Bellingham, WA: Play year-round
Population: 77,550. Median single-family home price: $305,000.
Miles of multiuse trails within city limits: 65
Take a trial run: Fairhaven Village Inn is close to the trails. From $159; fairhavenvillageinn.com
To get a sense of the adrenaline-pumping possibilities around Bellingham, a seaside haven 90 miles north of Seattle, you need look only at the annual Memorial Day weekend Ski to Sea Race. The seven-sport relay draws nearly 500 teams of competitors—some with Olympic pedigrees, some wearing tutus—for a mettle-tester bookended by cross-country skiing on Mt. Baker and sea kayaking on Bellingham Bay.
“Geographically, we’re in the right spot,” says Ted Wang, president of the Whatcom Association of Kayak Enthusiasts. He’s referring to the county’s 143 miles of Puget Sound shoreline and 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, the San Juan Islands just across the bay, and the North Cascades National Park to the east. “There’s more here than any of us will ever get to in our lifetime.”
Worst-kept secret: It rains. Local consensus: So what?
Runners-up: Bend, OR; Boulder, CO; Lake Tahoe, CA/NV