A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

These Are the 15 Best Places to Move to in the U.S. (Before They Get Too Crowded)

These fascinating small cities and burgeoning big towns across the United States offer great green spaces, myriad recreational opportunities, thriving downtowns, and active local communities—not to mention reasonable real estate prices—making them the perfect destinations to set up house and put down roots. But hurry, it's only a matter of time before they get discovered (and overcrowded and overpriced).

1 / 15
Fort Wayne Indiana
Travis Eckert/Shutterstock

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Although you may not have heard of this sweet spot in the Midwest, Food & Wine recently designated Fort Wayne one of the nation’s “hipster hotspots” for it’s up and coming food scene, and a new LendingTree study found it to be one of the “Most Popular Cities for Millenial Buyers.” Even with these accolades though, it’s still very much flying under-the-radar, meaning it’s affordable to purchase a home here, and there are a plethora of other attractions, including the nation’s top-ranked minor-league baseball park, a booming brewery scene, award-winning chefs, and cool music scene (it’s even nicknamed the “Midwest Music City”).

2 / 15
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA downtown across the Tennessee River.
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Chattanooga, Tennesee

Twice voted “Best Town Ever” by Outside Magazine, Chattanooga is also one of MagnifyMoney’s top 10 “Best Cities to Be Young and Broke,” attracting a youthful influx of new residents who are interested in the live music, flavorful and diverse cuisine, eclectic art scenes, and stunning nearby natural areas. The city has gone through what it’s calling a “glow-up” over the past few years, with the development of hotels and new restaurants and attractions. The city’s entertainment hub, home to the recently restored Chattanooga Choo Choo Complex, houses attractions including Songbirds Guitar Museum and The Comedy Catch, and other popular attractions like Rocky City Gardens, Ruby Falls, Bluff View Arts District, and Tennessee Aquarium. These are the best-kept secrets in every state.

3 / 15
Tupelo Mississippi
Richard Gardner/Shutterstock

Tupelo, Mississippi

Historically famous as the birthplace of Elvis, the small northeastern Mississippi city of Tupelo is now also known as an amazing place to live. Forming a triangle with Memphis and Nashville, Tupelo shares a lot of similarities with the two booming cities—including an incredible musical scene, culinary hot spots, and rich history—but unlike its two unchecked growth neighbors to the north, Tupelo has retained all of its character, charm, and, happily, low prices. Here are the best small towns to retire.

4 / 15
Man riding his bike on the Monon Greenway Trail in Carmel, Indiana.

Carmel, Indiana

Located just 30 minutes north of Indianapolis in Hamilton County, Carmel was ranked one of the best places to live in the nation by Town & Country for its picturesque setting, top-rated schools, charming mom-and-pop shops, and bustling artistic community. With a population under 90,000, the small city features a variety of life-enriching activities including the Carmel Arts & Design District; The Center for the Performing Arts with internationally-renowned concert hall, The Palladium; and hundreds of miles of walking/biking trails including the Monon Trail, a pedestrian highway for cyclists, runners and dog walkers alike. Carmel also made it onto our list of the best small cities to live in America.

5 / 15
Ann Arbor Michigan
Susan Montgomery/Shutterstock

Ann Arbor, Michigan

If you’re looking for the quintessential main street, Ann Arbor should be at the top of your list; it’s actually where Bob Seger grew up and the charming Midwestern town is what his “Mainstreet” song is about. Ann Arbor also offers a unique blend of Midwestern rural charm and cosmopolitan urban offerings, including great live music venues and top museums. It’s a college town—home to the University of Michigan, one of the eight original “public Ivies,” and nearby Ypsilanti is home to Eastern Michigan University—which offers another layer of unique cultural attractions, shopping, fine dining, and nightlife. Find out 20 of the most beautiful Main Streets in America.

6 / 15
Penn State Nittany Lion
K. Jensen/Shutterstock

State College, Pennsylvania

One of the fastest growing, most educated, and safest college towns in America, Forbes named State College the third best college town in America and ranked it highly for business and careers, noting its below-national-average cost of living. Maybe even a bigger draw: Psychology Today declared State College to be one of the least stressful places to live in the entire country. Located in Central Pennsylvania, the region, often called “Happy Valley,” is surrounded by some of the country’s top outdoor hiking, biking, and fly-fishing experiences. From the natural wonders of Penn’s Cave, the country’s only all-water cavern to the unassuming Columbus Chapel, which houses the most significant collection of Christopher Columbus artifacts in North America, State College is a four-season destination with outdoor adventure, world-class culture, unexpected history, and storied local traditions.

7 / 15
Sunset in Rockford, Illinois, USA.
Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock

Rockford, Illinois

Just 90 minutes west of Chicago, Rockford’s small-town charm and unsuspecting, cultural, culinary, and outdoors spaces make it a fun, noteworthy destination for those looking for a truly off-the-beaten-path experience. Among its many charms, you can spend time at one of the nation’s oldest internet cafes, wakeboard at a cable-run wake park, and stroll through one of North America’s top Japanese gardens. Early settlers dubbed Rockford “Forest City,” and nearby are more than 10,000 acres of natural land for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and kayaking. The town also recently launched a new convention center, and it’s home to nearly a dozen museums, including the top-ranked family Discovery Center.

