Part of the spoils of being a celeb is the right to live in a big, fancy, expensive house in Hollywood, or somewhere nice and Hollywood-adjacent like Malibu or Beverly Hills. Or, if you’re a serious actor who wants to do theater or host a talk show, you get to reside in a lavish apartment in Manhattan.
But while Los Angeles and New York City are exciting and bursting with showbiz opportunities, they aren’t for everybody. L.A. is one big parking lot, and New York is jam-packed with people. Celebrities, while talented folk, are still just people, and some of them don’t want that city life. They need a place where they can breathe, enjoy themselves, and avoid aggressive photographers and autograph-seeking fans. Because they can pretty much live anywhere and just go to Los Angeles or New York when they have to, many choose to live like they are regular Americans — in beautiful, friendly, good old-fashioned small towns. Here are some celebs who headed for the hills.
Welcome to Westerly, R.I.
Crossing over completely to pop music is one thing that makes Taylor Swift different than the average country music star. Also setting her apart is her home state. Unlike 99 percent of other musicians from the genre, she wasn’t born in the South. America’s favorite "Mean" girl was, like the Fresh Prince, born and raised in Pennsylvania. After moving to Nashville to pursue her dream of a music career, she became so rich and successful she could move anywhere she wanted and that turned out to be the small but fancy town of Westerly, R.I.
All those elaborate, star-studded, Instagram-breaking Fourth of July parties T-Swift holds each year? Those are at her oceanfront mansion in the Rhode Island town where the population is just about 18,000 and predominantly older, which means Swift and her old-timey bathing suits fit in just swell. And when Swift needs to hit New York (it’s been waiting for her!), it’s just a few hours away.
Bruce Campbell went from Ash to Ashland
Everybody likes Bruce Campbell. He looks like a big, tough action star (check out that jutting chin), and he brings major action in his movies … but he approaches his roles and carries himself like a parody of a matinee idol. Indeed, he’s best known for starring in campy horror/sci-fi movies like Bubba Ho-Tep, Army of Darkness, and its TV spinoff, Ash vs. Evil Dead. The approachable leading man just seems like he wouldn’t be content living like all the other movie stars do — in a mansion in a gated neighborhood in Brentwood or in a mansion on the beach in Malibu.
As he wrote in his memoir Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor (via Oregon Live), Campbell moved to Ashland, Ore., a vacation town of over 20,000 near the California border, in 1998. His mother lived there already, and he and his wife didn’t care for living in L.A. Besides, since he had to travel to act in movies anyway, he could basically live anywhere he wanted. So, he set up camp with "a little place in Ashland," and then bought another property "out in the boonies" of the rural Applegate Valley about an hour away.
Jeff Daniels lives in Chelsea, but not the New York one
A lot of these celebs moved to small towns for many of the same reasons — they hated the smog-choked artifice of Los Angeles, they wanted to keep things real, or they realized they could live like kings and queens in places where a real estate dollar buys a lot more. And, of course, they could just fly in to Hollywood or a location shoot when necessary. Jeff Daniels, improbably the star of both The Newsroom and Dumb & Dumber, cited another main factor in his decision to settle in Chelsea, Mich. (population: 4,944): fatalism. As he told the Going Gonzo Show podcast in 2014 (via Michigan Live), he "honestly didn’t think the career would last."
"We’re all, you know … now it’s Tuesday and you call your agent, ‘I hate to tell you, but your career is over,’" he said. "You keep waiting for that call. When it’s over, why don’t we just be home?"
And, on that note, Daniels moved his family to Chelsea in 1986, shortly after his big-screen breakthrough in The Purple Rose of Cairo. Why Chelsea? Both Daniels and his wife, Kathleen, were raised there. While he heads to New York or Los Angeles when necessary, Daniels has kept close to home as founder of the Purple Rose Theatre Company.
Letterman took his CBS money and headed north
Since leaving behind the grind of hosting an hour-long late-night network talk show five days a week in 2015, David Letterman disappeared for a while, spending time with his wife and young son and growing an epically long, gray, scraggly beard — the kind a hermit or man lost in the woods for a decade would grow. Actually, Letterman does kind of live out in the sticks, so the beard works.
In 2002, he sold his massive mansion in New Canaan, Conn. — complete with a four-car garage, heated pool, and tennis court — for $1.1 million and moved to another property he’d purchased which was even bigger. Letterman’s 89-acre estate in North Salem, N.Y., situated in the distant but extremely wealthy suburb of New York City, includes an 8,300-square foot house with six bedrooms and six fireplaces. Other celebrities who have held properties in the town include actor Stanley Tucci and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bonus: It’s a short drive from Paul Shaffer’s house in a nearby town. That’s a pretty high celebrity-per-capita rate for North Salem, which has a population of only about 5,100.
John Mayer sings from Paradise
When he isn’t romancing one gorgeous celebrity after another (he’s dated Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston, and Jessica Simpson, among many others), John Mayer is taking the stage or committing to record his personal brand of music — sensitive singer-songwriter soft-rock piped directly to those "listen at work" stations. But when he isn’t carousing his way through Hollywood or being a professional "guy at the party with an acoustic guitar," Mayer is chilling and finding inspiration back at his Montana homestead.
