When we were looking into graduate schools for Ryan and trying to make decisions we figured we could handle this area because at least the annual snowfall here was half that of Utah. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves in for. Now, I know winter has been a bit brutal all across the country this year (boy, am I glad we're not in Kentucky and without electricity!), but the Indiana winter seems a bit extreme to me. We've had many days when the high is in the single digits, and even a couple of days when it never got above 0. And that's without the wind chill. True, we haven't had as much snow as we usually got in Provo, but Provo never had a -30 wind chill. Because of our horrific winter I've been mentally comparing the places we've lived and trying to decide where I'd choose to stay put if I had to choose between those few places. A futile exercise since I doubt we'll end up in any of them, but it helps wile away the cold winter hours.
I grew up in New Jersey. It can be quite humid in the summer (August is the worst), and the humidity can make the cold of winter cut through many layers of clothing. The fall is gorgeous; I always loved driving along the tree-lined streets and highways in fall. There are lots of trees and there are hills and even a few mountains (that I know are not as big as the ones in Utah or Albuquerque). Thankfully the mountains are smaller so you don't feel like they're going to squash you flat. Other New Jersey pluses: lots of history, beautiful old houses and small towns, and, most of all, you don't have to pump your own gas! I've had many uncomfortable experiences trying to pump gas and wish that every state would outlaw it. NJ does have one big downside: cost of living. Sure, there's no sales tax on food and clothes, but that gets more than made up for elsewhere. Natural disaster-wise, not much. You get the occasional hurricane, but it's not usually as bad in NJ as places like Florida or North Carolina.
Virginia had a nice mild winter, with only a couple of snowfalls while we were there. It does get cold and they can get more snow than that, I'm sure, but from what I know of it, winter seemed great. Summer, though, gets quite hot and humid. There are lots of beautiful parks and country areas (we didn't find Manassas itself to be wonderfully beautiful, but if you got out of Manassas a little ways it got much better). Again, a big downer is the cost of living. More than 25% of our income here was spent on rent. And that was just to get a place that didn't have what looked like 50-year-old appliances, the water heater inside the master bedroom closet, or garbage dumped out in the front lawns.
Provo is better cost-of-living-wise. Of course, I think if I were to end up living in Utah I'd try not to be in Provo/Orem, just because I'd like to not be in the midst of all the BYU students. But while you're a student it's a great area. Spring and fall are nice, but they don't last long (I always wish they lasted longer everywhere), summer can be on the hot side but, as some would again contend, it's a dry heat. My main complaint against Utah is that winter lasts from September until June. Yes, I have seen snow fall in Provo over Memorial Day weekend. It didn't last long, but the fact remains that it fell. If I were into skiing, the mountains and snow would be advantageous, but since I'm not into skiing, I'm not such a fan. The Utah mountains are right on top of you and do want to squash you flat.
And now here we are in Indiana. Summers get humid, I'm sure, though I've yet to experience that. And the winters I've already talked about. And we can get tornadoes here, though apparently in our specific area they rarely touch down. Cost of living is awesome, especially for poor students. There are wonderful farmer's markets through the summer and fall. There are small towns with old Victorian houses that I love (and that you can buy for a lot less money than in NJ). And it's very, very green with lots of trees. Even the houses start to turn green! (I think I'd invest in a power-washer if I had a house with siding and lived here.) I would recommend it as a great place to retire, except that I can't imagine that I would want to suffer the winters here as a retiree. Other places get cold and snowy, but here you have a flat terrain and high winds. The wind makes all the difference in the world when winter comes.
So, when it comes right down to it, where would I choose to be? My ideal place would be somewhere with very little chance of natural disaster, mild winters and summers (though still having them, since I am a fan of seasons after all), low cost of living, lots of trees and hills, small towns with beautiful old houses, and with a law against pumping your own gas! Yeah, I don't think that place exists. But if I had to choose between here and Utah, which has been what I've mainly considered for some reason (cost, perhaps?), I think I'd still choose here. I'm not sure Ryan would agree with me, but the greenness trumps the winters for me. At least for right now. As I said, I don't think I could handle the winters as a retiree. Maybe by then my ideal place will exist.