Salt Lake City, Utah
The picturesque West where your best life is outrageously cheap
City population: 189,267
Cost of living index: 105 (5% higher than US average)
SLC Punk! came out all the way back in 1998, and yet, people still equate Salt Lake City with being "boring," "religious," or "conservative." Please. Utah's capital boasts breathtaking scenery, inventive cooking, and, yep: great booze -- plus you can eat, drink, and party like a king for criminally low prices. The youngsters of SLC are pushing the city in new directions with breweries like Uinta and Epic, plus music venues like The Depot and The State Room. Don't sleep on the heritage of this Western town -- it's shining from the Mexican food at Red Iguana all the way to the knockdown beauty of Temple Square. And if the Mormon influence is slowing your move, chill out: Less than half of Salt Lake City is made up of LDS members and, well, they're usually pretty darn nice anyhow.
No doubt one of the most attractive aspects of SLC is its outdoorsy lifestyle. Nine ski resorts are less than an hour's drive away, something not even Denver can touch. Hiking trails, mountain biking, and horseback riding abound. Salt Lake rents average around $1,100 and the city spreads out nicely, up into the mountains and over to the eponymous lake. And it's so roomy! Fewer than 200,000 people live here! (Shhhhh.) It's hard to think of a place that combines affordability with this much natural beauty, which means it probably won't stay under the radar for too much longer. -- C.St.J.