Top 25 Best Places to Live Out West
These 25 cities out West all have something special.
Each year, Livability puts together the Top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S. The list is based on more than 50 data points and examines 2,300 cities to narrow down the best places to live in America. Here, we’re highlighting the top 25 best places to live out West, based on our research. Each of these places has something special to offer — read on to find out more.
Salt Lake City, UT
Bordered by the Western Hemisphere’s largest salt lake and cradled by the Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City, UT, is nearly picture-perfect. Salt Lake City residents have an amazing backyard, with easy access to world-class ski resorts and phenomenal hiking and mountain biking trails. Miles of protected open space, nearly 100 parks and close proximity to Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks also appeal to outdoor enthusiasts who crave adventure and are looking for an excellent basecamp to call home. Even more? Residents here can get from downtown to the chairlifts in an hour.
Other amenities that make Utah’s capital city one of the best places to live out west include a robust public transportation system, an international airport, and an exciting arts and culture scene bolstered by the new state-of-the-art, Broadway-style Eccles Theater. Business-wise, support for startups and entrepreneurs has helped SLC position itself as an emerging tech hub.
Fort Collins, CO
Fort Collins, CO’s downtown area is so charming that Disneyland modeled Main Street USA off of it. In addition to being Mickey-approved, this Northern Colorado college town is known for phenomenal outdoor recreation and brewing some exceptional craft beer. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is a welcoming community for all types of people, from recent college grads looking to launch their careers to entrepreneurs starting their own companies to retirees who have access to a state-of-the-art senior center. What’s more, Fort Collins has a thriving economy and a robust entrepreneurial spirit, making it the perfect place to grow your career or start a business. The Fort Collins business community has emerged as a national leader in up-and-coming industries like clean energy and bioscience, helping the city of 166,000 secure its rank as one of the best places to live out west.
As the state’s capital, the words Olympia, WA, elicit a kind of familiarity when spoken, but it’s not name recognition driving people to live in this unique city of 52,000-plus. Instead, a collection of skilled craftsmen calls Olympia home, from brilliant chefs and coffee roasters to brewers and vintners. Residents reap the benefits (in other words, the food and drink scene here is next level).
Plus, great job opportunities (especially in state and local government) and educational institutions make Olympia one of the best places to live out West. Speaking of government, downtown’s Capitol Building largely adds to the city’s arts and culture scene, as does its beautiful monuments, like the Korean War and World War II memorials, and more than 70 colorful murals dotted through the town. Oh… and since Olympia is located at the southern end of Puget Sound, residents can enjoy gorgeous views and participate in a large variety of water sports.
Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs, CO, is a proud military city, an energetic college town and a place where world-class athletes come to train for the Olympics. Not only is it one of the best places to live in the West, but Colorado Springs is also one of the most scenic. Case in point: The southern Colorado city is at the foot of Pikes Peak, which is known as America’s Mountain and the summit that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the words to “America the Beautiful.” Locals have easy access to countless outdoor amenities, from waterfall hikes to the crimson-hued Garden of the Gods. A high-altitude zoo, nearby cliff dwellings, and locally owned downtown restaurants and bars all offer opportunities for weekend fun. However, it isn’t all fun and games here. The city’s more than 495,000 residents also enjoy excellent job prospects, tons of higher education opportunities, lots of sunshine and an authentic community feel.
Home to just over 150,000 people, Roseville, CA, offers residents a little bit of everything. Its bustling downtown houses unique shops (selling everything from coffee to acoustic musical instruments and upcycled art), a growing arts scene, and sublime food and drink options (The Place has ah-mazing pizza). Plus, the area’s strong industries, like public administration, health care, construction and education, make it easy for people to launch or grow a career, making Roseville one of the best places to live in the West. Also adding to its list of admirable qualities? Residents have access to excellent health care here. A few examples include Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente. And when it comes to community get-togethers, Roseville always has fun events on the schedule (think live music and plenty of food trucks).
Millions of people travel to Alaska every year for once-in-a-lifetime vacations. But the nearly 290,000 residents who are lucky enough to call Anchorage, AK, home get to enjoy the exclusive Alaskan way of life year-round – things like watching the Northern Lights dazzle the night sky, catching king salmon from the rivers or seeing moose munch their way through parks. Glaciers, mountain ranges, and trails are among the Anchorage amenities that inspire adventure among the city’s residents, making it one of the best places to live in the West. But Alaska’s largest city is also home to lots of creatives who have helped shape a fantastic arts and culture scene. Anchorage also earns an ”A” for infrastructure. Traffic is light, which cuts down on commute time (unless, of course, there’s a moose crossing)!
