Top 25 Best Places to Live in the Northeast
These 25 Northeastern cities each have something special to offer.
Each year, we at Livability put together our Top 100 Best Places to Live in America. The list is based on more than 50 data points and examines 2,300 cities to narrow down the very best places to live across the country. Here, we’re highlighting the top 25 best places to live in the Northeast based on our research. Each city has something special to offer — read on to find out what.
With 90 unique neighborhoods, Pittsburgh, PA, has something for everyone. This mid-size city is among the best places to live in the Northeast, thanks to its affordability, growing tech and robotics industry and diverse landscapes that include rivers and valleys. Lots of green space, plus major league sports teams to cheer on and world-class universities, all contribute to the hometown pride that’s palpable in Pittsburgh.
It’s easy to get around this thriving city. Newcomers note that many bridges connect different parts of the city, including 30 main ones and more than 400 secondary bridges throughout the city. While Pittsburgh has long been known as “The Steel City,” in recent years, it’s seen an influx of young people and tech companies. With local universities driving innovation and nurturing talent, including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, it might be time to update Pittsburgh’s nickname to “The STEM City.” If you’re new here, french fries layered onto sandwiches and burgers are a thing!
Home to Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, NJ, is a city bathed in history yet radiantly modern. Its flourishing downtown is full of cute shops, great restaurants and a rich arts scene. For example, the Mayo Performing Arts Center has galleries with rotating exhibits and offers a calendar full of must-see performing arts shows. For the history buff, pay a visit to the Morristown National Historic Park, commemorating where Gen. George Washington and his army spent the 1779-1780 winter during the Revolutionary War. Plus, Morristown makes it easy to get around, making it one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
Its downtown is highly walkable, and residents have excellent rail access. Another cool thing about Morristown? It is home to Fosterfields Living Historical Farm, where guests can experience farming like it was done 100 years ago (think watching a farmer use antique machinery and visiting farm animals).
Named after Col. John Quincy, the great-grandfather of former president John Quincy Adams, Quincy, MA, exudes history yet offers many unique amenities. Today, the city maintains much of that historic charm while keeping a firm eye toward the future as one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
Here in Quincy, you’ll find historic landmarks all over the city (the Presidents Trail is a must-follow) as well as a thriving arts scene, tasty American and international cuisine, a collection of must-try bars and pubs and 27 miles of gorgeous coastline. Its strong life sciences and financial services sectors and its education opportunities at Quincy College and Eastern Nazarene College make it one of the best places to live in the Northeast. One of its gems? The city’s Marina Bay neighborhood offers gorgeous housing and hotels as well as dockside bars, cute shops, a Nantucket-style boardwalk, views of downtown Boston and much, much more. It’s quite the oasis.
In the southern part of the state, Nashua, NH, is a city bursting with creativity and personality. Its eclectic arts scene encompasses gorgeous public art, an annual International Sculpture Symposium and performance groups like an amateur community theater organization, Symphony NH, and more. Thanks to the city’s collection of strong industries — retail, advanced manufacturing, health care, defense, information services and professional services — residents have a pool of great jobs to choose from, making it one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
Also, adding to its appeal? Nashua offers excellent housing options, from cute apartments and condos to townhouses and multiple bedrooms. Plus, its average home value is $319,319. And as far as outdoor attractions, Nashua boasts some pretty spectacular scenery. It’s home to the approximately 12-mile Nashua River Rail Trail and Mine Falls Park, which allows for walking, biking, boating, fishing, cross-country skiing and much more. And don’t even get us started on the food. Its diverse cuisine is ah-mazing!
Cobblestone streets, ocean views, fishing piers, lighthouses and world-class dining have long-charmed visitors who flock to Portland, ME, looking to soak up the seaport vibes and get their fill of lobster rolls. But in recent years, young families and professionals wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of big city life have begun moving to this quintessential New England town, and it’s easy to see why. Portland maintains its small-town feel without sacrificing the culture and conveniences of metropolitan living, making it one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
Great schools, cute Victorian homes, a premier art museum and fantastic seafood, are some of the perks the 68,000-plus Portland residents enjoy. Families love living in this southern Maine city, where nature is just outside the front door and history is on every corner. The city also has an incredible foodie scene and one of the highest number of restaurants per capita, with more than 300 restaurants in the area.
