American cities seem to have upped their game all at once. From hosting the best craft beer breweries in America to boasting enticing bike trails and some of the best national parks in the U.S., some of our country’s cities are livable paradises. Although higher rents often follow top school programs, incredible cultural offerings and the opening of culinary destinations, some towns have managed to balance incredible allure with affordability. Analyzing their unique appeal, affordable rents, top notch school systems, cultural events, green spaces, amazing weather and overall safety, we hereby rank the cities and towns that are considered the best places to live in the U.S. right now. And, just in case you weren't looking to move but just take a trip, check out the best family vacations in America.
Best places to live in the U.S.
For outdoor enthusiasts, it's hard to beat this Rocky Mountain city of 43,000, a population that keeps growing. World-class skiing, rafting, fishing, and hiking are all close by; Yellowstone National Park is an easy day trip; and there’s sunshine an average of 300 days a year. Bozeman is also culturally vibrant, with educated residents—Montana State University has a campus here—a strong tech industry, and a thriving Main Street.
Situated between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, this Seattle suburb is an easy sell, especially to nature lovers drawn to its woods, wetlands and views of the Cascade Mountains. But Bellevue is more than just a looker; it's the rare city where you can go kayaking and sample Taiwanese food in an afternoon. Minorities make up 40 percent of the 130,000 residents and 50 languages are spoken in its high-ranking schools.
Like onetime resident Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville has an urbane sensibility and southern charm, with neo-classical buildings nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is home to the University of Virginia, one of the country's top state colleges, and a highly-rated school system that has invested in new engineering labs.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bob Mical
This relaxed coastal city of 469,000 is one of the most pedestrian- and bike-friendly in California, having aggressively implemented safe streets measures in recent years. Protected bicycle lanes have increased ridership by 50 percent since 2012 and the city has been awarded a silver designation by the League of American Bicyclists. It’s welcoming to canines too, with the only dedicated dog beach in Los Angeles County.
Denver is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, boasting 83,000 new residents since 2010. Educated millennials lead the charge, drawn to Denver’s cool music scene, dozens of breweries, public transportation network—including bike share—and, in some cases, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Its 4,000 acres of parks and proximity to the Rocky Mountains are an added bonus.
Historic tree-lined blocks and a pedestrian-friendly downtown, rated fourth in the nation by Walkscore, have long made America's fifth-largest city an attractive place to live, with cozy bars and a phenomenal food scene sweetening the deal. In recent years, stylish new parks and a bike-share system have helped Philly shake off a sense of stagnation, though nobody minds that rents remain relatively low compared to New York and Washington, D.C.
This thriving college town, home to the University of Michigan, is as great a place to live packed with bookstores, restaurants, and over 150 parks. The unusually well-educated population makes it an appealing place for entrepreneurs, and the city has built an innovative, diversified economy that’s far stronger than the rest of the state.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Emily Mathews
With a glut of outdoor attractions and 16 local breweries, Bend may seem removed from the real world. But when they're not out climbing or rafting, people do actually get work done in this mountain town. Jobs are growing at a faster rate than in the rest of the state, thanks largely to a booming tourism industry. Oregon State University's brand-new four-year campus should help keep the city's brain trust strong.
This city on the banks of the Mississippi River is one of the healthiest in the nation, with green space making up 15 percent of its area. The Trust for Public Land rates its park system as the country's best, since nearly all residents live within a short walk of a park. Over 200 miles of bike lanes make it especially welcoming for cyclists.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/m01229
Children in Lexington get a history lesson just by walking down the street, with colonial buildings throughout the town, a 19th-century farm and an annual reenactment of the start of the Revolutionary War. They also learn in some of the state's best schools. The local high school ranks among the top 10 in Massachusetts, due to a low student-teacher ratio, strong Advanced Placement classes and a near-perfect graduation rate.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Alex1961
Take a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains or catch the vibrant fall foliage and it’s easy to see why generations of artists have found inspiration in Asheville. Today over 200 painters, ceramicists and craftspeople work out of the River Arts District, which also hosts galleries and classes. A moderate climate, vibrant food scene and affordable home prices further justify this small city’s growing popularity.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Melinda Stuart
As rents in Brooklyn skyrocket, those looking for a short commute to Manhattan, walkable neighborhoods and excellent pizza will find better deals across the harbor in Hoboken, New Jersey. According to Trulia, the median rent per bedroom is $1,550 in Hoboken, while it's over $2,000 for the trendy parts of Brooklyn. It's only 10 minutes to the World Trade Center on the PATH train.
Maine's largest city is a walkable cluster of historic neighborhoods, waterside parks and a remarkable concentration of excellent restaurants. More affordable and laid-back than Boston, Portland is a leader in sustainability, promoting renewable energy and waste reduction, and supports the local food system. You'll also find schools and community gardens, plus regular farmers' markets.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/David Wilson
For music fans, there are few better places to live than Nashville, where 150 venues host everything from country to soul to jazz bands. But this friendly capital has plenty to offer those who aren't fans of local icons Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash, such as funky restaurants and the 1,332-acre Radnor Lake State Park. According to Forbes, it is also one of the top cities for tech jobs; an industry that grew by 30 percent from 2010 to 2015.
With median house prices around $60,000, Cleveland is significantly more affordable than many other eastern cities, yet it feels like a boom town, with a revived downtown, new hotels, and an exploding food scene. The formerly industrial Detroit Shoreway neighborhood has become an arts district and breweries cluster in Ohio City. It's not just for hipsters: the city is also home to one of the country's top hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, and Huntington Beach, the cleanest spot on Lake Erie.