With friendly residents, affordable housing, plus good jobs and schools, Bismarck, ND, residents are living the good life. Bismarck is the capital city of North Dakota, and the storied Missouri River runs through the city, providing a slate of choose-your-own-adventure options for outdoors-loving locals. As one of the best places to live out west, Bismarck has a few surprises: a unique Art Deco-style capitol building, an extraterrestrial-themed bar and grill and many historical sites.
The city is the perfect blend of historical reverence and future-focused thinking. Bismarck’s young residents are known for thinking outside of the box, and the city’s creative culture creates a community with an entrepreneurial edge. Don’t believe us? Check out the city’s revitalized downtown area, home to a roster of locally owned businesses. But it isn’t all work and no play here! Bismarck residents have unparalleled access to the great outdoors and more than 80 trails to go fishing, camping, hunting, cycling, hiking, canoeing and kayaking.
Sixty miles west of Eugene, OR, is the famed Oregon Coast, with its seaside coves, craggy coastlines and Pacific gray whales. And 100 miles to the east are the Cascade Mountains, a siren for outdoors lovers. What are we getting at? Locals have options (lots of them!) when it comes to weekend adventures within close proximity – that is if they can peel themselves away from Eugene, which is glorious in its own right and one of the best places to live out West.
Located along the Willamette River, Eugene (aka the “Great City for the Arts and Outdoors”) is known for its local arts scene and world-class recreation. The diverse geography and cool climate provide an ideal niche for every type of outdoor enthusiast, from trail runners to windsurfers. A sound economy, the presence of the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) and restaurants that have been doing farm-to-table meals before it was a culinary catchphrase add to this northwest city’s splendor.
Littleton, CO, residents enjoy Colorado living at its finest in this suburb just south of Denver. Commuter rail lines that zip into downtown Denver, a historic downtown filled with cute boutiques and buzzy restaurants, plus lots of parks with kid-approved playground equipment make Littleton one of the best places to live in the West. On top of all that, Littleton has a strong economy and intelligent residents, with aerospace and aviation among the top industries. On the weekends and after work, you’ll often find locals (and horses) along the picturesque Highline Canal trails. Did we mention Littleton’s hops culture? There’s a brewery located along a river that you can tube to on summer days.
Exciting things are happening in Sandy, UT, a suburb just outside Salt Lake City, which has the Wasatch Mountains right in its backyard and Little Cottonwood Canyon nearby. The mountains provide surreal fall foliage hikes and world-class skiing (so rad, in fact, that Utah has a trademark on the term “The Greatest Snow on Earth”). In addition, the city’s strong economy and infrastructure help make it one of the best places to live in the West, evidenced by ambitious projects like the Cairns, a mountain-meets-urban city center development underway that will be an energetic place to live, work, play and shop. Sandy also has an impressive skate park, a major league soccer team and an outdoor amphitheater where residents can rock out during the summer.
Ask the tourism department in Boise, ID, to describe the locale, and they’ll hit the nail on the head, saying it’s the kind of city you’d want to have a beer with – part rugged, part refined. At the junction of the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West, the 237,000 residents who call Boise home have a mighty fun playground in their collective backyard, including rivers, mountains and tree-lined trails. As one of the best places to live out West, Boise also boasts 100 unique restaurants with award-winning chefs working in the kitchens and Division 1 sports teams to cheer on, making weekends super fun.
This walkable, friendly city has plenty of surprises, too – like the Basque Block and fantastic breweries with experimental beer makers pushing boundaries. The economy in Boise is also something to talk about, with corporate headquarters setting up shop here and startups absolutely killing it, as well as innovative, hardworking residents.
Known for its beautiful scenery, historic farming community and friendly neighborhoods, Hillsboro, OR, is the perfect place to build a life you’ll love. Home to more than 107,000 residents, this city is dripping with public art, from colorful murals to gorgeous sculptures. Not to mention Hillsboro is flourishing with cute shops, amazing cuisine and beautiful natural areas that offer several ways to spend time in the sun – let’s just say you’ll never get bored when you live here.
Also making Hillsboro one of the best places to live in the West? Residents can find a great jobs here, as Hillsboro offers a wide selection of careers. Some of the city’s thriving sectors include computers and electronics, software and information technology, advanced manufacturing, bioscience and medical devices. And, as the fifth-largest city in the state of Oregon, it’s known for being diverse and welcoming. It’s quite the keeper!
Nestled in the beautiful Cache Valley, Logan, UT, offers access to a wealth of outdoor activities, from hiking and biking during warmer months to skiing and snowmobiling when the weather turns cold. Plus, this city of more than 54,000 people offers local shops, great restaurants and a phenomenal performing arts scene. Making Logan one of the best cities to live in the West is its wealth of job opportunities.