Worcester, MA, just celebrated its tricentennial, and the “Heart of the Commonwealth” sure makes 300 years young look good. As one of the best places to live in the Northeast, Worcester is an affordable and diverse city with sound transportation infrastructure, including a commuter rail that zips back and forth to Boston and an ultra-walkable downtown. In addition, locals in Worcester have a shared love for the arts, and there’s always something to do, whether that’s checking out one of the many independent restaurants on Shrewsbury Street’s ”Restaurant Row,” catching a Broadway show at the Hanover Theatre or hiking to a waterfall at Cascade Falls.
Just a 30-minute commute away from downtown Boston, the small town of Framingham, MA, has left a significant mark on healthcare research. The famed Framingham Heart Study, which has been ongoing for nearly 75 years, has led to significant breakthroughs in understanding, treating and preventing risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Healthier hearts are just one reason to fall in love with this beautiful township in the eastern half of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Founded in 1700, Framingham has three nationally recognized historic districts and nearly 300 historic homes. Downtown features charming shops, great restaurants with a mix of global cuisine, cultural attractions and a commuter rail stop, making the city one of the best places to live in the Northeast. In this educated, culturally diverse community, nearly half of the residents over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and more than 20% have earned a graduate degree. From urban living to suburban communities, residents have plenty of options to suit their lifestyles, and all offer easy access to parks, beaches and outdoor activities.
First settled in 1623 and incorporated in 1849, Portsmouth, NH, the seaport city along the Piscataqua River, oozes New England charm. As a highly walkable city with great restaurants, fresh seafood, beautiful architecture, historical attractions, boutique shopping and a thriving arts scene, Portsmouth is a popular stop for visitors. For residents, the outstanding quality of life makes it one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
With a technologically savvy and highly educated workforce (more than 55% of the adult population has at least a bachelor’s degree), it’s no wonder Portsmouth enjoys a strong economy. In addition to being a regional high-tech hub, Portsmouth is a major transportation center with the only deep-water port in New Hampshire. The city also enjoys a low crime rate, a robust K-12 school system and easy access to Boston. Those gorgeous harbor views make Portsmouth a great place to drop anchor.
Bethlehem, PA, is known as the “Christmas City,” and the holiday season is definitely extra-special here, with the German-style Christkindlmarkt Market, the glow of the 81-foot-tall steel “Star of Bethlehem,” and lit evergreens. But this Eastern Pennsylvania community remains one of the best places to live in the Northeast all year, thanks to a strong economy and affordable housing. Consider innovation to be in Bethlehem’s DNA; the Moravians built the first waterworks in the American colonies back in 1754, creating a municipal water system, and the first American-made violin was crafted here.
This former steel city has gone through a recent renaissance, and the Lehigh Valley is now a place that churns out patents for new products and is home to companies like OraSure Technologies and Crayola. Community traditions (there’s a Peeps drop on New Year’s Eve!), good schools and impressive arts and culture complement the innovation.
Located in the Ocean State, the picturesque town of Warwick, RI, is just 12 miles south of downtown Providence. Proximity is a strong economic driver for area companies, and two-thirds of New England’s population is accessible within a 75-mile radius. For locals, however, there’s no real reason to leave home. From retail to recreation, Warwick’s array of amenities, a high-performing education system, quality health care and an engaged citizenry make this one of the best places to live in the Northeast. And with a solid median income level relative to average residential real estate values, the homeownership rate in Warwick sits at 71.5%, significantly higher than the U.S. average. When you add in a rich history and 39 miles of stunning coastline, it’s easy to see why this quaint Rhode Island town is the perfect place to put down roots.
State College, PA
Located in the heart of central Pennsylvania, State College, PA, is home to Penn State University’s flagship campus. With nearly 46,000 undergrads, the university literally doubles the size of State College and provides access to the many amenities tied to a world-class academic institution. As a result, the city enjoys a diversified economy powered by an able workforce, a vibrant arts scene, an eclectic array of restaurants, a robust public school system and plenty of parks. This community is also great for raising a family, thanks to fun children’s activities like the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden at Penn State’s 395-acre arboretum.
