Best Places to Live

2017 Top 100 Best Places to Live

For the fourth year in a row, our Top 100 Best Places to Live ranked more than 2,000 cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000 in partnership with The Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities at New York University’s Schools of Professional Studies. The program, directed by renowned urbanists Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo, is training the next generation of 21st-century city leaders and conducting research that will enable them to succeed for the future. Also partnered with us again this year, is the team from Emsi, which models economic data into actionable intelligence for city leaders. Ultimately, 40 data points were used to determine our rankings in the categories of economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital, education and health care. Visit the links below to see how each city scored in our ranking criteria, review methodology or view the bios of our stellar advisory board.

  • 1

    Rochester, MN

    Population: 110,275

    Courtesy of Josh Banks.


    Four-time recipient of the Best Places to Live honor, Rochester earned the top spot for the second year in a row due to high scores for its health-care scene and a diverse range of affordable housing. Home to the Mayo Clinic, Rochester is also an entrepreneurial powerhouse, with many new businesses and a wide variety of things to do that keep residents entertained and engaged.

    Read more about why Rochester is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 2

    Iowa City, IA

    Population: 71,832

    Courtesy of Alan Light under a CC 2.0 license.


    Home to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes as well as Kirkwood Community College, Iowa City features a college-town atmosphere with big-city cultural events that are attractive to both locals and students. Quality of life conveniences include multiple shopping choices, arts and entertainment attractions, culinary options from fine dining to pub food, numerous nightlife spots and top health care at several hospitals. Iowa City perennially ranks high on the Best Places to Live list.

    Read more about why Iowa City is a Top 100 Best Place to Live

  • 3

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Population: 116,194

    Courtesy of Nekonomist under a CC 4.0 license.


    Known largely for its 40,000-student University of Michigan flagship campus, Ann Arbor is a city that also houses two of the nation’s top hospitals – St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and University of Michigan Medical Center. Prognosticators rank U of M’s 2017 football team as one of the best in the country, and Ann Arbor enjoys amenities like well-regarded art galleries, performance venues and restaurants. The city continues to attract more and more high tech companies and consistently ranks as a Top 10 College Town.

    Find more about why Ann Arbor is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 4

    Olympia, WA

    Population: 48,941
    Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau

    As the capital of Washington, Olympia’s major employers are state and local government. Residents have access to 25 hospitals within a 60-mile radius, and beautiful scenery highlights include Puget Sound, Turnwater Falls Park, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and Wolf Haven International. Olympia has a top transportation system in place, and students have the convenience of Evergreen State College, Saint Martin’s University and South Puget Sound Community College.

    Here’s more about why Olympia is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 5

    Charlottesville, VA

    Population: 45,084

    Courtesy of Bob Mical under a CC 2.0 license.


    Nicknamed C’ville, Charlottesville is home to Thomas Jefferson’s famed Monticello residence as well as the University of Virginia, and the city is graced with many impressive historic buildings. Two of the largest employers are University of Virginia Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital, and Charlottesville offers a variety of independent restaurants, shopping opportunities and entertainment venues. Shenandoah National Park has excellent hiking trails, and city officials make parks and green spaces a priority.

    Read more about why Charlottesville is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 6

    Bellevue, WA

    Population: 134,630
    Visit Bellevue, WA

    Across Lake Washington from Seattle and French for “beautiful view” is Bellevue, which has appeared on the Best Places to Live list four consecutive years and features some of the best public schools in America (along with Bellevue College). A high-ranking healthcare system exists along with a downtown district that accommodates 1,300 businesses, and shoppers have choices like Bellevue Square and three major malls. An annual Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair has occurred since 1947.

    Read more about why Bellevue is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 7

    Palo Alto, CA

    Population: 66,478
    Matt Carmichael

    In the heart of Silicon Valley is Palo Alto, a city near Stanford University and home to numerous cutting-edge technology companies. Big-name firms headquartered in Palo Alto include Hewlett-Packard, Skype and Tesla Motors, and the city served as an incubator to tech giants like Facebook, Google, PayPal and Pinterest. Quality of life amenities include top hospitals, historic neighborhoods, high-end shopping, many parks and outdoor recreation, and more than 5 percent of residents walk to work.

    Find out more about why Palo Alto is a 100 Best Places to Live.

  • 8

    Madison, WI

    Population: 243,122
    City of Madison

    One of the top bicycling cities in America is Madison, primarily known as home to the University of Wisconsin – one of the top research universities in the world. The community is entrepreneurial and business friendly and ranks high in healthcare, and plenty of cultural and outdoor attractions are available to locals and students. This capital city of Wisconsin also has a robust restaurant network, and entertainment venues are abundant especially along State Street.

    Read more about why Madison is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 9

    Overland Park, KS

    Population: 181,464
    Doug Stremel

    Considered an excellent city for young families, Overland Park is a four-time Best Places to Live recipient thanks in large part to great schools, low crime, multiple shopping choices, many independent restaurants and more than 85 community parks. Healthcare is a major livability asset with three high-rated hospitals, and other strong economic sectors are finance, insurance and information technology. Motorists have the convenience of Interstates 35 and 435.

    Learn more about why Overland Park Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 10

    Bismarck, ND

    Population: 66,980

    Courtesy of Onasill Bill Badzo under a CC 2.0 license.


    More than 80 miles of trails grace Bismarck, a fast-growing city on the Missouri River that offers plenty for people who enjoy active lifestyles and the outdoors. This capital of North Dakota hosts five colleges and highly regarded hospitals, and the city serves as the economic hub for south-central North Dakota and north-central South Dakota. A bustling downtown and many housing choices are available to residents, and five airlines serve Bismarck Municipal Airport.

    Find more about why Bismark is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.