Thanks to its plethora of thriving industries – health care and social services, manufacturing, retail, arts, sports, entertainment and recreation – everyone can find the perfect job for them. Residents can also find a house they’ll love without breaking the bank. The average home value is just over $275,000, and this area offers a variety of styles. Another cool aspect about the city? It’s home to Logan Utah Temple, a castle-esque structure built in 1884 that is still being used today by the large population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who live in the area.
Cultural flair, an essence of adventure and an artistic spirit – these are just a few things that give Fargo, ND, its unique vibe. This city of more than 126,000 not only has a thing for craft beverages (you’ll find several places to sip your favorites) but also offers amazing food options, great shopping, a bustling downtown, fun community events and more. Plus, Fargo is known for its excellent job market, making it one of the best places to live out West.
With sturdy manufacturing, health care, value-added ag, logistics, back office, and software and hardware development industries in and around the area, it’s easy for residents to find a career they’ll love. Fargo also wins when it comes to education. It’s home to excellent K-12 public and private schools, such as Fargo Public Schools and Oak Grove Lutheran School, and it boasts North Dakota State University. In other words, this city is pretty perfect!
In a word, Reno, NV, is rad. Nicknamed the “Biggest Little City in the World,” this Northern Nevada city has become a hotspot for talented remote workers who want to stretch their dollars further while enjoying awesome amenities. The options are endless when it comes to having fun in Reno, from next-level entertainment (even if you don’t gamble, you can bet on the casinos to host great concerts), phenomenal restaurants, a solid craft beer scene and unmatched outdoor recreation. Reno is also a haven for nature lovers as one of the best places to live out West. The Truckee River rambles through downtown, and fresh powder in Tahoe beckons skiers and snowboarders. A killer music scene, minor league baseball, a calendar full of festivals and a passion for the arts contribute to the good life in Reno.
No matter which way the compass points, Bellingham, WA, residents have outdoor adventures awaiting, notably the San Juan Islands to the west and Mt. Baker to the east. Bellingham, which is about 90 miles outside of Seattle, is where the Washington coastline and Canadian border meet, and its cute-as-can-be downtown area offers a mix of eateries, art galleries, theaters and shops. Bellingham is a supportive, business-friendly town right on the water of Bellingham Bay with a wide array of outdoor recreation opportunities, both on the water and on land.
This Pacific Northwest town is among the best places to live in the West, largely because of all of these great amenities. With a population of just under 93,000, locals enjoy Bellingham’s active waterfront port, an abundance of parks, nature trails and waterfalls. Of course, if all that exploring works up an appetite, plenty of restaurants serve up the catch of the day.
Situated on the north bank of the Columbia River, Vancouver, WA, is a beautiful city with a full list of amenities. Here, the nearly 193,000 residents are met with a booming downtown that exudes a historic charm with a modern touch featuring gorgeous public art, cute boutiques, unique breweries, delicious food and a calendar of events like First Fridays. In addition, Vancouver’s sturdy business scene is supported by the small businesses that make up more than 95% of its economy, making it one of the best places to live in the West. Whether a resident is looking to obtain a job in the manufacturing industry, medical field or another sector, Vancouver supplies plenty of options. Another fun tidbit? Thanks to its proximity to the Cascade Mountains and Columbia River, every season brings new outdoor recreation options!
Chandler, AZ, is a welcoming community for everyone from recent Arizona State University grads looking to launch their careers to seasoned entrepreneurs starting their own companies to senior citizens ready to retire. This versatile suburb in Phoenix’s East Valley offers excellent schools, world-class golf courses, more than 60 parks and affordable housing. One of the best places to live out West, Chandler is a desert beauty that gets year-round sunshine. Even as one of Arizona’s biggest cities, Chandler retains its charm with a walkable downtown full of public art, boutique shopping, local restaurants and fantastic breweries.
This fast-growing tech hub is known as the “Community of Innovation” thanks to the exciting research and development to make self-driving cars a reality and the companies that are pioneering space technology. Families love living here since wages are high and there’s a lot to do on the weekends. Whether you love history or golf, there’s a little something for everyone in sunny Chandler.
Located south of Seattle, flecks of creativity, urbanism, history, sophistication, friendliness and more combine to create the thriving city of Tacoma, WA. Home to just shy of 220,000, this city boasts amazing eateries, the well-known Museum of Glass (which only puts a dent in the city’s exquisite art scene), cute shops, fun music venues – the list goes on and on. Plus, the Tacoma area is known for its diverse, sturdy economy that’s home to strong aerospace, health care, logistics and technology industries, making it one of the best places to live out West. For residents, this means great career opportunities are vast. Plus, the city is continually working to empower its residents as well as create a more diverse and inclusive workforce and community.
