Best Places to Live

2016 10 Best Small Towns

Livability is a site about the great stories that can be told in small to mid-sized cities, and all the qualities that make them great places to live. Therefore it's no surprise that our 10 Best Small Towns list is one of our favorites. It's our annual chance to showcase the truly small towns throughout the US. Every city on this list has a population under 20,000. 


To pick them, Livability analyzed data on thousands of communities. More than 20 data points were analyzed, following the same framework and principals as our 100 Best Places to Live. Factors included indicators of healthy, active, affordable, diverse, and safe communities, with plenty to do and citizens who take full advantage of their cities. Places that are growing and thriving stood out, as well.


Once the numbers were crunched, Livability's editors combed through the short list to find cities, towns and hamlets with a range of sizes and geographic diversity. The result is this: our 2016 edition of the 10 Best Small Towns in America. Check them out, and if you're looking for a getaway, or just some place with a slower pace and a neighborly touch, any of these towns will make a great home for you.



Ranking Criteria
Commute Time
Cost of Living
Crime Rate
Quality of Schools
Entertainment Options
Community Engagement
Arts & Culture
Projected Population Growth 2015-2020
Health of Residents
  • 10

    Sitka , AK

    Population: 8,943

    Courtesy of Richard Ricciardi under a CC 4.0 license.

    Before it was called Sitka, the city-borough on Alaska's Panhandle was named New Arkhangeisk, or New Archangel, a fitting moniker for a town with unparalleled natural beauty. Located on Baranof Island, Sitka offers sweeping, majestic views of the Pacific Ocean. Visitors are often taken aback to see eagles flying overhead or whales surfacing in the nearby waters, but for Sitka residents, it's simply a way of life. The wilderness of the Tongass National Forest is just minutes from downtown. This daily commune with nature is one of the reasons we voted Sitka one of the 10 Best Small Towns in America.

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    While Sitka's population tops out at a little over 8,000, the actual land area of Sitka is nearly 3,000 miles, making it in effect the largest city-borough in the country – a fact that still takes some getting used to once you realize that Sitka only has two stoplights. All this land gives Sitka residents plenty of places to play – and hike, and fish and bike and boat. A series of biking and hiking trails wind through the forest, and the cool waters off Sitka Sound offer eager anglers the chance at Alaska king salmon, Pacific halibut, Alaska rockfish and Ling Cod among other species. You'd probably guess that Sitka's restaurant scene would be a seafood lover's dream, and you'd be right. Fresh seafood dishes dot the menus of just about every eatery in Sitka, but the city-borough also boasts several Asian-fusion and Greek restaurants. Sitka's food scene also capitalizes on easy access to large game, such as moose, caribou and elk, and of course reindeer, which is an Alaskan speciality. The downtown restaurant Reindeer Redhots, for example, is famous for its reindeer meat hotdogs.

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    Even though tourism has become a major part of Sitka's economy – some 100,000 cruise ship passengers visit the city-borough each year – Sitka has been able to retain its uniquely Alaskan culture and heritage. For instance, the year begins with a traditional Russian Christmas celebration which recognizes the city's Russian heritage. Each March, the town honors the backbone of its economy – fishing – with a traditional Blessing of the Fleet. Summer brings arts, crafts and music festivals, including the Sitka Summer Music Festival, a series of concerts at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and in October, the city-borough celebrates Alaska Day to commemorate Alaska transferring from Russian rule to the United States.