50 Best Places to Live in the United States
Home is where the heart—and the affordable houses and the best jobs—are. From the cities with the most stunning scenery to those with booming economies, these are the 50 best places to live in the United States according to U.S. News and World Report.
If yinz (that’s Pittsburgh-slang for “y’all”) love sports, Steel City might be your spot. Not only did WalletHub recently rank it as the best city for football fans but it also has the second-highest percentage of championship wins among its professional sports teams of any city.
Kansas City, Missouri
Buying a new home in Kansas City won’t break the bank thanks to its incredibly affordable housing prices, which come in a cool 25 percent below the national average. And all that money you save can be spent on what’s really important in the nation’s most central big city: authentic KC barbecue slathered in spicy sauce. Psst: We can guess where you’re from based on your favorite food.
Rolling farmlands? Check. Quaint suburbs? Check. Bustling downtown? Check. No matter what lifestyle you prefer, you can find it in Lancaster. One of the city’s hidden gems, though, is its art scene, spotlighted on First Fridays, when all of the galleries, studios, and museums on Gallery Row open their doors for a night of live performances and stunning exhibitions.
“Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief.” That’s what Mark Twain had to say about Hartford, where he and his wife lived during the 19th century. And Connecticut’s capital city, with a river running through it and plenty of parks, is still gorgeous and has a charming college-town vibe with the University of Hartford, Trinity College, and the University of St. Joseph all located within its borders.
Knoxville isn’t just one of the best places for people to live—it’s also one of the best for pups to live, too. With plenty of pet-approved activities like “yappy hours” and canine cafes along with seven dog parks and the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville was voted the Most Dog-Friendly City in the Southeast by Dog Fancy Magazine. Just make sure you follow these weird dog laws you probably didn’t even know existed.
Charleston, South Carolina
The definition of charming, Charleston has topped plenty of “best places” lists throughout the years—and for good reason. There’s the food (fried chicken! shrimp and grits! she-crab soup!), the beautiful beaches, the rich colonial history and mild year-round temperatures (the average high in January is still 59 degrees). And of course, there’s that good old Southern hospitality, which earned it a spot on our list of the nicest places in the United States.
Big city meets small town. That’s what you’ll get in the capital of Pennsylvania, which has the perks of a major metropolis including an impressive entertainment district, a solid healthcare system, and a thriving economy. At the same time, its tree-lined trails, affordable housing, and friendliness of its residents make it feel more like a small town than other east coast cities. On that note, these are the most charming tiny towns in each state.
Manchester, New Hampshire
The largest city in New Hampshire, Manchester is also a great place for employees, voted the seventh-best metropolitan area for income growth by the Equality of Opportunity Project. And you’ll be able to save some of that money, too since New Hampshire doesn’t have a state sales tax.
Need more space? You’ll have plenty in Jacksonville, which happens to be the largest city in the United States at a whopping 840 square miles. And the majority of that is pretty parks filled with lush greenery and gardens, as the Florida city is home to the country’s biggest urban park system—111,000 acres! They make for the perfect place for al fresco dining.
You won’t need help getting your 10,000 steps per day if you live in Lansing. The city prides itself on its walkability, with miles of bike and foot trails winding through the downtown area. The most popular is the boardwalk that runs along the river and connects Michigan State University to the rest of the city, which benefits from the Big 10 school’s ample resources and amenities.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
No pro sports teams, no problem! Fort Wayne was declared the best city for minor league sports in the country, which is best enjoyed with a side of the town’s notoriously juicy ribs. And come the weekend, you’ll have your pick of Sunday morning services to attend—Fort Wayne, also known as the City of Churches, has over 360 to choose from and one of the highest concentrations of religious people in the country.
While Cincinnati is headquarters for nine Fortune 500 companies (including Procter & Gamble and Kroger Co.), big business isn’t the only thing booming in the Ohio city. It’s also experiencing a resurgence of culture and revamped neighborhoods, like the uber trendy Over the Rhine, which was once a run-down area that has been transformed into a hip hub of shopping, upscale living, and acclaimed eateries.
