Best places to live in America
Pristine beaches along the Pacific Ocean, a stellar school system, outdoor ice rinks galore, safe neighborhoods, or golf courses where a sports legend crafted his game: Depending on your priorities, any of these might be deciding factors in choosing the best place to live in America.
For example, did you know there’s a town in Minnesota where 11 students achieved perfect ACT scores in the same year? If top-level schools aren’t a consideration, what would you think about living in the city that served as the setting for some of Generation X’s most revered teen movies? Too dated for you? Well, how about the Ohio town credited with shaping platinum-selling music artist and actor Kid Cudi?
Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in every state using Niche’s 2019 rankings. Only towns and cities with populations over 15,000 were considered. Niche ranks places to live based on many factors, including the cost of living, educational attainment, housing, and public schools. Each slide includes the total population, median home value, median rent, and median household income. Check out the details of Niche’s methodology.
On the list, there’s a mix of college towns, suburbs, and cities that have received sudden boosts in population and economics thanks to a major corporation moving within their boundaries. Some states have multiple entries (for those feeling like their home state was snubbed, be on the lookout for Stacker’s ranking of the "Best places to live in every state"). All in all, we’ve put together a diverse mix of small-town America and bustling, perhaps soon-to-be metropolises that offer a variety of recreational, educational, and historic aspects.
Click through to find out if your hometown—or a place you may have been scouting for a potential move—made the top 50 places to live in the United States.
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#50. Madison, Alabama
- Population: 47,079
- Median home value: $239,400 (70% own)
- Median rent: $879 (30% rent)
- Median household income: $92,197
With several dog parks and playgrounds, Madison, Alabama, offers recreational options for kids or canines. Next spring, a new minor league baseball team will play in town. If sports aren’t your cup of tea, Madison also boasts an Ancient Wars Museum.
#49. Upper Arlington, Ohio
- Population: 34,943
- Median home value: $357,200 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,169 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $110,397
The Scioto Country Club in Upper Arlington was instrumental in shaping the golf game of Jack Nicklaus. Today, other parks in town bear the legendary golfer’s name. In 1916, the town became a National Guard training site, in case troops were deployed at the U.S.-Mexico border.
#48. Manhattan Beach, California
- Population: 35,698
- Median home value: $1,694,900 (69% own)
- Median rent: $2,393 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $148,899
This coastal city along the Pacific Ocean has sun, sand, and draws a wide range of professional sports interests. The Manhattan Beach stop on the AVP tour is one of professional volleyball’s biggest events, while several members of the Los Angeles Kings live in town. The city’s Mira Costa High School is regarded academically as one of the best in the nation, and Los Angeles International Airport is only three miles north.
#47. Columbia, Maryland
- Population: 103,170
- Median home value: $367,600 (67% own)
- Median rent: $1,630 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $103,707
Despite only being around 50 years old, this planned community that attracts commuters to Washington D.C. and Baltimore has good schools and affordable home prices. The Howard County Library, which has been recognized as one of the nation’s best, has notable branches in Columbia. The Merriweather Post Pavilion is a trendy place to catch live music.
#46. Eden Prairie, Minnesota
- Population: 63,660
- Median home value: $334,000 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,289 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $103,426
When you think of Minnesota’s climate, snow and cold temperatures probably pop into your mind, but Eden Prairie has proven to be a good site for gardens and outdoor markets. This suburb of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) has a small airport, a skate plaza, and several ice skating options. The local schools have quite a reputation, too. In 2017, 11 students had perfect ACT scores.
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#45. Evanston, Illinois
- Population: 75,557
- Median home value: $367,300 (56% own)
- Median rent: $1,296 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $74,901
Evanston is the home of Northwestern University, located just north of Chicago. University employees often settle nearby and director John Hughes picked Evanston as the bucolic setting for many of his 1980s coming-of-age films. The city also boasts an arboretum and a lighthouse.
#44. Solon, Ohio
- Population: 23,068
- Median home value: $274,400 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,195 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $99,050
This Cleveland suburb has top-rated schools. Solon High School was named to Newsweek’s Top STEM High School list and regularly has a large percentage of students taking Advanced Placement exams. Rapper Kid Cudi spent part of his youth in Solon.
