Best Places to Live

West Plains, MO

Population: 12,146
Photo: The City of West Plains

Tucked in the Ozark Mountains, near pristine wilderness areas and spring-fed streams, West Plains, MO, attracts nature lovers, entrepreneurs and families searching for an authentic small town.

The city's new Ozarks Small Business Incubator, which helps and supports startups as well as established businesses, recently won the Governor's Award, recognition for being the best redevelopment/economic development project in the state.

Steady population growth helped lure several new restaurants, like A La Carte Café, which uses local ingredients and serves wood-fired chicken and fish. Races at the West Plains Motor Speedway get spectators revved up, while the Avenue Theatre helps folks wind down.

An extensive park system, sidewalks and paths allow residents to walk through much of the town. Courthouse Square marks the center of West Plains' historic downtown, where the nearby Civic Center hosts a variety of concerts, athletic contests and special events. Downtown Antique Mall, one of several antique stores, occupies the old Aid Hardware building on the square and has more than 100 booths of antiques and collectibles and a coffee shop. Several festivals celebrate the culture and fellowship of West Plains, such as the annual Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival, which fills the streets with fiddle and banjo players. Naturally occurring springs across the Ozarks keep rivers and lakes full, providing year-round opportunities to fish, canoe and kayak. The 1.5 million-acre Mark Twain National Forest and Grand Gulf State Park include miles of trails, campsites and abundant wildlife.


Growth rate (2010-12): 2.4

Size: 13 square miles

Median home value: $97,000

Average commute: 13 minutes