St. George, Utah
If you like open space, dry sunny air and can live without the sophistication of a major city, St. George is calling. Tourists come to revel in the stunning red-rock scenery at nearby Zion National Park, but most of the people who have settled here came from elsewhere in Utah: some 70 percent of residents belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
The city is in the southwest corner of Utah, 110 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in a part of the country renown for arid sunshine. Summers are hot, and winters are mild and usually snow-free.
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St. George (population 71,000) saw frenetic growth during the housing boom but has cooled significantly, and the hills are now dotted with foreclosed condos. But the city remains on the A-list for retirees seeking scenery and sunshine.
The heart of town is the 1877 LDS Temple, which dominates the city with its 175-foot, brilliant white building. You can't enter the temple if you aren't a Church member, but everyone is welcome at the equally impressive Tabernacle, completed in 1876. Its 2,000 panes of glass were shipped from New York and its clock came from London. The church's achievements are matched by its prohibitions: If you like fine wine, for example, be prepared to drive to Las Vegas, because there are only two state-owned liquor stores in the St. George area.
St. George boasts a decent menu of arts and culture, including the St. George Art Museum, a regional center for landscape photographers and visual artists. The Eccles Fine Arts Center also hosts plays, recitals and exhibits. And the 1,920-seat Tuacahn Amphitheatre in nearby Ivins mounts plays and touring acts.
Several first-rate golf courses have made St. George Utah's golf capital. For nature lovers, the city is within an hour's drive of Zion National Park. Bryce Canyon, Glen Canyon, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon are easy day trips. There's skiing at nearby Brian Head Resort, and several lakes big enough for boating and fishing.
Most of these places are set within Dixie National Forest, which covers nearly 2 million acres of southern Utah and is wide-open for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
St. George is extremely safe and healthy. And although the nearest big medical center is in Las Vegas, residents have long life expectancies, perhaps due to all that sunshine and clean living.