#43. Mason, Ohio
- Population: 32,317
- Median home value: $235,000 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,113 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $93,872
Located outside Cincinnati, Mason might be best known for the Kings Island amusement park. Each summer, Mason hosts one of the key tune-up tennis tournaments for the U.S. Open. Procter & Gamble is the largest employer in the city.
#42. Ellicott City, Maryland
- Population: 71,737
- Median home value: $522,700 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,611 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $124,059
This city’s role in American railroad history is on display at the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum. Near Baltimore, Ellicott City is known for its bed and breakfasts, brewing companies, and wineries. For decades, Ellicott City has been home to a large Korean American population.
#41. Franklin Farm, Virginia
- Population: 19,588
- Median home value: $610,200 (92% own)
- Median rent: $2,394 (8% rent)
- Median household income: $169,549
Described by The Washington Post as a small town wrapped inside a large suburb, Franklin Farm is rich in Colonial- and Victorian-style houses that draw families looking to be near Washington D.C. Dulles International Airport is only about seven miles from the town border, and Franklin Farm has an abundance of trails, fishing ponds, tennis courts, and public swimming areas.
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#40. Redmond, Washington
- Population: 60,712
- Median home value: $579,400 (51% own)
- Median rent: $1,731 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $115,300
This Seattle suburb is home to global giants Microsoft and Nintendo. Public school students are part of the Lake Washington School District, where standardized test scores rank in the top 10% in the state. A biking haven, Redmond also has its own velodrome.
#39. Overland Park, Kansas
- Population: 186,147
- Median home value: $248,100 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,084 (37% rent)
- Median household income: $78,217
Sprint has a huge campus in Overland Park, a big reason why this is the second-largest city in the state. Overland Park boasts three national landmarks and an arboretum and botanical gardens, plus a popular children’s farm.
#38. Potomac, Maryland
- Population: 45,780
- Median home value: $893,600 (88% own)
- Median rent: $1,860 (12% rent)
- Median household income: $187,568
Locals call Potomac the “Beverly Hills” of Montgomery County, Maryland, because of its mansions and breathtaking homes. Potomac has been ranked as one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, and is the site of the reality TV show “Real Housewives of Potomac.” Centuries ago, Potomac was a stronghold of the Algonquin tribe.
#37. Kirkwood, Missouri
- Population: 27,659
- Median home value: $273,900 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,031 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $79,439
Kirkwood is another city that was anchored early on by its proximity to railroad tracks, in this case, the Union Pacific. Today, the suburb of St. Louis has several festivals throughout the year (including a cars and guitars event) and is a short drive to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
#36. Mountain View, California
- Population: 80,076
- Median home value: $1,079,900 (42% own)
- Median rent: $2,103 (58% rent)
- Median household income: $120,351
Mountain View is the headquarters of Alphabet/Google and minutes from Stanford University. In the heart of Silicon Valley, Mountain View also is home to the NASA Ames Research Center, where scientists are exploring paths to Mars. Downtown Mountain View has free public WiFi, and Google offers grants for other technological upgrades to the city.
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#35. Johns Creek, Georgia
- Population: 83,397
- Median home value: $366,200 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,469 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $113,609
Johns Creek, a suburb of Atlanta, has a variety of top-flight golf courses. The Johns Creek International Festival draws almost 20,000 visitors each year, and the city has recently gained recognition from Amazon for its innovation in local business.
#34. Sugar Land, Texas
- Population: 86,886
- Median home value: $292,700 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,635 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $108,994
For two centuries, Imperial Sugar played a key role in Sugar Land’s evolution. No longer dependent on just sugar, this Houston suburb welcomed major companies like Minute Maid and Glazer Properties. For entertainment, the Sugar Land Skeeters minor league baseball team hosts thousands of fans each summer.
#33. Albany, California
- Population: 19,682
- Median home value: $766,000 (48% own)
- Median rent: $1,739 (52% rent)
- Median household income: $87,694
Students attending the University of California, Berkeley, regularly live in Albany, alongside Bay Area commuters. The Solano Avenue Stroll is this city’s landmark street festival, which will celebrate 46 years in 2020. For three years, Albany has taxed sugar-sweetened beverages to promote healthier lifestyles among residents.
