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.

  • 81

    Stephenville , TX

    Population: 19,074
    Sam Fenstermacher

    Home to Tarleton State University with its 10,000 students and 800 employees, Stephenville is bisected by three major U.S. highways and has long been a major agricultural and milk production community. The city also has the high-ranking Stephenville Independent School District along with an airport, senior center and Splashville outdoor water park. Medical needs are addressed at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville, and outdoor recreation choices include an expansive Bosque River Trail.

  • 82

    River Falls , WI

    Population: 15,103
    Kathy M Helgeson/UW-River Falls

    Overlooking the Kinnickinnic River, a world-class trout stream, the town of River Falls provides its residents with scenic views, excellent recreational opportunities and several cultural attractions. The river runs through the community, dividing the University of Wisconsin River Falls campus into two sections. Residents enjoy the 40-acre Glen Park and South Fork Rapids. River Falls Area Hospital takes good care of area residents.

  • 83

    Fort Walton Beach, FL

    Population: 20,767

    Courtesy of Jeremy Wilburn under a CC 2.0 license.

    A shining spot along a stretch of beach communities known collectively as The Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach offers plenty of sunshine, a family-friendly atmosphere and many things to do. Residents have opportunities to fish and play on the beach throughout the year, and access to a downtown entertainment district that features shopping, dining and nightlife. Neighborhood parks along with a baseball complex, softball complex and tennis center give families places to play. 

  • 84

    Whitefish , MT

    Population: 6,692
    Courtesy of Brian Schott

    Located near Glacier National Park, Whitefish is surrounded by massive mountains and geological formations that draw thousands of tourists each year. Residents enjoy opportunities to hike, fish in mountain streams, and watch deer, bighorn sheep and moose throughout the year. Children attend the Whitefish School District, and families have more than 25 independent restaurants to choose from.

  • 85

    Dickinson , ND

    Population: 21,097
    Courtesy of Dickinson Convention & Visitors Bureau

    The discovery of the Bakken Oil Shale created new jobs, which helped the population in Dickinson to nearly double over the past five years. New residents quickly learn the perks that come from living in Dickinson, such as the well-respected Dickinson Public Schools District and access to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Dickinson State University provides higher education options. See where Dickinson ranked on our Best Small Towns 2013 list. 

  • 86

    Fredericksburg , TX

    Population: 10,826

    Courtesy of Curtis Simmons under a CC 2.0 license.

    Situated in the heart of Texas, Fredericksburg celebrates its German heritage with beautiful architectural buildings that include Vereins Kirche, Pioneer Museum Complex and Pioneer Memorial Library. The city's agricultural prowess has branded Fredericksburg with the nickname, “Peach Capital of Texas,” and the community houses a historic district. Fredericksburg Independent School District and Texas Tech University at Fredericksburg earn praise from parents and students. Hill Country Memorial Hospital serves as a regional health-care provider.

  • 87

    Farmington , MO

    Population: 17,570

    Courtesy of J. Stephen Conn under a CC 2.0 license.

    From its historic downtown to the surrounding Ozark Mountains, Farmington gives residents a range of entertainment options. Families find homes here are affordably priced, and the Farmington R-VII School District offers excellent programs. Mineral Area Medical Center and Parkland Health Center provide top-notch health care. A collection of recreational amenities including a skate park, nature trails, indoor water park, tennis courts and streams keep residents active.

  • 88

    Incline Village , NV

    Population: 8,734
    Courtesy of Jeff Dow

    An affluent community on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Incline Village primarily attracts business and wealthy people from California. With single-family homes selling for more than $1 million, real estate is the city’s largest industry. Incline Village features winter tourism recreation and hiking in the summer, and residents are accommodated by Washoe County School District, Sierra Nevada College and Incline Village Community Hospital.

  • 89

    Portales , NM

    Population: 12,416

    Courtesy of Jimmy Emerson under a CC 2.0 license.

    Situated near Cannon Air Force Base, which is a major contributor to the region’s economy, Portales is a major agricultural producer of Valencia peanuts and the nation’s biggest producer of certified organic peanut butter. Also known for low taxes, Portales is home to Eastern New Mexico University along with a variety of affordable housing choices for residents. Several buildings throughout the city are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • 90

    Clive , IA

    Population: 16,634
    Photo: White Linen Photography

    Reasonably priced homes and vast amenities draw many families to Clive, a city located west of Des Moines. The Greenbelt Park and a trail system run through the entire city, linking neighborhoods with commercial areas that offer shops and restaurants. During summer months, many families attend the annual Clive After Five concert series that first began in 1985. Residents have access to two public school districts and a highly regarded Mercy Medical Center and a Mercy Cancer Center West Lakes. See where Clive ranked on the Best Small Towns 2012 list.