An aerial view of Chevy Chase, a wealthy suburban neighborhood in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The sun sets behind the residential homes in the spring.

Best places to live in America

Written by:
April 28, 2023
Nicole Glass Photography // Shutterstock

Best places to live in America

What exactly makes a place an ideal hometown? Perhaps affordability, an area with a stellar school system, and access to shopping—depending on priorities, any of these might be deciding factors in choosing the best place to live in America.

To help, Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live using Niche's 2023 rankings. Niche ranks places to live based on an array of factors, including the cost of living, educational level of residents, housing, and public schools.

This list features college towns, suburbs, and cities, with spots on the East Coast dominating. Many are appealing for varied reasons—relatively safe environments and commitment to education, proximity to the cultural attractions of an urban area, or nearby wilderness for hiking and skiing. Some grew popular when a major company moved in, boosting local job opportunities. Some are especially quaint and historical, while others have been experiencing tech booms.

Whether you are looking to relocate, just daydreaming about a change of scenery, or curious to see if your hometown is mentioned, take a look at the American towns and cities that have earned their spot on this list of the top 50 places to live in the U.S.

#50. Park Forest Village, Pennsylvania

- Population: 8,933

Park Forest Enterprises built Park Forest Village in 1956. It was the first significant suburban development near State College, the home of Penn State University. Its curved streets and the retention of its old trees offered a marked contrast to the typical post-World War II suburban grid.

#49. Pepper Pike, Ohio

- Population: 6,743
- Location: Suburb of Cleveland

Pepper Pike is known as the city "close to everything." It is a safe community with outstanding schools and convenient shopping and restaurants. Nearby attractions include the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood.

#48. Arlington, Virginia

- Population: 235,764

The Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery are two of the most-visited spots in Arlington, Virginia, but this city has much more to offer. George Mason University law school and a satellite campus for the University of Virginia are in Arlington. Amazon chose Arlington for its East Coast headquarters and is expected to create 25,000 jobs over the next decade—however, in March 2023, the company delayed the construction of some new buildings.

#47. Short Pump, Virginia

- Population: 27,332
- Location: Suburb of Richmond

Short Pump is less than 10 miles from Richmond, Virginia's capital, and slightly more than 100 miles from Washington D.C. It has an open-air mall for shopping, parkland with picnic facilities, spray fountains, athletic fields, and a restored 1902 two-room schoolhouse. Its name is traced back to a short-handled water pump at a local tavern where stagecoach drivers would stop in the early 1800s.

#46. Ardsley, New York

- Population: 4,984
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Located in southern Westchester County, Ardsley offers terrific schools, shopping, and restaurants. It is mainly residential and has the artsy feel of nearby towns along the Hudson River. Though small, it has two parks: V. E. Macy Park, which is run by Westchester County, and Ashford Park, with a gazebo, tennis courts, and a seasonal snack bar.

#45. East Williston, New York

- Population: 2,637
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Incorporated as a village in 1926, East Williston is proud of its history. In 1981, it repurchased the first new piece of fire equipment it had bought as a village, a 1929 Maxim 500 pumper, which was used until 1955. Later found in upstate New York under hay in a barn, it's being restored by the village as a historical display. The community's many volunteer organizations host events on the Village Green, including an annual egg hunt and a harvest festival.

#44. Cary, North Carolina

- Population: 171,603
- Location: Suburb of Raleigh

Cary, located near North Carolina's Research Triangle, has been called one of the safest cities in America by some outlets. The town hosts the North Carolina Courage of the National Women's Soccer League, and USA Baseball's national training complex. Cary has its own public transportation system with fixed-route and door-to-door service.

#43. Cascades, Virginia

- Population: 12,509

Cascades is a suburban home for many families and young professionals, and it's an easy commute to Washington D.C. The public schools are highly rated, and nearly one-third of residents have a master's degree or higher.

#42. River Edge, New Jersey

- Population: 12,024
- Location: Suburb of Bergen County

River Edge traces its history as a European settlement to the late 1600s and Cornelius Matthew, a Swedish land-clearer. The area was then called Tantaqua's Plain or Aschatking, which meant "at the narrows, where the hill comes close to the river." Today it offers the River Edge Cultural Center, a nonprofit museum and cultural center run by volunteers, and a library. The Bergen County Historical Society is raising money for a new museum at the historic "New Bridge Landing," an important Revolutionary War spot.

