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.

  • 21

    Cary, NC

    Population: 151,186

    Courtesy of bobistraveling under a CC 2.0 license.


    Listed as one of the 5 Most Affordable Cities in North Carolina by Livability, the city of Cary reflects a thriving community. From a strong economy supported by a great educational system to the affordability gained through multiple public transportation options, Cary provides affordable amenities to its residents. With a nature rich community that includes several free parks, various nature preserves, and the Trails at Hemlock Bluffs, Cary also offers the opportunity for a healthy quality of life.

  • 22

    Manhattan, KS

    Population: 55,769
    Ed McNamara/Courtesy of Historic Downtown Manhattan

    At the junction of the Kansas and Big Blue rivers is Manhattan, home to Kansas State University and regarded among the Best College Towns in America. The city has amenities like Manhattan Regional Airport and an annual Country Stampede Music Festival, and its Aggieville district is a hub of nightlife with a big lineup of restaurants, shops and bars. Manhattan Town Center Mall highlights a thriving downtown, and the city hosts many big-name concerts.


    Read more about what makes Manhattan a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 23

    Portland, ME

    Population: 66,490

    Courtesy of Onasill Bill Badzo under a CC 2.0 license.


    The historic Old Port neighborhood along Portland Harbor is a favorite among tourists who visit Portland, a seaport city known for its beauty and charm. More than 230 restaurants and an award-winning Arts District grace the community, and college students have the choice of University of Southern Maine and many other campuses. For healthcare, residents can access two hospitals, and Portland ranks high in quality of life categories for entrepreneurs, microbreweries, summer festivals and pet lovers.

    Learn more about why Portland, ME is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 24

    Frederick, MD

    Population: 67,421

    Courtesy of Onasill Bill Badzo under a CC 2.0 license.


    Known for its “clustered spires” skyline of historic downtown churches, Frederick is considered the gateway to western Maryland and is within close proximity of Washington, D.C. Education options include Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University, and the city’s top employer is the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick installation with its 10,000 employees. Among the quality of life conveniences are Francis Scott Key Mall and Frederick Municipal Airport, and Frederick also has several microbreweries.

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

  • 25

    Ames, IA

    Population: 62,815
    Asten via Creative Commons license

    Home to Iowa State University and 30 miles north of the Des Moines state capital is Ames, a community of many woodland parks and a four-time recipient of Best Places to Live recognition. Campustown is a major gathering place with a variety of restaurants, shops and nightlife venues, and Ames residents can receive quality healthcare services at Mary Greeley Medical Center. Ames is also headquarters for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

    Read more about what makes Ames a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 26

    Woodbury, MN

    Population: 65,667
    Tom Dunn

    Located in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, the city of Woodbury is conveniently located along Interstate 94. With a strong sense of community, great health care system, and a solid economic and educational presence, Woodbury provides a well-rounded quality of life for residents in the area.

  • 27

    Fairfax , VA

    Population: 23,402
    Nicolas Tan/Creative Services/George Mason University

    In northern Virginia and part of the Washington, D.C. area is Fairfax, home to George Mason University and a redeveloped and reenergized Old Town Fairfax downtown district that features six buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The city has a strong economy and an upscale quality of life, and Fairfax hosts about a dozen community festivals each year.

  • 28

    Cambridge, MA

    Population: 107,916
    Photo by Ivo Gretener Photography

    Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are both in Cambridge, a Boston suburb that has landed on the Best Places to Live list for four straight years. Cambridge hosts many tech firms and entrepreneurial ventures, and city amenities include cultural attractions, a range of home options, Mount Auburn Hospital and 25 nightspots. Residents have access to multiple parks and walking trails.

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

  • 29

    Bethesda, MD

    Population: 62,102

    Courtesy of ephien under a CC 4.0 license.


    Just northwest of Washington, D.C. is the bedroom community of Bethesda, ranked among the wealthiest and highly educated cities in America. Housed in the city are Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health main campus, and Bethesda’s downtown is designated as an Arts and Entertainment District by the state of Maryland. More than 80 percent of adult residents have at least a bachelor’s degree.

    Here are more reasons Bethesda is a Top 100 Best Place to Live.

  • 30

    West Hartford, CT

    Population: 63,288

    Courtesy of Patrick under a CC 2.0 license.


    Five miles west of downtown Hartford is the town of West Hartford, a flourishing community with many interesting cultural, dining and shopping opportunities. Residents can send their children to highly regarded public schools, and other quality of life conveniences include two universities, easy access to Interstate 84, and a revitalized downtown square with multiple offices and residential options.