I would also check out Shepherdstown, WV :) It's about 20 minutes from Maryland/VA
Crunchy East Coast Guide to Small Towns with "Big" Values - Page 2
We're (hopefully) moving to Brattleboro this month! My husband put in for a transfer so as long as it gets approved but we think it will. We started looking at apartments there and coming from the Boston area I can tell you that rentals and house prices are REALLY affordable. Any town that can support 5 + independent book stores is my kind of place!
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If it's not too late, Northampton, MA, yes! We don't live there, but it's pretty darned crunchy, and I love going for visits. And you mentioned the NH coast - Portsmouth isn't a bad option either. Just wanted to mention - East coast towns with the qualities you mention often have this issue of really lacking ethnic/racial diversity. Northampton is definitely a VERY white middle/upper class zone. We had friends who just moved their family from Northampton (which they LOVED for many of the values you're looking for) to Somerville (just north of Boston). They thought they'd be heartbroken, but have found the diversity of being back in the city really refreshing.
So... we went all the way up to Peterborough, NH and some in Hudson Valley, NY.. all around, but pretty quickly it felt like. I think I could mention more places that felt so wrong more than right.
It happened pretty fast to get this place, one day, one viewing, and we took it out of traveling despair. I was so fried. It is so not an RV to travel around in a car. I prayed on my hands and knees and I am soooooo sure God answered. I am not sure how long this will last, but Front Royal, Va. And it is so strange how it came about. I have not met the HSing group yet. I have actually been traveling still to meet up with family but I think the time has come to start seriously trying to schedule our life. I am ready for some major changes and it all really has to do with the power within us and maybe getting the daily news from mom bloggers. I also had to cloth my tropical family, whee.. I mean this wasn't small on our budget.
We have a very sweet 3 bd, 1 bath, on 5 acres with a view of forest...walk to the river, a pond with a boat (free from sweet neighbor) and I walk to yoga because she teaches from home across the street. The library is not my best of all time, but it is *super* nice and has many nature sided books, and a kind of huge and friendly play area :). The grocery is not so high but not so cheap, still I can't reason traveling further with gas but may do a shipment, they are enough organic, and a little health food store fills in all the rest next store (I buy oatmeal there and some other grains). The town has a farmer's market twice a week with reasonable people that happen to live down the street from me. The flea markets, haven't been but... there is like 5 right here, 4 thrift stores I do go to and two are boutique types that have super great deals or an auction...tons of little antique places.. this little main street has a great local/organic cook but I haven't been forthright with the family I love (yoga teacher) to go yet for babysitting.. and the bar (maybe a few) has live music... and a coffee shop.. A nicely built playground with a wooden one more fantastical behind it, next to a stream and with a fountain...
Now.. I am not sure about how lucky I am because I have heard a few numbers, but.. it is $500 with utilities!!!! The taxes are super reasonable, like $1700 range.. I think... yeah, maybe.. not high like $3k or anything near $10k NY.. The housing costs are not clear. Somethings are a deal and others we have driven by are a complete let down with a huge price tag because of the location of the property. There is 40 acres for sale for $250k that is mentally out of place for us without a home, and also out of our price range, but mostly, not something we want to think about right now.. we want to just be!!!!!!!!!!!!!
DC is very close, but not too close.. The blue Ridge mountains are here and we go up to this park to watch the sunset there.. It is surrounded by these towns that I sometimes wonder if famous people vacation there because you are driving along and then suddenly all the buildings and houses get off the top beautiful in the colonial historic way but you have *never* heard about before...well maybe I have never...it just seems so quiet there are spectacularly kept up with gardens and era homes.... I didn't get cellular is what I mean.
So here I am, 7 hours from NY family, 7 hours from my family down south and close by 3 of my really great friends on the east coast that are in and around DC and also DH's close friend in MD... It is a very unplanned situation... we just needed a home and I stormed off with kids and left my DH.. in my own raging fit of not being the mother and health giver I wanted to be and so sad I am so stressed.. I got a call from him saying, "you wanna look at this place today or in the morning?" I said sure.. we drove an 1.5 hrs and meet our super sweet landlord, made a deal about upkeep and got the key! I am still thanking God for the moment.. It had been on CL for like 5 min when DH called and Landlord's week of replies for a vacation rental was huge... so we got lucky :).
I am most amazed by the people here. I meet a gramma on the playground from Hawaii and she said many negative things about the people and the schools "trashy" ...it happens.. people cuss out their kids and some kids did some messed up things to wildlife when we were near by.. but another crowd called people because of it... and people just seem really great... there are indie people, churchy people, don't care people, but mostly sweet people that are open to who you are. I went to a party the other day ( I have been to 2) and one crowd was nice..the food wasn't healthy but maybe party food? The people here seem like once you find that AP mama you will keep her very close and make each other happy, but still love a lot of people in between. I am not sure what is happening next.. I need calm. My sister and Mom are already eying the place for relocation.. I am not really sure why... and then I am not really sure what is going to be better. I see at least 2 deer daily and Freddy is working on a pet squirrel and the bear cubs were spied drinking from the kiddie pool. I feel a strange sense of heaven that I never knew I wanted in a home before.. the walking thing is competing with the stars too... I actually saw the milky way!
Cool towns up along the east coast are so true! NH over VT due to expense, but Maine we haven't seen and they don't have billboards. I am not sure about winter for so long... I want to visit more places... I don't think I can until spring though... I need to work on so many other things :). DH and trying to find our new dream and so many things about our day is getting noticed before location now.. not a road I want to carry a long time so this post will get revisited again.