As Seattle’s sister city just across the Sound, Tacoma is making a mark of its own. World-class health care, walkable neighborhoods, many parks and easy access to the Cascade Mountains make Tacoma a top choice for growing families. Oh, and when it comes to spending time outdoors, Tacoma offers a collection of hiking and biking trails, great golf courses and much more.
Bend, OR, has a knack for converting tourists to residents, thanks to the allure of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the Deschutes River that rambles through downtown. In addition to all the outdoor amenities that range from mild to wild, Bend gets accolades for being one of the best places to live in the West. because of its top-notch schools and health care facilities. It’s no secret that business in Bend is booming, thanks to a sizeable entrepreneurial community and unparalleled quality of life. The region is expected to add jobs – lots of them – and is known for a collaborative workplace culture. Great beer, an urban trail system, a love for dogs and eco-friendly values bring neighbors together in Bend. Your family will love living in Bend, too, thanks to its year-round activities, short commutes and affordable cost of living.
Tucked between the eastern shore of Lake Utah and the soaring landscapes of Mount Timpanogos and Cascade Mountain, Orem, UT, is a natural beauty that allows for a ‘best of all worlds’ lifestyle with one day on the water and the next on the slopes. Located just 41 miles south of Salt Lake City, residents enjoy small-town living with access to both city amenities and outdoor adventures, earning Orem a spot among the best places to live in the West. In addition to stunning surroundings, Orem is known for its robust economy, sociability, reasonable cost of living and kid-friendly lifestyle, which earned it the moniker of Family City USA. Orem is also a popular home away from home for a slightly older crowd. With only 4 miles separating Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University in neighboring Provo, the combined metro area is home to nearly 70,000 students during the academic year.
Longmont, CO, offers the best of Colorado. It’s got a scenic Rocky Mountain backdrop with picturesque snow-capped peaks, community-centric breweries and a historic downtown teeming with arts, good eats and an out-of-this-world cheese shop. Plus, chefs in Longmont have been doing the farm-to-table thing since before it was a buzzword. In addition, cutting-edge bioscience and innovative tech give Longmont an economic edge, and remote workers love it here because of the lightning-fast fiber optic internet.
One of the best places to live out West, Longmont, was founded in 1871 by a group of prominent men from Chicago looking for a new start, and that daring and innovative spirit remains here today. There are plenty of parks and open spaces in and around town, so it’s easy to connect with Mother Nature.
Spokane, WA, is a Pacific Northwest gem filled with cool mid-century architecture, cute coffee shops and an exciting culinary scene with lots of breweries, wineries and tasting rooms. Plus, the city is a haven for outdoor adventure seekers, with unparalleled recreation, a gorgeous landscape and a beloved riverfront park home to a picturesque waterfall. As one of the best places to live in the West, locals have access to great education and health care options and a diverse economy that is considered a central hub for the Inland Northwest – which includes parts of Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon. Oh, and you’ll want to keep a bathing suit in your trunk; there are 76 lakes within an hour’s drive of Spokane.
Missoula, MT, is geographically blessed and full of untouched wilderness and friendly people. Located in western Montana, this hip city is snuggled in the Northern Rockies, surrounded by wilderness areas and at the confluence of three rivers. Missoula is home to the state’s flagship university, the University of Montana, and is a place where recent college grads stick around and launch their careers. But there’s room for everyone to grow – retirees come to enjoy the wide-open spaces, and remote workers stretch their dollars further. As one of the best places to live out West, Missoula has retained a small-town feel with a population of roughly 75,000. Undoubtedly, the city offers outstanding outdoor recreation, but the arts and culture scene is something to talk about, too.
Fall in love with Loveland! Life in Loveland, CO, is as cute as a Hallmark holiday movie. Known as “The Sweetheart City,” Loveland embraces its cutesy name and goes all out with Valentine’s Day celebrations. Civic-minded residents volunteer in a mailroom each February, putting Loveland stamps on Valentine’s Day cards that come in from around the world through a re-routing program. So cute, right?
Outside of the city’s altruistic spirit, Loveland is also one of the best places to live in the West because of its strong economy. With industry clusters in Northern Colorado that include advanced manufacturing, bioscience and aviation, job opportunities here are abundant. In addition, as a top health care and wellness location, Loveland is anchored by two award-winning hospitals and three major health care systems. To sweeten things even more, Loveland has outstanding public art programs and is considered a gateway to the Rockies, meaning residents can enjoy convenient city amenities and peaceful mountain escapes.