Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

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There are nearly 20,000 villages, towns, and cities, across the nearly 3.8 million square miles that comprise the United States. More than 1-in-10 Americans move each year, and suffice it to say, when it comes to choosing a place to settle down, they have options.

For many, deciding on a place to call home is influenced by subjective or personal variables like climate, proximity to friends and family, or a job opportunity. For those with greater flexibility, however, there are dozens of objective factors to consider, as overall quality of life can vary considerably from town to town and city to city.

In an ideal community, the streets are safe and those who want a job have little difficulty finding one. An ideal city is also an affordable one, a place where residents can keep more of their disposable income. A range of transportation options and easy access to entertainment and cultural attractions can also improve quality of life.

24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of over two-dozen measures to identify the best American cities to live in. The communities on this list span the country from coast to coast but are disproportionately concentrated in the Midwest.

Though every city on this list is relatively small — home to fewer than 25,000 people — many are located within a major metropolitan area and are well within commuting distance of a large city.

While there is no such thing as a perfect city, the advantages of living in the cities on this list largely outweigh any drawbacks. Not all cities are created equal — and these are the best American cities to live in.

For comparison purposes, boroughs, census designated places, cities, towns, and villages were all considered. To avoid geographic clustering, only the top ranking community in a given county was included on this list. We only reviewed communities with at least 8,000 residents.

Click here to see the best cities to live in.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Andrew Filer from Seattle (ex-Minneapolis) / Wikimedia Commons

50. Williston, North Dakota
> Population: 23,902
> 5 yr. population change: +65.5% (top 10%)
> Median home value: $223,800 (top 20%)
> Median household income: $90,875

Williston, North Dakota, is a modern day boom town, one of many cities in the state rapidly transformed by oil extraction. People are flooding into Willison and other nearby towns at a high rate. Over the past five years, Williston’s population exploded by 65.5%.

Due in part to the oil boom, the city’s five-year average unemployment rate of just 2.2% is well below the average U.S. unemployment rate of 7.4% over the same time. Many of the jobs in the area are also high paying as Williston’s median household income of $90,875 is well above the $55,322 national median household income.

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49. Grove City, Pennsylvania
> Population: 8,170
> 5 yr. population change: -1.7% (bottom 20%)
> Median home value: $119,400
> Median household income: $44,310

Like many communities on this list, Grove City’s high quality of life is supported by a strong job market. Over the last five years, the city’s average unemployment stood at just 2.3%, less than a third of the comparable national unemployment rate. Among the area’s largest employers are a General Electric engine plant and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Grove City residents also have a wide range of entertainment options and cultural amenities. The population-adjusted concentration of venues like restaurants, movie theatres, libraries, and golf courses is far greater in Grove City than is typical nationwide.

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

48. Snyder, Texas
> Population: 11,541
> 5 yr. population change: +4.4%
> Median home value: $87,500 (bottom 10%)
> Median household income: $50,325

Snyder, Texas, was originally known as “Hide Town” for its early buffalo-hide dwellings, and “Robber’s Roost” for the criminals that would often pass through it in the late 19th century. After the discovery of oil in the surrounding Scurry County in 1948, the town’s population peaked to roughly 16,000 before dropping to its current level.

Though Snyder residents do not have especially high incomes — the typical household earns $50,325 a year — the area’s poverty rate of 9.3% is lower than both national and state rates. The relative lack of financial hardship is due in large part to a low cost of living. Goods and services are 11% less expensive on Snyder than they are nationwide, on average.

Source: Scott A. Miller / Wikimedia Commons

47. Storm Lake, Iowa
> Population: 10,768
> 5 yr. population change: +3.2%
> Median home value: $111,700 (bottom 20%)
> Median household income: $43,226

Storm Lake, Iowa, is one of the least expensive places to live in the country. Most American homeowners spend more than $12,000 annually on housing. In Storm Lake, most pay less than $8,000 on housing each year.

Storm Lake the city occupies the northern shore of Storm Lake. Proximity to the lake provides residents with beach access for swimming, boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The city also has a number of other outdoor amenities, including hiking and cross country ski trails, as well as campgrounds.

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46. Bridgeport, West Virginia
> Population: 8,364
> 5 yr. population change: +3.9%
> Median home value: $199,000
> Median household income: $80,462

Bridgeport is the only West Virginia city to rank among the best places to live. In Bridgeport, 45.3% of adults have graduated from college, nearly the highest share of cities in the state. The high college attainment rate has likely contributed to the town’s relatively high median household income of $80,462 a year. Not only is Bridgeport wealthy, but it is also inexpensive. Goods and services are 15% less expensive than average in the city.

