07/12/2022

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Here are 20 of the best U.S. cities to live in 2022, and they are attracting big waves of young people

Here are 20 of the best U.S. cities to live in 2022, and they are attracting big waves of young people

For the last nine years, Livability editors and data scientists have combined our great love of cities and data to create our annual ranking of the top 100 best places to live in America. 

Every year, the list changes: we conduct exclusive studies and surveys, adjust our algorithm and add new variables and data points. But one thing remains constant: We always start with the data. 

This year, we examined more than 2,300 cities based on more than 50 data points that are grouped into eight categories, measuring a city’s economic stability, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital and healthcare. This is how we calculate each city’s LivScore. 

Next, we craft the rankings. This year, we started with the age-old question: Why should someone want to live here?

Yes, these are all statistically great places to live, but would you actually want to live here? What are the ways in which each of these cities is creating an environment that is accommodating for remote workers? Where can you spend a Saturday afternoon or meet your friends for happy hour after a long day? How is this city different from other places?  

Since March 2020, more than 42% of the U.S. population has either moved or considered moving. As home prices hit historic highs and inflation continues to rise, it is more important than ever that we create homes in places that are both affordable and functional for a diverse and growing population. Affordability is a core value for Livability, so we look for places that are growing wages and home values while maintaining an affordable cost of living. 

This year, we focused on midsize cities (generally defined as 500,000 population or smaller) that are attracting big waves of young people. We also added more weight to some of our measures of diversity and inclusion to reflect what millennials are looking for in the cities they choose to call home. If you want to learn more about how this list came together, please check out our methodology page and ranking criteria.

Also on MarketWatch: The best and most affordable places to live in Florida

Each of these cities has something special to offer its residents. If you’re a young person looking for a fresh start, sick of living paycheck to paycheck due to insane rent prices and want to find a community that will welcome you with open arms, this list is for you.  

These 100 cities are welcoming, affordable and offer the space and opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally. 

The only thing missing? You.

1. Madison, Wis.

LivScore: 725 | Population: 258,366

Madison, Wisconsin


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With a famous farmers market, tons of free cultural attractions, outdoor concerts rocking all summer long and 200 miles for hiking, biking and snowshoeing, Madison, Wis., earns its rank as the best place to live in the U.S. (for the second year in a row.) This Midwest college town possesses a resilient economy and is a welcoming place for recent grads, families and retirees alike. Located on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona, Madison has a dozen beaches plus hundreds of parks, and residents in this bike-friendly city prefer getting around town on two wheels. Frank Lloyd Wright’s midcentury marvels and the beloved Dane County Farmers Market add to the magic of Madison.

2. Ann Arbor, Mich.

LivScore: 686 | Population: 121,093

Ann Arbor, Michigan


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Exciting things are happening in Ann Arbor, Mich. The University of Michigan provides a robust and homegrown talent pipeline for healthcare and tech sectors, and the college’s presence keeps the city young at heart. Plus, A2 (feel free to call Ann Arbor by its nickname) is pioneering autonomous and connected vehicle technology. (Yes, that means a friendly robot can deliver your TikTok-worthy takeout order.)

Well-designed trail systems, a passion for the arts, worldly restaurants, plus friendly, smart residents who are civically engaged are also among the reasons Ann Arbor is one of the best places to live in the U.S.  

You might like: 12 best American road trips

3. Rochester, Minn.

LivScore: 671 | Population: 117,134

Rochester, Minnesota


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Rochester, Minn., is always brewing with excitement, as the community boasts gorgeous Midwest scenery, an arts scene full of galleries, theaters and museums, must-try fine dining and food truck favorites, amazing breweries and wineries, and – its gem – the nearly 200,000-square-foot Mayo Civic Center, which hosts a calendar full of must-attend social and sporting events, conventions and concerts (think acts like country music star Travis Tritt.)

While its entertainment options run the gamut, the city also offers affordable housing options for a variety of tastes and budgets, making it one of the best places to live in the U.S. The average home value is just $258,250, and residents can choose from beautiful apartments, condos, modest two-stories and even luxury homes. And as its strong economy suggests, finding a job in this city of more than 117,00 is a breeze. Did we mention two of its main employers are the Mayo Clinic and IBM?
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-0.17%
This means slews of life-changing patents are coming out of this city every year. 

4. Naperville, Ill.

LivScore: 668 | Population: 147,734

The Memorial Day parade in Naperville, Illinois.


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A western suburb of Chicago, Naperville, Ill., is a growing oasis where big-city attractions – think a diverse cuisine scene, performing arts venues, various shops, family-friendly spaces and a thriving nightlife – meld with small-town magic. The city has a low crime rate, high community engagement (residents are always coming together to support an important cause), and volunteer opportunities, making it one of the best places to live in the U.S. And did we mention how easy it is to get from point A to point B here? This city of just shy of 150,000 people has access to both bus services and commuter rails and is served by O’Hare International, Midway International, DuPage and Aurora Municipal airports. 

