Best places to live in the Midwest
Although the Midwest region of the United States has been derogatorily referred to as “flyover country” in some instances, millions of Americans are more than happy to make their homes within these states. The cost of living tends to be cheaper, and the people are often naturally friendly.
The Midwest is also a great example of the United States’ diversity. There are plenty of small towns, from University Heights, Iowa, to Westwood, Kansas. Then there are the big cities, like Chicago, the Twin Cities, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and more. But one increasingly viable option for everyone (from young professionals to families to retirees) is to live in suburbs with easy access to the city. In fact, many Midwestern suburbs consistently rank at the top of the best U.S. places to live lists. Why? They offer a close-knit feel, with good access to nature and safe neighborhoods. Meanwhile, they’re also located close enough to major urban areas that adults are easily able to commute into the city and access thousands of job opportunities.
Living in the American Heartland can be great, but unless you’re choosing to move somewhere where you already have family or friends, figuring out exactly which city or suburb to live in can be a daunting task—after all, there are thousands of communities spanning 12 American states. That’s why Stacker is here to help you determine the best Midwestern spot for you and your loved ones.
Stacker created a list of the best places to live in the Midwest as of 2020, using data from the review site Niche. Cities, towns, and suburbs in the following states were considered: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. A maximum of 15 places per state were included.
Counting down from Waukee, Iowa at #100 to Carmel, Indiana at #1, here are the 100 best places to live in the Midwest. Get comfy and then read on to see if your hometown or potential new home made the list.
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#100. Waukee, Iowa
- Population: 19,344
- Median home value: $221,500 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,098 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $87,433
The city of Waukee has been rapidly growing in the past decade, going from 13,790 in 2010 to almost 20,000 by the end of the decade. It’s a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, and has experienced growth thanks to an Apple Inc. data center campus in the works.
#99. Mission, Kansas
- Population: 9,437
- Median home value: $169,500 (46% own)
- Median rent: $944 (54% rent)
- Median household income: $60,875
Mission, Kansas is a suburb of Kansas City and only a handful of miles away from the city’s downtown. Mission’s official website boasts that residents can enjoy “big city services,” with the city’s “safe and friendly residential atmosphere.”
#98. Bettendorf, Iowa
- Population: 35,793
- Median home value: $204,700 (76% own)
- Median rent: $902 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $78,676
Bettendorf is part of what’s known as the “Quad Cities” metropolitan area, which encompasses several cities around the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois. Its economy is supported by big manufacturers like Alcoa and John Deere. Meanwhile, it’s 90 minutes from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and only three hours from Chicago.
#97. Shawnee, Kansas
- Population: 65,239
- Median home value: $225,900 (73% own)
- Median rent: $966 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $84,507
This Kansas City suburb is within commuting distance of downtown Kansas City, while also employing Shawnee locals, thanks to Bayer Healthcare’s Shawnee offices. In 2010, CNN Money ranked it on its list of “Best Places to Live,” writing, “Taking a walk through Shawnee Town is like walking back through time to the city’s roots as a farming center.” Ten years later, the small-town vibe still holds.
#96. Roeland Park, Kansas
- Population: 6,796
- Median home value: $164,100 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,125 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $70,514
Roeland Park is one of the smaller suburbs in Kansas City’s metropolis, located near the city’s historic Plaza shopping district and Power and Light District. Sharice Davids, a Kansas Congresswoman who is the first openly gay Native American in the House of Representatives, currently resides there.
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#95. Plymouth, Minnesota
- Population: 77,213
- Median home value: $340,700 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,300 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $100,280
Plymouth is one of the larger suburbs of the major city of Minneapolis. Located along the Mississippi River and not far from the Wisconsin border, its official website notes that “its lake and rolling terrain provide the backdrop for a blend of well-planned residential, business, and commercial-industrial areas.”
#94. Meridian Hills, Indiana
- Population: 1,834
- Median home value: $471,000 (96% own)
- Median rent: $2,667 (4% rent)
- Median household income: $180,000
This suburb lies just north of Indianapolis. It’s particularly known for its wooded community and small-town feel, and was first established in 1937.
#93. Mission Hills, Kansas
- Population: 3,580
- Median home value: $976,200 (99% own)
- Median rent: data not available (1% rent)
- Median household income: $250,001
This Kansas City suburb has an elite history—it was first conceived by J.C. Nichols, a prominent Kansas City designer who envisioned it as an exclusive community for the wealthy back in the 1920s. In 2019 Business Insider named Mission Hills as the wealthiest suburb in the state, with a median home value a whopping $978,500.
#92. Clive, Iowa
- Population: 17,195
- Median home value: $252,500 (80% own)
- Median rent: $893 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $101,616
Clive, Iowa is a small city within the Des Moines metropolitan area. It’s best-known for its Greenbelt Park, a trail and parks system that stretches throughout the entire community.
#91. Coralville, Iowa
- Population: 20,645
- Median home value: $224,300 (53% own)
- Median rent: $892 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $65,387
Coralville is located a stone’s throw from Iowa City, a major college town thanks to the University of Iowa. It’s separated from the city by the Iowa River, and features a mix of families and young professionals who recently graduated.
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