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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.

  • 81589

    Lexington Kentucky

    Dog Walker Population: 304473

    Go Wildcats! Lexington is known as “Horse Capital of the World” and is situated in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. However, the city is perhaps best known as home to the University of Kentucky and its high-achieving men's basketball team. About 40 percent of Lexington's residents have earned at least a bachelor's degree, and Forbes ranks the city among the cleanest in America. Community amenities include a thriving arts scene, 100 parks and four top hospitals. All of these factors are reasons why Lexington is Best Place to Live and has been on this list since 2013. 

  • 82589

    Bountiful Utah

    A sunset view of Bountiful, Utah. Population: 42947

    Although it’s a bedroom community to Salt Lake City, Bountiful is a place with its own identity and vibe. Located at the base of the Wasatch Range, Bountiful’s schools rank high, while the Lakeview Hospital leads a strong health-care system. Housing options are plentiful in Bountiful, and residents routinely engage in social and civic activities.

  • 83588

    Redwood City California

    The former San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City, California. Population: 79736

    The only deepwater port on San Francisco Bay is Redwood City, home to several technology companies such as leading employer Oracle with its 6,500 workers. Redwood City officials are proud of their revitalized downtown district and 24 public parks, and residents can receive a good education at Cañada College. Among the community's amenities are a 20-screen movie theater and an annual Independence Day Parade billed as “The Largest Independence Day Parade in California.”

  • 84588

    Fremont California

    City of Fremont, CA Population: 221654

    Divided into 12 distinct districts, Fremont is the largest suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. Residents are largely politically and socially active, and enjoy good schools and a stable economy rooted in technology. Top employers in Fremont include Tesla, Lam Research Corporation and Western Digital. Parks, the historic Ardenwood Farm, a water park and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge give residents plenty of things to do. See where Fremont ranked on the Best Places to Live 2014 list. 

  • 85588

    Berkeley California

    University Avenue in Berkeley, California. Population: 115688

    Along the San Francisco Bay’s eastern shore is Berkeley, home to the University of California - Berkeley and renowned as one of the most politically liberal cities in the country. (See where Berkeley ranks on the Top 10 College Towns 2015.) The main thoroughfare is Shattuck Avenue that passes through several distinct neighborhoods, and Berkeley residents enjoy conveniences like multiple parks and an Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. An assortment of restaurants, shops and performance venues provide many things to do in Berkeley. Nearly 50 buildings within the community are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • 86587

    Plano Texas

    Kids enjoy the view from observation tower at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, Texas. Population: 271166

    Already identified as one of the Top 10 Best Cities for Families, Plano provides residents with great schools and community leaders who put children first. A look at the top employers in Plano is like looking at who’s who list of American companies. The city is home to more than 25 headquarters, including Dr Pepper, Cinemark Theatres, Frito-Lay, JCPenney and Pizza Hut. The city contains more than 3,800 acres of parkland and open space. See where Plano ranked on the Best Cities for Families

  • 87587

    Goleta California

    Goleta Beach County Park in Goleta, California Population: 30333

    Good housing options, strong schools and engaged citizenry make Goleta one of the Best Places to Live. Offering views of the Pacific Ocean, Goleta contains several parks and preserves, including a Coronado Butterfly Preserve. Incorporated in 2002, Goleta’s economy is rooted in technology and education, with the University of California Santa Barbara influencing the culture. See where Goleta ranked on the Best Places to Live 2015 list. 

  • 88586

    Cedar Rapids Iowa

    Uptown Cedar Rapids skyline. Population: 128009

    Straddling the Cedar River, Cedar Rapids is divided into 12 distinct neighborhoods. Near the city’s center is a vibrant arts and cultural district that includes the Paramount Theatre, restaurants and museums that provide plenty of things to do. Tech giant Rockwell Collins anchors the economy, while the high-rated hospitals of Mercy Medical Center and St. Luke’s are among the top employers in Cedar Rapids. See where Cedar Rapids ranked on the 2015 Top 100 Best Places to Live.

  • 89586

    Brookings South Dakota

    Downtown Brookings, SD Population: 22645

    Among the safest and most vibrant cities in South Dakota, Brookings provides residents with a package of amenities that ranges from golf courses and hiking trails to water parks and night clubs. South Dakota State University anchors the economy in Brookings and sets the cultural tone. Schools in Brookings receive high ratings from parents. See where Brookings ranked on our list of the Best Small Towns 2013. 

  • 90585

    Midland Michigan

    The view of three bridges that meet over a river in Midland, MI. Population: 42067

    The Dow Chemical Company was founded in Midland in 1897 and still has its world headquarters there. Forbes named Midland one of the “Best Small Cities in America to Raise a Family.” Cultural opportunities include theaters, concerts and museums, and residents have health-care options that include a 250-bed MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland. The community also has more than 100 places of worship and is nicknamed “City of Beautiful Churches.”


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