2. Bainbridge Island, Washington
When Jerry Jones got the green light from his employer to leave Dallas and telecommute, he and his wife Kathy made a checklist detailing their ideal community: a small town with good schools, rational home prices, nice views and easy access to big-city amenities.
In April the Oklahoma natives and their seven-year old daughter Anna moved to Bainbridge Island -- a 28-square-mile haven that's a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.
"It's like being on vacation all the time," says Kathy, 44. She and Jerry, a tax consultant, stumbled onto Bainbridge while visiting Seattle a decade ago and were smitten with its lush woods and views of the water.
Beauty is one thing. What about brains? "The schools are what really sold us," says Jerry, 46. Residents have never failed to pass an education-related tax levy, and they typically make extra contributions that increase the school budget by another 5 percent.
Of course, island living isn't for everyone. You can drive to the Olympic Peninsula via bridge, but people rely on the ferry, and the isolation can be tough on teenagers.
Nearly half the island's work force commutes to Seattle every day, according to David Harrison, a senior lecturer at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs and an 18-year islander. On the plus side, the trip is predictable, and it can even be productive thanks to wireless Internet access.