#41. Narberth, Pennsylvania

- Population: 4,467
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

For those looking for a tight-knit community, Narberth, a suburb just a few miles west of Philadelphia, may be ideal. Narberth gives small-town vibes but boasts big-city living at the same time. There's a centrally located business district and an array of historic properties from the 1800s. Several colleges and universities are nearby, such as Villanova University, St. Joseph's University, and Bryn Mawr College.

#40. Berwyn, Pennsylvania

- Population: 3,620
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

Berwyn is one of the famous Philadelphia Main Line suburbs, built on the historic Welsh Tract granted by William Penn to Welsh Quakers. The suburb got its name in 1877 when the Pennsylvania Railroad was promoting development along that "Main Line" west of Philadelphia, according to a local historical society. One well-known attraction is the Berwyn Indoor/Outdoor Vintage Flea Market, which is open year-round on weekends.

#39. Plainview, New York

- Population: 26,665
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Plainview is a hamlet within the town of Oyster Bay, near Long Island's North Shore. It's centrally located with libraries, hospitals, a nursing home, office buildings, campgrounds, and the Old Bethpage Restoration Village. Its beginnings can be traced to a small freshwater pond called Moscopas that became an important site for Native Americans across Long Island. Plainview was a major source of the country's pickles—a Heinz pickle plant was nearby—until blight destroyed the crop in the early 1900s.

#38. Exton, Pennsylvania

- Population: 6,095
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

A small city in Chester County, Exton is the area's main shopping district and a dense suburban community. There are several parks as well. It is home to families and young professionals: Nearly two-thirds of residents rent their homes, and the public schools in Exton are highly rated.

#37. Ridgewood, New Jersey

- Population: 25,991
- Location: Suburb of Bergen County

Ridgewood is about 20 miles from midtown Manhattan, serving as a wealthy bedroom community for New York City. During the American Revolution, soldiers engaged in skirmishes with the British in the churchyard of its Reformed Church.

#36. Shaker Heights, Ohio

- Population: 29,197
- Location: Suburb of Cleveland

Shaker Heights, a medium-sized Cleveland suburb, got its name from the North Union Shaker Community, originally known as the "Shaking Quakers," a sect whose members would tremble during their religious services. The Shakers believed in communal property ownership and were against marriage. Today, the community bearing their name is filled with families, most of whom own their homes.

#35. Williamsville, New York

- Population: 5,419
- Location: Suburb of Buffalo

Incorporated in 1850, the village advertises itself as Walkable Williamsville. It takes up 1 square mile that includes six parks. Williamsville has identified 34 places within the village as historical sites, including the Village Meeting House and the Williamsville Water Mill. In 2018, it was awarded a nearly $50,000 grant to revitalize the Ellicott Creek waterfront.

#34. Richmond Heights, Missouri

- Population: 9,188
- Location: Suburb of St. Louis

Richmond Heights has stately older homes, mostly built before World War II. Most working residents are white-collar professionals, although the town also has a remarkably high number of resident artists, designers, and members of the media. More than 75% of adults have at least a four-year college degree, compared with a national average of 38%.

#33. Chesterfield, Missouri

- Population: 49,675
- Location: Suburb of St. Louis

While there are many nearby wonders in St. Louis, few of the big city's attractions are as specific as the Butterfly House in Chesterfield, a butterfly zoo that opened in 1998. One of Chesterfield's most famous former residents is pitcher Max Scherzer, who won a World Series title with the Washington Nationals in 2019.

#32. Hartsdale, New York

- Population: 2,964
- Location: Suburb of New York City

A hamlet north of New York City, Hartsdale was part of an area given to Frederick Philipse, a Dutch merchant and British loyalist, by the British government. The town later became the site of the first Carvel ice cream store, owned by a Greek immigrant, Tom Carvel, and has had a notable Japanese community. Another well-known spot is the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the only pet cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places.

#31. Cambridge, Massachusetts

- Population: 116,892

Cambridge is across the Charles River from Boston and the home of Harvard College, one of the first in America, founded in 1636 to train young men for the ministry. The city was built by Puritan colonists, who got a deed from a chief of the Massachusetts tribe. Today, Cambridge draws college students worldwide who study at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Lesley University.

#30. Clayton, Missouri

- Population: 16,905
- Location: Suburb of St. Louis

Various dog parks, camps, and the Historic Hanley House museum are notable points of interest in Clayton, Missouri. Washington University—one of the Midwest's most prestigious higher education institutions—has a property in Clayton.

#29. Bethesda, Maryland

- Population: 66,294

Bethesda is northwest of Washington D.C. Both the National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are in Bethesda, as are the corporate headquarters of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin and the Marriott International hotel chain. Some of the country's best-known private schools are located here, including one campus of Sidwell Friends School.

