Tahlequah an example of good living in south

Apr. 25—Although Tahlequah did not make it into "Southern Living" magazine's latest poll on the 25 best places to live in the South, people who live here believe it's a great town.

Two cities close to Tahlequah did make the list: Tulsa, and Bentonville, Arkansas.

The mix of people, cost of living and the beauty of the area are among the draws that bring people to Tahlequah.

Tiana Pittser and her husband moved to Tahlequah from Colorado a year ago when they decided it was time for a change. She has family in the area and that helped sway them to make Tahlequah their destination.

"My favorite part is there are good hiking trails," Pittser said. "I think Tahlequah is one of the prettiest places in Oklahoma. I would definitely choose here over Cushing or [other town in Oklahoma].

Pittser said she has been exploring shopping options and added that although the rent is cheaper in Tahlequah than in Colorado, food is more expensive because of the sales tax.

"I online shop a lot and do Walmart and Reasor's, but I recently found I like a couple of places on Muskogee Avenue as well," Pittser said. "I shop at several places, like Oasis Health Foods."

Sally Chase moved to Tahlequah two years ago. She finds it beautiful and strange, and feels more at home here than in any other place she has lived.

Sitting outside of Lift Coffee Bar and enjoying a cup of coffee with her friend Kim Mitchell, she explained what she meant by "strange."

"It's a historic town, a river town and a college town," Chase said. "Having all three of those things kind of makes a strange mix of people."

Mitchell has lived in Tahlequah 20 years and finds the history of the area one of the more appealing reasons for staying. She moved from Idaho and said the economics and the school systems are fairly equal between the two regions. Her daughter is 17 and a member of the Cherokee Nation, and she has an 11-year-old.

"I love everything that Cherokee Nation encompasses — powwows, cultural events and all the arts and crafts, all of the local stuff," Mitchell said.

After the pandemic, Chase said, she was living in Fort Gibson. She visited one of Tahlequah's popular bars and found she could get a good job in the industry, so she decided to move here.

"I feel safe and comfortable and I want to leave the town better than I found it," Chase said. "There are a lot of like-minded people around here my age who make it easy to find my groove."

One negative thing about Tahlequah is the traffic, Chase said.

"I lived in Fayetteville for two years and their roads were more accessible," Chase said. "This is an old town, and it's getting to where our population is increasing and has added traffic with the college and river tourists."

For Mitchell, there are two things about Tahlequah that bother her. One is there aren't a lot of healthy options in restaurants, and she described the scene as a "food desert."

She said some restaurants are offering food that is nutritious, but more are needed to provide wholesome options.

"And there's not a lot of thoughtful progress — it's just progress for the sake of progress, and I think a real direction needs to be thought out for Tahlequah," she said.

That would mean determining where Tahlequah wants to be in 100 years, Mitchell said.

Weather is a draw for people, and compared to the harsh winters in the northern states, Oklahoma offers a more tolerable climate. Weatherspark.com states the range in temperatures for Tahlequah varies from 28 to 97 degrees, and is rarely below 13 degrees or above 101 degrees.

"Based on the tourism score, the best time of year to visit Tahlequah for warm weather activities is from early May to early October," states the website.

Economic opportunities are further enhanced by the actions of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, Tahlequah Regional Development Authority and the Tourism Council, said Nathan Reed, CEO and president of TACC.

The Innovation HUB at Cort Mall by the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah Main Street Association, tourism, and Northeastern State University — all step up to help a new or growing business to succeed, Reed said.

"The business climate is very good in Tahlequah," said Reed. "We've got many entities that are supportive of startups and existing growing businesses."