The 50 best places to live in America

Keep reading to discover the 50 best places to live in America.

Denver, Colorado, is the best place to live in America, according to U.S. News & World Report

Other aspects are coveted by nearly everybody: affordable housing, access to well-paying jobs, a low cost of living, good schools, and quality healthcare. In its recently released ranking of the best places to live in America, U.S. News & World Report gathered data on these crucial components for the 100 most populous US cities.

They then categorized the data into five indexes for each city — job market, value, quality of life, desirability, and net migration — to definitively rank these major metro areas. You can read U.S. News' full methodology here.

Scores for "value," a blend of annual household income and cost of living, and "quality of life," which accounts for crime, college readiness, commute, and other factors, are included below on a 10-point scale, as well as the city’s population and median annual salary.

50. Columbus, Ohio

Population: 1,948,188

Median annual salary: $46,470

Quality of life: 6.1

Overall value: 7.2

The spirit of Columbus is inextricably linked to Ohio State University — and of course its football team — which calls the city home. Residents love to cheer on the Buckeyes year-round, but Columbus isn’t just a college town. Head to the Short North Arts District for shopping and gallery hopping, get outside at one of the many parks surrounding the city, or take in some culture at the Museum of Art or the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

49. Kansas City, Missouri

Population: 2,040,869

Median annual salary: $46,800

Quality of life: 6.3

Overall value: 7.6

Don’t call it a flyover city. Innovation, creativity, and a celebrated history combine to make Kansas City a hub of activity. In addition to a low cost of living and an abundance of jobs, residents enjoy exploring the city’s thriving art scene, cheering on the Royals during baseball season, and noshing on Kansas City’s signature style of barbecue — slow cooked and topped with a tomato-based sauce.

48. Phoenix, Arizona

Population: 4,337,542

Median annual salary: $45,840

Quality of life: 6.2

Overall value: 6.8

Come for the weather, stay for the city: Phoenix boasts more sunny days per year than any other city in the US, according to a local expert. But it’s the thriving job market, variety of shops and restaurants, and easy access to numerous outdoor activities — think everything from hiking to paddleboarding — that keep residents happy long-term.

47. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Population: 2,358,793

Median annual salary: $45,420

Quality of life: 6.2

Overall value: 7.7

No longer the smog-filled steel manufacturing hub of years past, Pittsburgh has seen growth across an array of industries. The city adds jobs year after year in tech, healthcare, banking, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing, with positions at well-known companies like Google, IBM, PNC, and Bayer. Pittsburgh’s also seen an uptick in the number of restaurants and green spaces around, giving residents plenty to keep them busy in their downtime.

46. Columbia, South Carolina

Population: 784,698

Median annual salary: $41,020

Quality of life: 6.4

Overall value: 7.7

Home to the University of South Carolina, Columbia exudes a college-town atmosphere that can be felt through its abundance of trendy coffee shops and hip bars. For the non-student residents, the town’s job market is on the rise, steadily adding positions in the technology and manufacturing sectors. Columbia’s cost of living also sits well below the national average.

45. Louisville, Kentucky

Population: 1,253,305

Median annual salary: $42,330

Quality of life: 6.2

Overall value: 7.9

Many Louisville residents find work in healthcare, business, tourism, and technology, with companies like YUM Brands, Humana, and Ford offering opportunities for employment.

Tourists and locals alike come together each spring at Churchill Downs for the two-week Kentucky Derby festival, filled with mint juleps, Kentucky bourbon, and a some horse racing, too.

44. Orlando, Florida

Population: 2,226,835

Median annual salary: $40,200

Quality of life: 6.9

Overall value: 5.3

There’s more to Orlando than Disney World. Head downtown for a ticket to the hottest restaurants and nightclubs of the moment or trek out to the residential sector filled with picturesque lakefront homes.

That’s not to say locals don’t appreciate the tourist traps. The parks serve as a point of pride for many long-term residents, according to one local expert. “The theme parks' special pricing for local residents along with the widespread employment that the parks offer have largely endeared them to the community,” he explained.

43. Indianapolis, Indiana

Population: 1,931,182

Median annual salary: $45,580

Quality of life: 5.9

Overall value: 8.1

Home to a bustling downtown filled with shops and restaurants, as well as quiet suburbs, Indianapolis offers residents the best of both worlds. Sports play a huge role in the city’s culture, with thousands of people flocking to Indianapolis for the Indy 500, the annual race that ranks as one of the highest-attended sporting events in the US. Indianapolis has also recently hosted other marquee events like the 2012 Super Bowl, which help create jobs and funnel tax dollars back into the local economy.

