Northern NJ/ New York metro area
the good- i live in a quiet, safe suburb. Schools are good- neighborhoods family-friendly. The city and all of it's culture, entertainment, sporting events, etc.. is a 20 minute drive away. An hour from the ocean, 10 miles from beautiful state parks and mountains. Anything we need is close and it's great for raising kids. i'm minutes from a county zoo, a children's museum, a nature center, a farm, hiking areas, state parks, etc... And of course malls. 4 different grocery chains are wthin 5 minutes. I also love the diversity of the area- and with diversity comes every kind of food you can think of. Many very good hospitals and specialists nearby, and for severe cases the city is always an option. I am currently taking advantage of NJ's new PAID family leave act- i think only 3 states have it.
the bad- traffic, taxes (my county is 4th highest property taxes in the country- i think we pay over $8000/yr for a tiny modest cape on a 50x100 lot); public transportation is good to the city, but poor between towns. Cost of living is outrageous, as is the cost of childcare. NJ is also known for political corruption.
Am i happy here? Yes. Would I be happier elsewhere- probably. That's why I'm curious about other parts of the country.
I live in Calgary, Alberta. It's close to the mountains (I can be in Banff in 45 minutes) and we have fabulous hiking, camping and wildlife all close by. Both DH and I love the outdoors so this really appeals to us. It gets cold in the winter, but the sun is almost always shining so I don't mind too much. We also have manged to maintain a decent economy even through the recent difficult times. There are still good jobs. Although I like it here, I am originally from Vancouver and miss it a great deal. I miss the ocean! I have also lived in Toronto and Regina, Saskatchewan. A bit of a nomad.
The bad - we are an oil city and the cost of living here is very high. You cant really buy a decent house for under $400,000 (compares to Vancouver and Toronto as well). There is no water except rivers and the odd man made lake and I love the beach, so I miss that a great deal as well. I also have no family here (nor does DH) and I would really like my baby to grow up around his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My parents are in Ontario, the rest of my family in B.C and DH's family are all in Saskatchewan.
I'm from California, born and raised, and I LOVE it! Earthquakes and all! (I guess I should add fires to that, too!)
Only an hour or so away from the desert, beaches, or mountains. California's got it all!
Would I be happier elsewhere? I doubt it, and not willing to find out at this time.
I live in a heavily wooded area of Washington State. I am less than 2 hours from the Pacific Ocean, less than 2 hours from 2 mountain ranges, as well as a rain forest (yes, we have those here, too) and I have a private lake about 6 blocks away. I love every bit of it and could not see being back in the hustle and bustle of a big city ever again.
Pros-Quiet, removed from the sounds and pollution of the city, the kids are safe, we are happy. The boys can fish any time. We have salt water property for clamming/oyster gathering. The community is tight knit and looks out for one another. The small town feeling is one I crave after feeling so discarded in Houston.
Cons-It is an hour from my dh's work, an hour from our doctor, and the only place to shop for items other than food is WalMart and that is still 30 minutes away.
Oh...no natural disasters! We are high enough that flooding normally is not a problem. We get sun, rain, and snow. Grated sometimes the rain is a bit much, but that is why we are so green here. Everyone else can keep their sunburned landscape :-)
I live in a small town of 3,500 just outside of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario (home of the Blackberry). I absolutely love living here.
Pros - I am an hour from Toronto, an hour from 3 great lakes - Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Lake Huron and 1.5 hours from Niagara Falls. Southwestern Ontario has a lot of agricultrual land so we can get loads of fresh fruits, vegetables, maple syrup, fish and meat locally. We have rolling hills and lots of trees, parks, and hiking trails. We have a large Mennonite population here so seeing horses and buggies and their farms is quite common place. We have the most unbelievably wonderful farmer's markets. We have a big high tech industry here as well as insurance. There are lots of good grocery stores and 4 renowned universities and a college very close by. This brings a lot of diversity here - the population is a real international mix and that also results in fantastic restaurants. Our crime rate is very low. For those who love sports we have the Toronto Maple Leafs, The Blue Jays and The Raptors as well as a number of teams in the CFL close by. We are too far south for bears, and have no poisonous snakes or spiders. Housing costs are reasonable here - average house is around $250,000.
Cons - Locally there is a shortage of family doctors and specialists (too many went to the U.S.). Luckily there are first class research and teaching hospitals within an hour of us in Toronto, Hamilton and London and our health care is free. This area has a large manufacturing industry and lots of that in the automotive industry that was heavily hit with the recession. We are hoping the high tech industry will eventually absorb these out of work workers. We experience all four seasons. Our summers are usually hot and humid and our winters can be wet and cold but not as cold as the north.
i live in the central valley of california. we just rated 96th or so on the worst places to raise a family, but i dont see it as that bad! lol
the pros are we have affordable housing, we are a few hours from the beach, the mountains (less in some areas) and within those few hour drives you will see such a range of land. i can drive minutes to everything i need, but that can be a con too lol. we are one of (if not #1) the largest agriculture areas in the states, we grow many fruits/veggies that are transported all over the world, mmmmm! we have a huge immagration population and you can become quite exposed to many cultures and ethnic backgrounds. we dont experience too much from earthquakes, more of a small shake at best lol.
cons: we do have a bit of crime, even though the area i live in isnt bad. our summers are horrible we can get up to 113! we dont have a long enough fall or spring, so i should move to the east coast i suppose lol. there arent enough for teens to do, so they wonder why they get into trouble.
i was born and raised in this city. i do love it here. i would love living in pacific grove or monterey more, but who can afford that???!!! its 102 degrees today and im ready for some cool weather. they keep promising its on its way!!