Rush hour begone! In Indianapolis, which was ranked one of the 20 best cities for commuters by Forbes, you’re never more than 25 minutes from the center of downtown. It isn’t just easy to get around Indianapolis itself—it’s also easy to get out of for a quick day trip. The “Crossroads of America” is the hub of several major interstates connecting you to St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville, and more.
Not only is Pensacola home to the U.S. Naval Air Station (making it a draw for military families and government employees), it’s also home to some of the most stunning natural scenery, from white sandy beaches to crystal clear waters to Spanish moss-lined streets. Ready to plan your own fun-in-the-sun vacay? These are the 12 best beaches in America.
This California city is like the Goldilocks of weather: not too hot, not too cold. With the most “pleasant” days per year than any other city (San Diego has 261 days of sunshine and temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees F), it’s one of the most temperate places in the United States, so you’ll be able to enjoy its beautiful beaches and scenic hiking trails along the coast.
Fort Myers, Florida
With the highest migration rate in the country at 12 percent, more people than ever are flocking to Fort Myers, the beachside town on the Gulf of Mexico. And its increasing popularity has also earned it the title of America’s number one growing city, making it a great location for entrepreneurs and small business owners alike.
The deliciousness that is authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, the vibrant history, the gorgeous River Walk… there are plenty of reasons to love San Antonio. But perhaps the biggest perk is that Texas is one of the few states that doesn’t collect income tax so you’ll be taking home more money at the end of the day.
Reno’s self-proclaimed nickname, the “Biggest Little City in the World,” says it all. Because along with a close-knit community, you’ll be neighbors to tech giants like Tesla and Google who both have moved into Reno’s booming industrial area. Quickly becoming Nevada’s own Silicon Valley, Reno has benefitted from the digital boom, pushing its unemployment rate to the lowest in the entire state.
If it’s good enough for Warren Buffett, it’s good enough for anyone, right? The billionaire grew up in Omaha, which has often been named one of the most affordable cities in the United States. In fact, a Yahoo Finance study found that when comparing the cost of living to the average salary, Omaha residents keep more than 71 percent of their income in their pockets.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
“The City of Arts and Innovation” has been one of North Carolina’s most progressive metropolitan areas over the past few years due to its revitalized Innovation Quarter featuring the state’s top biomedical research and technology park. And with historic Old Salem and art galleries galore, the walkable downtown area even landed on Forbes‘ list of the 14 best places to travel in the United States in 2019.
Jobs, jobs, and, well, more jobs. That’s what you’ll find in Houston, which was the country’s best city for job creation a few years ago, adding an average of two jobs for every job lost during the 2008 recession. That trend continues today thanks to a thriving economy and the fact that the Texas city houses the world’s largest medical center.
There’s more to Lexington than just picturesque farms and equestrians. The Horse Capital of the World also receives high marks for its education, with its school system ranked seventh in the country, and its local government, which is so involved and dedicated to improving the city that Lexington was dubbed one of America’s most well-run cities.
Albany, New York
Many young people may head to NYC to chase their dreams—but if you want a successful career, you should really consider Albany instead. The state’s capital was named one of the best cities for college grads with its growing young adult population and abundant job opportunities. And if you live in New York, you may want to be an anesthesiologist, based on this list of the highest-paying jobs in every state.
If it isn’t the passionate sports fans, the fresh seafood, or the delicious water (seriously, Boston was voted as having the tastiest tap water in the United States!) that win you over to this Massachusetts must-visit, then it must be the great quality of life. Deutsche Bank ranked Boston eighth in the world in terms of quality of life, making it the highest American city on the list.
Whether you want to chow down on some street tacos, hike the red rock canyons, or simply bask in the 300-plus sunny days that Phoenix is known for, the city is full of delicious food and exciting outdoor adventures. An added bonus for homeowners is the state’s very low property tax.