42. Tampa, Florida

Population: 2,851,235

Median annual salary: $43,420

Quality of life: 6.7

Overall value: 5.4

Tampa’s laid-back atmosphere, warm weather, and barrage of entertainment options make it feel like a trip to paradise. “Living in the Tampa Bay is like being on vacation all year,” said a local expert.

Tampa hasn’t been overtaken by tourists, however. It retains several niche communities, including a strong Cuban influence in historic Ybor City, formerly known as the “cigar capital of the world.”

41. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Population: 899,137

Median annual salary: $43,520

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 7.0

A blend of modern times and Native American history, Albuquerque offers a low cost of living, a multitude of government jobs, and a diverse population. The city lights up every fall for the annual Balloon Fiesta, one of Albuquerque’s best-known traditions.

40. Melbourne, Florida

Population: 548,891

Median annual salary: $44,040

Quality of life: 7.3

Overall value: 6.5

Between fishing, boating, and a plethora of bars and restaurants, there’s never a shortage of things to do in the Melbourne area. The city’s ripe with retirees and “snowbirds” — people who split their time between colder climates in the summer and Florida in the winter — who can enjoy days on one of the many nearby golf courses and nights out exploring the local shops and art galleries.

39. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Population: 648,045

Median annual salary: $43,520

Quality of life: 6.7

Overall value: 7.4

The cost of living in Winston-Salem is a bargain. The city’s average housing costs remain well below the national average — renters pay about $200 less per month for a one-bedroom apartment than their counterparts around the country.

Residents can also take advantage of the city’s cultural offerings with visits to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

38. Fort Myers, Florida

Population: 647,554

Median annual salary: $38,750

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 5.5

Despite Fort Myers’ rainy summers — which locals affectionately call "liquid sunshine" — it’s hard to beat Florida’s perennially sunny weather. Residents can take advantage of the city’s close proximity to numerous beaches, as well as an abundance of parks, concert venues, and sports stadiums.

37. Cincinnati, Ohio

Population: 2,131,793

Median annual salary: $46,240

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 7.6

Cincinnati residents experience the connectedness of a small town while still reaping the benefits of a big city. Locals love the city’s sports teams and go all out for the first day of baseball season. There’s always something to do even if you’re not sports fan, such as trips to the zoo, aquarium, or nearby waterparks.

36. Albany, New York

Population: 875,567

Median annual salary: $49,690

Quality of life: 6.9

Overall value: 6.8

Despite the snowy winters, living in Albany comes with several advantages. Albany offers a cost of living lower than the national average; the cost of housing sits well below the rest of the US as a whole. In terms of jobs, the city’s tech and healthcare industries are on the rise.

35. Greenville, South Carolina

Population: 842,817

Median annual salary: $40,570

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 7.6

Once a sleepy small town, Greenville has witnessed a cultural revival in recent years, complete with an influx of new restaurants and businesses. Though the summers can get hot, the city's typically mild weather make it possible to explore downtown on foot anytime of the year.

34. Jacksonville, Florida

Population: 1,380,995

Median annual salary: $42,990

Quality of life: 6.8

Overall value: 6.4

Jacksonville's beach-adjacent location makes it ideal for outdoor activities. In addition to spending lazy days in the sand, residents can also visit the area's prime golf courses or go hiking and camping in the nearby parks.

33. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Population: 954,055

Median annual salary: $42,710

Quality of life: 6.4

Overall value: 7.7

Tulsa residents not only love their city, but they're always willing to welcome an outsider into their community, according to one local expert. The close-knit city finds frequent reasons to celebrate with events including the Center of the Universe music festival, an Oktoberfest bash, and Mayfest, a four-day tribute to Tulsa's heritage.

32. Little Rock, Arkansas

Population: 716,849

Median annual salary: $42,020

Quality of life: 6.5

Overall value: 8.1

Little Rock's tech scene is booming, especially in the aerospace and aviation sectors, thanks to close proximity to companies like Lockheed Martin. The city touts a cost of living lower than the national average and sees new multi-unit and single-family homes built every day.

31. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Population: 1,297,998

Median annual salary: $43,270

Quality of life: 5.9

Overall value: 7.7

Oklahoma City's warm weather and low housing prices make it an up-and-coming place to live. Due to a recent inundation of millennials, the city now brims with energy, creativity, and new ideas, according to a local expert.

