Eau Claire, Wis.
Vibe: Family-friendly values with a progressive twist
Sunny days per year: 200
Median home price: $121,100
Fans say spunky little Eau Claire is something of a Midwestern throwback — safe, friendly and a solid family-oriented community. Recent redevelopment has seen the rise of downtown loft apartments and Phoenix Park, as well as popular (and free!) concerts throughout the summer. A branch of the University of Wisconsin provides plenty of cultural and entertainment programming. (Those 60 and older can audit courses at reduced prices.) And locals say volunteerism is a significant part of the town's character.
But the rolling hills and river valleys that surround the area are also a lure, offering plenty of boating, fishing, camping and more than 70 miles of biking, cross-country ski and snowmobile trails. And residents love the fact that when they crave an urban experience, the Twin Cities are just 90 miles away.
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