Known colloquially as Happy Valley, it’s no wonder State College has been named one of the best places to live in the Northeast. On crisp fall Saturdays, as nearly 107,000 cheering fans fill the seats in Beaver Stadium, the valley moves the needle from happy to downright joyous whenever the beloved Nittany Lions score a win.
Live and learn. In Ithaca, NY, you can do both at the highest level. As home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, the community benefits from the educational and cultural advantages of having two highly ranked collegiate programs within the city limits. Ithaca, part of New York’s Finger Lakes region, is situated along the southern shore of Cayuga Lake and is blessed with uncommon beauty. Surrounded by trees and water, there are 150 cascades in and around the city, including Ithaca Falls on the edge of downtown spanning 175 feet in width and 150 feet in height. All these attributes make Ithaca one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
But wait, there’s more. Ithaca also enjoys excellent dining and shopping, strong health care and education systems, high walkability and a commitment to preserving its natural beauty by lowering the city’s carbon footprint. And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also home to Circus Culture as one of a handful of places in the country where you can learn the fine art of circus performance, so if you’re feeling inclined to leave it all for the big top, Ithaca is the place to do it!
The beautiful seaside community of Newport, RI, is famous for its lavish, 19th-century Gilded Age mansions and centuries-long sailing tradition. Located on the southern tip of Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, Newport boasts sweeping seaside views. Newport’s excellent quality of life makes it one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
The area’s 25,000 residents take full advantage of the city’s mild weather and abundance of outdoor recreation activities, from sailing to swimming and cycling. Residents in Newport are socially and civically engaged and have access to high-quality education, lively entertainment, beautiful scenery and never-ending seafood options.
Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Springs, NY, a dynamic city of just under 30,000 residents, is widely considered one of the best places to live in the Northeast. The city is known for its Victorian architecture and a charming downtown area filled with unique shops, restaurants, and galleries. Planning your next vacation? Saratoga Springs’ natural mineral springs have been a draw for tourists since the late 1800s and have helped turn the city into a resort destination. The springs are said to have healing properties and can be found at various locations throughout the city.
But there’s plenty of entertainment to be had on land, too. Saratoga Performing Arts Center hosts concerts and events throughout the summer, attracting international performers. Saratoga Springs also has a thriving business community, and the city is home to industries like health care, technology and manufacturing. As a result, a growing number of startups and small businesses are choosing to set up shop in the city too.
Fair Lawn, NJ
Just outside New York City, Fair Lawn, NJ, is a suburban town of about 34,000 people, a destination for families who want to be close to the city but still enjoy small-town living. Fair Lawn offers an ideal balance between city conveniences and suburban tranquility, with plenty of recreational opportunities, which makes it one of the best places to live in the Northeast. In addition, compared to other suburban areas in the region, the town has a relatively low cost of living, attracting more young people.
Downtown Fair Lawn’s park-lined streets are home to various stores, restaurants and cafes. The Fair Lawn Food Truck Festival, held annually in the fall, is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. A popular farmers market is also held in the city’s walkable downtown area.
West Hartford, CT
The rich history and natural beauty of West Hartford, CT, an affluent suburb just five miles outside of Hartford, is one reason it’s known as one of the best places to live in the Northeast. In the early 1600s, those drawn to its fertile land and abundant natural resources first settled in what is now West Hartford. A focal point of West Hartford is “The Center,” the town’s downtown district that has been a gathering place since the 17th century. Creating a sense of community is important here; each year, the Celebrate! West Hartford celebration draws in nearly 40,000 people to participate in the weekend-long festival. Regarding education, residents can think smarter, not harder, as the West Hartford School District is one of the country’s most highly-rated public school systems.
Many locals enjoy the quaint downtown area’s lively shops, restaurants and boutiques. As if that wasn’t enough, West Hartford is also home to several natural attractions. The 84-mile Farmington Canal Heritage Trail offers scenic paths for walking, biking and enjoying nature. In addition, West Hartford has plenty of fun and entertainment options that cater to a wide range of interests. If you’re looking to explore and breathe in some fresh air, there are many places to get out and about in town, including the Elizabeth Park Conservancy, which covers 102 acres and is on the National Register of Historic Places and even hosts community concerts during the summer.
