Best Cities to Live In

December 22, 2008

The best place to live is obviously a personal decision based on a wide variety of factors but there are certainly common elements that most of us look for when choosing where we want to live.  Money magazine and Kiplinger magazine did some research in these areas and came up with a list of the best places to live in the United States. 

Rating Top Cities

As you will see, each list took a different approach.  Money Magazine seemed to go for small towns that are near big cities, and Kiplinger’s went with larger cities, assuming that you would live somewhere near that big city.  So, what goes into rating a city for being the best place to live?  Here are some of the criteria the publications used to rate the cities.  

  • Job Opportunities
  • Strength/Weakness of the Housing Market
  • Average price for a single family home
  • Median salary per household
  • Crime Rate
  • Pollution Rate
  • Education Ratings

Money Magazine Top Ten

  1. Plymouth, MN
  2. Fort Collins, CO
  3. Naperville, IL
  4. Irvine, CA
  5. Franklin Township, NJ
  6. Norman, OK
  7. Round Rock, TX
  8. Columbia/Ellicott City, MD
  9. Overland Park, KS
  10. Fishers, IN

I am not too familiar with any of these towns, except Fort Collins, Colorado.  I have heard that is a great city to live.  By looking at this list though, I know that many of these town are near bigger cities where jobs are plentiful and the cost of living is not outrageous, with the exception of Irvine, California. 

Norman, Oklahoma most likely made the list, because that is the home of the University of Oklahoma.  Anyone who lives in a nice college town where the town revolves around the university knows that it is a fun place to live.  The university provides a ton of jobs, there is always something to do, and the athletic events make a great weekend for families.

Kiplinger’s Magazine Top Ten

  1. Houston, TX
  2. Raleigh, NC
  3. Omaha, NE
  4. Boise, ID
  5. Colorado Springs, CO
  6. Austin, TX
  7. Fayetteville, AR
  8. Sacramento, CA
  9. Des Moines, IA
  10. Provo, UT

I am definitely more familiar with these cities, because Kiplinger’s went with rating larger cities.  Raleigh is a great town, but there are some unsavory parts to it, as there are in any big city.  What’s great about Raleigh is that you have Duke University and University of North Carolina just miles away from each other.  Plus, the health care is world class in Raleigh. 

I’ve heard great things about Austin, Boise, and Colorado Springs.  If you are in the IT field and you love to go out at night, then Austin is the place for you.  They have something going on all the time, and their IT jobs are plentiful.  

The Best Cities Near Me

CNN Money rated Coral Springs, Miramar, and Weston in the top 100 best cities to live in Florida.  Personally, I would not have picked these three town to represent Florida in the top 100. 

I was born and raised in South Florida, and all three of these towns lie in Broward and Dade counties, which are the busiest, most crime ridden counties in the state.  I would have chosen Bradenton, Gainesville, and Palm Beach Gardens over these three towns.  The most important factors for me are crime rate, job opportunities, and things to do.  I want to be safe, have plenty of options for jobs, and I don’t want to be bored where I live.  

Your Favorite City

What are you most concerned about when picking a place to live?  What do you think about these lists for best places to live?  We’d like to hear from you, and you can also brag about your town, if you want.  But, be prepared to defend it, because this tends to be a spirited debate : )


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Responses to Best Cities to Live In

  • sophie

    Irvine is a very nice city to live in. There are tons of jobs there and they have a great university and VERY LOW crime rate.

  • Anya

    Biggest mistakes of our lives moving to Raleigh.

    Do not believe all the hype about this city. If you do do not have a job before you come here you will find it very very hard to get a job. I know many people, including myself, who were fooled by the alleged job market only to arrive and not find anything for months or years.

    Also, what you are not told about this city.

    1.)The locals are hostile and not interested in outsiders. They see them selves as true Raleighians and resent all the people who have come here for RTP, even though without RTP, this town would be an even bigger provincial backwater, then it already it is.

    The locals have even come up with a phrase to describe their hostile sentiment-“inside the beltine.” Inside the beltline-ie,the original city of Raleigh, is were all the important and true locals live! Outside the beltline is where the outsiders generally live, by in large all the money for the city tends to stay inside the center of Raleigh. How does this effect you? You might ask, well if its between you and a local who has less education, less experience and a history of ineptitude compared to you for the same position. Locals will choose the local, almost every time. Mediocrity and ineptitude thrive here.

    2.) The cost of living here is very high and we have found it even higher then in other big cities that our near by, like Richmond for the cost of food and gas, etc.You will need a median of at least $50,000 to live and save a bit of money. If you want to live well you will need at least 60K+, If you have a family + children, you will need 65+.

    3.) Despite Raleigh making it on to Green Living lists, forget about public transport. Again, if you do not live in the center or around NC state, have fun standing (v. few shelters, especially North Raleigh-I have seen 2 and one of them is new.) in the hot sun for nearly an hour. There are very few buses and the ones that do run, run sporadically and it could take you an 1 1/2 to get to your destination after your 1 hour wait.

    Give Raleigh a miss. Unless you work in R&D, Medicine, or Tech and you know you have a job to come to.

  • Mark Diorio

    The author mentions Bradenton as a good place to live in FL. I’ve lived here for almost three years now and when my lease is up I’m getting out of Bradenton. Why? There’s nothing to do without driving to St. Pete/Tampa. I mean nothing! If someone knows something I’ve missed, then please write me and fill me in.

  • Dirk

    Better think twice before moving to Austin. Yes, its a great place, but there are no jobs. There is a huge pool of cheap labor with the number of universities in the area. I always see articles that say Austin has a hot job market and is a hot place for real estate. If you can make it on $8 an hour as a cashier at Target or $9.37 at Dell taking inbound phone calls from the rudest people in America, come on out. There are plenty of foreclosures and cheap apartments to choose from, and plenty of traffic to sit in while the democrats who still drive around with anti-Bush stickers on their cars would rather fight something they have no control of (like troops in Iraq) than do something practical, like getting the stop lights properly timed so traffic will flow. And for those thinking of moving to Orange County, CA because of the TV shows, don’t. Irvine is smack in the middle of OC. Very expensive and very crowded. Disneyland costs something like $70 per person now.

  • Eric J. Nisall

    I definitely agree about the 3 Florida cities. I currently live in Coral Springs (for 2 years now) and lived in Sunrise for the 8 years prior. Nothing in these areas is particularly attractive anymore, although you certainly won’t be bored with all of the entertainment options in the immediate vicinities (and especially with Ft. Lauderdale only 15 minutes away).