"The community's greatest asset is its people," he said. "The community is tight-knit, willing to offer a friendly hello, and ever aware that their city is really a small town at heart."

30. Boston, Massachusetts

Population: 4,650,876

Median annual salary: $60,540

Quality of life: 6.8

Overall value: 5.5

Boston attracts a diverse group of residents, including everyone from recent college graduates to retirees and musicians to engineers. The historical city — often referred to as the "Cradle of Liberty," according to one local expert — also overflows with team spirit for the Red Sox, who boast an equally rich history.

29. Portland, Maine

Population: 518,387

Median annual salary: $45,480

Quality of life: 7.2

Overall value: 6.4

Located right on the water at Casco Bay and lined with cobblestone streets, Portlandimmediately evokes the quaintness of a much smaller town. It's filled with local entrepreneurs selling everything from home-brewed beer to handmade scarves, and residents have plenty to do between fishing, sailing, cross-country skiing, and exploring the city's buzzing nightlife.

28. Richmond, Virginia

Population: 1,234,058

Median annual salary: $47,060

Quality of life: 6.7

Overall value: 7.3

Ripe with American history, Richmond is home to significant historical sites, like the church where Patrick Henry gave the famous "give me liberty or give me death" speech. It's also home to a slew of more modern attractions, including museums, concert venues, restaurants, and two universities: Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond.

27. Salt Lake City, Utah

Population: 2,288,938

Median annual salary: $46,730

Quality of life: 7.1

Overall value: 6.9

Salt Lake City might experience some of the snowiest weather in the country, but residents make the most of it through the multitude of ski resorts perched in the city's backyard. In warmer weather, residents can take advantage of Salt Lake's more than 900 acres of public parks and enjoy outdoor performances from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Temple Square.

26. Honolulu, Hawaii

Population: 975,690

Median annual salary: $47,850

Quality of life: 6.3

Overall value: 5.2

Often considered the cultural and culinary hub of the Hawaiian islands, according to U.S. News' local expert, Honolulu abounds with shopping centers, restaurants, and miles of beaches. It's on the expensive side when it comes to cost of living — but you can't beat the year-round tropical temperatures.

25. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Population: 555,154

Median annual salary: $45,790

Quality of life: 6.8

Overall value: 7.5

Located on the banks of the Susquehanna River and the foothills of the Appalachian Trail, Harrisburg offers residents unlimited access to the outdoors. Many are employed by the state and federal government in Harrisburg, but there's also several large private-sector companies that are top employers, including Hershey's, Rite Aid, and D&H Distributing.

24. Madison, Wisconsin

Population: 620,368

Median annual salary: $47,490

Quality of life: 7.1

Overall value: 6.4

Wisconsin's capital is a "hotbed of the healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing industries," said a local expert. The area is also home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, providing hundreds of jobs in education. Madison has a unique food culture that's a blend of fine dining and farmer's markets catering to the city's college students, young professionals, and families.

23. San Antonio, Texas

Population: 2,239,222

Median annual salary: $41,870

Quality of life: 6.3

Overall value: 7.1

At once a destination city and a down-home community, San Antonio offers up a variety of cuisines, music styles, and art for visitors and locals. The city hosts “more than 50 major events and festivals throughout the year,” a number of which honor the area’s Spanish heritage, said a local expert. San Antonio is home to four military and air force bases and camps, collectively known as Joint Base San Antonio.

22. Nashville, Tennessee

Population: 1,730,515

Median annual salary: $43,950

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 7.3

Honky-tonk culture and an entrepreneurial spirit define Nashville. "A blossoming job market and an exploding entertainment scene [are] fueling an appetite (and thirst) for all things locally sourced and artisanal in craft,” a local expert said. Thousands of residents work in healthcare at the area’s large hospitals and research centers, small startups, and business accelerator programs.

21. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Population: 6,703,020

Median annual salary: $46,670

Quality of life: 6.5

Overall value: 7.0

A healthy balance of urban and rural, Dallas offers residents “big-city excitement and quiet, suburban living,” shared one local expert. There’s local bars, retail shops, and plenty of sports spirit to satisfy the huge population. Young professionals primarily inhabit Dallas-Fort Worth, where the largest employers are in business, finance, and education.

