Moving to PA or NY from Texas


My husband and I are considering a move to either Pennsylvania or New York. We want to be closer to his family, which lives in the Cleveland area. We miss the seasons but realize winters up there are ferocious compared to what we are used to. We plan to take a few trips up there to scout out some possible locations, but would love some advice.

Here is what we are looking for -

A relatively liberal progressive area, that has some diversity

Near a college town

Lake nearby

Not too congested or urban

Not scrawled out suburbia with identical house after house

We’d also like someplace that isn’t flat - mountains, even hills would be nice.

My husband thinks we should look in PA, I am leaning towars Southwestern New York. Any suggestions?

So you’re looking for Austin, only somewhere in New England, right?

First, sorry for such a long post…

A little over six years ago, my family and I moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Harrisburg, PA. We were not familiar with Harrisburg at all (had never actually been here), but we needed to be closer to my mom (who lives about an hour away), but not TOO close.

You mention the weather…Let me tell you, after surviving Summers From Hell in Tulsa, the summers in Pennsylvania are amazing. Most of the time, it’s not warm enough for me to go swimming. When the PA natives are complaining of the “humidity”, all I can think of were all the summers in Tulsa where the humidity was likea thick, wool blanket which settled over you and into your lungs. There were many summers in Tulsa when it hurt to breathe, the humidity was so bad. What about the winters, you may ask. In the “midwest”, they have this thing called wind. It comes across the land, sweeps into your body, nips at your bones and steals your breath. In the winter, it can be beautifully warm one minute and sleeting the next. (I actually recall one day when I put on shorts in the morning, and by the time we’d finished dinner, it was SNOWING. Granted the snow didn’t stick, but it was SNOWING!) In PA, yes, we get snow. Yes, it get’s cold. However, here’s one advantage: When it snows in PA (at least in the cities), they plow and sand the streets! There’s not a layer of ice coating everything (this may happen rarely, but in the six years I’ve been here, it’s never occured), and usually within the afternoon, the streets are easily driveable. Plus, the snow sticks around long enough for skiing and sledding.

Oh, did I mention that the grass is green in July and August?

Okay to answer some of your questions…
–Harrisburg liberal or diverse? Sort of, but not really. There’s a little bit of everything, depending on if you’re in the city (something like 58% black), or in the suburbs (something like 72% white). Resturaunts stink here–very, very, very limited in that area (unless you like the chains such as Applebee’s)–especially when you compare it to Austin (which has some of the best entertainment and eating establishments, from what I’ve heard).
–College town…not really, although we have several within 20 minutes driving distance. (Penn State, York College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Messiah College, Dickinson Law, etc.)
–Lake nearby? Absolutely, there are several within under an hour. Our favorite, Gifford Pinchot Lake has swimming, hiking, camping and (I think) horse trails. The state parks in PA are wonderful (and inexpensive to camp).
–Congested? Nope, rarely.
–Identical houses? No way. One of the things I absolutely LOVE about the area are the different styles of homes. Personally, I like the character of the older homes in the city (our house is near 100 years old, which is young), but you can also find the new homes as well in the suburb developments.
–Flat topography? Ha. I’d like anyone to name one place in PA that is flat. I have yet to find it, and I’ve been from one end of PA to the other. Personally, I love looking north and west and seeing the “mountains”. (It’s also cool knowing I’m less than 3 hours from the ocean, 1.5 hours from Baltimore/DC, 2 hours from Philly, 3 or so hours from New York, and literally minutes from the mountains.)

Would I suggest that someone move here? Well, I did, even if it was somewhat of a fluke, and it’s been six years and I’m still here. Like any place else, it has pluses and minuses, but right now, I can’t think of anywhere I’d prefer (not even Tulsa, and there’s a lot of things I miss about that, but not enough to lure me back.)

Everything’s easy except the liberal progressive part. Not so much of that where you’re looking. Oberlin, OH, maybe? Or Ann Arbor, but that’s in the wrong direction.

I live in the same (general) neck of the woods as phall0106, but on the opposite side of the Susquehanna, in Carlisle.

Carlisle is a smaller town than Harrisburg, but we’re about a half-hour from there, so we get the benefits of location without the hassles of living in a bigger city.

For arts and entertainment, we’ve got Dickinson College, which has a great deal of arts programs during the school year, and the [url=“”]Carlisle Theatre, which has live entertainment and art movies and documentaries. We’re also close to Washington, Baltimore, and Philly, so you can take advantage of those, as well.

