What do you seek in an ideal town? Proximity to trails, lakes, and beaches? How about top-ranked schools for current or future 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 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.
Many cities on the list are suburbs experiencing growth thanks to rapid improvements in their metropolitan areas. That could be the creation of new rail systems or a mega-corporation moving in. Other entries include planned communities or older cities that have revamped their communities 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 the most populous city in Alaska offers a rare mix of arctic culture and modern economics. Then, of course, there is 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 places to live in every state.
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- Population: 47,079
- Median home value: $239,400 (70% own)
- Median rent: $879 (30% rent)
- Median household income: $92,197
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, is bordered by the city of Huntsville, and has several small business incentives.
[Pictured: Hunstville, AL, which neighbors Madison.]
- Population: 298,225
- Median home value: $304,500 (60% own)
- Median rent: $1,261 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $82,271
Anchorage is Alaska’s most populous city and a center for culture. It is the starting point of the annual Iditarod race, but locals and visitors can try out dog-sledding in less competitive atmospheres, along with numerous other outdoor adventures like gold panning, fishing, and rafting. The Anchorage Museum pays tribute to Alaska’s history.
- Population: 50,202
- Median home value: $410,200 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,020 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $82,252
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: 44,601
- Median home value: $203,800 (54% own)
- Median rent: $883 (46% rent)
- Median household income: $79,259
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 several craft fairs, and is close to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
- Population: 120,179
- Median home value: $861,800 (43% own)
- Median rent: $1,523 (57% rent)
- Median household income: $75,709
The University of California, Berkeley, is one of the key factors in this Bay Area city’s name recognition, but Berkeley offers more than high-quality education. The city has shown a dedication to civic arts and fostering business—Peet’s Coffee began in Berkeley, for instance. The city also provides easy access to San Francisco and Oakland.
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- Population: 105,264
- Median home value: $407,200 (81% own)
- Median rent: $1,740 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $116,973
This planned community right outside of Denver was founded in 1981. Cargill, Kraft, DirecTV, and JPMorgan Chase are just a few of the companies with major posts nearby. For nature lovers, Highlands Ranch offers 19 parks and 60 miles of trails.
- Population: 63,360
- Median home value: $326,000 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,258 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $95,298
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 400-year-old churches. The University of Hartford and the University of Saint Joseph both have campuses in town.
- Population: 20,754
- Median home value: $282,200 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,133 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $87,375
Middletown, Delaware, is one of the state’s fastest-growing areas and is expected to double in population in the next 20 years. One reason for the growth is an Amazon facility in town. Elsewhere, the St. Andrew’s School has been a notable boarding school for almost 100 years, and was the site of the film “Dead Poets Society.”
- Population: 23,287
- Median home value: $326,400 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,375 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $91,634
[Pictured: Tampa, FL, located next to Westchase.]
- Population: 22,022
- Median home value: $418,700 (67% own)
- Median rent: $866 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $92,263
Decatur, Georgia, 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: 402,452
- Median home value: $688,200 (48% own)
- Median rent: $1,441 (52% rent)
- Median household income: $70,527
If you’re reading this slideshow as wintry winds bluster outside and below-freezing temperatures chill your feet, 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: 220,859
- Median home value: $206,800 (60% own)
- Median rent: $875 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $54,547
For those who love the color blue, check out a football game on the blue turf at Boise State University. Like Honolulu, Boise is the largest city and capital of its state and has a wealth of museums and historical sites. For those interested in Basque culture, Boise’s Boiseko Ikastola preschool is one of the rare Basque language institutions in the United States.
- Population: 41,551
- Median home value: $314,500 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,478 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $106,564
This Chicago suburb began as a German dairy farming community, which you can learn all about at the Raupp Museum in town. More fun can be had each summer during Buffalo Grove Days, a weeklong fair that celebrates the culture and history of the town. Recently, Buffalo Grove instituted a senior taxi program that provides low fares for senior citizens traveling throughout the town.
- Population: 88,595
- Median home value: $320,400 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,150 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $109,201
Located just outside Indianapolis, Carmel, Ind., 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: Bell tower and lake at Coxhall Garden in Carmel Indiana at sunset in the winter of 2019.]
- Population: 17,980
- Median home value: $211,100 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,051 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $91,875
Two years ago, Apple agreed to build an estimated $1.3 billion campus in Waukee. Even before Apple’s arrival, Waukee schools had one of the highest graduation rates in Iowa at 99%. Waukee skews young, with the median age at 33.
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- Population: 21,932
- Median home value: $243,800 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,263 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $84,106
Now on land formerly belonging to the Shawnee, Osage, and Kansa tribes, Prairie Village has been recognized as the “smartest” city in Kansas, thanks to 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 Spring Time, located just outside of Prairie Village, KS.]
