Grand Junction, Colo.
Vibe: Contemporary arts meet Western charm
Sunny days per year: 214
Median home price: $159,800
Grand Junction's affordability was hard-won: When the collapsing energy market dropkicked the town back in 1982, citizens took a hard look at their boom-and-bust history. In a concerted effort to diversify, they beefed up tourism — from opening new country music venues to, starting in 2011, launching the state's only Lavender Festival.
The city was a pioneer in establishing downtown sculpture exhibits — a local favorite is a shiny bison called "Chrome on the Range II." Combined with the classic Victorian architecture, the contemporary pieces make this town feel old and new at the same time.
Beyond the town's urban spunk, the area's real appeal is the outdoor wonderland that is western Colorado. Grand Junction is just a few hours from Vail and Aspen, and bike trails pass cornfields and outdoor sculptures along the banks of the Colorado River. You'll find lots of local vineyards, but don't ignore the area's sweet cherries, apples and peaches (an outlying town is even named Fruita).
Next: Gainesville, Fla. »