In early 2012, Mayer moved to a big chunk of land in Paradise Valley, Mont. His stone-and-log cabin may sit on 15 cottonwood-covered acres, but he doesn’t exactly live the existence of a monk. Mayer’s home is equipped with a recording studio, a private gym, and a driveway big enough in which to park his multiple Land Rovers (via Men’s Journal).
"I know it kind of seems like I got the place just so I could say I have a place," Mayer told Men’s Journal. "But really, it’s pure of heart. It’s not like I read a rock bio and went, ‘Oh, Neil Young, Broken Arrow Ranch.’ It just feels like a really original, organic choice." That said, he loves Paradise Valley — and his home there — so much that he named his sixth album after the place.
Chappelle showed up in Ohio
In 2005, Dave Chappelle rocked the world of entertainment when he walked away from his top-rated Comedy Central sketch series Chappelle’s Show, as well as a reported $50 million contract extension. Not only did he drop out of TV, but he seemingly dropped out of the spotlight, going into exile for months.
Where did Chappelle go? He didn’t seclude himself to a cabin in the woods or anything. He just went to places where he could clear his head far from the pressures of Hollywood and paparazzi cameras. While he went on a trip to South Africa, Chappelle also uprooted himself from Los Angeles and settled in Yellow Springs, Ohio. At the 2006 Blues, Jazz & Culture Fest in Ohio, Chapelle did some stand-up and praised his fellow Ohio residents. "Turns out you don’t need $50 million to live around these parts, just a nice smile and a kind way about you. You guys are the best neighbors ever," Chappelle said.
A Lively time in upstate New York
Impossibly attractive Hollywood power couple Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds are strongly associated with major cities thanks to their previous work. Lively is the very picture of a California lady, but it still seems weird to not see her roaming around New York City as a part of Gossip Girl. Her husband, the Green Lantern himself, is a proud Canadian and veteran of Canadian television who messes around on Twitter under the handle @VancityReynolds — he’s from Vancouver, the Hollywood of western Canada.
But when they’re not making movies and TV shows, the duo rest their good-looking bones far from any metropolis in the village of Pound Ridge in upstate New York. The 5,000 or so locals in the Westchester County town report seeing both famous movie stars going about their business and running errands, including frequent kids-free lunch dates at the local hotspot, the Inn at Pound Ridge. While paparazzi don’t mess with Pound Ridge, the residents will sometimes drop info to entertainment news media. "Blake looks great these days," one resident told E! News in 2016, shortly after Lively gave birth. "She hasn’t lost all the baby weight yet, but it doesn’t matter. She looks beautiful."
Taking it to the Streeps (of Salisbury, Conn.)
Meryl Streep is the biggest movie star in the world, or, at least, she’s the most awarded. She’s got three Oscars (more than any living performer) and 21 Oscar acting nominations (more than anybody else ever). She’s a master thespian, and she is obviously devoted to her craft. She’s also someone who has never gotten caught up in all the extras of celebrity life, such as clubbing, partying, and all-around scandal-making. Streep needs and wants her peace and quiet for a variety of reasons, and the lovely town of Salisbury, Conn. gives her exactly that.
Streep first landed in the town of 3,600 people back in 1975. Just out of Yale Drama School, she scored her first professional gig in the town — acting in five plays over the course of six weeks for a playwriting conference. Something about the town charmed Streep — perhaps it was the old-fashioned Main Street or the still up-and-running general store — because she’s kept a home in Salisbury for years.
Zach, Zach, he’s a rural life maniac
Stand-up comedian, The Hangover saving grace, and Baskets star Zach Galifianakis was born and raised in North Carolina. After growing up in Wilkesboro, he attended North Carolina State University in Raleigh before embarking on his successful if quirky career. (He’s still got a slight Southern drawl to his voice, which he plays up when he plays characters like his fictional twin, Seth Galifianakis, or Dale Baskets on Baskets.)
While he has to spend a lot of time in California shooting movies and TV shows and in whatever distant locale in which his latest movie is set — not to mention his weeks on the road touring stand-up clubs — Galifianakis never quite left North Carolina. It’s where he calls home when he’s off the clock. He owns a 60-acre farm in rural northeastern Alleghany County, home of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Galifianakis hopes to someday convert the property into a writers’ retreat.
A not very wild or crazy existence in North Carolina
In the 1970s, Steve Martin revolutionized stand-up comedy with his brainy, often meta routines … and filled venues in the process. The celeb walked away from the game in 1981, before his act could get stale, and, since then, he has found wild success in pretty much every random thing he’s tried. For example, he’s starred in both comedy films like Bowfinger and dramas like A Simple Twist of Fate; he’s written plays, novels, and a Broadway musical; he fronts a bluegrass band called the Steep Canyon Rangers; and he even finds the time to collect art.
Martin hasn’t had the traditional career of a comedian, and the fact that he doesn’t live in Hollywood matches up with that. Actually, Martin was raised in La La Land — he grew up in the L.A. area and worked at Disneyland as a teenager. He also wrote for TV shows like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late ’60s. So, he did the L.A. thing and got it out of his system long ago. Today he makes his home in Brevard, a small town in western North Carolina with less than 8,000 people. It’s also not far from the metropolis of Asheville, which is where the rest of Martin’s band is based.