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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.

  • 31619

    Sarasota Florida

    Boats docked in Sarasota Bay in Sarasota, Florida. Population: 52986

    Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Tampa Bay, Sarasota includes a string of eight islands that draw thousands of tourists. It's an appealing destination for tourists, which is why it landed on our list of the Best Spring Break Cities for Families. Locals enjoy year-round access to beautiful beaches, challenging golf courses, a collection of lakes and a thriving downtown. The Sarasota Opera and Florida Studio Theater anchor the city’s arts and culture scene, while craft breweries, restaurants, shops and galleries provide many entertainment options.

  • 32619

    Missoula Montana

    Population: 68377

    A stellar health-care system, lots of affordable housing and high performing schools help Missoula stand out when it comes to why this city has been a Top 100 Best Place to Live for three straight years. Natural amenities that include mountain ranges, three rivers and more than 400 acres of parkland ensure residents have plenty of options when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. Missoula’s vibrant downtown draws students from the University of Montana and residents across the region who come to enjoy coffee houses, restaurants, bookstores and breweries.

  • 33619

    Ventura California

    Ventura (San Buenaventura), California Population: 108449

    To get an understanding of why Venture is one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live, just look at the city’s excellent health-care system, collection of five colleges that add a youthful energy and the highly ranked schools that draw many new parents to move here. Ventura, officially named San Buenaventura, holds one of the top surfing spots in the country, Surfer's Point.

  • 34618

    Bozeman Montana

    Population: 39123

    Whether it’s casting for rainbow trout or sampling the libations at Copper Whiskey Bar & Grill, Bozeman offers an array of experiences that draw a steady stream of new residents. Residents find many things to do in Bozeman. Home to Montana State University, a college with 15,000 students, Bozeman’s economy includes a growing technology sector with research-based companies among the city’s top employers. The city’s health-care providers are among the highest quality as are surrounding outdoor amenities. Read more about why Bozeman is a Best Place to Live

  • 35618

    Ames Iowa

    Population: 61276

    Centrally located, Ames plays a major role in the nation’s animal and food safety initiatives. One of two national sites for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is located in Ames. The city also has Iowa State University, a leader in agriculture, design and veterinary medicine. Ames has been ranked one of the Best College Towns in the country. Residents enjoy 35 woodland parks, more than 30 miles of bike and walking trails, five golf courses, and a vibrant downtown.

  • 36617

    Chapel Hill North Carolina

    Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC Population: 58379

    Downtown Chapel Hill bustles with activity as people head to the Carolina Brewery for drinks, Varsity Theater for movies, and Sugarland for coffee and creme brulee. The city's ripe arts and cultural scene attracts many people. Known for its quality schools and top-ranked medical facilities, Chapel Hill offers a small-town feel with big-time cultural attractions. The presence of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gives residents college teams to cheer for and a variety of events to attend.

  • 37617

    Honolulu Hawaii

    Waikiki with Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii Population: 345130

    It’s likely no surprise that Honolulu’s natural amenities rank among the highest on the Top 100 Best Places to Live, but this city’s cultural offerings, strong economy and quality health-care industry are what draw new residents. Tourism, national defense and research sectors play key roles in Honolulu’s economy. Five colleges, including the University of Hawaii and Chaminade University anchor a good educational system.

  • 38617

    Corvallis Oregon

    Skyline of Corvallis, OR Population: 54735

    Beer and biking draw many people to Corvallis, and often the pair mix well. The League of American Bicyclists gave Corvallis a gold rating, signifying it as a bicycle-friendly community. Several of the city’s bike trials will bring you to craft breweries. Named one of the best college towns, Corvallis is home to Oregon State University, which is located in the downtown district. Nearly 50 parks in Corvallis provide plenty of space to play. Get a better understanding of why Corvallis is a Best Place to Live

  • 39615

    Billings Montana

    Rimrocks cliffs in Billings, Montana Population: 106979

    A growing medical sector, booming oil industry, affordable housing and spectacular natural amenities draw new residents to Billings, the largest city in Montana. The downtown area features a collection of restaurants and shops in addition to breweries that helped Billings land on our Beer Cities list. This is the second time Billings has appeared on the Best Places to Live index.

  • 40614

    Scottsdale Arizona

    Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ Population: 223519

    With a rugged appeal and cosmopolitan feel, Scottsdale offers many things to its residents, including opportunities to explore the Sonoran Desert, play on more than 200 area golf courses or dance the night away in some of the hottest nightclubs in the west. Relax at one of the many spas Scottsdale offers. While tourism plays a major role in Scottsdale’s economy, the city’s top employers include Honor Health, General Dynamics and a branch of the Mayo Clinic.


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