Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

Some cities score well because of the number of dining options, as is the case with Evanston, Illinois. The city is part of Cook County, which also includes Chicago. This provides Evanston residents with easy access to nearly 9,000 restaurants and more than 900 bars.

Sports teams can also be a big draw. Bellevue, Washington, which ranked as the second best city to live in, is located near Seattle — home to Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners, Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, and the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

Commuting times can also influence where people live. Proximity to larger metro areas makes getting to work faster. In 34 of the best cities, the average commute time was below the national average of 26 minutes. Additionally, in 10 of these cities, residents both walk and take public transportation in greater proportions than the national average rates, both of which reduce traffic and have the potential to make commuting more pleasant.

Most Americans have to make tradeoffs when choosing where they live. Many of the best cities are expensive when judged by the national cost of living, an index that compares the cost of a basket of consumer goods in cities across the U.S. However, cost of living varies widely by region. When the best cities are compared to their state, a majority are no more than 20% more expensive than the state’s average cost of living.

Many of the best cities are located near major cities, as this proximity provides residents with access to good schools while living in safe neighborhoods. It also allows them to enjoy the amenities available in the nearby larger cities.

Perhaps surprisingly, none of America’s largest cities are on this list. There is no New York, Los Angeles, or Houston among the best places to live. Nearly all of the biggest cities in the country by population had crime rates that automatically excluded them from consideration. Additionally, more than half of these cities had poverty rates above 21.1%, or 33% above the national rate, making them ineligible.

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