Top 10 Small Towns, 2012
About This List
The fictional TV town of Mayberry still represents the ideal small town, a tight-knit community with low crime, a slower pace and wholesome fun. For our Top 10 Small Towns list, we set out to uncover the Mayberrys of 2012 – places where life can still be simple, quiet and complete, but with more places for folks to gather than just a barber shop.
We began with our 500 Livability.com best places to live, narrowing down to those with 25,000 or fewer residents. We then looked at median household incomes and home prices, crime rates, unemployment rates, average commutes and distances to large cities. We concluded by considering the cities' amount of lifestyle amenities, such as outdoor activities, restaurants, community events, museums, art galleries and performance venues.
What we found are cities small in population yet big for their quality of life.
"We overlook [small towns] in this country a lot," says Laura Kidder, editorial director at Rand McNally. "If you really want to know America, you have to get off the highway. Get away from the big shopping malls and wander around town. That's really what America is, not the big cities connected by interstates."
Rand McNally recently sponsored the Best of the Road contest where five teams crossed the country and explored small towns. The contestants discovered that small towns let their residents live large.
"You don't have to go to New York or Chicago to get a really nice feel," Kidder says. "Another thing that really separates small towns from big cities is the sense of community and civic pride. People in small towns have a chance to have a say that you may not have in a larger metro city."
So whether you're looking for a place to stop during your own cross-country voyage or a place to call home, you're bound to whistle a happy tune when you check these places out. Take a look at our picks for the best small towns in America.