We searched the West for towns, cities, and neighborhoods that are easy to love. All our winners boast a strong sense of community—the gift of making you feel like you belong
McMinnville, OR (pictured). It’s the gateway to the Willamette Valley wine country. But McMinnville, about 50 miles southwest of Portland, has even more going for it than prize-winning Pinot Noirs. (Linfield College here plays host to the renowned International Pinot Noir Celebration.) Along with charming architecture, downtown McMinnville has been drawing young chefs and entrepreneurs; its main drag, Third Street, just garnered a Great Street award from the American Planning Association. Population: 33,393. Median home price: $224,600.
Missoula, MT. It’s Montana’s biggest cultural center, yet it maintains a small-town feel. The University of Montana, one of the town’s best-known employers, cultivates youthful brio, but most activity revolves around the downtown stretch of the Clark Fork river. Brennan’s Wave attracts paddleboarders, kayakers, and the odd surfer, and every Wednesday in summer the city hosts bands, food vendors, and kids’ activities in riverside Caras Park. Of course, residents love this town best for what lies just beyond—nearby trails that include the 1.8-mile Mt. Sentinel M Trail, which climbs 2,000 vertical feet to views of the city. Population: 112,684. Median home price: $229,000.
Laramie, WY. Laramie’s roots go back to the railroad, and traces of the past are still woven into the fabric of this town, especially in the handsome downtown. While the city has plenty of cowboy charm, it’s also a destination for outdoors lovers. Medicine Bow National Forest is a playground for anglers, hikers, and cross-country skiers. It’s also Wyoming’s only true college town, with the cultural offerings the designation implies. Bonus: Although Laramie is Wyoming through and through, it’s only a two-hour drive to Denver International Airport. Population: 32,081. Median home price: $241,000.