11 of the Best Small Towns for Recent College Grads
Finishing college marks a big moment in life — it's time to determine where you want to live, what you want to do for work, and what sort of life you want to lead. And while new graduates previously tended to flock to big cities in search of the best job opportunities, remote work these days has made it possible to log on from anywhere, including small towns. Those lucky enough to score a remote gig or find a job in or near a small town can enjoy perks like a higher quality of life, less stress, and lower rent and home prices, to name a few.
But with the extra flexibility comes added choices, which can be overwhelming. To help new grads dreaming of life in a small town, we looked at a variety of factors: cost of living, food and drink, town size (11,000 people or less), population of college grads and young adults, and attractions and activities.
Of course, "best" is a matter of taste, but these 11 small towns — from Montana to Michigan — are ideal for recent college grads.
If you love the outdoors, it doesn't get any better than Whitefish, Montana, which sits on the shores of Whitefish Lake and on the edge of Glacier National Park. The young and athletic flock to this small town for its fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and skiing. And after a long day on the trails, there's no shortage of hip spots to grab a drink or quick bite, too. It's worth noting that the median income in Whitefish is $48,813, while the median home value is $614,100, according to BestPlaces.
In Colorado, it doesn't take much to get out of the city and into the mountains. Just two hours from Denver is Breckenridge (better known by locals as "Breck"), a small ski town set at the base of the Rocky Mountains' stunning Tenmile Range. While skiing may be the town's main appeal, it's also a haven for young people and recent college grads who enjoy the destination's year-round events (don't miss September's Oktoberfest or July's food and wine festival) and lively, youthful feel.
Park City, Utah
Park City offers a small-town lifestyle with big-city amenities (think great live music, tons of young residents, two world-class ski areas, and hip restaurants). But its biggest draw may be its location, which is just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City. Thanks to its proximity to the state capital, you'll have easy access to an international airport and the buzz of city life, should you miss it. The rest of the time, you can settle into small-town living, which includes plenty of skiing, hiking, and biking.
It's all about the water in this small town on the northern tip of the state's Lower Peninsula. The community has plenty of young people and a relatively affordable cost of living (the median home cost is $278,900, according to BestPlaces). While the main attraction — at least in the summer — is the water, the town has plenty of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues to keep you entertained year-round.
With just over 10,000 people, Sedona is one of the bigger small towns on this list, but it fits the bill for new college grads who want temperate weather and city access (Flagstaff is less than an hour by car and Phoenix is a two-hour drive away). While the city may be close, we're betting once you're settled, you won't want to leave, as Sedona has excellent hiking and biking, stunning red rock views, and a rich arts community. Just keep in mind the cost of living here is a bit high, with BestPlaces reporting a median home price of $696,000.
Recent graduates looking for adventure and access to raw wilderness will find just that in Sitka, a waterfront town located primarily on Baranof Island at the foot of Mount Edgecumbe. In the surprisingly bustling downtown area, you'll find great seafood (try Beak Restaurant), galleries, and festivals like the Sitka Summer Music Festival. Fun fact: The town was part of Russia until 1867, and the median home price, according to BestPlaces, is $415,800.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The beautiful Eureka Springs has a location in the Ozark Mountains, but arguably the destination's main draw is its natural hot springs. According to one count, there are upwards of 60 natural springs bubbling up within the city limits, some of which are set around the Historic District's beautifully preserved Victorian buildings. Eureka Springs has a slightly older feel, but it makes up for it with a low cost of living — according to BestPlaces, the median home price here is $193,900.
During the winter, people from all over come to this town to ski at Stowe Mountain Resort. But as anyone who lives here year-round can attest to, it may be at its best in the summer and fall, when the weather warms up and the leaves change. Thanks to tourism, Stowe has a surprisingly high number of restaurants and bars and a relatively big population of young people. However, the median home price in Stowe is on the pricey side, at $551,500, according to BestPlaces.
If you're looking for a small town that also boasts an impressive food scene, look no further. Thanks to its seaside location between Portland and Bar Harbor, Camden has an impressive number of restaurants and bars, including several heralded seafood spots. In the summer, when the weather warms and the beaches are at their best, the population surges. But as longtime locals will tell you, Camden is beautiful anytime of year. The median home price here is around $435,900, according to BestPlaces.
This tiny town has evolved into an art-world darling, thanks to its impressive population of artists. The most notable spot may be the huge indoor and outdoor installations found at The Chinati Foundation (a project by artist Donald Judd), but those looking for something even more surreal can come to see the Marfa Lights, an otherworldly phenomenon that lures people from all over the globe. Plus, that the cost of living in Marfa is reasonable, with BestPlaces reporting a median home price of $153,300.
As the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg offers plenty of things to see and do. But if getting out in the mountains isn't your cup of tea, the eastern Tennessee destination also offers a few quirky attractions, including the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, a 400-foot space needle, and an aerial tram. College grads will love the endless access to activities, great live music, good restaurants, and low cost of living (the median home price is $385,300, according to BestPlaces).