#32. Santa Monica, California
- Population: 92,495
- Median home value: $1,168,500 (28% own)
- Median rent: $1,669 (72% rent)
- Median household income: $86,084
The Santa Monica Pier is this coastal city’s iconic landmark, providing entertainment and scenic views for over a century. A film festival and outdoor shopping attractions draw visitors and locals, who can arrive via Santa Monica Airport. In nine years, residents will watch beach volleyball and surfing competitions during the 2028 Summer Olympics.
#31. Bethesda, Maryland
- Population: 63,168
- Median home value: $877,300 (67% own)
- Median rent: $1,938 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $154,559
Bethesda is a major medical outpost. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health are located here. Lockheed Martin is also headquartered in the city and there are various public transportation options into Washington D.C.
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#30. Naperville, Illinois
- Population: 146,431
- Median home value: $398,500 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,415 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $114,014
Naperville, a short commute to Chicago, is consistently recognized as one of the Midwest’s safest cities. Edward Hospital is equally esteemed, ranked as one of the nation’s best medical facilities. The Naperville Riverwalk is a favorite meeting point for locals.
#29. Plano, Texas
- Population: 281,566
- Median home value: $271,300 (61% own)
- Median rent: $1,243 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $88,578
Frito-Lay and Dr. Pepper are two of dozens of companies headquartered in Plano. This Dallas outpost has a strong concentration of Chinese Americans and a vibrant downtown arts scene. Each year, residents flock to the Plano Balloon Festival.
#28. Troy, Michigan
- Population: 83,336
- Median home value: $269,800 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,110 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $93,017
Events like a Halloween 5K run and Winter Wonderland provide a communal feel to this growing suburb of Detroit. Oakland/Troy Airport serves business travelers, while Interstate 75 leads directly into Detroit. The Stage Nature Center is a hub for all things outdoors in Troy.
#27. The Woodlands, Texas
- Population: 109,608
- Median home value: $351,000 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,509 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $115,083
A short drive from Sugar Land, The Woodlands beats out its Texas neighbor with a community of villages developed specifically around good schools, nature, and prime housing. Halliburton and Chevron are among the companies with large campuses in the Woodlands. Recreationally, a koi garden and boathouse are a few of the highlights in the city.
#26. Birmingham, Michigan
- Population: 20,836
- Median home value: $467,700 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,414 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $114,537
Birmingham’s summer concert series, golf courses, and ice rinks provide a variety of entertainment options for residents. With Birmingham’s central location between Pontiac and Detroit, many commuters have settled in this small town.
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#25. Chesterfield, Missouri
- Population: 47,660
- Median home value: $360,400 (77% own)
- Median rent: $1,142 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $99,848
While there are many nearby wonders in St. Louis, few of the big city’s attractions are as specific as Chesterfield’s Butterfly House, a butterfly zoo that opened in 1998. One of Chesterfield’s most famous former residents is pitcher Max Scherzer, who recently won a World Series title with the Washington Nationals.
#24. Dublin, Ohio
- Population: 44,442
- Median home value: $357,900 (77% own)
- Median rent: $1,307 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $128,916
Among golfers, Dublin, Ohio, is recognizable as the site of the annual Memorial tournament. Jack Nicklaus created the tournament and designed the Village Golf Club where the event takes place—Nicklaus grew up about 10 miles away in Upper Arlington. Dublin also has a sizable Japanese American population and holds a Dublin Japanese Festival.
#23. Leawood, Kansas
- Population: 34,195
- Median home value: $431,000 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,363 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $151,446
Leawood is located next to another entry on this list, Overland Park. Leawood is known for being the headquarters of AMC Theatres and its proximity to Kansas City. For art lovers, Leawood has a bustling public art initiative.
[Pictured: AMC Headquarters in Leawood, KS.]
