Best place to live in every state
What do you look for in an ideal town? Proximity to trails, lakes, and beaches? How about top-ranked schools for your children? Would you like a professional or college sports team nearby, or do you prefer museums and art walks?
Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in every state using Niche’s 2020 rankings. Niche ranks places to live based on many factors, including the cost of living, educational attainment, housing, and public schools.
Many cities on the list are suburbs experiencing growth thanks to rapid improvements in their metropolitan areas, whether it’s the creation of new rail systems or a megacorporation moving in. Other entries include planned communities or older cities that have been revamped with grassroots efforts focusing on greener ways of living, drawing in new businesses, or increased devotion to the arts. Towns with large colleges regularly appear, as prestigious universities not only employ thousands of workers but provide a rich amount of recreation and educational offerings for families.
There are a few well-known locales on the list. For example, a New Jersey college town steeped in Ivy League tradition offers a small-town vibe with historic architecture. Idaho’s entry proves the state is about more than just potato production, and one town in Kansas takes the title of “smartest” town in America. Then, of course, there’s the town that owes its affluence to Walmart, and the Southern city that is the proud home of the Trash Pandas.
Each slide includes the city’s population, median home value, median rent, and median household income. More details on Niche’s methodology can be found here. Whether you’re thinking of relocation or are big on hometown pride, click through to find the best place to live in every state.
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- Population: 48,275
- Median home value: $245,000 (70% own)
- Median rent: $887 (30% rent)
- Median household income: $89,522
In April, Madison, Alabama, will become the home of a new minor league baseball team with arguably one of the most eccentric names in sports: the Trash Pandas. The city is building a new stadium to welcome the Trash Pandas (slang for raccoon), and if that’s not appealing enough, Madison also has top-ranked schools, borders the city of Huntsville, and offers several small business incentives.
[Pictured: Hunstville, Alabama, which neighbors Madison.]
- Population: 13,709
- Median home value: $244,100 (61% own)
- Median rent: $1,329 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $89,072
This small suburb of Fairbanks is the best place to live in Alaska. It’s home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, an international research center. Its proximity to Fairbanks puts it close to museums like the Museum of the North and the Pioneer Park theme park. There are also hiking trails and plenty of restaurants. College is close enough to enjoy these perks, but being a suburb, it offers residents more open space.
Arizona: Catalina Foothills
- Population: 50,426
- Median home value: $426,400 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,025 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $85,059
Catalina Foothills, Arizona, is surrounded by the picturesque Santa Catalina mountains, luxury shopping, resorts, and museums. Nearby, the University of Arizona has a notable presence, including its operation of Biosphere2. With these resources nearby, Catalina Foothills is one of Arizona’s most-affluent locales.
- Population: 46,857
- Median home value: $221,400 (55% own)
- Median rent: $918 (45% rent)
- Median household income: $81,934
Bentonville, Arkansas, could also be called Walmartville. The city, in the northwest corner of the state, is the home of Walmart, a company that has left its stamp on the town (just check out the Walmart Museum). If the history of retail isn’t your bag, Bentonville also houses the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, is home to craft fairs, and is close to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
California: Santa Monica
- Population: 92,078
- Median home value: $1,242,100 (29% own)
- Median rent: $1,734 (71% rent)
- Median household income: $93,865
California is packed with great places to live, but Santa Monica is taking home the gold. This small beach community in Los Angeles is home to the rich and famous, who have settled here for its direct beach access, iconic pier, A-list restaurants on Montana Avenue, and beautiful real estate.
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Colorado: Holly Hills
- Population: 2,909
- Median home value: $426,500 (93% own)
- Median rent: $2,634 (7% rent)
- Median household income: $136,176
Between Denver and the Denver Tech Center sits Holly Hills, a neighborhood in Colorado that takes the title of best place to live in the state. This quiet suburb of Denver is just 15 minutes outside the vibrant, cultural city, putting it within 15 minutes of attractions like the Denver Botanic Gardens, museums, restaurants, and the naturally-beautiful hiking and mountain biking trails around the city.
Connecticut: West Hartford
- Population: 63,127
- Median home value: $329,000 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,297 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $99,280
Aficionados of fall foliage can find some of nature’s best colors in the West Hartford Reservoirs. Even outside of the fall months, this city is becoming a favorite place to live because of its farmers markets, museums, and nearly centuries-old churches. The University of Hartford and the University of Saint Joseph both have campuses in town.
