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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.

  • 61597

    Helena Montana

    Between a pair of pine trees is the city of Helena and a colorful morning sky. Population: 29142

    Situated between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, Helena provides an ideal location for outdoor lovers who enjoy the full volume of all four seasons. Highly engaged in social and political activities, Helena residents enjoy not only great opportunities to ski, bike and fish, but a thriving arts environment and stable economy. The city’s high-quality education system is anchored by Carroll College and Helena College University of Montana. Helena first appeared on the Best Places to Live list in 2014. 

  • 62597

    Watertown South Dakota

    A rainbow shines over the top of Uptown Watertown, SD. Population: 21795

    Residents in the small city of Watertown enjoy a surprising amount of sophisticated attractions including fine restaurants and the Redlin Art Center, which houses more than 150 works by artist Terry Redlin. Watertowns school are among the top ranked in the state, and the Watertown Regional Library is frequently visited by families. Watertown’s top employers include manufacturing firms and computer companies.

  • 63597

    Santa Rosa California

    Peanuts Sculptures in Santa Rosa, CA Population: 170782

    Set among a landscape of redwood forests, farms and vineyards, Santa Rosa gives its residents a refined urban center. Part of the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Rosa is home to Empire College, Santa Rosa Junior College and the University of San Francisco-Santa Rosa. A range of amenities enjoyed by residents include hiking trails, nightclubs, golf courses and the Sonoma County Library. See where Santa Rosa ranked on the 2015 Best Places to Live list. 

  • 64596

    Richland Washington

    A couple walks across a slackline at a park in Richland, WA. Population: 51116

    Located near the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia rivers, Richland has been the home of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory since 1965. Technology and research anchor the economy in Richland, a city with vast natural amenities that attract young, active families. Good schools, diverse housing options and a socially engaged population help make Richland one of the Best Places to Live.

  • 65595

    Petaluma California

    Population: 58912

    A well-preserved historic city center, the Petaluma River and nearby Sonoma Mountain create a picturesque setting in Petaluma. The city’s diverse housing options, excellent health care, strong school system and large assortment of quality of life amenities, such as parks, restaurants and stores, make Petaluma an attractive place to live. More than 20 Hollywood movies have been shot in Petaluma, including American Graffiti and 2010’s The Tree of Life, and the surrounding area contains several vineyards

  • 66595

    Renton Washington

    A photographer walks along a dock at dusk by the water in Renton, WA. Population: 95479

    Located just southeast of downtown Seattle is the suburb of Renton, which lines the southeast shore of Lake Washington. The city is best known for assembling Boeing 737 commercial airplanes, while other key industries are information technology and service companies. The NFL’s Seattle Seahawks have a training facility in Renton, and residents have access to quality of life conveniences like Valley Medical Center and an acclaimed Renton School District No. 403. See where Renton ranked on the 2015 Best Places to Live list. 

  • 67594

    San Rafael California

    Richmond–San Rafael Bridge in San Rafael, California. Population: 58588

    Situated in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area is San Rafael, home to several companies that develop high-tech elements for the movie industry. Attractions within the city include China Camp State Park, several entertainment venues and the Marin County Civic Center building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Residents have their health needs served by Kaiser Permanente, and college students can attend Dominican University of California. San Rafael first appeared on our Best Places to Live list in 2014. 

  • 68594

    Napa California

    A view of the downtown riverfront during sunset, which produces an orange glow in Napa, California. Population: 78511

    Most people know Napa for the wineries and magnificent views that surround the city, but residents enjoy more than just the finer things in life, such as good schools, health care and diverse housing options. While the city contains a solid collection of tasting rooms and restaurants set amongst historic districts. The city offers a food composting program in addition to parks, gardens and a network of sidewalks.

  • 69594

    Asheville North Carolina

    Asheville NC Street Performers Population: 85783

    With a laid-back vibe, dense collection of artists and renowned restaurants, Asheville provides residents with an eclectic setting that is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. With one of the country’s most respected collections of microbreweries (and the title of Beer City, USA) Asheville draws thousands of tourists. The city’s high-achieving school system and strong health-care network have made it a repeat city on our Top 100 Best Places to Live.

  • 70594

    Camarillo California

    Looking southeast across Camarillo from the northwestern hills on a warm sunny day in late October Population: 65985

    Located north of the Santa Monica Mountains and about a 20-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, Camarillo offers a vibrant lifestyle that many seek. The city’s downtown area, known as Old Town, was recently revitalized and features a mixture of chain stores, restaurants, and locally owned businesses. Like many cities in Ventura County, Camarillo has not seen much new construction, so while homes here are available, they are often quickly purchased.


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