- Population: 16,254
- Median home value: $214,000 (69% own)
- Median rent: $803 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $71,956
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. Annual art festivals draw vendors and spectators from around the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky area.
[Pictured: Fort Thomas Mess Hall.]
- Population: 30,536
- Median home value: $222,000 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,151 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $98,130
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, antique shops, and Cajun cooking.
[Pictured: Baton Rouge, LA located just northwest of Prairieville, LA.]
- Population: 66,715
- Median home value: $261,100 (44% own)
- Median rent: $1,018 (56% rent)
- Median household income: $51,430
Portland, Maine, has a wealth of museums, minor league sports teams, and a bustling food culture. During the summer many locals kayak, while in the winter, skiing is a popular activity. The city also has a plethora of spas, festivals, and six lighthouses within 20 minutes.
- Population: 24,236
- Median home value: $656,900 (84% own)
- Median rent: $2,020 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $161,553
North Potomac is a favored suburb of Washington D.C. Recently, Chinese Americans have settled in North Potomac in large numbers. Just in the past century, North Potomac was regarded as a “no-man's-land.”
[Pictured: Great Falls of the Potomac viewed from Maryland.]
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- Population: 59,246
- Median home value: $829,300 (51% own)
- Median rent: $2,127 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $111,289
John F. Kennedy spent his childhood in Brookline, and Brookline oozes history. The Underground Railroad made important stops in Brookline, which 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 sunny October day.]
- Population: 22,989
- Median home value: $213,600 (62% own)
- Median rent: $912 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $74,568
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, MI where Okemos is an unincorporated community.]
- Population: 63,660
- Median home value: $334,000 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,289 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $103,426
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, MN.]
- Population: 25,350
- Median home value: $250,200 (92% own)
- Median rent: $1,423 (8% rent)
- Median household income: $103,121
- Population: 16,214
- Median home value: $590,800 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,168 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $91,531
Clayton has some of the best schools in Missouri, with a 98% graduation rate. The town has a stacked community calendar, with wine camps, game nights, and balls among the activities. Clayton is within walking distance of Washington University and St. Louis is about a 10-minute drive.
[Pictured: St. Louis skyline and park; Clayton is the county seat of St. Louis county and borders St. Louis.]
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- Population: 43,132
- Median home value: $310,800 (44% own)
- Median rent: $956 (56% rent)
- Median household income: $49,217
Bozeman is home to Montana State University, which has over 16,000 students. The city is surrounded by mountain ranges and offers museums like the Museum of the Rockies. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the largest airport in Montana.
- Population: 19,478
- Median home value: $172,700 (68% own)
- Median rent: $851 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $76,259
As a suburb of Omaha, Papillion hosts the Omaha Storm Chasers minor league baseball team. The SumTur Amphitheater is a center for culture and the public school district has steadily added new schools to accommodate the growing community.
- Population: 195,646
- Median home value: $218,400 (45% own)
- Median rent: $1,096 (55% rent)
- Median household income: $52,718
Just a few miles from the Las Vegas Strip, Spring Valley is known for its Chinatown neighborhood rich in East Asian culture. Hall of Fame tennis player Andre Agassi grew up in Spring Valley, and the Sultan of Brunei once kept a residence there.
- Population: 22,019
- Median home value: $381,800 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,647 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $127,945
Bedford is a suburb of Manchester, N.H., and a short drive from Boston. Saint Anselm College and the University of New Hampshire offer courses in Bedford, and the town’s quaint streets offer almost 300 years of history.
[Pictured: Manchester, NH which neighbors Bedford.]
- Population: 30,722
- Median home value: $809,200 (59% own)
- Median rent: $1,433 (41% rent)
- Median household income: $125,506
The aura of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels still resonates among the ivy-decked 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 Princeton 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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- Population: 93,317
- Median home value: $178,000 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,118 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $63,180
Intel is a major force in Rio Rancho, serving as the city’s largest employer. Hewlett-Packard will soon join Intel in the city, creating a bit of a tech hub just north of Albuquerque. Minor league sports teams populate the Santa Ana Star Center year-round.
[Pictured: Hot Air Balloons over the Rio Grande in the neighboring town of Albuquerque, NM.]
- Population: 36,753
- Median home value: $171,800 (57% own)
- Median rent: $982 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $70,567
Recently, Brighton has made a strong push to increase solar energy in town. History buffs can fall into wormholes researching Brighton’s involvement in the American Civil War. Brighton High School has a 98% graduation rate.
- Population: 23,873
- Median home value: $304,500 (49% own)
- Median rent: $1,262 (51% rent)
- Median household income: $95,763
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, NC.]