We’ve got some good local restaurants that range from Thai to Chinese to Italian to good PA diner.

Carlisle IS a college town. We’ve got Dickinson (as I said), Dickinson Law, and we’re close to Messiah College in Grantham and my own alma mater, Shippensburg University, within a 30-minute radius. We’ve also got the Army War College in town.

The rest is pretty similar to Harrisburg.


Athens, OH, in the southern part of the state, is another possibility. Has Ohio U., a mess of hippies, lots of hills, definitely not urban.

With regards to Pennsylvania and your desire for a liberal/progressive are, keep in mind that outside of college towns, most of the non-urban parts of the state are quite conservative. After running several campaigns here, James Carville said that Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between.

We live in the western suburbs of Philly; getting into Center City takes about an hour, and getting into the Amish farm country of Lancaster County takes about the same. The area is fairly hilly (I grew up in West Virginia, so my topographical standards won’t allow me to call them mountains), there are a number of recreational lakes a within a short drive, and a couple of dozen colleges and universities, ranging from West Chester University about 15 minutes away to the Ivy League school University of Pennsylvania down in Philly. There are lots of cookie-cutter developments, but that is well leavened by older homes and towns.

As for College towns, there are a few in north-west PA, Meadville (Allegheny College), Clarion (Clarion University, on the edge of Allegheny National Forest) and Edinboro (Edinboro University) are all generally in that area. Lake Erie is close by. So is Pymatuming lake in the west and Lake Arthur in the south, not to mention the Allegheny Reservoir in the north and Lake Chautauqua in NY. This area is not hilly by PA standards, but having biked from Pittsburgh to Lake Erie several times, I can attest that it is indeed not flat. The further east you go, the closer you get to the Allegheny mountains.

Not so close, but much more hilly is my current town, Indiana PA. And we have 2 lakes very close by.

C’mon–nobody’s mentioned State College, PA, picked a while back as the “happiest place to live in America”? Really, it fulfills almost all of your requirements: liberal area (OK, it’s a liberal pocket in a great pool of conservatism, but outside of urban areas, that’s how most of PA is); college town; several lakes within an hour’s drive, including Raystown Lake, one of the bigger man-made lakes in the Northeast; not a suburban area (yet); and very hilly, with the Bald Eagle Mountains in the background.

About the only real black mark against it is congestion, as there’s been a lot of road construction there recently. But once I-99 is completed, a lot of the congestion will ease. Driving to Cleveland is already rather simple, as State College is about 15 minutes from I-80; even on a bad day you’d be looking at a four-hour drive.

Plus, State College has the greatest college football experience–Penn State tailgating; the best sub shop; and the world’s greatest dessert: The College Diner’s Mount Nittany, a grilled sticky bun topped with ice cream. The last is reason enough to move there.

I went to Allegheny, and I love Meadville and the surrounding area. I left it off because it’s sooo conservative. But you find liberals everywhere (thank Og); I found them there, and most of my friends by the time I left were locals. But they are a distinct minority in this area.

One other thing to bear in mind is that from Meadville north, you are in the snow belt. Depending on how you feel about snow (I like it, as long as it doesn’t reach Buffalo/Syracuse proportions) you might want to look further south. Those hills are small, but in the winter they can be a bear.

Ithaca, NY fulfills all your criteria.

Yup. [see next item below]

Home to both Ithaca College and Cornell University

Ithaca is situated on the south end of Cayuga Lake, smack dab in the middle of the Fingerlakes Region of New York.

Check. Rush “hour” lasts all of 15 minutes. Traffic never really stops moving. The well-developed bus system all helps keep congestion down.

Choose anything from a city apartment to an isolated rural cabin.

No mountains, but lots of hills. The two institutions mentioned above are each situated on their own hills. You can walk from Cornell, at the top of a hill, down a deep gorge, past some spectacular waterfalls, through downtown Ithaca at the bottom of the valley, then up South Hill to Ithaca College.

You do know that neither Pennsylvania nor New York are in New England, yes?

marymargaret how close do you want to be to Cleveland? Ithaca, for instance, is certainly a lovely town but it is some 350 miles from Cleveland.

I would second taking a look at State College. Some of the areas just outside of town are pretty nice. It fits all of your criteria* and so much more. If I were to go on, it would mostly be repeating what Duke has said, but if you want more info I’ll be back up at dear old State in a few days. Feel free to email me with any questions you have.