20. Portland, Oregon

Population: 2,288,796

Median annual salary: $50,710

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 6.0

Portland isn’t for everybody — its slogan is “Keep Portland Weird,” after all. But one local expert asserts that it's a “well-rounded city with more than just the offbeat shops and events” and a population that has “more academic degrees than the national average.” An annual job growth rate of 2.9% per year is attributed to roots in the technology sector, including major employer Intel Corporation, as well as the 6,000-employee headquarters for Nike, located about seven miles outside of Portland.

19. Charleston, South Carolina

Population: 697,281

Median annual salary: $42,770

Quality of life: 6

Overall value: 6.5

Charleston’s charming, historic, and sophisticated ambiance is exemplary of southern culture. “Not only is the area overflowing with entertainment and good food, but this low country locale is also gorgeous,” said a local expert.

Tourism is booming in Charleston, creating plenty of jobs, especially in the summer months. Year-round, jobs in tech, sales, marketing, and advertising keep the city’s economy strong.

18. Omaha, Nebraska

Population: 886,157

Median annual salary: $43,330

Quality of life: 6.8

Overall value: 7.6

Due to a combination of Omaha’s history of cattle ranching and its current landscape of bustling tech startups, the city has earned the nickname “Silicon Prairie.” Plus, eight Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Omaha, including Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific Railroad, and Mutual of Omaha. Young professionals and families are attracted to the cityprimarily for its affordability, safety, and strong economy.

17. Houston, Texas

Population: 6,204,141

Median annual salary: $50,830

Quality of life: 6.4

Overall value: 7.1

Houston is a major player in the oil and gas, manufacturing, aerospace, and healthcare industries — it's also home to 26 Fortune 500 companies. According to one local expert, “a paycheck goes further in Houston than it does in other major cities, with affordable housing and free or cheap attractions.” Plus, the city has an affinity for food, counting some 11,000 restaurants within its boundaries.

16. San Diego, California

Population: 3,183,143

Median annual salary: $53,020

Quality of life: 7.3

Overall value: 4.6

With year-round sunshine and beautiful beaches to boot, it’s easy to enjoy living in San Diego. According to U.S. News, this Southern California gem “offers world-class dining, professional sports, and entertainment options” for college students, young professionals, and families alike.

Tourism is a huge industry in San Diego — which sees more than 30 million visitors annually — but the city’s seaside location is more than just eye candy. Some of the area’s largest employersinclude the US Navy and the Marine Corps.

15. Charlotte, North Carolina

Population: 2,298,915

Median annual salary: $48,290

Quality of life: 6.5

Overall value: 7.5

A “melting pot effect” draws all types of people to Charlotte, a place with “equal parts old-fashioned southern charm and high-energy cosmopolitan bustle,” touted one local expert. NASCAR and motorsports are a cultural cornerstone of Charlotte. The Queen City houses Bank of America’s headquarters and major offices for Wells Fargo, making it one of the largest financial hubs in the country.

14. Sarasota, Florida

Population: 722,784

Median annual salary: $39,960

Quality of life: 7.5

Overall value: 5.5

Sarasota boasts “warm temperatures year-round, award-winning beaches, and a thriving arts and cultural scene,” said a local expert. The biggest employers in Sarasota are in education, trade, and transportation, and the leisure and hospitality sector touts a low unemployment rate powered by a recent increase in tourism and a flood of new residents

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Population: 1,007,329

Median annual salary: $41,350

Quality of life: 7.3

Overall value: 7.8

Grand Rapids attracts “college students and young families with its healthy job market, affordable housing, and outdoor recreational activities,” said a local expert. The self-proclaimed “Beer City USA” has more than 40 breweries as well as dynamic public art and music scenes. Once a hub for furniture production, Grand Rapids’ job market is now dominated by education and healthcare, with many opportunities for workers without a college degree.

12. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesot

Population: 3,424,786

Median annual salary: $52,080

Quality of life: 6.8

Overall value: 7.7

The Twin Cities have “big-city amenities like museums and sports stadiums, but also have an approachable, Midwestern feel,” according to a local expert. Residents are accustomed to the area’s changing seasons, participating in ice fishing and cross-country skiing in the winter and music festivals and baseball games in the spring and summer. Jobs are  in science-focused fields at companies like Xcel Energy and Medtronic as well as retail corporations like Best Buy and Target.

11. Des Moines, Iowa

Population: 590,741

Median annual salary: $46,600

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 8.3

Des Moines is drawing millennials and young families alike for its “one-of-a-kind shops, locally owned restaurants, and hip bars” as well as its historical residences in quiet neighborhoods, said a local expert. Home to more than 80 insurance companies including giants Allied Insurance and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the job market is thriving.

