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The Top 5 Stories of 2021

From affordable places to live to starting over, 2021 brought interesting stories covering all parts of the country.

By Livability on December 14, 2021


Here at Livability we like to have a lot of fun and, fortunately for us, our job lets us do that.

We love providing our readers with information about the best cities that are affordable, cool and places you actually want to go.

With a completely re-formatted Top 100 Best Places to Live list that focused on millennials and what we want, we saw our most engaged audience yet. Additionally, we released nearly several Top 10 lists, created new content series and provided our readers with countless roundups covering everything from the cities with the best bakery scenes to creative incentive programs that might help you plan your next move to the cities that raised your favorite Olympians.

Our team is small, but mighty. Without the help of our many talented freelance writers, supportive friends and co-workers and the awesome cities that we get to write about, Livability wouldn’t be all that it is. 

But, mostly, we are grateful for our readers, like you! Thanks for spending time with us, reading and sharing our content and giving us feedback on how we can better meet your needs. We can’t wait for you all to see the exciting things we have in store for 2022.

Without further ado, here is a list of the five stories that got the most traffic this year (and a couple of our staff favorites, too!):

Madison WI courthouse

2021 Top 100 Best Places to Live

Our most popular story is always our annual Top 100 list. This year’s Top 100 Best Places to Live list was unlike any other that we had done before. We always begin with the data, craft the rankings and asked ourselves one question: If you could work anywhere, where would you choose and why? After asking more 1,000 adults 18 and up across the country in our exclusive survey, we found that the #1 answer was affordability. So, for the first time ever we instituted a cap on the median home value, raised our population maximum and added more weight to measures of diversity and inclusion. Additionally, we created a new category that weighs a city’s remote-work-readiness. This year’s list represented cities from all over the country that are truly wonderful places to live and Madison, WI took the top spot for the best place to live in America. 

Find Your Best Place to Live

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Best Place to Live

We get it, sometimes you just want to pack up and start over…and you’re not alone. Since March 2020, more than 42% of Americans have moved or considered moving. When it comes to making a big change its hard to know where to start, fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a comprehensive list of questions to think about before you start scrolling Zillow.

2021 Top 10 Remote-Ready Cities in the US

When the pandemic hit the U.S. last year, millions of jobs switched to remote work basically overnight, and as the year unfolded, many of those employers and employees realized this virtual work setup was, well, working. Major companies announced they’d be extending their work-from-home policies through at least 2021, if not indefinitely.

While you might technically be able to live anywhere, some places are certainly better suited for remote work than others. If you’re working virtually, you need fast, reliable internet. You need fun things to do when you’re not on the clock. You need a welcoming and inclusive community. You need easy access to transportation if you need to get back to the office at some point. You need cool places to co-work and meet up with people (when that’s something we can all do again).


5 Dog Parks That Are Also Bars (Yes, You Read That Right)

Hanging out is always more fun when you’re with your best friend. And if your best friend has four legs and loves belly rubs, you don’t need to leave her home the next time you want to get your drink on. These dog parks combine fenced-in fun for fido and boozy beverages for his owner…we call that a win-win!


8 US Towns That Make You Feel Like You’re in Europe

Who wouldn’t want to book a luxurious European getaway right about now? If only vacation time and extra cash grew on trees. Fortunately, these 8 beautiful cities are right in your own backyard and have a heavy European influence that is just waiting to be explored — no passport or currency exchange necessary.

Staff Favorites

You’ll Never Believe Where We Found Bigfoot!

“Obviously, I love this article because of the breaking news: We found Bigfoot! (OK, not really.) But here at Livability, in addition to giving you the crucial information you need to decide where to live next, we celebrate the uniqueness of the places we cover. This feature is a prime example of the fabulous events (Grains & Grits Festival anyone?) we find along the way.” – John Nalley, Livability Media Editor

This Is the Story of a Girl and a Wild Horse — and an Actual Christmas Miracle

“Doesn’t every young girl dream of having her own pony at some point? How fantastic that her family was able to make it happen — a dream come true for the girl and her horse!” – Misty Emery, Digital Client Editor

Rooftop bar with twinkle lights at dusk
iStock/Jafni Johari

10 Rooftop Bars With Stellar Views, Vibes and Drinks

“Rooftop views with drinks-enough said. It’s amazing what a nice bourbon drink on a rooftop patio will do for a mood changer.  When I travel I am always looking for a rooftop to get the beautiful views of a city, in fact went to one on Sunday in Nashville!  This is a great list that I hope to be able to check off when I am in the area while traveling.” – Jordan Moore, Executive Vice President of Sales

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Best Place to Live

“This story is nicely illustrated and follows our IPSOS findings well with regard to the topics our research shows our audience finds important.” – Bob Schwartzman, President

The Spookiest Attraction in Every State

“I’m a big fan of spooky season, so this was my favorite article of the year. I loved reading about the interesting places to get scared around the U.S., especially New Jersey, Ohio and South Carolina. Now if only I were brave enough to visit them in person…” – Kim Holmberg, Chief Operating Officer


Editor Favorites

It seemed unfair to make our managing editor, Cara, narrow it down to just one story. So here are the top three picks from our go-to girl: 

9 Indie Bookstores That Are Worth a Road Trip

“I am a big reader…in fact, at any given time I’m bouncing back and forth between a couple of books. And, full disclosure, my favorite hometown bookstore was on this list. If you’re ever in Nashville, a visit to Parnassus Books is a must-do. I make a point to visit a local bookstore whenever I travel and buy a new book as a moment from whatever city I’m visiting.”

Here’s What Four Price Points Will Get You in 10 Cities Across the US

“Putting this story together was a real labor of love, but it was so much fun. If you’ve seen *that* SNL skit about looking at real estate listings, you know. It was really cool to see what you can get across the country and how many truly beautiful homes there are out there.”

9 Best Themed Hotels & Inns in America

“This roundup included what can only be described as a Dolly Parton fever dream…enough said.”

Flower field overlooking the mountains at glacier national park

Writer Favorites

We asked some of our beloved freelance writers what their favorite story of the year was and they didn’t disappoint. Livability quite literally wouldn’t be the same without them!

9 Hotels That Were Something Totally Different in Their Past Lives

“I had a lot of fun writing this piece and researching repurposing buildings for hotels. Staying in an old school or a candy factory truly does make for a unique experience.” – Emily Bills Handy, writer

8 Flowers Fields to Get Lost in This Summer

“Who doesn’t want to skip carefree through a field of beautiful blooms — or is it just me? This story spotlights the most diverse flower fields, from the East Coast’s largest sunflower maze to a lavender farm flourishing on a Wisconsin island. And yes, they’re Instagrammable.” – Cheryl Rodewig, writer

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