boulder, CO

Well, Boulder is the winner, although it's technically too expensive so I'll have to settle for one of the nearby towns. Great weather, tons of outdoor activities, lots of music (including touring acts, local bands, and the CU College of Music), a great vibe that blends hippie, jock, and techie. Denver International Airport is nearby and is a hub so I can get direct flights to most places and never fly longer than four hours or so. Plus I have some family here, and there's a big HP office in Fort Collins. Overall pretty fantastic. The only real cons are these days it is getting a bit overcrowded and there's a strong NJ vibe happening nearby with the huge housing developments and golf courses. Also, CU is a bit bigger and has more of a frat/party scene than ideal, I guess. I think it's the best choice given where I am and that I'm coming from NYC. Eventually I could see myself moving to some place even smaller and less crowded like Flagstaff.

Park City, UT

Well, this is too much of a destination resort to appeal to me year round. However, fantastic skiing in the winter, and Park City downtown is very cute. Salt Lake actually has some fantastic climbing gyms and a good music scene. Most of downtown Salt Lake is fairly odd and deserted, though. The LDS influence is way too prevalent for me to live nearby, though.

Boise, ID

Boise has fantastic variety of outdoor activities all year round including hiking, biking, skiing, rafting/kayaking, etc. I like the fact that it's basically a few small blocks of urban downtown but immediate transition to suburban neighborhoods with no apartment buildings. Real estate is fantastically affordable. Not much of a local music scene, but national acts do often stop there to play. Usually have to get connections in Portland or Seattle to fly anywhere. Overall the people are a bit more socially conservative than I'd be comfortable with.

Bend, OR

Bend was in many ways similar to Boise in terms of great variety of outdoor activities. Overall I liked it quite a lot. I really like the pine forest landscape and housing is also pretty affordable. The problems with Bend are really long winters, three hour drive through mountains to get to the Portland airport, and perhaps the overall vibe is a bit too geared toward suburban families with young children.

Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff was a very close runner up. Fantastic hiking and biking. I'm told the skiing at the Snow Bowl (12,000 ft) is very good in the winter. Not crowded. Great small town feel. Pretty weird mix of college students, hard core cyclists, Grand Canyon tourists from the US and abroad, transients from the train and bus stations, and everyday small town folk. One aspect that I found very compelling is that although Flagstaff gets very cold and snowy in the winter, all year round you can drive forty five minutes south to get off the Colorado Plateau and go biking in sixty-five degree weather. That's really nice. Plus there's just a lot of great National Parks within a day's drive, especially the Grand Canyon. I also liked the real estate here. Not as cheap as Boise or Bend, but still much cheaper than Boulder. The weather in the summer is fantastic because the elevation is so high. I was there most of July and August and didn't need cooling or heating at all. In NJ it always seems that you get about three days between when you need the heat and when you need the A/C. The two main drawbacks are the local music scene and the three hour drive to Phoenix airport.

So the overall order:

Boulder Flagstaff Bend Boise Park City Santa Fe

All of them were certainly enjoyable to live in briefly and provided lots of new things to go check out every weekend.

In other local news I had my first official set of house viewings with my agent. This was mostly educational for me, and I feel a lot more aware of the market now. I will say that the fact that Boulder is out of reach and there are almost no homes in my budget on the market in Louisville is pretty frustrating. If I buy in Broomfield or Lafayette I basically cancel out my work from home benefits because I basically have a 25 minute commute for night life.

I heard Tom Myer give a recital at CU on Tuesday. The highlight for me was a William Albright piece for three saxophones called "Doo Dah". Very interesting sounds made with a lot of extended techniques.