These Are the 50 Nicest Places in America, According to Our Readers
Reader’s Digest readers nominated over 1,000 places across America for our third annual search for the Nicest Places in America. Here are the finalists for each state.
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Do you live in a place where people are kind? Where neighbors are friends and strangers are welcomed? Then you might live in one of the Nicest Places in America! Keep reading to see which place in your state we named the “nicest,” and click through to read each of their stories and vote on which one is your favorite. These stories will warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity, and the winning place will end up on the cover of Reader’s Digest!
The Nicest Place in Alabama: Drexell & Honeybees Donations Only Restaurant
Courtesy Cindy Dixon
What do you do if you’re hungry but don’t have the money for much food, let alone a hot meal? If you’re in Brewton, Alabama, just head over to Drexell & Honeybee’s Donations Only Restaurant. It’s open four days a week for lunch, plus breakfast on Tuesdays and dinner on Fridays, and lives up to its name.
Depending on the day and what’s in season, you’ll find a good variety of country foods: barbecued ribs, chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese, and blueberry cobbler. But what you won’t find anywhere is a price. A small box near the exit is the only source of income for the restaurant.
“People are poor. It’s a problem,” says Lisa Thomas-McMillan, who opened the restaurant with her husband, Freddie, in March 2018. “But over the years I’ve noticed more people are taking on the problem.”
The Nicest Place in Alaska: North Pole
Every year, the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail addressed to “Santa, North Pole” to the post office in North Pole, and the town gets to work. Volunteers for the nonprofit Santa’s Letters open and read every letter and answer as many as they can, signing an elf name like “Jingles” or “Tinsel” at the bottom.
Last year, the town mailed out more than 10,000 letters, sending them to every one of these United States and to countries all over the world.
“It is a labor of love,” says local businesswoman Sandra Forbes, who helped launch the nonprofit. “We absolutely love what we do.”
The Nicest Place in Arizona: Kingman
Ask people what they like about Kingman and they’ll bring up the man known as Santa James. Santa James, aka James Zyla, is a former real-estate salesman turned wandering poet who has become the town’s “adopted grandfather,” according to the local police chief. He’s also homeless.
When residents discovered his thoughtful nature and musical gifts, they teamed up to make sure he has a place to stay, gigs to play, and a helping hand when he needs it. In return, he shares hugs, songs, and his one-of-a-kind free spirit.
“There exists in Kingman a spirit of generosity,” Santa James told the Los Angeles Times last year. “It’s not just the young or the old. It permeates the generations.”
The Nicest Place in Arkansas and Texas: Texarkana
Courtesy David Orr
Texarkana is one city that happens to straddle two states, so it has plenty of built-in divisions.
As its name suggests, the Texas-Arkansas border runs right through the town of nearly 70,000. And as you might expect in this part of the country, a high-school football rivalry between the Texas High Tigers and Arkansas High Razorbacks goes back more than 100 years. The annual game draws 10,000 fans.
Of course, few disputes can’t be solved by breaking bread, and another annual tradition in Texarkana, USA—as locals refer to it—is the Dine on the Line dinner.
Tables are set up down the middle of State Line Avenue (the state border runs right down the double-yellow traffic lines) and more than 1,000 people come to eat, talk, and have the unique experience of passing the salt across state lines. Diners are invited to sit on either side of the table, and mayors from both towns make a speech.
The Nicest Place in California: Anaheim
Courtesy Tom Tait
After the tragic death of six-year-old Natasha Jaievsky in a car accident, her father discovered her drawings and writings about a wish for a world filled with kindness. At a loss as to what to do amid this tragedy, he decided to honor her memory by hanging up signs reading “Make Kindness Contagious” all over Anaheim.
Tom Tait, a former city councilman who nominated Anaheim, tells Reader’s Digest that he saw the signs and wanted to figure out where they came from. After learning Natasha’s tragic story, he was inspired to run for mayor with “Make Kindness Contagious” as his campaign slogan. And here’s the crazy thing: It worked.
Tait served as mayor from 2010 to 2018, and nearly ten years later, the “City of Kindness” has become famous for its ethos of smiles and caring—so famous that the Dalai Lama chose to spend his 80th birthday in the town.
The Nicest Place in Colorado: Pueblo West Women’s League in Pueblo West
Courtesy Connie Minty
When you live in a place without a lot of local government or institutions, things can slip through the cracks. In Pueblo West, an unincorporated community of about 30,000 folks two hours south of Denver, there’s a small but potent group of women that has something to say about that.
If the school band can’t afford instruments, or the parks department needs a sponsor for its fishing derby, or the public library needs new puppets for story time, they can appeal to the Pueblo West Women’s League. The group raises money and awards grants, a couple hundred bucks here, a couple hundred there—not much for a big metropolitan area, but meaningful and appreciated in Pueblo West.
The Women’s League creates a sense of common purpose,” says resident Heather Wilder, who manages the public library. “The whole community comes out to support them, and everybody knows where the money is going to go—back into the community.”
The Nicest Place in Connecticut: Clintonville Elementary School in North Haven
Courtesy Gina Porto
On Special Person Day, fifth-graders at Clintonville Elementary School in North Haven write an essay about someone they look up to. Most choose a parent or a public figure, but last year, Sammi Santacroce detailed the strength of classmate Dante Chiappetta, a special-needs student who has multiple cognitive conditions and has to use a cane.
“I’ve known him since preschool and he’s one of my best friends,” Sammi said. “When I see him trying to do his work, I’m proud of him because he never gives up.”
Dante says it made him happy to hear his classmate’s testimony. And his special needs aide, Ginny Caroleo, confirmed that Clintonville’s students have a generosity of spirit that extends to all.
The Nicest Place in Delaware: Estates at Saint Anne’s in Middletown
Courtesy Courtesy Michael McCarthy
Middletown, a small, flat, green city about 25 miles south of Wilmington, halfway between the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay, has long been a diverse place, with a deep-rooted African American population. It was a key stop on the Underground Railroad, with Harriet Tubman a regular visitor. Tolerance and inclusion are deep-seated principles. Welcoming folks—not pushing them away—is the norm.
So after a recent New Year’s parade featured a float with a vulgar, immigrant-bashing theme, hundreds of citizens of the town that USA Today recently tagged as having Delaware’s “best quality of life” showed up to a town council meeting to say what’s on their welcome mat.
“Over 200 people showed up demanding some standards,” recalls native Brent O’Neill, a divinity student currently working at Middletown’s Church on Main. “We really care about what’s right. We care about diversity . . . I was really proud of our town. It was so full, I couldn’t even make it through the door.”
The Nicest Place in Florida: The Villages
Courtesy Linda Dallal McElmurry
A lot of people think of Florida as a place for retirees, although the truth is that this state of some 21.6 million people has all kinds of folks living there. But there is a place in Florida that is, indeed, for retirees. It’s a land of golf carts decked out like Rolls-Royces, dances with classic tunes, and, of course, shuffleboard: The Villages, a 55+ community about 90 minutes from Orlando that some 125,000 retirees call home.
It’s also home to one of the biggest volunteer operations in the country, focused solely on bringing joy to people who put their lives at risk for America’s freedom every day.
Every week, up to 400 residents volunteer at the local American Legion, the largest chapter in the country. They run a factory of sorts for Operation Shoebox, a nonprofit that sends care packages to soldiers deployed overseas. Villagers make and stuff hand-sewn “ditty bags” filled with treats, magazines, and toiletries.