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The Best Small Cities to Live in America


Finding the perfect place to live is a delicate process, but Americans are ever searching. Here is a list of the best small cities in America.

City life is too busy for some; the countryside is too spread out and suburbs too small. Finding the perfect place to live is a delicate process, but Americans are ever searching. And we all have our own criteria, whether it’s a town to retire, a place to live while on a budget at school, the prestige of a pricey ZIP code, an up-and-coming neighborhood or a nice community. Well the search is a little easier.

Money Magazine

has ranked the best places to live of America’s small cities. The overall top small cities (pop. 50,000 to 300,000) had what, according to CNNMoney.com, American families care about: “strong job opportunities, great schools, low crime, quality health care, and plenty to do. And they're true communities too.”

All in all there are 12 lists on CNNMoney.com. In addition to the overall top 100, the site ranked the top 25 cities for affordable homes, pricey homes, top-earning towns, job growth, fast commutes, slow commutes, hottest, coldest, rich and single, youngest and clean air.

For some prospective homeowners there could be one factor (say, job growth or affordable homes) that matters more than the others. These top 25 lists reveal random facts about the small cities. For instance, Hoboken, N.J. has the highest percent of singles on the rich and single list; and while the slowest commute goes to Palmdale, Calif., Manhattan, Kansas has the shortest commute at only 11.2 minutes.

Here are the top 10 best places to live of America’s small cities:

10. Chapel Hill, N.C.

One of many murals around town.

Pop. 59,000

Part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, which has one of the highest numbers of Ph.D.s per capita in the U.S. That may make sense since this is the location of the nation’s oldest public university — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

9. Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Copyright Skylar Vance.

Pop. 175,300

The largest employer for the city is Sprint. Overland Park places pretty consistently on the Best Places to Live list, but it has also been named to Business Week’s Best Places for Kids and Yahoo!’s 10 Best Places to Grow Up.

8. Columbia/Ellicott City, Md.

Thomas Isaac log cabin built circa 1780 on Ellicott City's main street.

Pop. 100,700

Ellicott City is ranked 12 on the top-earning towns list. The two cities offer dissimilar living situations. Ellicott is an old town, which was founded in 1772; by contrast, Columbia was a planned community that opened in 1967.

7. Reston, Va.

Town Center

Pop. 60,300

Another planned community, Reston is a growing technology hub near Washington Dulles International Airport — five of the D.C. area’s 20 largest venture capital firms are located in Reston.

6. Irvine, Calif.

Rue Rueda Gigante Square in Irvine Spectrum. Copyright Buchanan-Hermit.

Pop. 213,600

Another planned community, Irvine has been divided into 40 villages, which can make the city seem smaller than it is considering Irvine has the largest population in the top 10. A number of large companies have headquarters in Irvine, including In-N-Out Burger, Meade Instruments, Vizio and Western Mutual Insurance Group

5. Redmond, Wash.

Marymoor Park. Wikipedia.org

Pop. 55,200

Microsoft’s hometown is just 15 miles west of Seattle. The city is perfect for the outdoorsy as it’s known as “the bicycle capital of the Northwest” and has the Cascade Mountains nearby.

4. Newton, Mass.

Boston College across Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Wikipedia.org

Pop. 84,700

A well-educated town, local high schools partner with nearby nearby Boston’s prestigious universities, like MIT and Boston College. Newton is also number seven on the top-earning towns, 12 for highest median home price and number one for rich and single.

3. Eden Prairie, Mn.

The town is the headquarters of the Minnesota Vikings. Copyright TonytheTiget at Wikipedia.org

Pop. 61,200

For the last two years, Eden Prairie has kept a budget surplus of 2%. The city has terrific job prospects and an expansion of a light commuter rail project for 2018; however, the winters are long and cold. The average temperature low in January is 3.4 degrees, which also landed Eden Prairie on the list of coldest towns.

2. McKinney, Texas

McKinney is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Fort Worth is pictured above. Copyright David | Wikipedia.org

Pop. 136,100

One of northern Texas’ oldest towns, McKinney is on the fringes of the Dallas area. A new hospital just opened in July for this city, which has been one of the nation’s fastest growing cities since 2000.

1. Carmel, In.

Downtown. Copyright Derek Jensen.

Pop. 80,100

Located just 20 minutes from downtown Indianapolis, the city’s business district has the second-largest concentration of office workers in Indiana. Carmel’s unemployment rate is roughly half the national average. It also ranked 18 on the top-earning towns list.

Read more:

Best Places to Live — CNNMoney.com

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