Delaware: Pike Creek
- Population: 8,312
- Median home value: $338,200 (86% own)
- Median rent: $1,748 (14% rent)
- Median household income: $114,865
Pike Creek, Delaware, offers plenty for outdoor lovers with nearby White Clay Creek State Park. The park offers more than 3,600 acres of hiking trails, creeks, and forest. It's part of the National Park Service's National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, as well. There is also Carousel Park, which has ponds, a lake, and miles of walking trails.
- Population: 13,266
- Median home value: $371,300 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,689 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $115,250
Nocatee, Florida, is a master-planned community south of Jacksonville. The coastal community has carefully-designed neighborhoods featuring everything from parks and recreation to shopping, restaurants, and more. Nocatee is located in Ponte Vedra, putting it at the doorstep of golf courses, beaches, and the airports of Jacksonville.
- Population: 23,054
- Median home value: $466,800 (66% own)
- Median rent: $927 (34% rent)
- Median household income: $93,039
Decatur offers easy travel into Atlanta via its train stations and U.S. 78. Stone Mountain is a short drive away, while inside the city limits are small higher-education institutions like Agnes Scott College and Columbia Theological Seminary. Recreation options include visits to the Decatur Ghost Tour and the Decatur Artway.
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- Population: 401,549
- Median home value: $713,300 (49% own)
- Median rent: $1,494 (51% rent)
- Median household income: $73,447
If you’re worried about rising COVID numbers in the U.S., then any city in Hawaii probably seems like a good place to live right about now. Honolulu is the capital and largest city in Hawaii and boasts an annual marathon, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and regular television and film projects. Oh, and the average low temperature in December in Honolulu? A balmy 71 degrees.
- Population: 25,174
- Median home value: $224,400 (41% own)
- Median rent: $695 (59% rent)
- Median household income: $38,533
Sharing the border with Washington State, Moscow, Idaho, was a pioneer town discovered in 1805 by the famous Lewis and Clark. Today the town would do them proud, as it's the best place to live in the state. Home to a weekend farmers market, plenty of outdoor activities like the Latah Trail Bike Path and botanical gardens, a brewery, and a performing arts center, this historic frontier town has done its roots justice.
Illinois: Clarendon Hills
- Population: 8,711
- Median home value: $561,700 (84% own)
- Median rent: $985 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $126,500
This affluent suburb of Chicago is packed with small-town charm. Originally planned in the late 19th century, the Village of Clarendon Hills is known for its low crime rate, top schools, and high average home values. The family-friendly community is home to the Morton Arboretum, with 1,700 acres of natural wildlife, as well as a community theater that hosts a calendar of events.
- Population: 90,163
- Median home value: $330,600 (77% own)
- Median rent: $1,199 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $116,867
Located just outside Indianapolis, Carmel is known for its Christmas market, overall safety, and rooftop bars. The Kawachinagano Japanese Garden is a favored attraction among locals, and the Great American Songbook Foundation celebrates music from the early 20th century.
[Pictured: Belltower and lake at Coxhall Garden in Carmel, Indiana, at sunset in the winter of 2019]
Iowa: Mount Vernon
- Population: 4,454
- Median home value: $216,800 (74% own)
- Median rent: $758 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $82,656
Mount Vernon, Iowa, was founded in the early 19th century, largely by Czech immigrants who came to take advantage of the rich farmland. Today this charming midwestern town retains its intimate size, with less than 4,500 people, but is packed with character. Palisades-Kepler State Park offers miles of hiking trails, river activities, and camping, while the famous American Gothic Barn pays a larger-than-life tribute to Grant Wood's most famous painting.
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Kansas: Prairie Village
- Population: 22,048
- Median home value: $261,500 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,321 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $88,635
Located on land formerly belonging to the Shawnee, Osage, and Kansa tribes, Prairie Village has been recognized as the “smartest” city in Kansas thanks to its high graduation rates. Prairie Village is also regarded as a safe city and one of the “coolest suburbs” in the country for its laid-back feel and inexpensive cost of living.
[Pictured: Waterfall at Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in springtime, located just outside of Prairie Village, Kansas.]
Kentucky: Fort Thomas
- Population: 16,313
- Median home value: $226,300 (70% own)
- Median rent: $882 (30% rent)
- Median household income: $76,837
Fort Thomas, a Cincinnati suburb, is named after Civil War General George Henry Thomas. Fort Thomas was a key mobilization point during the Spanish-American War; later, when mineral waters were found in the area, health resorts popped up throughout town. An annual art festival draws vendors and spectators from around the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky area.