8 / 15
Rancho Santa Margarita Lake, Orange County, California. USA

Santa Margarita, California

California dreaming at its finest, this rural community is a stomping ground for acclaimed farm-to-table dining, wine tasting, and craft beer. Santa Margarita Lake offers a chance to explore by boat or kayak, and the quaint downtown area offers a true small-town feel with quiet cafes, friendly artisans, and local boutiques. Santa Margarita is located just 15 minutes from the more well-known city of San Luis Obispo (offering all the perks of a larger city) and 20 minutes from the Pacific Ocean. Warm spring and summer days are cooled by coastal evening breezes, making Santa Margarita a fantastic place to truly enjoy the picturesque landscape.

9 / 15
Salt Lake City skyline Utah at night

Salt Lake City, Utah

According to a new LendingTree study, the youngest business founders in the country can be found in Salt Lake City. The area, known as “Silicon Slopes,” encompasses the Salt Lake City metropolitan area and nearby cities; it is home to billion-dollar tech companies such as Overstock.com, PluralSight, and Qualtrics. It’s easy, however, to get away from the new booming businesses; just five minutes away are several hiking trailheads and there are six ski resorts within a 45- to 60-minute drive, you can even see the dramatic mountains from pretty much any spot in the city. Downtown is walkable, boasts great restaurants (including one of the best sushi spots in the country) and has a surprising amount of culture for what was once considered the “Wild West” including Ballet West.

10 / 15
View of Kansas City, Missouri skyline at dawn during golden light from the Kansas City Scout Memorial with all registered trademarks removed.

Kansas City

Although it may be best well know as a spot to find the best barbecue and jazz around, there are plenty of exciting happenings in this charming Midwest city that make it attractive as a place to move to. Running daily through downtown, the KC Streetcar is modern, sleek, and a totally free form of public transportation that can take you to some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods including Power & Light and Crossroads Arts District, all while you stay connected with complimentary Wi-Fi. KC was named one of the most exciting food cities in America by Zagat last year and it’s also the first Google Fiber City, but compared to other up and coming cities, Kansas City is still priced very reasonably. Find out 15 of the most underrated U.S. cities worth a visit.

11 / 15
Burlington VT
Eric Pasqualli/Shutterstock

Burlington, Vermont

Located in this scenic oasis, a small, burgeoning creative city located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, are diverse opportunities for recreational activities and arts and cultural experiences and a wide array of business resources for young entrepreneurs looking to set down roots. Around every corner of Burlington lies another tasty spot to eat and drink; or enjoy a low key Sunday at the year-round Farmers Market (indoors in the winter of course). Burlington also has a lively social scene and boasts numerous breweries including Magic Hat, (Vermont is actually home to the country’s highest concentration of craft breweries per capita). Burlington is in the top ten on Forbes’ list of the most innovative tech hubs in the United States and number 12 on Livability’s list of best cities for entrepreneurs. And did we mention the excellent skiing, rolling mountains, and expansive greenery? These are the nicest small towns in America to visit before you turn 50.

12 / 15
Mid-Hudson Bridge crossing the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York
Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

Poughkeepsie, New York

A new energy is fueling the Hudson riverfront City of Poughkeepsie, bolstered by people and businesses captivated by the new urbanism of the upstate New York town. The city, with its great transportation options, is a draw for commuters to Manhattan, who enjoy the open-spaces and affordable housing options offered here. There’s plenty to keep them in Poughkeepsie though, with a new downtown revitalization that includes artist studio space, cafes and coffee shops, and the Walkway Over the Hudson, a recreation area with spectacular views down the Hudson River.

13 / 15
Lake view homes Georgetown , Texas Aerial drone view above suburb development with amazing view of Georgetown Lake and surround Texas Hill Country with homes and houses
Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

Georgetown, Texas

A quick 25-minute drive north of Austin lies one of the coolest small cities you never heard of. Georgetown is the first town in the southern United States and the second in the nation to shift to 100 percent renewable energy as of 2018. It’s also home to one of the best-preserved Victorian and Pre-WW1 downtown historic districts. It’s quickly becoming discovered, and was named the fastest growing city in the United States in the population category of 50,000+, and is known for having The Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.” It has a number of attractions from Inner Space Caverns, the Blue Hole swimming hot spot, 9-mile hike and bike trail and Challenge Course to its Annual Red Poppy Festival, and Palace Theater.

14 / 15
Reno Tahoe Nevada
Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Reno Tahoe, Nevada

Included in National Geographic Traveler’s 2017 list of Cities on the Rise, Reno Tahoe is cool, quirky, underrated, and still affordable. It offers access to the largest alpine lake and calls itself the ‘biggest little city in the world.” Reno Tahoe is a year-round destination, in addition to its ample outdoor recreation opportunities, it’s also becoming a tech center housing Tesla, Apple, Google, and other tech giants. The city’s economic growth has spurred a turnover in Reno Tahoe’s arts and culture scene. Check out the most charming small-town bed and breakfast in every state.

15 / 15
Templeton CA

Templeton, California

Templeton prides itself in retaining its historic small-town character. This pleasant town is known for joyful festivities, vibrant parades, and a growing craft beer and wine industry. Surrounded by rich agricultural land, Templeton is still very much an old-fashioned neighborhood, and proud of it. Small businesses attract visitors to a quaint Main Street district with a large array of dining options, antique stores, and acclaimed wine tasting rooms. Downtown Templeton is a fast ten-minute drive to the more well-known town of Paso Robles, home to over 200 wineries, olive oil farms, annual festivals and events including the California Mid-State Fair.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches and everything in between.