10. San Jose, California

Population: 1,898,457

Median annual salary: $75,770

Quality of life: 7.7

Overall value: 5.9

The sprawling city of San Jose is “as much defined by its suburban neighborhoods and large tech campuses as it is by the high-rises in its business district,” said a local expert. Young residents and recent graduates of nearby Stanford and UC Berkeley have no trouble finding jobs in the area, which touts Cisco, eBay, and IBM as its largest private-sector employers.

9. San Francisco, California

Population: 4,466,251

Median annual salary: $64,990

Quality of life: 6.6

Overall value: 5.3

A local expert described San Francisco as “the heart of the bohemian lifestyle, the epicenter of the LGBT rights movement, and the launching point of the technology era.” In the last decade, thousands of tech companies have raced to set up shop in the Bay Area, sending the cost of living through the roof. But despite all the focus on the tech and startup scene, the city also has plenty of business jobs available with more than 30 international finance headquarters.

8. Washington DC

Population: 5,863,608

Median annual salary: $64,930

Quality of life: 6.5

Overall value: 7.3

The District’s neighborhoods each give off their own vibe, but across the city residents often “gather for block parties, mingle at dog parks, and converse at coffee shops,” explained a local expert. While Washington DC is known as a hub for politics, there’s also a strong job market for education and health services.

7. Seattle, Washington

Population: 3,557,037

Median annual salary: $57,370

Quality of life: 6.3

Overall value: 6.0

Seattle is sandwiched between water and mountains and doesn’t get as much rain as you’d think, said one local expert. The city’s residents are drawn to the area for its atmosphere of “calm and patience” and its close proximity to nature. Jobs in Seattle are concentrated in tech, healthcare, and maritime industries, but the city is also a huge manufacturing center for companies like Boeing.

6. Boise, Idaho

Population: 639,616

Median annual salary: $41,550

Quality of life: 7.5

Overall value: 7.5

Idaho’s capital city is “a recreationalist’s paradise,” according to one local expert, who also said Boise sits “squarely on the boundary of urban and rural, civilized and wild, refined and raw.” The region is home to more than 22,000 Boise State University students and provides jobs at government agencies as well as in tech and healthcare.

5. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Population: 669,070

Median annual salary: $46,520

Quality of life: 6.5

Overall value: 7.6

Colorado Springs is “booming, with new residences popping up alongside quality schools, parks, and cultural attractions,” touts a local expert. The city is just an hour drive from Denver and in close proximity to Aspen and Vail’s world-class ski resorts. Military jobs influence Colorado Springs' culture and economy, but in medical innovation and tech.

4. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Population: 1,714,629

Median annual salary: $47,430

Quality of life: 7.4

Overall value: 6.9

Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill are collectively known as the Triangle, an area anchored by its foundation in research and tech. The Triangle employs nearly 40,000 residents at companies like IBM, SAS Institute Inc., and Cisco Systems as well as surrounding colleges Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A strong job market coupled with a burgeoning microbrewery and dining scene draws 80 new residents every day, said a local expert.

3. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Population: 483,396

Median annual salary: $42,410

Quality of life: 7.4

Overall value: 9.1

Fayetteville sits among the Ozark Mountains and is home to the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus. The surrounding area of northwest Arkansas is home to headquarters for seven Fortune 500 companies including Walmart and Tyson Foods. The city has experienced immense growth, according to a local expert, who said the region has evolved "from a small town to a center of higher education, culture, commerce, and entrepreneurialism.”

2. Austin, Texas

Population: 1,835,016

Median annual salary: $48,150

Quality of life: 7.2

Overall value: 6.5

The capital of Texas gains about 50 new residents daily, many seeking out the city’s “music, outdoor spaces, and cultural institutions,” said a local expert. Austin is beloved for its live music scene and is host to some of the country's biggest music and culture festivals, including South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. The city was nicknamed "Silicon Hills" in the 1990s for its status as "among the top areas for venture capital investment in the country."

1. Denver, Colorado

Population: 2,651,392

Median annual salary: $53,060

Quality of life: 6.9

Overall value: 7.4

While Denver sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains, it’s not considered a mountain town since it takes at least an hour to get to the Rockies for snowboarding and ski activities, a local expert explained. At 5,279 feet, the Mile High City lives up to its name in more ways than one: In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, paving the way for a flourishing and lucrative cannabis industry.


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