Plus, outdoor attractions meet – if not exceed – the mark, as residents can enjoy beautiful forest preserves, sports complexes, many golf courses, and the Naperville Riverwalk, a path along the DuPage River that features covered bridges, fountains and gorgeous landscaping and is a local favorite. Also loved by locals? The city’s plethora of community get-togethers and festivals, like cute farmers markets and must-see concerts.

Also see: The 5 best—and affordable—places to live in California

5. Overland Park, Kan.

LivScore: 666 | Population: 193,412

Overland Park, Kansas


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Part of the Kansas City metro area is Overland Park, a bustling city full of diverse dining options (the melting pot of food, if you will), amazing art museums and experiences, locally-owned boutiques, entertainment venues, and a collection of must-visit wineries, breweries and distilleries (you’ll love sipping the local flavor). While options for play are top-notch, the city also means business. Its sturdy economy is flourishing with great job opportunities in a variety of fields, making it one of the best places to live in the U.S. 

This city is here to convince you that the suburbs are cool. Local artists have created colorful murals for all to enjoy, and talent here is flowing. In recent years the city has attracted a large wave of millennials moving here from bigger cities thanks to its proximity to the Kansas City metro area. Additionally, residents have access to a park system made up of 83 individual parks, making it easy to hike, bike or blade around the city.

6. Minneapolis

Livscore: 662 | Population: 424,536

Minneapolis


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Minneapolis ranks as one of the best places to live in the U.S. partly because of its innovative economy that touches a breadth of industries from software to renewable energy. There’s much fun to be had in this Midwestern city, too. The nearly 425,000 plus residents who call Minneapolis home get to enjoy the good life, with local microbreweries in the hip North Loop, wonderful waterways that include 22 lakes in city limits (plus the Mississippi River that cuts through downtown), as well as color-saturated, commissioned murals that complement the arts and music scene. Worth a mention: Every resident in Minneapolis is within six blocks of a park, making this Twin City a gem for outdoors lovers, families with kids and pet-loving residents.

Don’t miss: Three things to take care of when you retire—your future self will thank you for it

7. Fishers, Ind.

LivScore: 659 | Population: 93,488

A few decades ago, Fishers, Ind., was a small town with less than 10,000 residents. Today, this central Indiana up-and-comer has almost 10 times that at nearly 100,000 residents who have access to some of the best schools in the state and high-quality healthcare. The community’s rapid growth can be witnessed in places like the Nickel Plate District, which is the city’s cultural heart and home to farmers markets, community concerts and festivals. 

Fishers is not just one of the best places to live in the U.S.; it’s also a vibrant spot to start or grow your business, thanks to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in place. Launch Fishers, for instance, is a 52,000 square-foot co-working space for entrepreneurs and creators that has more than 600 members, making it the largest in the Midwest. Likewise, Hub & Spoke is a 94,000-square-foot, master-planned, mixed-use development and partnership with the city that includes a design center with retail showrooms, plus a makerspace and co-working space. 

8. Salt Lake City

Livscore: 659 | Population: 200,133

Salt Lake City


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Bordered by the Western Hemisphere’s largest salt lake and cradled by the Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City is nearly picture-perfect. Salt Lake City residents have an amazing backyard, with easy access to world-class ski resorts and phenomenal hiking and mountain biking trails. Miles of protected open space, nearly 100 parks and proximity to Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks also appeal to outdoor enthusiasts who crave adventure and are looking for an excellent base camp to call home. Even more? Residents here can get from downtown to the chairlifts in an hour. 

Other amenities that make Utah’s capital city one of the best places to live in the U.S. include a robust public transportation system, an international airport, and an exciting arts and culture scene bolstered by the new state-of-the-art, Broadway-style Eccles Theater. Business-wise, support for startups and entrepreneurs has helped SLC position itself as an emerging tech hub.

Also see: 8 simple rules to maximize wealth—at any age

Pittsburgh

Livscore: 658 | Population: 301,286

Pittsburgh


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With 90 unique neighborhoods, there’s something for everyone in Pittsburgh. This midsize city is among the best places to live in the U.S., thanks to its affordability, growing tech and robotics industry, and diverse landscapes that include rivers and valleys. Lots of green space, plus major league sports teams to cheer on and world-class universities, all contribute to the hometown pride that’s palpable in Pittsburgh. 

It’s easy to get around this thriving city. Newcomers note that many bridges connect different parts of the city, including 30 main ones and more than 400 total throughout the city. While Pittsburgh has long been known as “The Steel City,” in recent years, it’s seen an influx of young people and tech companies. With local universities driving innovation and nurturing talent, including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, it might be time to update Pittsburgh’s nickname to “The STEM City.” Oh, and if you’re new here, french fries layered onto sandwiches and burgers is a thing.

