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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.

  • 51606

    Downers Grove Illinois

    A mother and children walk across the main street in Downers Grove. Population: 49372

    Named one of America’s Friendliest Towns by Forbes Magazine, Downers Grove contains one of the nation’s most educated and civically engaged populations. Designated a Tree City USA, Downers Grove features two forest preserves and several parks that give residents places to enjoy the outdoors. Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital is the city’s top employer. See where Downers Grove ranked on the Best Cities for Kids 2014 list. 

  • 52605

    Aberdeen South Dakota

    Capitol Theatre in Aberdeen, SD Population: 26979

    More than three hours away from a major city, Aberdeen may be isolated, but its residents enjoy a bevy of amenities. From outdoor ice skating rinks in the winter to water slides, golf courses, lakes and hiking trails in the summer, Aberdeen provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Aberdeen Community Theatre hosts five main-stage productions each year, while the annual South Dakota Film Festival draws hundreds of film buffs. Aberdeen is home to Northern State University, and the largest employer is Avera Saint Luke’s Hospital.

  • 53604

    Bend Oregon

    Population: 79698

    Many of the same amenities that draw recent retirees to Bend also attract college students and young families. Located on the edge of the Cascade Range, along Deschutes River, Bend provides many recreational opportunities to fish, hike, camp, ski and go whitewater rafting. Breweries and restaurants in and around downtown Bend present plenty of options to enjoy time with friends and family. See where Bend ranked as a Best Beer City 2014. 

  • 54604

    Pleasanton California

    Patrons enjoy outdoor dining at Blue Agave in Pleasanton, California. Population: 73164

    The San Francisco Bay suburb Pleasanton gives residents a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city, offering a hometown vibe that appeals to young families. The city’s well educated population enjoys more than 1,200 acres of surrounding parks, open space and trails. Downtown Pleasanton features more than 165 stores and restaurants.

  • 55603

    Salt Lake City Utah

    Population: 189267

    Loaded with entertainment options and surrounded by stunning scenery, it’s easy to see why Salt Lake City is a Top 100 Best Place to Live, and has been for three straight years. Salt Lake City, a well-planned community, is home to residents who are highly engaged with their city. Things to do in Salt Lake City include many outdoor activities in city parks, national forests and ski resorts.

  • 56600

    Alexandria Virginia

    The King Street Trolley passes as diners enjoy a meal in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Population: 146422

    An excellent amenities package, highly engaged residents and great schools help make Alexandria one of the best places to live. This suburb of Washington D.C. provides a quaint escape from the high-powered wheeling and dealing found in the nation’s capital thanks to well-preserved historic districts, which include unique restaurants and shops. It's been named one of the Best Cities for Liberals. Home to a Northern Virginia Community College campus, Alexandria includes an assortment of parks and walking trails, some of which overlook the Potomac River.

  • 57600

    White Plains New York

    Population: 57505

    Home to a number of corporations, including Dannon, Nine West and the U.S. headquarters of Heineken, White Plains is an affluent suburb of New York City. There are many reasons why White Plains is a Top 100 Best Place to Live. Chief among these is the city’s thriving economy, solid health-care systems and collection of amenities, which range from malls to bike lanes and parks.

  • 58599

    Monterey California

    Monterey State Beach in Monterey, California Population: 28053

    With its thriving arts scene and historical roots that span deep into California’s history, Monterey attracts a range of residents who enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Lucia Mountains, highly successful schools, and good health care. Museums, restaurants and festivals like the long-running Monterey Jazz Festival draw tourists to the area and keep residents entertained. See where Monterey ranked on the 2015 Best Places to Live list. 

  • 59598

    Boca Raton Florida

    Boats fill Boca Raton Harbor on a sunny day. Population: 88187

    Beaches, golf courses, art museums and a vibrant commercial district give residents of Boca Raton plenty of things to do. The city’s tropical climate, lush parks, and collection of resorts and hotels draw thousands of tourists each year. Called “Boca” by many locals, the city provides a large assortment of amenities, good schools, and has a population who engages in political and social activities.

  • 60598

    Dickinson North Dakota

    Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson, ND Population: 19920

    Ever since a North Dakota oil boom began around 2010, drilling in the nearby Bakken Oil Shale has made Dickinson one of the fastest growing cities in America. Still considered one of the Best Small Towns, Dickinson's current population is approximately 30,000 compared to the 2010 U.S. Census figure of 17,787. The community is served by Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport and Dickinson State University, and attractions include a good parks system along with a nationally recognized Dakota Dinosaur Museum.


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