I live in Helena, Montana. As a state capital, we have been somewhat recession-proof thanks to government jobs. We also have two kickass microbreweries in town, which is not bad for a city of 50,000. We also have great outdoor recreational activities...one of the finer city trail systems in the country.
So with that, I would consider state capitals. Personally, I don't like big cities and lots of people, having lived in southeastern Pennsylvania for many years. I would stick with the west - Boise, Pierre, Salt Lake, etc.
Also, consider Alaska...after living there so long, you will get a check from the government for living there. Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks..even Sitka. I'd live in all of them.
Here in Montana, our larger towns are good places to live. Bozeman and Missoula get a lot of press being college towns, but I wouldn't pick them....there is too much disparity between the wealthy and the burger flipping class. The cost of living in Bozeman is very high....most blue collar types live in Belgrade and commute to Bozeman to work. Billings and Great Falls wouldn't be bad places, and they have LHBSs.