The growing tech scene and entrepreneurial spirit in Albany, NY, make it one of the best places to live in the Northeast. The city is conveniently located just three hours from both New York City and Boston and has long been known as a hub for art, culture and history (the city is more than 400 years old!). In addition, thanks to its close proximity to major markets, Albany has become a hotbed for health tech, biotech and information technology talent. The growing number of startups has created a range of job opportunities for young professionals in the tech field, while established companies like IBM and General Electric have offices in the greater Albany area. Albany is also one of the more affordable cities in the Northeast, making it an attractive option for those just starting their careers.
Albany offers a wide range of outdoor recreation options for nature lovers. The city is located near the Adirondack Mountains and the Hudson River Valley, which offer hiking, skiing and kayaking. In addition, numerous cultural events and festivals are held throughout the city, such as the Tulip Festival, where more than 100,000 tulips bloom and residents come together to celebrate Albany’s Dutch heritage. Albany’s mix of affordability, location and recreation make it a unique and fascinating city to call home.
Lowell, MA, is located just 30 miles north of Boston, making this city of 115,000 an excellent choice for professionals who work in the city but prefer the pace of a mid-sized town. Proximity to a major metro aside, the city’s natural beauty makes Lowell one of the best places to live in the Northeast.
The city has several parks and natural areas, including the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest and the Merrimack River, offering nature lovers a chance to enjoy hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. Lowell also boasts many historic textile mills that have been converted into cultural and entertainment venues, including the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, a must-see destination for those interested in American history and the Industrial Revolution. In addition to its rich history, vibrant arts and culture scene, and beautiful natural surroundings, residents of Lowell enjoy the city’s one-of-a-kind community spirit.
The small-town appeal of this northern New Jersey town of about 26,000 residents has made it one of the best places to live in the Northeast. The area is known for its quiet streets, well-maintained homes and easy access to local amenities. Bergenfield, NJ, has many neighborhoods with that “small town charm” house hunters find appealing. A popular neighborhood in Bergenfield is Cooper’s Pond, located on the city’s eastern edge and home to an attractive pond and park.
Bergenfield offers a variety of interesting neighborhoods with amenities to fit a variety of lifestyles. Whether you’re looking for a quiet residential area or a more urban, walkable neighborhood, Bergenfield has something to offer. Bergenfield boasts a number of medical facilities and health care providers, such as Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, which is among the top employers in the region. In addition, the town is near a number of shopping centers and malls, including Westfield Garden State Plaza.
Burlington, VT, is Ben and Jerry’s birthplace…need we say more?
It’s hard to come by a city more picturesque than Burlington, and the city’s natural beauty is just one of the reasons it’s one of the best places to live in the Northeast. Located along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, the city is the largest in Vermont and boasts a population of nearly 45,000, but still retains a close-knit vibe. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the area’s beauty, from the 8-mile Burlington Greenway to easy access to some of the best ski resorts in the Northeast. In addition to its natural beauty, Burlington also hosts various annual events and festivals, including the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and the Vermont Brewers Festival.
The city is highly educated and forward-thinking, and the opportunities here are endless. Thinking about starting a new chapter? Turn your attention to Vermont. The state is looking to grow its workforce and has incentives for those who move there, including grants and a Stay to Stay Weekend program connecting visitors interested in moving to Vermont with employers, entrepreneurs and potential neighbors. Additionally, Burlington places a high value on sustainability and was the first in America to run entirely on renewable energy in 2015.
Does being the birthplace of the Buffalo wing make Buffalo, NY, one of the best places to live in the Northeast? While some sports fans may say yes, Buffalo natives know it’s the high quality of life, cultural amenities, outdoor recreation and vibrant culinary scene that really set the city apart. Located right on the United States-Canada border, Buffalo has long been an access point for anyone looking to visit our friendly neighbors to the north or experience the awe-inspiring majesty of Niagara Falls. In addition, the city’s geographic location means it’s ripe with opportunities for job-seekers: not only is it near the Canadian border, but it’s also within 500 miles of 40 percent of the U.S. population.
