If you have ever taken the drive down I-15 from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, then you have gone through St. George, UT. This community sits close to the southern border of the state with Arizona, lies in the northeastern part of the Mojave Desert, and sits in the foothills of the Pine Valley Mountains. Living here will place you close to the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin as well. It’s just 118 miles from here to Las Vegas.
There are about 100,000 people who live in the city itself, while the surrounding metro area is home to about 75,000 more. It is the seventh-largest community in the state and the most populous are outside of the Wasatch Front. From 2005-2010, it was the second-fastest growing metro area in the United States. By 2019, it had reached #1 in that ranking. It is also frequently listed as the most secure place to live, one of the best small cities for careers, and was the 2006 Best Place to Live in the United States.
The modern city was founded as a cotton mission in 1861 under the direction of Apostle Erastus Snow from the Mormon Church. Brigham Young originally called the community Dixie. When cotton farming was not competitive in the region, the church reorganized the community to make it into the modern metropolis it is today.
List of the Pros of Living in St. George, UT
1. The crime rate in St. George is much lower than the national average.
The national rate of incidents for crime in the United States is an index of 280.5 according to information published by City Data. If you take the same information for the city of St. George, then the index is just 170.9. Theft is the primary issue in the city, with 2016 figures reporting 995 incidents. There were also 120 automobile thefts and 350 burglaries. There were no murders reported in the community either, although there were five arson attempts. It is one of the safest areas in Utah and the rest of the country to live.
2. The schools in St. George are some of the best in the state.
St. George offers families access to 12 elementary schools, five middle schools, another five high schools, and three accredited colleges. Since it opened in 2008, Desert Hills high school is ranked as one of the top-10 best in the state. There are about 1,500 students enrolled in each facility to create a teacher-student ratio of 21:1 in the city. The average ACT scores are all above 21 as well.
3. The cost of living in St. George is much lower than the rest of the country.
If you can afford your housing expenses in St. George, then you’ll find that the remainder of your costs are exceptionally affordable when you start living here. The cost of living index for the city is 88.3 compared to the 100.0 average for the United States. That makes it one of the cheapest places to live in the entire United States.
You can negate this advantage if your employment takes you into Mesquite or Las Vegas regularly. Try to look for a local job that will offer a competitive pay for the region to give your family a chance to start saving.
4. There are plenty of outdoor exploration opportunities to enjoy.
If you are concerned about the lack of entertainment options in St. George, then take a look outside and you’ll see plenty of places to explore. You can visit state parks like Snow Canyon or Sand Hollow. The Red Cliffs Recreation Area is a popular place throughout the year. There is also the Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George Children’s Museum, or the LDS temple that continues to serve as a place of worship.
The temple in St. George is the third-oldest in the world for the Mormon faith, and it is the oldest continually operating one in the world. You are also less than four hours from several national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Capital Reef.
5. Temperatures are typically warmer in St. George than the rest of Utah.
With the city’s location in the outer reaches of the Mojave Desert, you will discover that the weather is significantly warmer here than in most other cities in the state. The monthly average in December is above 42°F, while the summer brings an average that tops 87°F. There are an average of 60 days each year where the high temperature for the day exceeds 100°F. Freezing does happen because of radiational cooling too.
The record high for St. George is 118°F, while the record low is -11°F, which is one of the more significant extremes in the United States.
6. St. George is a relatively friendly community.
Because of the warmer weather and its proximity to Nevada, it is turning into a retirement community with an easygoing attitude. There are always some exceptions to this advantage, especially if you move into a neighborhood with strict faith conformists who don’t want to socialize. Most people find the place to be warm and hospitable, allowing you to make some new friends right away. If you make the effort to get to know people while living here, then you’ll find more friends than people who want to snub their nose at you.
Almost 90% of the recent growth in the city is because of migration instead of natural birth rates. That means it is an in-demand destination living spot that allows you to carve your own path in life.
7. You can pursue an undergraduate degree in St. George.
Dixie State University is one of the greatest assets that you can take advantage of when you start living in St. George. There are almost 150 degree and certificate programs available at the institution. Because there are less than 200,000 people living in the entire region, you’ll find that the class sizes are rather small. There are also numerous extracurricular experiences that will help you to make the most of your learning experience.
8. There is still a rural feel to St. George despite its growth rate.
If you are looking for a city to call home, then you don’t need to compromise between an urban environment or a small-town vibe when you live here. St. George still manages to offer both, with the pros and cons of each one. You’ll find shopping, nightlife, and entertainment are all within your reach when living here. There are plenty of canyons, fields, and examples of wild scenery to enjoy during your stay as well. Whether your goal is to embrace wanderlust or you’re looking for a good job, this community provides a well-rounded experience for young families, retirees, and everyone in between.
