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.
Historic homes and buildings like the The Palace Theatre help create a village atmosphere in Greensburg, which hosts the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, a highly decorated Desert Storm unit. Families flock to the farmers market and play in an assortment of parks. Seton Hill University and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg provide higher education options. Aestique Medical Center and Excela Westmoreland Hospital keep area residents healthy.
Perched on the Missouri River, Yankton is known as the first capital of the Dakota Territory. Yankton residents appreciate the city's interesting past as evidenced by 26 individual properties and six historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Quality of life amenities include a fine Yankton Public School District along with 14 municipal parks, and the community presents an annual Riverboat Days festival each August that draws 125,000 spectators. See where Yankton ranked on our Best Small Towns 2012 list.
Residents of Itasca, a northwest suburb of Chicago, relish the recreational and cultural amenities their city offers. Considered one of the most affordable suburbs in Illinois, Itasca’s location near O’Hare International Airport and major freeways appeals to many families. The community retains its small-town charm with top schools and scenic parks. A historic district and buildings with varying architectural styles add to the village's beauty, and railroad tracks traverse several neighborhoods.
Six community parks (including a skate park) and three walking trails add to the livability of Boerne, a city founded in the 1850s by German settlers, whose heritage is still represented today throughout the city. The downtown district includes unique shops and restaurants. The high-achieving Boerne Independent School District prepares students for college. Health-care options for residents include Methodist Boerne Emergency Center, the only 24/7 emergency center in south and central Texas. See where Boerne ranked on our Best Small Towns 2012 list.
Home to North Arkansas College as well as a highly regarded Harrison School District, Harrison is known for outdoor recreation thanks to its access to five major lakes as well as Crooked Creek, a nationally ranked smallmouth bass fishery that flows through the city. Dozens of independent restaurants give residents many dining options. Numerous parks and trails along with the excellent care provided by North Arkansas Regional Medical Center help keep residents healthy.
Gracing the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Houghton, a city whose major industry is year-round tourism. Cold-weather months lend themselves to outdoor activities like hockey, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, while the spring and summer are ideal for mountain biking, hiking, camping and kayaking. The overall livability of Houghton is enhanced by Michigan Technological University and Portage Health Hospital, the two largest employers in the region.
The picturesque city of Sandpoint overlooks the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake, while three mountain ranges surround the city. Residents and visitors take advantage of high altitude and snowfall, which create ideal skiing conditions at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, the state’s ski resort. The community features several parks, sports fields and nature trails. A large retail sector and a robust arts community serve Sandpoint, as well as much of northern Idaho and the Inland Northwest.
Residents of Hailey enjoy opportunities to hike, bike, fish, boat, ice skate and kayak. The nearby Sawtooth National Forest provides a large outdoor playground, while city parks offer playgrounds and ball fields. Snow skiing is another option thanks to Rotarun Ski Area and Sun Valley. The Friedman Memorial Airport allows residents to easily connect to major cities. Hailey residents are privy to a high-quality Blaine County School System as well as a College of Southern Idaho satellite campus. See where Hailey ranked on our Best Small Towns 2014 list.
Mostly known as a college town, thanks to the presence of the University of Mississippi, Oxford offers families a great place to live. It's been hailed as one of the Best College Towns. Oxford City Schools earned nationally designated “Star” rating – the highest ranking available. The community has a thriving and diverse music scene that includes the headquarters of renowned blues label Fat Possum Records, and Oxford has 50 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places along with an award-winning Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. A collection of restaurants in Oxford keep residents full. See where Oxford ranked on our Best Small Towns 2013 list.
Parades, concerts and festivals help connect residents of Papillion, a city rich in both recreational and cultural amenities. Homes in this upscale community come at a premium, but parents are willing to pay in order to be located in the highly ranked Papillion-La Vista Public School District. The city now hosts the Omaha Storm Chasers Triple-A baseball affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Papillion Days, a five-day festival draws thousands of attendees. Residents have their medical needs served at a high-quality CHI Health Midlands Hospital. See where Papillion ranked on our list of the Best Small Towns 2012 list.