#28. Lake Success, New York

- Population: 2,856
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Lake Success is a village on Long Island incorporated in 1927 and covers about 2 square miles. Lake Success, the largest of the three lakes, takes its name from a Native American chief named Sacut. The community comprises private homes, two golf courses, houses of worship, and historical buildings and was the first home of the United Nations.

#27. Wayland, Massachusetts

- Population: 13,859
- Location: Suburb of Boston

A quiet bedroom community midway between Boston and Worcester, Wayland has easy access to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. The town is a semi-rural setting with little industry. It is home to many professionals, its schools are highly rated, and it works to preserve the forests, marshes, and fields that surround the Sudbury River.

#26. Chevy Chase, Maryland

- Population: 9,889
- Location: Suburb of Montgomery County

The development of Chevy Chase traces its beginnings to the formation in the 1890s of the Chevy Chase Land Company, founded by two men who had made their fortunes in gold and silver mines in the West. The town truly began to grow after World War I and the manufacture of automobiles. Today, the area monitors how growth in neighboring Bethesda affects Chevy Chase residents' quality of life.

#25. Stone Ridge, Virginia

- Population: 15,776

Stone Ridge is less than 40 miles from Washington D.C., and close to Dulles International Airport. Its housing stock features single-family homes, condominiums, and townhomes. Nearly 9 in 10 families own their homes. The town has a clubhouse with a fitness center, an amphitheater, three swimming pools, miles of walking trails, and the Loudoun County Gum Spring Library.

#24. Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

- Population: 4,248

A 1.7-square-mile suburb in Bergen County established in 1698, Ho-Ho-Kus is about 20 miles from New York City. Its name reflects its Native American origins—the area was home to the Lenni Lenape tribe—and likely was derived from "Mah-Ho-Ho-Kus," a Delaware Indian term meaning "The Red Cedar," though there are other possibilities. Ho-Ho-Kus retains its small-town atmosphere and remains a tight-knit and safe place to live.

#23. South Kensington, Maryland

- Population: 8,566

South Kensington sits on the Potomac River between southern Maryland and northern Virginia, with easy access to Washington D.C. Homes are expensive, with the prices nearly four times the national average. Two-thirds of residents commute to work by car, and their average one-way commute is just over 30 minutes.

#22. Aspinwall, Pennsylvania

- Population: 2,901
- Location: Suburb of Pittsburgh

A borough on the Allegheny River, Aspinwall is a residential community. It was created in the mid-1800s when the steel mills were bustling and the superintendent of the Allegheny County Workhouse thought of building homes along the river bank. Its slogan is "The Town That Pride Built."

#21. Los Alamos, New Mexico

- Population: 13,270

Los Alamos is known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb, but that in no way detracts from its charm and livability. It has more than 300 days of sunshine each year, easy access to wilderness mesas, mountains, and canyons, and a thriving arts scene. Its schools are among the best in the state, and jobs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory draw highly educated and innovative people to the area.

#20. Carmel, Indiana

- Population: 98,137

In recent years, Carmel has been recognized as the best place to raise a family in Indiana, one of America's safest cities, and the best place to launch a career. The town also has a serene Japanese garden for residents and visitors to enjoy.

#19. Innsbrook, Virginia

- Population: 8,966
- Location: Suburb of Richmond

Innsbrook is a mixed-use community with recreation, residences, office spaces, lakes, and trails. It was founded in 1979 on 850 acres of undeveloped rural land not far from Richmond, the state capital.

#18. Cinco Ranch, Texas

- Population: 18,399
- Location: Suburb of Houston

There are pools for everyone in the family to enjoy inside the planned community of Cinco Ranch near the town of Katy. Residents also take advantage of a golf club and several trails and parks.

#17. Holly Hills, Colorado

- Population: 2,843
- Location: Suburb of Denver

Holly Hills, a suburb of Denver, gets top reviews as a place to raise a family and retire. It's walkable and diverse, with good public schools. Nearly all its homes are older, built between 1940 and 1969, and many have four or more bedrooms. Downtown Denver is easily accessible by light rail.

#16. Princeton, New Jersey

- Population: 30,717

Besides being home to Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, the city has been recognized as a healthy place to live, with lots of commuting options, as well as having tackled social and economic issues with creativity. It boasts parks and a wildlife refuge and is a semi-wooded community with various types of housing, including an affordable housing program.