#22. Mt. Lebanon Township, Pennsylvania
- Population: 32,760
- Median home value: $244,800 (73% own)
- Median rent: $861 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $91,748
Farming and coal were key industries in Mt. Lebanon Township’s early history. Much of old Mt. Lebanon can still be seen in the Mt. Lebanon Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Locals can learn more about the ins and outs of the township through Mt. Lebanon’s own magazine, which is produced 10 times a year.
#21. Creve Coeur, Missouri
- Population: 18,259
- Median home value: $363,000 (69% own)
- Median rent: $1,187 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $101,462
Creve Coeur used to be synonymous with Monsanto, but a 2018 acquisition by Bayer put the future of the agricultural company town in doubt. However, Bayer is now filling the job gap in Creve Coeur, keeping this St. Louis suburb (which is near Chesterfield) on the upswing. Among those who have called Creve Coeur home is actor Jon Hamm, who grew up in the small town.
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#20. Coppell, Texas
- Population: 41,138
- Median home value: $344,300 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,268 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $119,936
Amazon and Samsung are two major corporations with facilities in Coppell. Combined with an easy commute to Dallas and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Coppell became a hopping business hub. Coppell also won numerous awards for promoting healthy living, schools, and recreational opportunities for kids.
#19. Berkeley, California
- Population: 120,179
- Median home value: $861,800 (43% own)
- Median rent: $1,523 (57% rent)
- Median household income: $75,709
College students flood the streets of Berkeley, but kids have their niche in the city, too—Adventure Playground was created by kids, for kids. Adults can spend hours browsing the shelves at Moe’s Books or have a drink at the Takara Sake Museum. Coeds, kids, and adults alike can always check out a football game at California Memorial Stadium, where marching bands have rushed the field a bit too early.
#18. New Territory, Texas
- Population: 15,699
- Median home value: $276,800 (85% own)
- Median rent: $1,554 (15% rent)
- Median household income: $135,444
New Territory is a planned community within the City of Sugar Land. Formerly filled with pecan groves and sugarcane fields, today New Territory has 450 acres of lakes, parks, and recreation centers.
[Pictured: Brazos Bend Elementary School in the New Territory Neighborhood.]
#17. Cary, North Carolina
- Population: 159,715
- Median home value: $323,000 (69% own)
- Median rent: $1,133 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $97,755
Cary, located near North Carolina’s Research Triangle, has been called by some outlets as the safest city in America. 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.
#16. Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Population: 119,303
- Median home value: $271,600 (46% own)
- Median rent: $1,166 (54% rent)
- Median household income: $61,247
Ann Arbor is the site of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the University of Michigan. There is a small municipal airport in town, but Ann Arbor is a fairly quick drive to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, as well. On fall Saturdays, more than 107,000 students and locals congregate at Michigan Stadium to watch Michigan Wolverines’ college football games.
[Pictured: University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor.]
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#15. Cinco Ranch, Texas
- Population: 18,200
- Median home value: $329,400 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,365 (17% rent)
- Median household income: $141,992
Inside the planned community of Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas, there are 11 pools. Residents also take advantage of a golf club and several trails and parks. Home-price values in Katy, which include part of Cinco Ranch, have skyrocketed in the Houston suburb that has been as one of the best places to live.
[Pictured: Cinco Ranch High School in Cinco Ranch, Texas.]
#14. Bloomfield Charter Township, Michigan
- Population: 41,969
- Median home value: $385,400 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,313 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $123,086
Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield hosts some of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, but the local skating club may be even more prestigious, having groomed several Olympians. Currently, the town has a AAA bond rating, showing a healthy tax base. Singer Aretha Franklin and actor-comedian Robin Williams fondly recalled living in Bloomfield.
[Pictured: Kirk in the Hills Church in Bloomfield Charter Township, MI.]
#13. Morrisville, North Carolina
- Population: 23,873
- Median home value: $304,500 (49% own)
- Median rent: $1,262 (51% rent)
- Median household income: $95,763
Technology company Lenovo has a giant headquarters in Morrisville, which makes sense given the town’s location within North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Good public schools, the housing market, and jobs have put Morrisville on the top of “best places to live” lists.