List of the Cons of Living in St. George, UT
1. There is a history of nuclear fallout in St. George.
During the early 1950s, St. George received a majority of the fallout that occurred at the Yucca Flats northwest of Las Vegas during the nuclear testing period of weapons development. The winds routinely carried the radiation to this area, resulting in a significant increase of cancer in the general population. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the incidents of gastrointestinal tract, thyroid, bone, and breast cancers were all higher than the general population of the United States. Melanoma, lymphoma, brain tumors, and leukemia are all at higher rates as well.
A 1962 study from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission found that children living in the area at the time of the fallout could have received doses of radioiodine as high as 440 rads.
2. Some schools in St. George fail to make the grade.
Although some of the schools in St. George are excellent, there are a few that struggle to put up the same numbers in graduation rates and ACT scores. Millcreek High is one such example, where the graduation rate is just 61% compared to the 97% achieved at Desert Hills. The ACT scores also average six points less each year at this institution, but the proficiency rates are at just 10% for science, 19% for math, and 20% for language arts. If you plan to start living here, then you’ll want to look at the assigned schools for your home to ensure that your children can have the best possible experience.
3. The housing market costs are above the national average in St. George.
Because of the job opportunities available in St. George and its proximity to Mesquite and Las Vegas, the housing market has more scarcity than other metro areas of a similar size. That means you’ll be paying more to live here than you would in other parts of Utah. The average value for a medium-sized home is close to $300,000 according to Zillow, but that does mean a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom structure. You can save a little by adjusting your preferences to meet some specific needs.
Rising housing prices are pushing some renters out of the market as well. The Spectrum, which is part of the USA Today network, tells the story of Giovanni and Jennifer Trumbo who had their rent rise by $300 per month since the time they moved into their home. It takes multiple jobs to support a mortgage here for most families, which is a significant barrier to moving.
4. Flooding can sometimes be an issue in St. George.
You will get to enjoy over 300 days of sunshine per year when you start living in St. George. There are only 8.8 inches of precipitation that you’ll see in the average 12-month period too. That also means when the rains do decide to fall, there can be significant flooding issues that occur without a lot of rainfall.
There was a 100-year flood in the city in 2005 due to heavy rainfall that overflowed the Santa Clara and Virgin Rivers. The resulting impact destroyed 28 homes and killed one person. Desert life means being on the lookout for this disadvantage, but the impacts tend to be worse than in other cities in the same biome.
5. It is a city that does not always contain its urban sprawl.
You will discover that St. George is filled with numerous habitat reserves that create natural sections and boundaries for the city. That also means you will find a lot of sprawl occurring, which can impact how you navigate through the community. The older part of the town has broad, tree-lined avenues, while the upper end of the city places neighborhoods in places where the best views become possible. Most of the tallest buildings are mid-rise structures. You’ll pay much more to live in the outskirts than you would to be in the middle of the community if you’re trying to save some money.
6. You will need to get used to the liquor laws in Utah.
Although the state has recently changed some of its liquor laws so that you don’t need a private club membership to enter a bar anymore, there are restrictions on ordering wine or beer outside of the hours of 11:30am-1am every day. Packaged beer is available at grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience outlets, but the maximum alcohol content is 3.2% per weight. If you want to have wine, heavy beer, or spirits, then you need to go to one of the state liquor stores.
If you start living in St. George, then there are only two liquor stores to visit that sell the higher proof items. There is one on either end of town. You’ll need to go to W. Sunset Blvd. or N 900 E, with the former sometimes closing as early as 7pm on weekdays.
One Final Point on the Pros and Cons of Living in St. George
Mormonism is something that you must consider if you are thinking about a move to St. George. Although this faith is a minority outside of the state, it is the majority in Utah. That means you can encounter people on all parts of the spectrum. Some neighbors won’t let their kids play with others if the families don’t share their faith. Dating can be an issue. People who are in their mid-20s are typically married with a couple of kids, but you might not want to be in a serious relationship.
The opposite can also be true if you share the LDS faith. You will find numerous social opportunities and other cultural options in St. George that aren’t possible in other parts of the United States.
If you are not from Utah, then the pros and cons of living in St. George can be a culture shock at first – especially if you encounter surface judgments. It all depends on your perspective and what you hope to gain from the experience.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.