[Pictured: Fort Thomas Mess Hall.]
- Population: 31,721
- Median home value: $231,600 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,152 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $94,478
In 1969, months after Woodstock, many of the same acts that performed at the seminal festival in upstate New York came to Prairieville for another historic concert. Today, this suburb of Baton Rouge has a steady mix of highly-rated schools, an antique shop, and Cajun cooking.
[Pictured: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, located just northwest of Prairieville.]
Maine: Cape Elizabeth
- Population: 9,279
- Median home value: $408,800 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,191 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $111,884
Cape Elizabeth is a suburb of the cool cultural hub of Portland. Located on Casco Bay, the affluent Maine town is known for a historic mansion, New England beach, and, of course, its iconic landmark, the Portland Head Light. Plus, it's just a short drive to the restaurants, galleries, and historic downtown of Portland.
Maryland: South Kensington
- Population: 8,769
- Median home value: $736,300 (90% own)
- Median rent: $2,164 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $181,941
With a very low crime rate and fantastic public schools, South Kensington is the best place to live in Maryland. There are also many parks in the vicinity offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor activity, from boating and fishing to hiking, summer camps, history programs, and gardens.
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- Population: 59,234
- Median home value: $885,700 (51% own)
- Median rent: $2,194 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $113,515
John F. Kennedy spent his childhood in Brookline, and Brookline oozes history—the Underground Railroad made important stops in Brookline that you can still retrace. Today, different community gardens and farmers markets make this Boston suburb a favored locale to raise a family.
[Pictured: Jogging path around Massachusetts reservoir surrounded by colorful fall foliage on a sunny October day.]
- Population: 23,912
- Median home value: $231,100 (61% own)
- Median rent: $965 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $78,080
Okemos, next to Michigan State University, has an abundance of youth sports activities, making the town an attractive place to raise a family. The Meridian Historical Village is another point of pride in town. Comedian Seth Meyers attended elementary school in Okemos.
[Pictured: Countryside in Meridian Charter Township, Ingham County, Michigan, where Okemos is an unincorporated community.]
Minnesota: Eden Prairie
- Population: 63,900
- Median home value: $351,400 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,352 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $106,555
Located along the Mississippi River, Eden Prairie is home to Optum, part of the UnitedHealth network. Those in Eden Prairie can take advantage of ice rinks, community gardens, and community theater productions. The Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are less than a 30-minute drive away.
[Pictured: Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.]
- Population: 25,522
- Median home value: $255,000 (93% own)
- Median rent: $1,557 (7% rent)
- Median household income: $106,849
Missouri: Richmond Heights
- Population: 8,457
- Median home value: $247,500 (55% own)
- Median rent: $1,010 (45% rent)
- Median household income: $78,481
Richmond Heights is a suburb of St. Louis that is known for its public schools, diversity, and family-friendly atmosphere. Its proximity to St. Louis means it has much to offer residents, from the St. Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Gardens to the historic The Fabulous Fox theater and St. Louis Aquarium.
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- Population: 45,121
- Median home value: $343,000 (44% own)
- Median rent: $1,016 (56% rent)
- Median household income: $51,896
Bozeman is home to Montana State University, which has over 16,000 students. The city is surrounded by mountain ranges and offers attractions like the Museum of the Rockies. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the largest airport in Montana.
- Population: 5,654
- Median home value: $124,800 (55% own)
- Median rent: $600 (45% rent)
- Median household income: $52,201
Chadron can trace its roots back to the pioneer days, when it was used as a fur-trading post in the Great Plains. Its surrounding natural beauty makes it a wonderful place for outdoor adventure, from the Nebraska National Forest to the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area.
Nevada: Incline Village
- Population: 8,491
- Median home value: $826,700 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,437 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $93,507
Incline Village sits on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, making it one of the most beautiful places in the country. It is an outdoor-lover's paradise, with ski resorts, bike paths, hiking trails, and waterfront activities. Cultural activities include an annual Shakespeare Festival, historic homes, restaurants, and a festival dedicated to the Norse God of Snow.
