#1 Nashville, Tenn.
Our top pick offers affordable homes, a mild climate and a phenomenal entertainment scene that goes far beyond country.
What we loved: Hillsboro Village, for the acoustic guitars at Cotten Music, kitchenware at Davis Cookware and the triple chocolate mousse at Provence Breads & Cafeacute;.
Although "Music City" may have worked fine in the days of Hank Sr., our top pick among great, affordable places to live needs a new moniker. We suggest "Nashville: Music Is Just the Beginning."
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Southern hospitality. Gently rolling hills with big, affordable homes. A mild climate (albeit with occasional tornadoes). Oh, yes, and a phenomenal entertainment scene that goes far beyond country.
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With such an appetizing mix, it's easy to see why Nashville keeps attracting people from across the nation, including other parts of Tennessee. It's a buckle of the Bible belt, but, says pharmaceutical sales rep Rusty Walker, "the area doesn't cater to a particular type of person." Rusty, 28, and his wife, Beth, 25, relocated from Knoxville, where he thought "real estate prices had maxed out." The couple was looking for a great place to start a family. Last summer, they bought a three-bedroom house for $230,000 in Gallatin, a 40-minute drive from Nashville's entertainment hot spots, which they frequent on weekends.
With more than 180 live-music venues featuring country, bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and soul, Nashville has plenty of sounds to groove on. Its music industry rang up a cool $6 billion in 2004. But Nashville's health-care, education, manufacturing, finance and tourism industries hardly play second fiddle.
Nashville offers a wide range of housing choices. In the downtown area, just a short walk from art galleries and music meccas, two-bedroom condos in new or renovated buildings start at about $250,000. In East Nashville -- popular with musicians, artists and professionals for its proximity to downtown and its eclectic restaurants -- historic Victorian houses and Craftsman bungalows range from $275,000 to $350,000. And for a slice of Southern California at Nashville prices, check out Little Hollywood, a quirky selection of small, brightly painted stucco homes from the '30s and '40s in the rolling hills of Lockeland Springs.
For a more suburban feel, there are Franklin and Brentwood, two communities south of the city where four-bedroom single-family homes start at $355,000.
-- Magali Rheault
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