Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

City street in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

20. Alexandria, Virginia
> Population: 153,511
> Median home value: $541,700
> Poverty rate: 9.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 59.8%

Like many of the best cities, Alexandria is located within commuting distance of a major city. While living in safer neighborhoods, Alexandria residents have access to Washington D.C.’s good schools and amenities. The nation’s capital is also home to some of the nation’s highest paying jobs, which likely accounts for the relatively high incomes in Alexandria. Although when adjusting for the cost of living, median household income in the city drops from over $90,000 a year to $65,211 a year, it is still well above the national annual median income.

Alexandria also appears to be an appealing destination for Americans seeking to relocate. Over the five years through 2015, the city’s population growth rate of 8.9% was more than double the national five-year population growth rate of 3.9%.

Holland Lake Scenic in Eagan, Minnesota
Source: Thinkstock

19. Eagan, Minnesota
> Population: 66,288
> Median home value: $260,600
> Poverty rate: 5.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 48.6%

Eagan is a wealthy suburb of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The typical Eagan household earns $78,417 annually, far more than the $63,488 median annual household income across Minnesota. Just 2.9% of the Eagan workforce is unemployed, one of the lowest unemployment rates of any city in the country. Some of the top employers in the area are mass media and information firm Thomson Reuters, health insurance company BlueCross/BlueShield, and the U.S. Postal Service. The three companies together account for nearly 13,000 jobs in Eagan. Many in Eagan likely work in the Twin Cities, located just across the Minnesota River.

While Eagan residents benefit from easy access to the economic opportunities and cultural venues of a large metropolis, they are less exposed to its higher crime rate. Violent crime is nearly 10 times more common in St. Paul and 14 times more common in Minneapolis than it is in Eagan.

Longmont Barn, Colorado
Source: Thinkstock

18. Longmont, Colorado
> Population: 92,221
> Median home value: $282,800
> Poverty rate: 13.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 38.4%

Longmont is located along the Front Range, a region in Colorado that contains the state’s largest cities and runs north to south along Interstate 25. The proximity to the Boulder and Denver metropolitan areas allows Longmont residents access to an array of job opportunities. Approximately three in four workers living in Longmont commute outside of the city for work.

While many Longmont residents enjoy the occupational opportunities and amenities of neighboring Boulder, they are spared the high cost of real estate. The price of a typical home in Longmont is $282,800, less than half the price of the typical home in Boulder of $583,600.

Centennial, Colorado
Source: Wikimedia Commons

17. Centennial, Colorado
> Population: 109,726
> Median home value: $369,800
> Poverty rate: 3.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 55.6%

Residents of Centennial, a midsize city of 110,000 people, enjoy some of the highest quality of life of any U.S. city. Just 3.6% of the Centennial workforce is unemployed, far less than the 5.3% national unemployment rate. Many Centennial residents are likely work in Denver, the largest city in Colorado, which is within commuting distance.

While Centennial lacks the number amenities of its larger neighbor, it is far safer and more affordable. There were 126 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Centennial in 2015, a fraction of the 674 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Denver residents. In addition lower crime rates, Centennial residents earn higher incomes and enjoy a lower cost of living than their counterparts in the capital city. The difference in housing costs are particularly stark. Centennial residents pay an average of about 3.6% less on housing than the typical American, while in Denver, housing is 27.4% more expensive than the nationwide average.

St. Peter's church, Danbury, Connecticut
Source: Thinkstock

16. Danbury, Connecticut
> Population: 84,662
> Median home value: $279,400
> Poverty rate: 14.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.2%

Danbury residents enjoy plenty of cultural venues and amenities. For every 100,000 city residents, there are 263 restaurants, about 100 more eating options than are available for the average 100,000 Americans. There are also 22 fitness and recreational areas per 100,000 Danbury residents, more than double the national number.

As is the case across Connecticut, Danbury residents are relatively wealthy, but living in the city can be expensive. In fact, Danbury is one of only a handful of the best U.S. cities to live with a the high cost of living — prices are 30% higher than national average prices.

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