2016 Top 100 Best Places to Live
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.
Charlottesville treats its residents to affordable housing, walkable neighborhoods, outdoor activities, historical attractions, dozens of locally owned shops, and an expansive restaurant scene. Top employers in Charlottesville include the University of Virginia, which helped get the city on our list of the Best College Towns. Thousands of tourists come to Charlottesville each year to experience what residents enjoy on a daily basis, nearby vineyards, micro breweries, hiking trails and music venues.
With more than 1,550 acres of parkland and open space, Edina gives its residents many recreational options, including a variety of youth sports, cross-country skiing trails and bike paths. Top employers in Edina include the headquarters for Jerry’s Food, Lund Food Holdings, Regis Corporation and Dairy Queen. The city’s schools are praised by parents, and residents here very politically and socially engaged.
Located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Longmont offers not only easy access to spectacular hiking and mountain adventures but a thriving arts scene, great schools, affordable housing options, and quality health care. Longmont recently became a certified creative district for the state and features galleries, art exhibits and shops. A network of paved trails leads to more than 75 works of art located throughout the city.
It seems like there’s always something going on in Littleton, a southern suburb of Denver. Nearly each week, residents can choose between art walks, concerts and festivals, including Western Welcome Week, an annual event that began in the late 1920s. A quaint downtown filled with shops and restaurants is surrounded by trails that lead to neighborhood parks, lakes, and the South Platte River.
Look at where Kirkland ranked on our last Top 100 Best Places to Live list, and you might wonder, why the jump? This time around the city scored better in nearly all quality of life measures, especially social and civic engagement, housing, and economy. Residents often take walks along the downtown waterfront, which overlooks Lake Washington. Northwest University and Lake Washington Technical College contribute to the city’s cultural scene and educational system.
When they’re not admiring amazing views of the Rocky Mountains, residents of Lakewood enjoy a growing assortment of shops and restaurants, which is a result of the city’s strong economy. Among the largest employers in Lakewood is the Denver Federal Center, which has more than 7,000 workers. Lakewood schools perform well, and the city hosts Colorado Christian University. Outdoor attractions like the 2,600-acre Bear Creek Lake Park are easily accessible. See where Lakewood ranked on the 2014 Top 100 Best Places to Live.
Situated at the intersection of where desert meets mountains, the city of Boise’s cultural amenities are just as impressive as its natural surroundings. The Boise River flows through the city, past theaters, museums, great breweries and Boise State University. Top employers in Boise include St. Luke’s Health System, Micron Technology and Hewlett-Packard. It’s easy to see why Boise is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.
Once a center of the fur trade, Grand Forks has grown to become the third-largest city in North Dakota, with a diverse economy that encompasses education, defense, health care and research. Many jobs are tied to Grand Forks Air Force Base, Altru Health System and the University of North Dakota. Residents enjoy vast natural resources and a strong retail sector.
Many residents of San Luis Obispo claim they’ve found the “happiest place to live.” Geographically speaking, they’ve struck a gold mine. San Luis Obispo is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Ridge, smack dab in the middle of Central Coast Wine Country. California Polytechnic State University and Cuesta College give the city a youthful vibe, while a network of trails, parks and recreational facilities help keep residents healthy. See where San Luis Obispo ranked on the 2014 Top 100 Best Places to Live.
A tunnel built so toads can cross a street safely demonstrates the importance residents of Davis place on the environment and wildlife. Since the 1960s, all subdivisions in Davis have been built with bike lanes, something that helped the city get a “platinum” designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Strong schools, a stable economy and excellent health care attract newcomers. Most Davis residents are politically active.