When it comes to culture and entertainment, Bridgeport residents have options. The city is home to a far higher concentration of restaurants, bars, recreation centers, golf courses, and movie theatres than is typical nationwide.

Source: Stephen Walker / Wikimedia Commons

45. Hays, Kansas
> Population: 21,073
> 5 yr. population change: +3.3%
> Median home value: $161,800
> Median household income: $45,795

A healthy job market is extremely important for people considering moving to an area, both because it means they are more like to be able to earn an income, and because low unemployment is usually a sign of regional prosperity, which translates into a better tax base for the local government to draw on to improve services and infrastructure, as well as schools.

Hays has an annual unemployment rate of just 3.6%, compared to the national annual unemployment rate of 4.4%. Also, sometimes an unemployment rate can fail to represent the true employment situation, as people who give up looking for work entirely are not counted in the unemployment rate. In Hays, over 73.6% of the working age population are employed, compared to just 58.8% of all working age Americans.

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Source: Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons

44. Albert Lea, Minnesota
> Population: 17,775
> 5 yr. population change: -1.5% (bottom 20%)
> Median home value: $95,200 (bottom 20%)
> Median household income: $42,128

Albert Lea is a small Minnesota city with 17,800 residents located about 100 miles south of downtown Minneapolis. A number of Minnesota cities rank among the best cities to live, and of these, Albert Lea is by far the most affordable. Nationwide, the typical home is worth 3.3 times the national median household income. In Albert Lea, the typical home has a value of $95,200, just 2.3 times the city’s median household income of $41,128. Overall, goods and services are 19% less expensive in Albert Lea than they are nationwide on average.

Albert Lea is also safe, with one of the lowest annual violent crime rates in the country of just 85 incidents per 100,000 people, compared to a national violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000.

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43. Andover, Kansas
> Population: 12,477
> 5 yr. population change: +9.8%
> Median home value: $176,200
> Median household income: $85,230 (top 20%)

Andover is one of the wealthiest cities in Kansas. The typical Andover household earns $85,230 a year, nearly $30,000 higher than the U.S. median income. A dollar also goes a long way in Andover, as goods and services in the city are about 11% less expensive than they are on average nationwide.

This suburb of Wichita was decimated by a powerful F5 tornado in 1991, but its residents rebuilt the town, and Andover continues to thrive. Over the past five years, Andover’s population has grown nearly 10%, more than double the national population growth of 3.9%.

Source: Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons

42. Hutchinson, Minnesota
> Population: 13,891
> 5 yr. population change: -2.1% (bottom 10%)
> Median home value: $138,600
> Median household income: $52,864

Hutchinson is a relatively safe city. It’s violent crime rate of 159 incidents per 100,000 residents is less than half the U.S. violent crime rate. Like many other communities in Minnesota, Hutchinson borders several lakes, which provide residents and visitors alike with opportunities for outdoor activities like swimming. The parks department also notes that there are many nearby hiking trails.

Unlike most cities on this list, Hutchinson is not attracting new residents at a fast enough rate to grow. The town’s population fell by 2.1% in the past five years, even as the U.S. population climbed 3.9% over the same period.

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Source: gkuchera / Getty Images

41. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
> Population: 9,007
> 5 yr. population change: -1.7% (bottom 20%)
> Median home value: $136,500
> Median household income: $48,377

Sturgeon Bay is is located on the Door Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Michigan. In addition to offering residents many beautiful views of the lake, Sturgeon Bay is a great city for people interested in dining and drinking out. Relative to the population, there are roughly five times as many bars and three times as many restaurants and places to eat as is typical nationwide. Sturgeon bay also has several interesting attractions, including the Door County Maritime Museum and the Cana Island Lighthouse.

Source: Marine 69-71 / Wikimedia Commons

40. Paradise Valley, Arizona
> Population: 13,833
> 5 yr. population change: +5.6%
> Median home value: $1,332,600 (top 10%)
> Median household income: $173,487 (top 10%)

Most houses in Paradise Valley, Arizona, are worth over $1.3 million, more than seven times the U.S. median home value. Paradise Valley residents are able to afford such expensive houses because of their relatively high incomes. The typical household in the city earns $173,487 a year, one of the highest median household incomes in the country.

Paradise Valley lives up to its name as a popular destination to relax. The town is home to several resorts and a number of high end golf courses. Located just north of Phoenix and Scottsdale, it is also known for its high-end dining and nightlife.

