Best Places to Live

2015 Top 100 Best Small Towns

Big stories can happen in small places. Our annual 10 Best Small Towns in America list has been a popular index, but we always wished we could highlight more than 10 communities each year. After all, the reason we produce this list is to shine a light on cities and towns that are often in the shadows of the big metropolises. So, we’re pleased to present our inaugural super-sized 100 Best Places to Live: Small Towns edition.

To create this list, we used a modified version of the robust methodology we developed with the Martin Prosperity Institute for our annual Livability 100. We examined more than 40 data points each for more than 12,000 towns with populations between 1,000 and 20,000. These scores were weighted based on an exclusive survey conducted for Livability by the leading global market research firm, Ipsos Public Affairs. These cities and towns allow for the tight-knit communities key to small-town living coupled with the amenities you’d expect in larger cities.

We hope you enjoy (in more ways than one) the 100 Best Small Towns in America.

  • 1

    Lebanon , NH

    Population: 13,535
    "Downtown Lebanon 5" by Jon Platek -

    Though it’s the smallest city in the state, Lebanon offers residents natural amenities and fulfilling life experiences that you just won’t find in big cities. Lebanon’s visual appeal, strong economy and educational system, affordable housing, and civic engagement make it the top small town in the country. This is the second time in a row that Lebanon has appeared on our best small towns list. See where it ranked on the Best Small Towns 2014. Tucked into a valley along the Connecticut River, Lebanon is home to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and several high-tech companies, including Timken Aerospace and GPS maker TomTom. Throughout the year, residents gather in Colburn Park for festivals and concerts, while the places like Salt Hill Pub offer live music. The Mascoma River flows through downtown Lebanon, creating a focal point. The many things to do in Lebanon keep residents active and entertained. See why Lebanon, N.H. is a Top 100 Best Small Town.

  • 2

    Los Alamos , NM

    Population: 11,815
    Photo: Larry Lamsa

    It’s easy to see why Los Alamos is one of the fastest growing cities in the state. A deeper look shows why it’s the second best small town in the country. Situated upon the Pajarito Plateau, between the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Santa Fe National Forest, the city’s rugged location belies its warm and vibrant appeal. Residents enjoy many things to do in Los Alamos, from cultural attractions to outdoor adventures. Home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the city is filled with scientists, engineers and creative types who enjoy ample sunshine, cultural activities, and unique western architecture. See where Los Alamos ranked on the Best Small Towns 2014 and Best Small Towns 2013


    See Why Los Alamos made our Top 100 Best Small Towns list. 

  • 3

    Durango , CO

    Population: 17,486
    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons license

    The surrounding San Juan Mountains hold opportunities for Durango residents to mountain bike, hike, kayak and fish. While Durango is filled with Old West heritage, the city’s restaurants and shops provide a hip, modern entertainment scene. Thousands of visitors come to experience the Snowdown Festival, which includes fireworks and a beard growing contest. Located near five major ski areas, Durango serves as a gateway to great downhill skiing.

  • 4

    St. Augustine , FL

    Population: 13,676
    Photo: Glenn Hastings/Destination Style

    Considered the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine celebrates its 450th anniversary in 2015. Residents here experience daily what millions of tourists come to see: historic Spanish architecture, beautiful beaches, lush parks, and a vibrant downtown filled with restaurants, shops and museums. The many things to do in St. Augustine give residents and visitors a steady stream of entertainment options. The opulent Ponce de León Hotel is now part of Flagler College. St. Augustine is home to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, the largest school of its type in the country.

    Learn more about Why St. Augustine is a Top 100 Best Small Town.

  • 5

    Bar Harbor , ME

    Population: 2,585
    Courtesy of Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce

    From its rocky coastline to the surrounding Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor offers an authentic New England experience and friendly community. Situated on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor is home to College of the Atlantic and Jackson Lab. Cruise ships, yachts and lobster boats constantly float past the harbor allowing passengers to admire stunning views of the shoreline. Things to do in Bar Harbor range from seaside adventures to cultural celebrations. Village Green, a park in the center of town, serves as a gathering point for residents throughout the year.

    Learn more about why Bar Harbor is a Top 100 Best Small Town.

  • 6

    Louisville , CO

    Population: 19,548
    Courtesy of Let Ideas Compete, available under Creative Commons license

    Located southeast of Boulder, Louisville is home to several high-tech companies that specialize in space exploration. Families gather at Steinbaugh Pavilion for summer concerts and to ice skate in the winter. Galleries, studios, restaurants and music venues occupy many of the 100-year old buildings that line streets in the downtown area. The town’s pubs are packed with personality, including Waterloo in Old Town, which offers live music, mixed drinks, beer and burgers.

  • 7

    Hood River , OR

    Population: 7,412
    Photo: Peter Marbach

    An outdoor lover’s playground, Hood River provides opportunities to snow ski, windsurf and mountain bike, all in the same day. Perched on the Columbia River, offering views of Mount Hood, the city attracts adventurous types. Its economy remains rooted in agriculture with several apple and pear orchards and vineyards providing employment, but a handful of tech companies have brought in new jobs as well.

    See where Hood River ranked on the Best Small Towns 2014 list.

  • 8

    Spearfish , SD

    Population: 10,980
    Photo: Visit Spearfish

    Three mountains surround Spearfish, a city that attracts outdoor lovers who come to fish in Spearfish creek and wander through the canyon. Crows Peak, Lookout Mountain and Spearfish Mountain provide impressive views. Quaint shopping centers and a vibrant arts and entertainment district draws residents from across the region and provide many things to do in Spearfish. Parents rave about the highly regarded schools in Spearfish, including those within the Spearfish School District and Black Hills State University. Also serving residents is the 40-bed Spearfish Regional Hospital. This is the second time in a row Spearfish made our Best Small Towns list. See where the city ranked on the Best Small Towns 2014.


    Find out more about why Spearfish was named one of the Top 100 Best Small Towns

  • 9

    Sebastopol , CA

    Population: 7,583
    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Ranking high in cultural and outdoor amenities, Sebastopol’s small-town charm lures in new residents who easily find affordable housing across a range of home types, from 100-year-old bungalows to new subdivisions with modern features. Schools in Sebastopol are highly regarded by parents. The town’s apple growing history is celebrated during the Apple Blossom Festival and a Gravenstein Apple Fair, but in recent years, Sebastopol has become a grape-growing region for high-quality wines.

  • 10

    Port Angeles , WA

    Population: 19,200
    Photo: Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce

    Home to Peninsula College, Port Angeles also has a high-achieving local school district. The city connects to the Olympic Discovery Trail that traverses 130 miles of lowlands bordered by the Olympic Mountain Range and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Other recreational opportunities for residents include mountains, rivers, lakes and forestland. An 80-bed Olympic Medical Center serves residents and anchors health care in Port Angeles, while city officials are redeveloping the downtown district.