New Hampshire: Hanover
- Population: 11,512
- Median home value: $548,200 (68% own)
- Median rent: $1,475 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $133,672
New England charm is alive and well in this New Hampshire town. Hanover is home to Dartmouth College, one of the oldest and finest institutions in the country. The artsy college town has museums and cultural spots like the Hood Museum of Art and the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts. There is also ample opportunity for outdoor activity, with the White Mountains to the east and the Green Mountains to the west.
New Jersey: Princeton
- Population: 30,728
- Median home value: $833,000 (59% own)
- Median rent: $1,563 (41% rent)
- Median household income: $138,194
The aura of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels still resonates among the ivy-cloaked buildings of Princeton University, the campus that is the centerpiece of this quaint town in central New Jersey. The area boasts some of the country’s top prep schools, and the city is a short drive to Philadelphia and about 90 minutes by train to New York City. Locals can take advantage of an abundance of history, including battlefields that were crucial markers during the Revolutionary War.
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New Mexico: Los Alamos
- Population: 12,373
- Median home value: $295,600 (68% own)
- Median rent: $1,007 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $106,288
Los Alamos, New Mexico, is steeped in Native American history. Today, it's an outdoor-focused city with parks and public spaces, a bustling downtown, and its position as the “gateway” to three national parks and the Santa Fe National Forest. Bandelier National Monument gives a glimpse into the area's ancient past: Visitors can climb wooden ladders to explore ancient cave dwellings where the region's earliest inhabitants used to live.
New York: Jericho
- Population: 13,827
- Median home value: $772,900 (84% own)
- Median rent: $2,044 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $161,771
New York's Long Island is home to many charming, family-friendly towns, but Jericho takes first place as the best place to live in the state. Being in Nassau County means it's close to the services and convenience of New York City, but the suburban vibe is great for families. The Jericho Senior High School was ranked the fifth-best public high school in the state by Niche, as well.
North Carolina: Morrisville
- Population: 25,007
- Median home value: $317,700 (48% own)
- Median rent: $1,330 (52% rent)
- Median household income: $96,489
In North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Morrisville boasts headquarters for worldwide tech companies like Lenovo. A youth leadership council stresses mentoring and civic duty among students in town, and there is easy access to nearby Raleigh–Durham International Airport.
[Pictured: Winter morning at Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville, North Carolina.]
North Dakota: Fargo
- Population: 120,209
- Median home value: $199,700 (44% own)
- Median rent: $796 (56% rent)
- Median household income: $53,309
More than just the name of a famous movie (and later TV show), Fargo is home to North Dakota State University. The city also has a symphony orchestra, the Plains Art Museum, and a winter carnival. The Fargodome regularly hosts the music industry’s biggest acts.
- Population: 9,091
- Median home value: $281,100 (91% own)
- Median rent: $986 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $112,513
Located in Hamilton County, Madeira is an affordable city in Ohio on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Families flock to the suburb because it ranks very high nationally in public education, with three public schools. There are three parks within the city, as well.
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- Population: 91,053
- Median home value: $231,100 (68% own)
- Median rent: $1,028 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $78,692
Just minutes from Oklahoma City, Edmond boasts the University of Central Oklahoma and the Oklahoma University Medical Center among its higher-education institutions. Edmond has produced many star athletes, such as Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller, NBA All-Star Blake Griffin, and Kansas basketball coach Bill Self. Edmond’s high schools are all ranked among the best in Oklahoma.
- Population: 24,396
- Median home value: $509,900 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,574 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $127,351
Bethany, not too far from Portland, is one of the wealthiest small towns in the state. Bethany is close to Beaverton, which is home to Nike and Oregon’s Silicon Forest—one of the fastest-growing tech areas in the Pacific Northwest.
[Pictured: Portland, Oregon, which neighbors the unincorporated community of Bethany]
- Population: 4,714
- Median home value: $312,800 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,813 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $119,010
Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, is a suburb of Philadelphia just south of Valley Forge National Historical Park. With a small population, top-rated public schools, a family-friendly atmosphere, and a diverse population, it's no wonder it's the best place to live in Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island: Barrington
- Population: 16,178
- Median home value: $418,900 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,350 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $123,021
Barrington’s history dates back to the early 17th century when the first pilgrims arrived in New England. Today, Barrington’s schools win accolades, strengthened by their students’ readiness to take Advanced Placement exams.
