Top Cities People Moved to in 2021: the Great Outdoors Edition

There’s no denying 2021 was a year unlike those before, one that led to a fundamental shift in how people think and experience the world around them. 

According to United Van Lines 2021 Annual National Movers Study, we not only learned more people than ever before moved to be closer to family and friends, but also that lifestyle reasons came into play. In alignment, the number of people relocating for work is on the decline. 

So, what cities did people move to in 2021?

The top five inbound cities appear to correlate, with Medford-Ashland, Oregon (83%); Punta Gorda, Florida (81%); Wilmington, North Carolina (81%); and — in a tie — Eugene-Springfield, Oregon, and Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida (81%) taking the top spots. 

Spoiler alert: each one has temperate weather and access to a wealth of outdoor activities. Let’s look at what the top cities people moved to have on offer. 

Medford-Ashland, Oregon 

The Locale 

Dubbed the state’s “banana belt,” the rugged, remote Medford-Ashland area benefits from a warm, sunny and dry climate, one that’s apt to attract families and retirees seeking affordable housing and cultural amenities at once. Medford and the Rogue Valley pair fine wine and thrilling adventures with an annual average of 200 days of sunshine. Friendly and more laid-back than some of its southern Oregon counterparts, the area is a gateway to natural beauty, with an artisanal food scene and tempting tasting rooms galore. 

The Perks 

More than a place to visit, the area — located between Seattle and San Francisco — is intersected by several designated “wild and scenic rivers,” making it perfect for whitewater rafting, birding, hiking and fly-fishing. Not to be overlooked is its proximity to awe-inspiring Crater Lake National Park, its centerpiece formed by a now-collapsed volcano, Mount Mazama.  

This is also the site of the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Other finds include the interactive, hands-on ScienceWorks museum with its bubble room and hall of optical illusions; private, new age-y, mineral springs-fed soaking pools at Jackson Wellsprings spa; and the Mt Ashland ski area, a paradise less than 20 miles southwest of town, set at an elevation of 7,533 feet. 

Punta Gorda, Florida 

The Locale 

Anchored by a picturesque historic district and set on the south bank of the tidal Peace River and Charlotte Harbor’s eastern shore, Punta Gorda draws ocean enthusiasts in search of swaying, palm-lined boulevards and tin-roofed, Old Florida-era homes wrapped with wide verandas. A no-brainer for boaters, fisherman, shoppers and sunworshippers alike, it has a chill feel, coupled with long, hot summers and brief, cooler, windy and partly cloudy winters that promise a break from the heat. 

The Perks 

The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast offers breathtaking beaches; activities that range from boating and fishing to golfing; and plentiful, nature-driven experiences, like shelling and collecting fossilized shark teeth. Delivering relaxation and adventure amid an outdoor wonderland, it’s easy to see why people of all persuasions decide to call this slice of south-central Florida their home. 

Wilmington, North Carolina 

The Locale 

A port city in coastal, southeastern North Carolina, Wilmington features a humid, subtropical climate marked by mild winters and hot, humid summers that bring windy conditions and heavy rains. Boasting a large historic district, vibrant riverfront and picturesque walks along the storied Cape Fear River, it sets the tone with varied, architectural homes and moss-draped, old-growth oaks that line the city’s more than 230-block district on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Perks 

A gateway to Cape Fear Coast beaches — including Wrightsville, with its strong surf, and Carolina, known for its long boardwalk — Wilmington’s historic district is trimmed with restaurants, galleries and shops. Meanwhile, the river is where the Battleship North Carolina is moored, and artifacts aboard offer an exploration of WWII naval combat history. 

Eugene-Springfield, Oregon 

The Locale 

Set in the vineyard-swathed Southern Willamette Valley, the Eugene-Springfield area exudes an artsy, hippie-ish feel, with a political citizenry; organic farming; and abundant recreational opportunities, including hiking and biking trails. Springfield proper is said to be the quintessential American town in sitcom “The Simpsons.” Be sure to check out the life-sized Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie at the Springfield Museum of Natural History. Like the rest of the Willamette Valley, the area lies in the Marine West Coast climate zone, resulting in Mediterranean weather that brings warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. 

The Perks 

Offering a youthful air and penchant for alternative living, Eugene — a.k.a. “Tracktown” — is where Nike was born. Famous for its track-and-field champions, it also enjoys a prolific art scene, destination-worthy dining, lively festivals and scenic riverside paths and parks. Situated at the confluence of the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers, west of the Cascades, the area attracts outdoor enthusiasts, particularly to its waterfall-punctuated, rafting and fishing-friendly McKenzie River region; ski-centric Willamette Pass; and densely forested Three Sisters Wilderness. 

Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida 

The Locale 

South of Tampa on Florida’s stunning Gulf Coast, the Sarasota-Bradenton area sports hot, humid summers and warm winters, while offering a vacation-worthy wonderland of outdoor activities locals embrace. It’s in Sarasota that circus magnate John Ringling relocated the “Greatest Show on Earth,” building a winter residence, university and art museum that shaped its present as a well-heeled bastion of the arts. On Anna Maria Island, Old Florida lives on, with Bradenton Beach at the southern end, Holmes Beach situated mid-island, and the village of Anna Maria capping things off at the northern tip. 

The Perks 

Beaches, beaches and more beaches lure sun-lovers, who catch rays at Australian pine-fringed Coquina Beach and gorgeous Bean Point with its arch of powder-white sand proximity to where the Gulf meets Tampa Bay. Whether you want to spot manatees; take in a jaw-dropping sunset; indulge in diverse dining; meander through shopping districts; or engage in enriching arts and culture, there’s enjoyment to match. Be sure to check out the annual International Chalk Festival, a museum in motion, where internationally renowned pavement artists use chalk as their medium, transforming pavement into vibrant, oversized masterpieces. 

Find yourself wondering where people were most moving from?

The top slots in 2021 were Nassau-Suffolk, New York (79%); Hagerstown, Maryland (77%); the Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California, and Bergen-Passaic, New Jersey areas (76%); and Binghamton, New York (75%). 

Want to learn more? Delve deeper into our 2021 Annual National Movers Study and explore tips for settling into your new home of choice on our blog. 

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