#15. Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

- Population: 6,560
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

In Swarthmore, a suburb of Philadelphia, crime rates are low, and schools are highly ranked. But Swarthmore's cost of living, driven by high housing prices, is 30% higher than the national average. It is home to the prestigious Swarthmore College, founded in 1864 by Quakers.

#14. Okemos, Michigan

- Population: 25,179
- Location: Suburb of Lansing

Named after a Chippewa chief, Okemos is a favored settling site for employees and visitors of nearby Michigan State University. The Okemos schools are diverse and among the best ranked in Michigan. A short drive away, Potter Park Zoo is an excellent attraction for children. Art and architecture admirers can also marvel at the Goetsch-Winckler House in Okemos.

#13. Kensington, New York

- Population: 1,299
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Kensington was built as a planned community in the early 1900s, with a covenant to keep business and industry out. The developers, Charles Finlay, president of the Aetna Bank in New York, and his partner E.J. Rickert named the village after white gates at London's Kensington Gardens that they had copied. Today the Kensington Giraffe sculpture stands on the Village Green.

#12. North Potomac, Maryland

- Population: 24,449

About 20 miles from Washington D.C., North Potomac has a low unemployment rate and is home to elementary schools that are among the best in Maryland. During the spring and fall, trails throughout North Potomac fill with fitness enthusiasts.

#11. Syosset, New York

- Population: 19,347
- Location: Suburb of New York City

A tree-lined community on the North Shore of Long Island, Syosset offers an excellent school district, a convenient commute on the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan in less than an hour, parks, a golf course, restaurants, and shopping. The hamlet has focused on making the business district around the train station more pedestrian friendly.

#10. Herricks, New York

- Population: 4,163
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Herricks is a Long Island hamlet centered around Herrick Public Schools. The community includes Herricks Pond Park, a 4-acre passive park with a small pond.

#9. North Bethesda, Maryland

- Population: 50,695

Several nonprofits, including the Society of American Foresters, are headquartered in North Bethesda. North Bethesda's high schools post high rankings in state surveys, while Georgetown Preparatory School is one of the oldest boarding schools in the United States. Residents who work in Washington D.C., have a relatively short commute to the nation's capital.

#8. Princeton Junction, New Jersey

- Population: 2,208

Princeton Junction, an affluent area, has a suburban feel with low crime rates and highly rated schools. Residents are conveniently positioned near grocery stores, restaurants, playgrounds, and theme parks.

#7. Great Neck Plaza, New York

- Population: 7,429
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Great Neck Plaza is home to educated, affluent professionals. The village is diverse, with internationally born residents accounting for 37% of the population. For those who have to commute, local public transportation, such as the Long Island Rail Road, is often used to get to work.

#6. Brookline, Massachusetts

- Population: 62,620
- Location: Suburb of Boston

Located outside of Boston, Brookline has its own puppet theater—the Puppet Showplace Theater. Visitors can also step inside John F. Kennedy's childhood home, and comedian Conan O'Brien is among the noted graduates of Brookline High School.

#5. Great Neck Gardens, New York

- Population: 1,258
- Location: Suburb of New York City

Great Neck Gardens, located in Nassau County, is a small village with high-earning residents and a solid workforce. The village consists of educated, professional adults and is ideal for families, with its good public school system and high homeownership rate. This village is near the coast, with waterfront views from some properties.

#4. Devon, Pennsylvania

- Population: 1,981
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

A small, wealthy community on Philadelphia's Main Line, Devon is known as the home of the Devon Horse Show. The town has a rural atmosphere, and most residents own their homes. Housing ranges from Tudor mansions to large, newly constructed single-family homes and condominiums.

#3. Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania

- Population: 6,226
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

In the leafy Philadelphia suburb of Penn Wynne, public school test scores are higher than the national average. There is a large Jewish community and an active nonpolitical civic association.

#2. Ardmore, Pennsylvania

- Population: 14,391
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

Ardmore is an affluent, historic suburb of Philadelphia. One of the first shopping centers in the country, its Suburban Square, opened in 1928. There's also shopping on Lancaster Avenue and nearby streets, and a farmers market. Five weekends each year, Ardmore hosts the Clover Market of vintage and artisanal goods, and each year it hosts its Ardmore Restaurant Week and Ardmore Oktoberfest.

#1. Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania

- Population: 5,457
- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia

Residents enjoy top-quality schools, parklands, quiet streets, and safety in Chesterbrook, about a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia. It's adjacent to Valley Forge National Historical Park, the site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of George Washington and the Continental Army. During that time, the ragtag soldiers trained to become a disciplined and unified force.

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