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Top 100 Best Places to Live

Our third annual ranking of the best small to mid-sized cities in the U.S.

We ranked more than 2,000 cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000 to come up with our third annual Top 100 Best Places to Live. This is a data-driven list based on more than 40 data points. This year we are proud to have collaborated with world-renowned urbanist Richard Florida and assistant clinical professor Steven Pedigo from the Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities at NYU School of Professional Studies, our new data partners EMSI and our stellar board of advisors in shaping our proprietary methodology and the framework by which we rank the cities. See if your town made this year's list (or the 2015 and 2014 rankings). Get ready to plot your next move, and make one of these best places your best place.

600 = The city’s overall score, based on the weighted sum of the eight component scores.

  • 11639

    Walnut Creek California

    Skyline of Walnut Creek with the stunning Mount Diablo in the background Population: 65923

    The Art and Wine Festival in Walnut Creek highlights the city’s impressive food scene. Restaurants and residents that strongly support farmers markets helped Walnut Creek earn a spot on our list of the Best Foodie Cities. Beyond great places to eat in Walnut Creek, the city provides residents with top-notch schools, a bevy of entertainment options and lots of recreational opportunities. Residents are politically active and engage in many community events.

  • 12638

    San Mateo California

    Central Park Population: 100114

    Among the most diverse cities in Silicon Valley, with a 43 percent minority population, San Mateo contains a rich assortment of historic buildings, parks and restaurants. Technology and finance companies anchor the economy in San Mateo, which is home to Franklin Templeton Investments and GoPro. Sustainability efforts are a priority for city leaders, and many residents use local buses and a commuter rail service to get to work. See where San Mateo ranked on our Top 100 Best Places to Live 2015 list. 

  • 13638

    Fort Collins Colorado

    Rock Climbing in Fort Collins, CO Population: 149627

    From its thriving microbreweries to its mountain views and hiking trails, Fort Collins has an enticing assortment of amenities that draw talented workers to the high-tech companies located here. Those companies include Hewlett Packard, Intel and National Semiconductor. Colorado State University plays a major part in the city’s economy and entertainment scene, while schools in Fort Collins rank high. It's been picked as one of the Healthiest Cities. Taking into account the city’s strong health-care options, diverse range of homes and recreational options, it’s easy to see why Fort Collins is one of the Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 14636

    Overland Park Kansas

    Population: 178945

    Another three-time city on the Best Places index, Overland Park provides residents with excellent schools, great recreational facilities, entertainment options and a stable economy. As one of the best cities for families, Overland Park offers children a safe environment to explore while inspiring them. Top employers in Overland Park include Sprint, Johnson County Community College and Black & Veatch, a global engineering, consulting and construction company. See where Overland Park ranked on the 2015 list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live.

  • 15636

    Fargo North Dakota

    Hundreds of people gather for Happy Harrys Ribfest at the Fargodome Population: 110725

    Hailed as one of the best cities for new college grads, and general job seekers for that matter, Fargo continues to build on the benefits of having diverse economy and affordable cost of living. If you’re looking at why Fargo is a best place to live, consider first the colleges like North Dakota State University, which anchor the city’s strong educational scene. With outdoor attractions, museums, theaters and restaurants, Fargo delivers a strong entertainment package with many things to do.

  • 16635

    Rapid City South Dakota

    A classic car cruises past a rocky side of the Black Hills near Rapid City. Population: 70126

    Located between Badlands National Park and the Black Hills mountain range, 25 miles northeast of Mt. Rushmore, Rapid City gives residents amazing outdoor amenities, a vibrant arts scene and many affordable housing options. Nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base and Camp Rapid, a U.S. Army National Guard post, are among the major economic forces in Rapid City, which also has a growing manufacturing sector and excellent health care. Parents praise schools in Rapid City, which is known as “The City of Presidents” thanks to its collection of life-sized bronze statues of each American president.

  • 17631

    Rockville Maryland

    Population: 63402

    The quaint character and excellent schools found in Rockville appeal to the many prospects moving here to join innovative biomed and technology companies that lead the local economy. Rockville’s Town Square area features more than 50 shops and restaurants, which helped it land on our list of the Top 10 Foodie Cities. The city’s festivals and large library also play a big part in why Rockville is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 18631

    Ashland Oregon

    Population: 20412

    The small city of Ashland holds many charms, from a collection of preserved and restored historic buildings to inner-city bike trails and green spaces. The city hosts an annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival that draws thousands of visitors, and Ashland is home to Southern Oregon University. Ashland’s restaurants, art galleries and performance venues keep residents entertained. Take a look at where Ashland ranked on the 2015 Top 10 Best Places to Live

  • 19631

    Santa Cruz California

    Population: 62045

    Known as a surfing hotspot, Santa Cruz offers a laid-back lifestyle with access to redwood forests, lakes and, of course, beaches. Even those who don’t partake in the city’s most popular activities - surfing, sailing, diving and paddleboarding - find plenty of ways to stay entertained. Santa Cruz features several performance venues and a bevy of restaurants. See where Santa Cruz ranked as a Best Place to Live in 2015 and where it landed on our list of the Best Spring Break Cities.

  • 20630

    Olympia Washington

     4th Ave Bridge in Olympia, WA Population: 47847

    The Puget Sound, Capitol Lake and Capitol State Forest are just some of the natural amenities surrounding Olympia. Evergreen State College and Saint Martin’s University form the base of the city’s excellent educational system. Animal Fire Theater and Harlequin Productions are just some of the theatrical options available in Olympia, which has a thriving arts scene. See where Olympia ranked on last year's list


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