Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
Perfect for lake and mountain lovers, Burlington is the product of careful city planning and devoted environmentalism. It wins almost nonstop accolades for everything from its organic gardening to bike-friendly policies. But don’t hold those politically correct laurels against it—right next to the Green Mountains, it offers some terrific skiing and hiking. And Lake Champlain provides plenty of boating recreation. Home to the University of Vermont, Burlington attracts plenty of concerts and performances; it also offers an excellent array of health care options.
- Population: 206,007
- Median housing price: $329,800
- Average number of sunny days: 161
- Healthy bragging rights: Whether it’s putting up signs designating parking for seniors or families with small children or beefing up housing options for middle-class retirees, Burlington has taken a hands-on approach to helping people age on their own terms.
Even in a state known for clean living, the Provo–Orem region stands out as a lifestyle wonderland. It’s home to Brigham Young University, and the region offers top-notch health care. Plus, its outdoor recreational opportunities are unbeatable, whether residents prefer boating on nearby Utah Lake or playing at one of the 15 national parks, monuments, and recreation areas that are within a half-day’s drive. Sportsfishermen flock to the Provo River, famed for its rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout.
- Population: 474,180
- Median housing price: $360,300
- Average number of sunny days: 232
- Healthy bragging rights: Provo can trumpet its low per capita rate of fast-food joints.
Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine
This area on Maine’s rocky coast offers residents the perks of big-city life—great restaurants and plenty to do—on a small-city scale. Locals can picnic next to picture-perfect lighthouses, ride the ferries that crisscross Casco Bay, and choose from plenty of doctors. When the urge for adventure strikes, options include Maine’s parks and mountains, which beckon just a few hours north, or Boston, which is less than two hours south.
- Population: 513,667
- Median housing price: $312,200
- Average number of sunny days: 205
- Healthy bragging rights: Besides all the fresh-caught fish and wild blueberries available, these cities have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to reduce CO2 emissions. City-owned diesel vehicles run on a mix of vegetable-based biodiesel.
Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado
What’s not to love about a place that promises a mild climate and the Rocky Mountains in your backyard? This booming college town, home to Colorado State University, has plenty of nightlife, shopping, and restaurants. But most people move here to be near the mountains and the endless camping, hiking, skiing, and rafting options. Health care is good, but residents also like that Denver, with its major airport and hospitals, is less than 70 miles away.
- Population: 276,253
- Median housing price: $273,200
- Average number of sunny days: 246
- Healthy bragging rights: Among our top cities, Fort Collins came in number one in the emotional-support category—people here don’t just have good friends, they know they’re there for them.