Read: We want culture, dining and wilderness in areas with homes for $300,000 – so where should we retire?

10. Carmel, Ind.

LivScore: 655 | Population: 99,130
North of the state’s capital city is Carmel, Ind., a true gem whose miles of connected paths and trails make it one of the best places to live in the U.S. The Monon Trail, which begins in Carmel and travels through Westfield and Grand Park to Sheridan, gives residents a great place to run, bike or walk and links to many of the city’s local attractions. Fill your afternoons at one of the city’s various entertainment destinations, including Clay Terrace, an outdoor shopping oasis; the Arts & Design District, which is full of must-visit galleries, showrooms, restaurants and specialty shops; Midtown Plaza, an interactive play area with green spaces, games and swings; and much, much more.

Also great about this city of nearly 100,000? The city is known for its safety rating, making it the perfect place for families. And when it comes to dining…let’s just say your taste buds will sing. The area boasts many return-worthy coffee shops, breweries and restaurants. 

11. Fort Collins, Colo.

LivScore: 653 | Population: 166,069

Fort Collins, Colorado


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Fort Collins’ downtown area is so charming that Disneyland
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modeled Main Street USA off it. In addition to being Mickey-approved, this Northern Colorado college town is known for phenomenal outdoor recreation and brewing some exceptional craft beer. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is a welcoming community for all types of people, from recent college grads looking to launch their careers to entrepreneurs starting their own companies to retirees who have access to a state-of-the-art senior center. What’s more, Fort Collins has a thriving economy and a robust entrepreneurial spirit, making it the perfect place to grow your career or start a business. The Fort Collins business community has emerged as a national leader in up-and-coming industries like clean energy and bioscience, helping the city of 166,000 secure its rank as one of the best places to live in the U.S. 

Also see: The best affordable places to live in the U.S.

12. Waukesha, Wis.

LivScore: 653 | Population: 72,419

Situated along the Fox River just west of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Wis., is a city that exudes arts and culture. Colorful murals and large guitar sculptures throughout the downtown area paint a picture of the city’s history and showcase the many talents of the community. Even more? The Waukesha Civic Center keeps a full calendar of shows and performances, and there are numerous opportunities to take cooking and other creative classes around town. In addition, the city’s local shops, entertainment scene (think a retro/modern arcade with laser tag), and thriving nightlife rev its appeal.

Read: Why you should chuck it all and move to Alaska

When it comes to business, Waukesha is brimming with great jobs, making it one of the best places to live in the U.S. While a manufacturing hub, opportunities also lie within other sectors, like healthcare and retail, and many individuals have chosen to open their own business here. And it gets better – the city boasts an average home value of just under $225,000, and thanks to the diverse selection, everyone can find their perfect house. 

13. Franklin, Tenn.

LivScore: 647 | Population: 80,675

Franklin, Tennessee


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Home to a historic downtown that hosts community events and is filled with cute boutiques and great restaurants, Franklin, Tenn., gives off strong “Gilmore Girls” vibes. Here, residents are met with plenty of daytime activities, like exploring The Factory, an old stove manufacturing plant that houses shops and eateries; hiking the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile national scenic byway; and touring homes with ties to the Civil War. And the fun doesn’t stop there – evenings bring plenty of restaurants and bars offering live music and delicious drinks. 

What else makes Franklin one of the best places to live in the U.S.? It offers amazing job opportunities. This city is home to the headquarters of Community Health Systems
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and Nissan
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Americas and employers like Randstad
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and Schneider Electric. Plus, Franklin is big on community engagement. Residents are always finding ways to volunteer and help their neighbors. 

14. Raleigh, N.C.

LivScore: 647 | Population: 469,698

Raleigh, North Carolina


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North Carolina’s capital city truly has something for everyone. Business is booming in the Research Triangle, which consists of Raleigh, Cary, and Durham. This powerhouse region is a magnet for tech and biotech companies, and explosive job growth is one reason why Raleigh is among the best places to live in the U.S. 

Raleigh has two nicknames that hint at the unparalleled quality of life here. It’s known as the “Smithsonian of the South,” thanks to the abundance of high-quality museums, and the “City of Oaks,” because of the many oak trees that provide shade throughout the city. Raleigh is home to three major state museums – of art, history and natural sciences – and they’re free. Beer enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, foodies and outdoors lovers will all feel at home in this exciting city of nearly 470,000.

15. Olympia, Wash.

LivScore: 647 | Population: 52,290

Olympia Washington, with Mt. Rainier in the background.


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As the state’s capital, the name Olympia, elicits a kind of familiarity when spoken, but it’s not name recognition driving people to live in this unique city of 52,000-plus. Instead, a collection of skilled craftsmen calls Olympia home, from brilliant chefs and coffee roasters to brewers and vintners. Residents reap the benefits (in other words, the food and drink scene here is next level). 