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39. North Liberty, Iowa
> Population: 16,984
> 5 yr. population change: +35.2% (top 10%)
> Median home value: $188,400
> Median household income: $77,752

Having a job can be important to maintaining a good quality of life. Those with jobs are far less likely to live in poverty and struggle financially and otherwise. In North Liberty, virtually anyone who wants to work does so. Over the five years through 2016, the city’s unemployment rate has averaged less than 1%, compared to a national average of 7.4%. The city’s labor force participation rate of 85.3% is well above the comparable 63.5% national rate.

As a sign of the desirability of the city, North Liberty’s population has grown by 35.2% in the last five years alone, many times greater than the national growth rate of 3.9%.

Source: Jacob Boomsma / Getty Images

38. Brandon, South Dakota
> Population: 9,674
> 5 yr. population change: +13.7% (top 10%)
> Median home value: $183,000
> Median household income: $75,424

Population growth tends to indicate that an area is flourishing economically. Often, such economic strength comes with job growth. In Brandon, South Dakota, the population grew by 13.7% over the last five years, 3.5 times the national population growth over the same period.

Still, the city, located just a few miles northeast of Sioux Falls, remains relatively small, with a population of less than 10,000. As is often the case with smaller towns and cities on this list, crime is uncommon in Brandon. There were just 258 property crimes reported in the city in 2017 per 100,000 residents, less than one-ninth the national property crime rate of 2,362 per 100,000.

Source: chinaface / Getty Images

37. Snoqualmie, Washington
> Population: 12,510
> 5 yr. population change: +28.3% (top 10%)
> Median home value: $471,800 (top 10%)
> Median household income: $131,453 (top 10%)

Snoqualmie, Washington, is one of the safest places in the country. There were just 15 violent crimes for every 100,000 city residents in 2017, one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country. The town’s property crime rate of 1,077 incidents per 100,000 residents is also less than half the national rate.

Areas with higher median household incomes tend to have less crime than lower income areas. The median annual household income in Snoqualmie, which is within commuting distance of Seattle, is $131,453 a year, one of the higher incomes among American cities. In addition to the culture and entertainment Seattle has to offer, Snoqualmie has a higher than typical concentration of restaurants, bars, museums, and movie theatres.

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36. Buda, Texas
> Population: 11,936
> 5 yr. population change: +72.0% (top 10%)
> Median home value: $201,500
> Median household income: $72,020

Buda, Texas’ five year annual average unemployment rate of 4.4% is below the national figure of 7.4%. The unemployment rate only includes those who are looking for work, and the job market in Buda is even more favorable than the unemployment rate suggests. Places with healthy job markets tend to have higher labor force participation, a sign fewer people have given up looking for work. In Buda, 71.7% of the working-age population is employed, much higher than the national employment rate of 58.4% of the population.

Poverty can have wide-reaching negative effects not just on the individuals that earn low incomes, but also on entire areas. Buda has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country. Just 4.0% of the city’s population lives in poverty, compared to 15.1% of the U.S. population.

Source: Robyn Fleming / Wikimedia Commons

35. Los Alamos, New Mexico
> Population: 11,733
> 5 yr. population change: -2.9% (bottom 10%)
> Median home value: $277,700
> Median household income: $101,535 (top 20%)

The only city in New Mexico to rank among the best places to live, Los Alamos is flush with history, cultural amenities, and parks. These include a science museum, a theatre, nearly 100 public art installations, a network of over 90 miles of hiking trails, and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park — a monument to the city’s critical role in World War II and development of the atomic bomb. Los Alamos also has one of the best public high schools in New Mexico, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Many living in the area work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a facility run by the U.S. Department of Energy with a $2.6 billion budget primarily allocated to weapons development.

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Source: Ansem27. / Wikimedia Commons

34. Highland Park, Texas
> Population: 8,986
> 5 yr. population change: +4.8%
> Median home value: $1,253,600 (top 10%)
> Median household income: $189,485 (top 10%)

Highland Park, Texas, is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. The typical household earns nearly $190,000 a year, well more than triple the national median household income of $55,322 a year. Just north of downtown Dallas, Highland Park residents have easy access to employment and entertainment in a major city.

The town and surrounding area boast multiple shopping complexes, including Highland Park Village — the first planned outdoor shopping center in the United States — the Frontiers of Flight Museum, Lakeside Park and its 14 acres of trails, the Museum of Biblical Art, and the Dallas Children’s Theater.

Source: Kabir Bakie / Wikimedia Commons

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