Vibe: Small college city combines Appalachian roots with a strong local economy
Sunny days per year: 185
Median home price: $168,900
While Morgantown may be the epicenter of Appalachia and proud of its hillbilly roots, the city — and the entire region — is far richer. Since the 1880s, coal mines attracted immigrants from around the world, who have influenced the local culture and driven the railroad, glass and mining industries. And, as the home of the first New Deal homestead community, its history is rich.
While its low unemployment rate and strong local economy are certainly its most touted strength, the city's big surprise is its excellent health care. Of our top 10, it ranks No. 2 in doctor-per-capita, beaten only by Gainesville, Fla.
The city is home to West Virgina University, which explains why it is often ranked among the best college football towns in the nation, well ahead of many bigger cities. Following the beloved Mountaineers is a local passion. (The entire stadium belts out John Denver's old hit, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," before every game.) The university offers affordable classes for older adults through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
But residents are quick to admit that their true love is the wilderness, with mountains, rocks and wild flowers creating one of America's most spectacular terrains. Sparkling mountain streams, whitewater thrillers and long lazy rivers make boating and fishing local favorites.
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