- Population: 118,099
- Median home value: $190,200 (43% own)
- Median rent: $765 (57% rent)
- Median household income: $50,561
More than just a famous movie (and later TV show), Fargo is home to North Dakota State University. The city also has a symphony orchestra, Plains Art Museum, and winter carnival. The Fargodome regularly hosts the music industry’s biggest acts.
- Population: 27,749
- Median home value: $218,500 (64% own)
- Median rent: $988 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $82,830
A suburb of Cleveland, Shaker Heights is known for an affordable cost of living and diversity. The Shaker Heights City School District offers an International Baccalaureate Programme. Part of the campus of John Carroll University is located here, too.
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- Population: 89,769
- Median home value: $216,500 (69% own)
- Median rent: $973 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $76,008
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: 23,177
- Median home value: $479,700 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,535 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $121,149
Bethany, not too far from Portland, is one of the wealthiest small towns in the country. 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, OR, which neighbors the unincorporated community of Bethany.]
- Population: 32,760
- Median home value: $244,800 (73% own)
- Median rent: $861 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $91,748
Mt. Lebanon’s schools rack up awards for excellence, with a top-notch music program earning rave reviews. One of the most famous natives of the township is billionaire Mark Cuban. As a suburb of Pittsburgh, locals take advantage of Mt. Lebanon’s tunnels and nearby state roads to commute to work in the city.
- Population: 16,218
- Median home value: $402,300 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,407 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $117,408
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.
- Population: 17,500
- Median home value: $282,400 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,357 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $109,781
Five Forks, a suburb of Greenville, has a 2.9% unemployment rate, 4.91% job growth rate, and only a 3% vacancy rate for homes. As Five Forks grows, residents are demanding better planning for the town’s future.
[Pictured: Downtown Greenville, SC, located nearby Five Forks.]
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- Population: 23,471
- Median home value: $169,400 (49% own)
- Median rent: $699 (51% rent)
- Median household income: $47,506
Brookings is the home of South Dakota State University and its nearly 12,000 students. On campus, locals can visit the South Dakota Art Museum or attend a variety of college sports events. The city also hosts the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, and a historic district and arboretum.
- Population: 41,524
- Median home value: $582,800 (91% own)
- Median rent: $2,018 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $151,722
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.
- Population: 18,200
- Median home value: $329,400 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,365 (17% rent)
- Median household income: $141,992
Planned communities around major Texas cities like Dallas and Houston are common (for more, check out Stacker’s Best Places to Live in America slideshow), 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, TX, which neighbors Cinco Ranch.]
- Population: 30,328
- Median home value: $293,800 (89% own)
- Median rent: $846 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $91,334
Near mountain ranges and the Great Salt Lake, Kaysville is a suburb of Salt Lake City. Other Kaysville nature hotspots include the Utah State University Botanical Center. For more thrill-seeking residents, Cherry Hill amusement park and campground is a popular destination.
- Population: 18,773
- Median home value: $280,800 (62% own)
- Median rent: $1,395 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $66,197
Ben & Jerry’s headquarters are located in South Burlington, along with Burlington International Airport. Soon, a new library, senior center, and city hall will be built, joining new bike and pedestrian paths.
[Pictured: Overlook Park in South Burlington, VT.]
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- 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 may have put Arlington on the map, but this Washington D.C. suburb has much more to offer. Reagan International Airport serves millions of passengers each year. Soon, Amazon headquarters will be based in Arlington.
[Pictured: Freedom Park and modern buildings in Rosslyn, Arlington, VA.]
- Population: 60,712
- Median home value: $579,400 (51% own)
- Median rent: $1,731 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $115,300
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.
- Population: 30,099
- Median home value: $182,500 (43% own)
- Median rent: $779 (57% rent)
- Median household income: $37,900
West Virginia University is located in Morgantown, and Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium is a common congregating spot for football games and concerts. The university also owns Core Arboretum for nature lovers, while theater fans can get their fix at Metropolitan Theatre, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
[Pictured: Woodburn Circle on West Virginia University's downtown campus in Morgantown, WV. The circle contains three of the oldest buildings on campus.]
- Population: 37,943
- Median home value: $296,800 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,496 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $101,761
Fiserv, the financial technology giant, is headquartered in Brookfield, which is also home to a large FedEx headquarters. Students attend the Elmbrook School District, considered tops in the state. Milwaukee is a short drive from Brookfield.
- Population: 32,104
- Median home value: $210,600 (44% own)
- Median rent: $750 (56% rent)
- Median household income: $43,191
Built along the Laramie River, this city is within a short driving distance of Cheyenne. Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming and a regional airport. Snowmobiling, hiking, and mountain biking are just some activities easily accessible in town. For those seeking more of a relaxed atmosphere, Laramie is also regularly regarded as a top place in the country to retire.
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