When it comes to the best places to live by the beach, Melbourne beat out major cities like San Diego and Honolulu to take the number one spot. And the sun and sand aren’t its only attraction—Melbourne is also the center of the Space Coast with Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center so there’s a lot of job growth and cutting-edge technology in the area. Psst: These are the Florida beaches that locals want to keep secret.
Salt Lake City
There aren’t many places that boast the beautiful views that Salt Lake City does, with snowy slopes and gurgling rivers. Voted the country’s number one hiking city by National Geographic, Utah’s capital also has a higher percentage of kids than other places, making it the ultimate family-friendly locale. For more outdoor excursions, check out the 20 best hikes across America.
Named Bon Appetit‘s 2018 Restaurant City of the Year, Portland is a foodie’s paradise, with more eateries per capita than any other city in America. And you can raise a glass to that since the Maine metropolis is also the number one spot for beer drinkers with the most breweries per capita (even more than Portland, Oregon!). Bonus: Portland scored #1 on our list of the cleanest cities in America. By the way, if you love to chow down, take a trip to one of the world’s top 10 foodie cities.
Greenville, South Carolina
Thanks to the revival of its art and culture scene, Greenville made Forbes‘ list of the best downtowns in America. Browse the world’s largest public collection of watercolor paintings, attend one of the 300-plus events the city hosts every year (like Artisphere or Euphoria Greenville with live music and wine tastings) or party all night at one of Greenville’s vibrant nightlife venues.
Everything really is bigger in Texas, especially in Dallas. The Southern city is not only bursting with American pride, football fans, and all the barbecue you can eat, it’s also consistently ranked one of the best places in the United States for job creation and economic growth. Fun fact: Dallas was chosen as one of the cities with the coolest street art so keep an eye out for mural masterpieces.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Did you know that Charlotte is actually the country’s second-largest banking city behind New York? With so many financial institutions located in North Carolina’s capital, it’s grown exponentially over the last few years, with an average of 109 people moving to Charlotte each day in 2016. And as hard as Charlotteans work, they play hard, too. The city is a mecca for professional sports like the NFL’s Panthers and the NBA’s Hornets.
The question isn’t what does Washington, D.C. have to offer but rather what doesn’t it have to offer. The nation’s capital, besides being a major worldwide hub for business and politics, also has some of the best food, the best schools, the best museum…the list goes on and on. It’s especially great if you’re a woman—according to one study, D.C. is the top metropolitan area for women with its female residents more successful and making more money than those in any other city.
Anyone and everyone is welcome in the beautiful beachside paradise that is Sarasota but where the Florida city really makes its mark is with the 50-plus crowd. Its been ranked the third best city to retire in the whole country, likely thanks to its variety of cultural attractions and entertainment and affordable housing. Here are 15 of the other top retirement spots around the world.
Boise is the type of place you could leave your door unlocked without a worry. Located in one of the nation’s overall safest states, Boise itself was also dubbed the seventh safest city in the entire world with its almost non-existent crime rate and a safety index in the 80s.
Asheville, North Carolina
Come for the stunning Blue Ridge Mountain vistas, stay for the quirky culture. Among the thriving small businesses (Asheville is notorious for its “shop local” mantra), you’ll find plenty of artisan crafts and galleries along with an abundance of vegan and vegetarian fare.
Let’s be honest: While Nashville does have a great economy and climate for new businesses, people aren’t moving to Music City for that. They’re moving there for the eclectic atmosphere abuzz with creative energy, live music, and an almost unparalleled food scene.
San Jose, California
Think Los Angeles is the place to live in California? No way, (San) Jose! The capital of Silicon Valley is not only a mecca of tech and business (its been voted one of the happiest places to work in the country!) but it’s also home to charming residential neighborhoods and all the outdoor activities you could dream of. If you want to get away—to San Jose or elsewhere—these are the best weekend escapes in the United States.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Why did Forbes deem Grand Rapids one of America’s most up-and-coming cities? Well, we can think of a few reasons—namely its awesome arts scene (Grand Rapids was actually the first city to ever install public art in the United States), its affinity for craft beer and outdoor recreation, and that amazing thing called Midwestern hospitality.