There’s no getting around Buffalo’s rough winter weather, but the city absolutely comes alive in the summer. Buffalo earns high marks when it comes to amenities thanks to the city’s abundance of parks, museums and concerts, plus a food scene that offers something for everyone. Buffalo is also home to several professional sports teams, such as the Buffalo Bills of the NFL and the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, Buffalo has experienced an influx of young people in recent years for a variety of reasons, including its affordability, and the city has a relatively low cost of living compared to other northeastern cities, with affordable housing and lower taxes, making it a very attractive place for newcomers.
Harrisburg’s mix of affordability, high-quality schools, family-friendly attractions, outdoor recreation and community events makes it one of the best places to live in the Northeast and an appealing spot for families and young professionals. Located on the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg is the state capital of Pennsylvania. It is known for its ornate capitol building, completed in 1906 and modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica. Boating, fishing and other outdoor activities are available at Harrisburg’s Riverfront Park along the banks of the picturesque Susquehanna River. In addition, the area has several parks, picnic areas and scenic hiking trails, making it ideal for nature enthusiasts or families who enjoy outdoor activities.
Residents here are proud of their city’s rich and diverse offerings ranging from Shakespeare to baseball and fine arts to agriculture. Offerings like the 130,000-square-foot Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts contribute to Harrisburg’s lively and diverse cultural scene. The center houses the Harsco Science Center, the Select Medical Digital Cinema and the Sunoco Performance Theater. In addition, young and old alike can sample local foods and goods at the historic Broad Street Market, which sells everything from fresh produce to artisanal cheeses, and delight in Harrisburg’s culinary scene.
Salem, MA, offers a mix of history, recreation and a comfortable climate, making it one of the best places in the Northeast to live. Although Salem is well known for its historic sites, including the Salem Witch Museum and the House of Seven Gables, its moderate climate with warm summers and relatively mild winters makes it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. In addition, you’ll find Salem Woods, a 300-acre nature preserve within a few miles of downtown Salem. Various plants and animals can be found here, as well as hiking trails through forests and wetlands.
Visitors to Salem can take boat tours to explore Salem Sound, part of the Atlantic Ocean, or simply enjoy the breathtaking view from the shore. In addition, the city’s pedestrian-friendly downtown area makes it easy for young professionals to get around without a car and enjoy the city’s many amenities. Visitors and residents can also explore Salem and its parks and historic sites by renting a Bluebike from the city’s bike share program.
Carlisle, PA, a small south-central Pennsylvania town of around 20,000 known for its active arts community, is one of the best places to live in the Northeast. The Carlisle arts and culture scene is vibrant, with various festivals, events and institutions devoted to celebrating the arts, including the Carlisle Theatre, which occasionally shows silent films with live accompaniment on its historic pipe organ, evoking the early days of cinema. In addition, public art installations are spread throughout Carlisle, including murals and sculptures. The installations contribute to the vibrant arts scene in the city, providing residents and visitors with opportunities to engage in the arts.
There are a variety of festivals and events in Carlisle throughout the year, including the Carlisle Summerfair, which features food, music and craft vendors, and the Cumberland Valley Artists and Photographers Exhibition, which showcases local artists’ work. Fresh produce, handmade crafts and artisanal foods are available weekly at the Carlisle Farmers Market. The market is open all year round and is a popular shopping destination. Even more? Carlisle is known for being eco-friendly.
The perfect blend of urban convenience and suburban charm, Englewood, NJ, is considered one of the best places to live in the Northeast. This diverse and welcoming community of around 30,000 residents is located just 10 miles from New York City, making it a popular choice for young and established professionals commuting into the city. In Englewood, residents come from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, resulting in a vibrant community full of cultural pride and a willingness to embrace different perspectives.
There are several parks and recreational areas in Englewood, including Overpeck County Park, which has a lake, a fitness trail and sports fields. Another popular park is Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, which offers hiking trails, bird-watching and nature programs. Golfers of all skill levels can enjoy scenic views and challenging holes at the Knickerbocker Country Club and Englewood Golf Club. A diverse food scene in Englewood caters to all tastes and preferences with a wide variety of cuisines. Locals love Sofia, a sophisticated dining and nightlife destination that regularly hosts live music and DJs.