*okay, so it may not be as liberal/progressive as you like, but outside of Philly/Pittsburgh it’s as close as you’ll get.

I must agree with LateComer (Hi, neighbor!) and pitch both Indiana and Clymer, my town.

The area is economically depressed, so property costs and taxes are relatively low. It’s far enough out of the urban area so that parks and wilderness are all around, but still less than two hours travel to Pittsburgh and all of its suburbs. We’re also close to Jounstown, Altoona and State College- all less than two hours away. In Indiana, the university draws a lot of cultural and popular events. There are many shopping areas less than an hour away, and you can visit an Amish market just as easily.

This is all just 4 hours or so from Cleveland.

I can definitely recommend the western Philadelphia suburbs. First of all, the area is just gorgeous. It can get expensive, especially if you end up living in the area known as the Main Line (Bala Cynwyd, Wayne, Bryn Mawr, etc.), but it gets a little more tolerable in other areas, and there’s so much going for this place that it’s definitely worth considering. Philadelphia has a lot of distinguished colleges in the area, starting with the University of Pennsylvania (Penn to the locals), and then branching out to include Villanova, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr*. There’s a TON of history here, and many of the towns in the Philadelphia suburbs have lovely historic main streets that bustle with life and commerce. At the same time, it’s not difficult to find a neighborhood with lots of hills and trees, especially if you stick close to the Schuylkill River (pronounced SKOO-kull, in case you were wondering).

You do have to watch the suburban sprawl with the rows of identical homes – housing is at a premium right now (like it is all over this part of the country), so the drywall-and-plaster McMansions are becoming more ubiquitous, but there are still plenty of homes with character and heart to be had.

Philadelphia is a great city to live near. It’s highly accessible, easy to drive around in, and has a decent public transit system, both in the form of a city subway and a regional rail that branches out to the suburbs. We have a terrific symphony, excellent theatre, and a million terrific restaurants that will fit any budget. Oh, and professional sports teams for all the major sports. There are a number of small lakes in the area, but I’m not entirely up on that part. There are plenty of lovely outdoors-y things to do, whether along the Schuylkill, along the Delaware, or a day’s drive up in the Poconos.

And if you really want to get your big-city fix, New York is less than two hours away by car, or about an hour by train if you drive to Trenton first. I moved up here almost a decade ago, and I love it deeply.

Let me know if y’all ever come up to check out the area – I can give you more details as far as good places to see.

  • I intentionally didn’t include Temple in that list because while it’s a good school it’s not exactly in a part of town that most people would opt to live in.

Oh and duh: Philadelphia has incredible museums, too, including the amazing Philadelphia Art Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Franklin Institute (more physical science stuff, IMAX theater), the Academy of Natural Sciences (biological science), and the infamous Mütter Museum (medical oddities), to name a few.

Actually, owing to the sheer quality of the history and geography courses I sat through during my education (everything useful I’ve learned I’ve had to track down and read myself), I was under the impression that they were in New England.

Having just used Google to look up the region however, I can at least feel a little vindicated…New York is congruent to New England, Pennsylvania is across New York from it. So at least I didn’t think Virginia was included, or something really embarassing.

Given the criteria, Ithaca was the first town to pop into my head.

You took the words right outta my mouth. I live here too. E-mail me or something…we could have a mini-DopeFest.

Ithaca was named “Most Enlightened City” by Utne Reader, with good reason. It’s a very liberal, diverse town with cultural events, including a ton of excellent local wineries, two great universities with numerous libraries and events, an active music scene with several good musical festivals, a nice downtown business district, and best of all, a Wegmans, the greatest grocery store in the universe.

Can you tell how I feel about this town?

Sounds to me like you’re describing Ithaca, or Trumansburg, on Cayuga Lake. Only two colleges, really, but Cornell and Ithaca College between them do offer quiet a lot. :smiley:

As for being liberal… I don’t know the local politics too well now, but during the Reagan years, they had the only Socialist Mayor in the states, IIRC.

The problem I see with Ithaca is that in some respects the city is the dog being wagged by the tail of the two schools. I don’t know if it’s true, but the gag I remember was that the schools doubled the population of the city when they were in session.

The other thing to consider is that while NY as a whole is a fairly liberal state, and Ithaca, specifically, is very liberal - in general the Southern Tier of NY is among the more conservative parts of the state. There is a sense of otherness about Ithaca and the environs compared to the surrounding areas. I’d just want to warn you so the difference in attitudes doesn’t come as a surprise.