Everyone wants to feel safe and secure in the city that they live in. And residents of Madison definitely feel that way since their city was determined to be the most secure large metropolitan area in the country by Farmers Insurance. Madison’s low violent crime rate and low unemployment rate, along with its citizens’ long life expectancies, boosted it to the top of the list.
To put it simply, Huntsville is literally out-of-this-world thanks to its longstanding NASA roots and the ever-popular Space Camp. But there’s even more that makes the Alabama escape so appealing—like the fact that the average housing prices are lower than the national average while the average salaries are higher.
Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
Tree-lined streets and friendly residents make North Carolina’s capital feel like the quaint hideaway of your Southern dreams. But don’t be fooled into thinking Raleigh is a small town. Its crowning glory is actually Research Triangle Park, the triad of nearby cities on the forefront of cutting-edge technology, which means jobs, economic growth, and business opportunities aplenty.
Here’s something you may not know about Seattle: it was only the second American city to be named a UNESCO City of Literature, making it one of Expedia’s top literary destinations. And besides being book lovers, Seattle residents also appreciate the gorgeous backdrop of the Pacific coast and snow-capped mountains while sipping the state’s beloved drink of choice: coffee naturally.
One of the fittest cities in America, Portland is known for its love of all things green, from hiking trails to sustainability to farmers markets galore. Along with being the city that consumes the second-most amount of vegetables, it’s also made bucket lists for its craft breweries—Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world.
The cost of living in San Francisco, just outside of Silicon Valley, might be one of the highest in the country—but so is the money you’ll be making. The California city has both the highest income growth and the highest monthly average starting salary of all U.S. cities. Beyond that, San Francisco is also America’s greenest city, primarily due to its law that requires residents to recycle.
With over 200 miles of trails crisscrossing through the city (furnished with rental bikes for cyclists), 22 crystal clear lakes, and nearly 200 parks, Minneapolis is a little-known haven for outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, the “City of Lakes” was voted the healthiest city in the United States earlier this year. On the flip side, these are America’s least healthy cities.
Des Moines, Iowa
The heartland is, well, capturing the hearts of many Americans, specifically millennials, who are flocking to Des Moines. That’s likely because it was named the best city for young homebuyers, with the average house costing over $40,000 less than the national average. And with its location in the center of the Silicon Prairie and its staggeringly low unemployment rate, it’s the perfect place to lay down roots.
Most people know Fayetteville as the birthplace of Walmart, which of course it is, but the Arkansas city, with its small-town vibe, is so much more than that, too. Tucked away in the picturesque Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville offers plenty of community parks and playgrounds for kids and adults to get outside, along with state parks for exploring. If you want more adventures, here are the best off-the-beaten-path national parks.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is the definition of a family-friendly city. It has some of the highest-ranked school systems in the country along with affordable housing (compared to the rest of the state), a relaxed vibe, and plenty of outdoor physical activities for kids to get involved in. And if you want to take the kiddos on a vacation this year, check out this list of the best family travel destinations in each state.
In a state as naturally beautiful as Colorado, it isn’t surprising that another of its cities made the top three. Denver boasts year-round outdoor attractions from soaking up the sunshine and live music at Red Rocks Amphitheater in the summer to skiing down the snowy slopes in the winter. And as it’s quickly transforming into one of the country’s trendiest cities, the Mile-High City is becoming more and more of a hotspot for foodies, beer lovers, and artists alike.
Texans have long known that Austin is America’s best-kept secret—but now it’s official for the second year in a row. The state capital, renowned for its live music and cowboy culture, is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities thanks to its booming startup scene and growing tech industry. Find out the coolest secret location in your state.