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.
Known as “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan’s economy is based on commercial fishing and tourism. As the southeastern-most city in Alaska, businesses benefit from cruise ship traffic that brings travelers to the city from May to September. Residents have access to the University of Alaska Southeast-Ketchikan as well as PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, and the city features a number of distinct and picturesque residential neighborhoods.
Located along the winding Otter River, Fergus Falls, Minn., provides amenities like Lake Alice, Pebble Lake Golf Course, shopping venues, and several arts and entertainment sites. Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Fergus Falls Public Schools, whose motto is “Where Excellence Is Expected,” anchor the school system in Fergus Falls. Also serving citizens is Lake Region Healthcare, the city’s largest employer and a health care leader in Fergus Falls.
Historic neighborhoods, a vibrant downtown district and friendly residents help Hendersonville, N.C., attract new residents. The four high schools in Hendersonville get high ratings from parents. Hendersonville is perhaps best known for hosting an annual North Carolina Apple Festival that draws 50,000 visitors. Residents have access to great health care at Pardee Hospital.
Living in one of the nation’s top ski towns comes at a hefty price, but those fortunate enough to live in Aspen, Colo., enjoy a range of amenities few cities offer. The city’s four ski resorts, pristine parks, highly regarded schools in Aspen and upscale downtown shopping district lures many of the rich and famous. Residents also have access to highly ranked medical services and some of the best fishing spots and hiking trails in the country.
Home to attractions like Fort Ebey State Park, beaches, trails and 90 nationally registered historic structures, Coupeville, Wash., graces the Puget Sound and has a number of avant garde businesses that line the town's waterfront. The community is keen on the arts and houses Pacific Northwest Art School. Coupeville's restaurant district has garnered several awards. Residents are also privy to Whidbey General Hospital, one of the community's major employers.
Home to Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla is both a gateway to a great education and outdoor adventures. The city is part of the Ozark Highlands American Viticultural Area and is located near the Mark Twain National Forest. Outdoor attractions in Rolla include 10 miles of walking trails, a water park and neighborhood parks. A new indoor fitness complex provides more exercise options. Local students excel within the Rolla Public Schools district. Health-care needs in Rolla are anchored by Phelps County Regional Medical Center.
Located on the western shore of Lake Champlain, near the Canadian border, Plattsburgh’s natural amenities provide opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Saranac River flows through town, which includes a new waterfront park with walking trails and scenic views. Plattsburgh City School District, Clinton Community College and Plattsburgh State University College anchor the education system. Residents receive top medical care at Champlain Valley Physicians' Hospital.
Financial services and stock exchange companies anchor the economy in Greenwich, Conn., a community known for luxury homes and high-class amenities. The town's median family income exceeds $170,000. Four beaches along Long Island Sound, highly rated schools, proximity to Greenwich Hospital and a quaint commercial district make Greenwich a desirable community. The Greenwich International Film Festival draws many visitors each summer.
A vibrant arts scene, strong schools, independent restaurants and, let’s face it, a landscape most of us would consider paradise make Holualoa, Hawaii, one of the best small towns in the country. Rich volcanic soil nourishes plants and make an excellent medium for growing coffee beans, one of the biggest exports here. Residents enjoy daily what thousands of tourists come to experience, golden beaches and amazing sunsets.
Tourism, retirement and retail trade are three main industries that drive the economy of Silver City, N.M., home to Gila National Forest and its 400 miles of fishing streams along with mountain biking trails. Dozens of independent restaurants, shops and festivals keep residents entertained. Affordable homes and the highly rated Silver Consolidated School District draw many families. Western New Mexico University provides higher education options.