Best Places to Live

2014 Top 100 Best Places to Live

Big cities tend to get all the love. We here at Livability know that there are great stories to be told in smaller places, too. Our ranking of the 2014 top 100 best places to live focuses on small to mid-sized cities and what makes them great places to live and work. We worked with trusted partners, stellar advisors, and the best public and private data sources to develop our ranking. The cities on the list excelled in our criteria. These towns are places where residents are able to take full advantage of a wide variety of amenities and offerings - everything from parks and museums to different commuting options to hospitals. Spend some time getting to know them and when it comes time for your next move, maybe you'll think small.


  • 1

    Palo Alto, CA

    Population: 66,478
    Matt Carmichael

    Take mild weather, a thriving economy, great cultural and natural amenities; add in not one, but two downtowns surrounded by housing; and finally, drop in one of the highest-ranked universities in the world, and you’ll find yourself in Palo Alto,’s 2014 Best Place to Live.

  • 2

    Boulder, CO

    Population: 103,919
    Photo: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

    Boulder has incomparable outdoor offerings like the Rocky Mountain foothills, the Flatirons, and its rivers and bike trails. But there's plenty for residents and visitors to do indoors as well with shopping at the Pearl Street Mall and downtown eateries and brew pubs.

  • 3

    Berkeley, CA

    Population: 117,384
    Visit Berkeley

    Berkeley is evolving its hippie past, allowing for denser development but keeping its focus on local businesses and culture. The town, home to the popular University of California campus, is reinvesting in a livable, energetic downtown area filled with great places to eat and shop.

  • 4

    Durham, NC

    Population: 246,084
    Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau

    It's hard to separate Durham from its anchor, Duke University. But the city's history goes back through tobacco production, textiles and agriculture. Durham has embraced its roots as it has remade itself as a research and technology hub – with great food – in the last half century.

  • 5

    Madison, WI

    Population: 243,122
    Greater Madison CVB

    Madison is a frequent fixture on our Top 10 lists, including ranking as one of the best college towns, so it's no surprise to see it score well as one of our Top 100 Best Places to Live. It's a state capitol, it's home to a Big Ten university, and ranks highly for education, amenities, health care, and social and civic capital.

  • 6

    Miami Beach, FL

    Population: 91,564
    Cris Ascunce

    Miami Beach packs a lot of amenities into a tiny stretch of oceanfront, just seven miles long and one mile wide, including museums, art deco buildings, shopping and cuisine. Oh, and let’s not forget the beach. It all adds up to a city striving to be more livable for the diverse communities that call it home.

  • 7

    Rochester, MN

    Population: 110,275
    Rochester, MN Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Rochester is home of the Mayo Clinic and much more. In recent years, the population has grown, diversified and added younger residents causing the downtown to perk up, creating a more livable space for residents and visitors to gather and enjoy. And of course having one of the world’s most well-known hospitals means quality health care is just around the corner.

  • 8

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Population: 190,679
    Steve Greenwood

    Livability in Salt Lake City is tied to the working community, which maintains its qualities through strong support of locally owned businesses – many of which grow out of the University of Utah. The city's beautiful setting, strong community and emphasis on family living make it a great place to live and work.

  • 9

    Eugene, OR

    Population: 159,615
    Travel Lane County, Jeff Green

    A truly year-round climate makes outdoor recreation in Eugene possible through four temperate seasons. It’s no wonder Eugene has one of the highest scores for amenities. This leads to low traffic congestion because people bike and walk to work, farmers markets, dining and nightlife. Spending time in the area gets residents engaged in the community and its continual improvement.

  • 10

    Reno, NV

    Population: 234,161

    The dry heat in Reno isn’t as hot as other parts of the state, and the Sierra Nevada mountains are just waiting to be climbed. Quick commutes, natural amenities, culture and casinos make Reno a great place to live. The affordable and plentiful hotels can accommodate visitors who want to visit this great city.