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.
Home to North Dakota State University and on the banks of the Red River is Fargo, the cultural, educational, health care, industrial and retail hub for eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. A thriving downtown and multiple dining destinations add to the quality of life, and the fast-growing community has a booming job market and a vast cultural and nightlife scene.
Overlooking the Potomac River and seven miles south of Washington, D.C. is Alexandria, home to the U.S. Department of Defense as well as a historic downtown district known as Old Town. The city has several distinct neighborhoods, 70 parks and good health care options, and residents and tourists can choose from numerous restaurants, shops and entertainment destinations. Alexandria has fine public schools and many higher education campuses.
On the Best Places to Live list for four consecutive years is Columbia, home to the University of Missouri. Known as “CoMo” to locals, the city has many hospitals, well-maintained parks, popular nightspots and good restaurant and shopping choices. The economy in Columbia features strong sectors in healthcare, insurance and technology, and a dynamic downtown and many hiking and biking trails add to the city’s overall livability.
Close proximity to mountains and the Pacific Ocean make Walnut Creek a great place to live, and the city offers amenities like independent restaurants, a highly rated school system, numerous public parks, shopping centers and outdoor recreation opportunities. Walnut Creek has an active downtown with 100-year-old buildings and live-entertainment hotspots, and the economy is led by multiple healthcare and biotechnology companies.
At the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and more than a mile above sea level is Boulder, which has appeared on the Best Places to Live list four straight years. The local University of Colorado and its atmosphere is bolstered by nightlife venues, top restaurants and a four-block Pearl Street Mall, and the community ranks high in categories like entrepreneurial startups, health, microbreweries, outdoor recreation and research.
The affluent suburb of Edina is immediately southwest of Minneapolis and features a small-town feel with big-city amenities. The community is ideal for everyone from young families to retirees, and the growing city has a high-ranking school district and more than 40 public parks and hiking trails. A number of innovative technology firms and successful retail companies highlight a growing and thriving local economy.
An affluent suburb of Chicago, Naperville is on the banks of the DuPage River and located within the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor. A safe community, Naperville has eight college and university campuses, 130 parks and four sports complexes, an award-winning Edward Hospital (its largest employer), and 613 buildings in the city’s eastern sector that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many miles of protected forests and wetlands highlight the beauty of Chesapeake, located in southeastern Virginia on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and within a large portion of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The city has two Navy bases and a top-flight Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, and residents have transportation advantages such as Interstate 64 and four U.S. highways.
On the banks of the Big Sioux River is Sioux Falls, with a solid transportation system that includes Interstate 29, Interstate 90 and Sioux Falls Regional Airport. The city offers its residents 70 parks and greenways, and livability conveniences include more than 650 restaurants as well as award-winning hospitals. Many individual neighborhoods and housing options are available as well as a robust downtown.
A business hub for the Upper Midwest, St. Paul is on the bank of the Mississippi River and forms the famed Twin Cities metropolitan area with Minneapolis. St. Paul has 17 distinct neighborhoods and 160 parks, and also adding to the quality of life are attractions like the Science of Museum of Minnesota and the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.