South Carolina: Forest Acres
- Population: 10,433
- Median home value: $186,700 (75% own)
- Median rent: $922 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $64,926
Forest Acres is a family-friendly community near the border of the capital city of Columbia. It draws a diverse community, from young professionals and families to retirees. It offers so much for its residents to do, from family events and a farmers market to several parks, such as Citadel Park, Idalia Park and Quinine Hill Park.
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South Dakota: Dakota Dunes
- Population: 2,895
- Median home value: $266,400 (59% own)
- Median rent: $902 (41% rent)
- Median household income: $99,034
Dakota Dunes is a master-planned community located near Sioux City. With less than 3,000 residents, it maintains a small-town, suburban vibe. It appeals to a diverse range of people, from university students to retirees. There are four higher-learning institutions near the community, including Western Iowa Tech, Briar Cliff University, Northeast Community College, and Morningside College, as well as an assisted living facility. Residents enjoy the golf clubs and proximity to the culture of Sioux City.
- Population: 41,987
- Median home value: $622,000 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,891 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $160,597
Brentwood is rich in parks and wildlife, with the Deerwood Arboretum and Nature Area among the local highlights. Brentwood’s high schools are among the highest-ranked in the state. With Brentwood’s proximity to Nashville, a variety of professional athletes and country music stars live in this suburb.
Texas: Cinco Ranch
- Population: 16,977
- Median home value: $362,100 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,375 (17% rent)
- Median household income: $139,420
Planned communities around major Texas cities like Dallas and Houston are common (for more, check out Stacker’s “Best places to live in America”), but Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas, tops them all. Like many planned communities, Cinco Ranch has an abundance of pools, tennis courts, and golf courses, but this Houston outpost also created an amateur radio society.
[Pictured: Houston, Texas, which neighbors Cinco Ranch]
- Population: 30,961
- Median home value: $313,700 (88% own)
- Median rent: $905 (12% rent)
- Median household income: $94,001
Near mountain ranges and the Great Salt Lake, Kaysville is a suburb of Salt Lake City. Kaysville’s nature hotspots include the Utah State University Botanical Center. For more-thrill-seeking residents, the Cherry Hill amusement park and campground is a popular destination.
- Population: 3,335
- Median home value: $446,800 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,011 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $116,050
On the banks of the Connecticut River, Norwich, Vermont, is a small New England town with a population of less than 4,000. Residents enjoy the town's charming activities, from the Saturday morning Norwich Farmers Market to scenic overlooks, covered bridges, and a craft beer scene.
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Virginia: Stone Ridge
- Population: 12,990
- Median home value: $454,900 (88% own)
- Median rent: $2,339 (12% rent)
- Median household income: $143,140
Stone Ridge, just outside Washington, D.C., is a small Virginia city that packs in activities and amenities for its residents, from hiking trails to swimming pools, an amphitheater for concerts and plays, and a farmers market.
- Population: 63,197
- Median home value: $631,700 (50% own)
- Median rent: $1,855 (50% rent)
- Median household income: $123,449
Video game aficionados could have a field day in Redmond. Microsoft (creator of Xbox) and Nintendo have headquarters in this Seattle suburb. Residents also enjoy equestrian facilities, adaptive recreation options, and a velodrome.
West Virginia: Star City
- Population: 2,196
- Median home value: $160,800 (48% own)
- Median rent: $768 (52% rent)
- Median household income: $45,954
Founded in the early 20th century, Star City is a small town overlooking the Monongahela River. Today the city boasts the Edith B. Barill Riverfront Park, which has biking and walking trails, as well as access to the river via a public boat ramp. The Caperton Trail follows the river to Morgantown and passes the West Virginia University Arboretum.
Wisconsin: Elm Grove
- Population: 6,172
- Median home value: $362,200 (93% own)
- Median rent: $955 (7% rent)
- Median household income: $115,972
Elm Grove is a small village with quaint charm, that's close enough to Milwaukee to provide all the perks of a major city. The town is packed with small businesses and is home to Elm Grove Village Park, which has a community pool and sports facilities. It's a popular spot for family picnics, as well.
Wyoming: South Park
- Population: 1,612
- Median home value: $1,013,100 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,161 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $105,450
South Park in Teton County is at the doorstep of some of Wyoming's greatest attractions, making it an entertaining and diverse place for people to live. It's a small town, with less than 2,000 residents, but is close to the major tourist town, Jackson Hole. Residents can enjoy the hospitality services of Jackson Hole, as well as natural attractions like Yellowstone National Park and all the activities along the Snake River.
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