Plus, great job opportunities (especially in state and local government) and educational institutions make Olympia one of the best places to live in the U.S. 

See: 14 of the best and most affordable places to live on the West Coast

Speaking of government, downtown’s Capitol Building largely adds to the city’s arts and culture scene, as does its beautiful monuments, like the Korean War and World War II memorials, and more than 70 colorful murals dotted through the town. Oh…and since Olympia is located at the southern end of Puget Sound, residents can enjoy gorgeous views and participate in a large variety of water sports. 

See: I love cool weather and hiking but can’t afford to stay in Oakland — where should I retire in the western U.S.?

16. Colorado Springs, Colo.

LivScore: 646 | Population: 471,686

Downtown Colorado Springs


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Colorado Springs is a proud military city, an energetic college town and a place where world-class athletes come to train for the Olympics. Not only is it one of the best places to live in the U.S., but Colorado Springs is also one of the most scenic. Case in point: The southern Colorado city is at the foot of Pikes Peak, which is known as America’s Mountain and the summit that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the words to “America the Beautiful.” Locals have easy access to countless outdoor amenities, from waterfall hikes to the crimson-hued Garden of the Gods.

A high-altitude zoo, nearby cliff dwellings, and locally-owned downtown restaurants and bars all offer opportunities for weekend fun. However, it isn’t all fun and games here. The city’s more than 495,000 residents also enjoy excellent job prospects, tons of higher education opportunities, lots of sunshine and an authentic community feel. 

Read: I want year-round outdoor living — dry summers and no snow — on $4,000 a month. Where should I retire?

17. Frederick, Md.

LivScore: 644 | Population: 74,032

The annual Festival of the Arts in Frederick, Md.


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Less than a one-hour drive from Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Frederick, Md., the growing city of almost 75,000, is both steeped in history yet enviously trendy. Here, you’ll find the final resting place of Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem, hundreds of years’ worth of Black history, and much more. Plus, the area is awash with public art and galleries, delicious cuisine and must-visit breweries, distilleries and wineries. And when it comes to job opportunities, Frederick delivers, making it one of the best places to live in the U.S. 

Everyone can find their niche here, as the city is home to solid life sciences, advanced manufacturing, technology, tourism and film sectors. And when it comes to outdoor activities, options abound (think camping, hiking, water recreation and more). 

18. McKinney, Texas

LivScore: 641 | Population: 202,690

If you’re looking for Texas-size charm and opportunity, McKinney, Texas, is sure to fit the bill. The more than 200,000 residents who call McKinney home get to enjoy the best of both worlds: a quaint hometown feel and big-city amenities. Just about 30 miles outside of Dallas, this fast-growing suburb makes the list as one of the best places to live in the U.S. because of its great schools and strong economic backbone. 

Tech and aviation industries flourish in McKinney, with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems’
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+0.55%
headquarters providing lots of jobs. In addition, McKinney has an exceptionally low crime rate, making it a great place to raise a family and sleep well at night. Plenty of parks, a historic downtown square with shops, galleries and restaurants, and a surprise Croatian village all add to the A-plus quality of life in McKinney.

Check out: Our retirement budget is $38,000 a year so we can’t afford to stay in California—where should we move?

19. Asheville, N.C.

LivScore: 640 | Population: 94,067

Asheville, North Carolina


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Breweries galore, award-winning chefs pushing culinary boundaries, and the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains are all part of Asheville’s magic. Asheville – which has a communitywide love for the arts plus a walkable downtown with shops, galleries and good eats – ranks among one of the best places to live in the U.S. because of its coveted mountain town amenities. It’s no wonder this vibrant city of 94,000 (plus lots of dogs!) has a knack for converting tourists to residents. 

Asheville consistently ranks on our Best Places to Live lists, and it’s easy to see why. The city is the world’s first Foodtopian Society and is known as ”Beer City USA,” as it boasts more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city. From national favorites like the Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway to off-the-beaten-path spots waiting to be discovered, there is something for everyone in this eclectic city. 

You might like: If you’re thinking of moving to the country, be aware of these hidden costs

20. Omaha, Neb.

LivScore: 639 | Population: 479,529

Omaha, Nebraska


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More than 20,000 businesses, including the headquarters of Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies, have set up shop in the Omaha metro area, which gives the city a strong economic edge. But, while Omaha is undoubtedly a convenient place to live and work (its central location provides easy access to move about the country) that’s only part of the story. Nebraska’s biggest city offers hip neighborhoods with friendly residents, a cool craft beer scene, a love for local music and one of the best zoos in the world. Plus, as one of the best places to live in the U.S., residents find that their dollar goes further here, with affordable housing and lots of ways to have fun free, from art museums to concerts and festivals.

Read the original article on Livability.