#12. North Bethesda, Maryland
- Population: 50,056
- Median home value: $550,900 (52% own)
- Median rent: $1,868 (48% rent)
- Median household income: $103,194
Several nonprofits headquarter in North Bethesda, including the Society of American Foresters. 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. Workers in the D.C. area have a short commute into the nation’s capital.
#11. Buffalo Grove, Illinois
- Population: 41,551
- Median home value: $314,500 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,478 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $106,564
Buffalo Grove’s schools have a diverse student body population, with 75% of students taking Advanced Placement exams. Buffalo Grove formerly was frontier land, which later became populated by dairy farms.
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#10. Arlington, Virginia
- Population: 229,534
- Median home value: $643,300 (44% own)
- Median rent: $1,895 (56% rent)
- Median household income: $112,138
The Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery are two of the most-visited spots in Arlington, but this city has much more to offer. George Mason University law school and satellite campuses for the University of Virginia are located in Arlington. Soon, Amazon will have a giant facility in Arlington, as well.
[Pictured: Arlington Memorial Amphitheater.]
#9. Decatur, Georgia
- Population: 22,022
- Median home value: $418,700 (67% own)
- Median rent: $866 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $92,263
European settlers originally moved onto farmland in Decatur in the 19th century, but today the town is known for its commuters into Atlanta. Decatur’s schools are some of the best in the state and Emory University is nearby.
#8. Brookline, Massachusetts
- Population: 59,246
- Median home value: $829,300 (51% own)
- Median rent: $2,127 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $111,289
Brookline, outside of Boston, has its own puppet theater—the Puppet Showplace Theater. Visitors can also step inside John F. Kennedy’s childhood home. Comedian Conan O’Brien is among the noted graduates of Brookline High School.
#7. Fishers, Indiana
- Population: 87,557
- Median home value: $240,100 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,175 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $101,469
As this Indianapolis suburb experiences rapid growth, Fishers schools are seeing heavy investment. Geist Reservoir is a popular recreation spot, and there is an annual renaissance faire. Several members of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers have resided in Fishers.
#6. North Potomac, Maryland
- Population: 24,236
- Median home value: $656,900 (84% own)
- Median rent: $2,020 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $161,553
About 20 miles from Washington D.C., North Potomac has a low unemployment rate and a good housing market. Its elementary schools are among the best in Maryland. During the spring and fall, trails throughout North Potomac become full of exercisers.
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#5. Shaker Heights, Ohio
- Population: 27,749
- Median home value: $218,500 (64% own)
- Median rent: $988 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $82,830
Shaker Heights began as a planned community by railroad moguls. A nature center, good public transportation into Cleveland, and a bike-friendly community make Shaker Heights a rising town. Shaker Heights’ schools are regularly regarded as being among the best in Ohio.
#4. Prairie Village, Kansas
- Population: 21,932
- Median home value: $243,800 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,263 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $84,106
A small shopping center built in 1947 started Prairie Village’s ascent as one of America’s best places to live. Today, a Village Vision Strategic Investment Plan is ensuring safe and steady growth for this Kansas City suburb. In a citizen survey in 2018, 99% of residents rated Prairie Village as an excellent or good place to live.
#3. Clayton, Missouri
- Population: 16,214
- Median home value: $590,800 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,168 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $91,531
Clayton restaurants specialize in pastries, with doughnuts a favorite among locals. Various dog parks, camps, and the Historic Hanley House museum are notable points of interest in town. Washington University, one of the Midwest’s most prestigious higher education institutions, has a property in Clayton.
#2. Okemos, Michigan
- Population: 22,989
- Median home value: $213,600 (62% own)
- Median rent: $912 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $74,568
Named after a Chippewa chief, Okemos is a favored settling site for employees and visitors of nearby Michigan State University. Okemos schools are diverse and among the best ranked in Michigan. A short drive away, Potter Park Zoo is a favored attraction for children. Art and architecture admirers can marvel at the Goetsch–Winckler House in Okemos.
#1. Carmel, Indiana
- Population: 88,595
- Median home value: $320,400 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,150 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $109,201
Carmel residents can attend events like performances from an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner. The city has been recognized as America’s safest city and the best place to launch a career. Besides being Niche’s best place to live in America, Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb, has a serene Japanese garden.
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