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.
Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, is a major port city and thriving petroleum, military and tourism industries contribute to the healthy economy. More than 259 miles of hiking, skiing and dog-mushing trails, and urban ameneties, such as restaurants, museums, and live music help residents stay entertained and active in every season.
Nestled in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay area, Hayward houses California State University, East Bay and Chabot College, and has been a Tree City USA since the 1980s. The downtown district offers several cultural landmarks, and Hayward is considered a northern extension of Silicon Valley because of many high-tech companies.
Sharing a name with the nearby Santa Ana Mountains, the Southern California community of Santa Ana is adjacent to the Santa Ana River and has plenty of parks that contribute to the quality of life for residents. Three hospitals offer convenient health care, while education choices include Santa Ana College and California Coast University.
The city of Orange features the second largest concentration of historic sites in California, and officials make a point of trying to preserve old buildings and homes – including a thriving Old Towne commercial district. The median household income in Orange exceeds $80,000, and a strong education system offers choices such as Chapman University and Santiago Canyon College.
The capital of Montana, Helena is an outdoor recreation destination for residents and visitors who like hunting, fishing, skiing and mountain biking. The local economy centers around mining (silver and lead deposits) and government, with 30 percent of the workforce employed in government positions. St. Peter's Hospital and Shodair Hospital highlight a top health care system.
On the north bank of the Columbia River is Vancouver, which hosts a variety of cultural events and is currently revitalizing a large portion of its downtown area. Popular arts destinations include a long-standing Kiggins Theatre, and numerous scenic parks are available to the public. Three major hospitals attend to the health care needs of Vancouver residents.
With one of the lowest city tax rates in Utah, Murray houses top employer Intermountain Medical Center and hosts satellite campuses of Utah State University and the University of Utah. Designated a Tree City USA since the late 1970s, residents spend much of their recreation time at Murray City Park with its sports fields, arboretum, playgrounds and amphitheater.
Fargo is home to North Dakota State University along with several museums and theaters, and the city's economy centers upon retail, food processing, technology and industry. A well-regarded parks system is available to residents along with good health care through entities like Sanford Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, and Essentia Health
The economy of Costa Mesa is based on light manufacturing, technology and retail, and the city's largest center of commercial activity is South Coast Plaza, a 322-store mall that annually generates more than $1 billion. Strong health care and arts options are in place, and institutions of higher learning in Costa Mesa include Orange Coast College and Vanguard University.
A major U.S. port on the Mississippi River, St. Louis has a hearty arts and cuisine scene and is home to three professional sports teams – the Cardinals, Rams and Blues. The economy is based on manufacturing, trade, transportation and tourism, and the famed Gateway Arch highlights the downtown area. For health care, a half dozen hospitals serve St. Louis residents.