Best places to live in America

Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live using Niche data, which ranks places based on factors such as the cost of living.    

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 An aerial view of Chevy Chase, a wealthy suburban neighborhood in the outskirts of Washington D.C. The sun sets behind the residential homes in the spring.

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What exactly makes a place an ideal hometown? The answer has changed throughout the decades.

In the middle of the 20th century, the suburbs were born. Post-World War II, white Americans were entranced by the idea of owning their own newly affordable homes with plots of green lawn space, especially as cities experienced severe housing shortages. Rapidly, the suburbs grew to be home for the majority of citizens.

However, cookie-cutter neighborhoods that were once considered modern and the future of housing have since seen a downturn in popularity. Home ownership is far less attainable than 20 years ago; additionally, more people are starting to appreciate urban advantages such as walkability and communal spaces.

Areas that used to be highly desirable have been overrun with residents, causing the cost of living to skyrocket and that initial affordability to tank—including in Colorado or Charlotte, North Carolina, for example.

Affordability, a stellar school system, and access to shopping and entertainment—depending on priorities, any of these might be deciding factors in choosing the best place to live in America. Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live as of June 2024 using Niche data on cities, towns, and suburbs. Niche ranks places to live based on an array of factors, including cost of living, residents' education, housing prices, and public school grades.

Spots in the Midwest dominate the list. Many are appealing for similar reasons: safe environments, a commitment to education, and proximity to the cultural attractions of an urban area or nearby wilderness for hiking. Some are especially quaint and historic, while others have experienced tech booms.

Whether you are looking to relocate, just daydreaming about a change of scenery, or curious to see if your hometown is named, take a look at the American towns and cities that have earned their spots on this list of the top 50 places to live in the United States.

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#50. Novi

Amusement rides at the Michigan State Fair.

Ayman Haykal // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in Michigan
- Population: 65,870

Novi boasts a strong public school system, ranking #6 out of 620 state districts. Property values and median incomes have increased over the past year, largely thanks to the city's manufacturing industry. The Twelve Oaks Mall and Suburban Collection Showplace offer a lot of opportunities for shopping and entertainment.

#49. Evanston

Chicago Avenue in Downtown Evanston.

James Andrews1 // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in Illinois
- Population: 77,181

Evanston was ranked the best suburb in Illinois for young professionals, perhaps because of its booming nightlife. The town is also enjoying entertainment and economic growth thanks to a $3 million endowment allotted to upgrade amenities including downtown leisure and entertainment space, a theater, a dining plaza, and fund more local community events.

#48. Kildeer

Fresh Stack Burger Co. in Kildeer.

Rajesh Vijayakumar // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Chicago
- Population: 4,133

Rural-feeling Kildeer is a particularly good spot for families, with a strong public school system and affordable housing. Its abundance of natural and green spaces—including wetlands, lakes, and forests—make it particularly attractive for outdoor lovers. While it is pastoral, it is still a part of the Chicago metropolitan area (only 29 miles northwest of the city proper), allowing residents the best of both rural peace and urban opportunities.

#47. Holly Hills

Large homes in autumn with mountains in the background.

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- Location: Suburb of Denver
- Population: 2,801

Holly Hills gets top reviews as a place to raise a family and retire. It's walkable and diverse, with great public schools. Nearly all its homes are older, built from 1940 to 1969, and many have four or more bedrooms. Downtown Denver is easily accessible by light rail.

#46. Pepper Pike

Horses running in a field with a house in the background.

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- Location: Suburb of Cleveland
- Population: 6,778

Pepper Pike is known as the city "close to everything." It is a safe community with outstanding schools and convenient shopping and restaurants. Nearby attractions include the Maltz Museum of Jewish heritage in Beachwood.

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#45. Shaker Heights

An aerial view of historic brick buildings.

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- Location: Suburb of Cleveland
- Population: 29,157

Shaker Heights, a medium-sized suburb, got its name from the North Union Shaker Community, who lived in the area from 1822 to 1889. The Shakers believed in communal property ownership and were against marriage. Today, the community is filled with families, most of whom own their homes.

#44. Ellicott City

Ellicott City sign on a bridge.

Liz Albro Photography // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Baltimore
- Population: 73,589

Ellicott City is known for its historic downtown district, which is home to hundreds of 18th- and 19th-century buildings. The town is brimming with antique shops and museums, including the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum. It lies along the historic National Road, America's first highway.

#43. Mariemont

The historic Mariemont Theater.

Bentley Davis // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Cincinnati
- Population: 3,493

Mariemont was ranked the #1 best place to raise a family in Ohio and the #2 place to live in the state. History buffs can enjoy visiting the Madisonville Site, a former Native American settlement filled with artifacts and remnants of structures dating from about 1400.

#42. Cambridge

Sailboats on the water with the Cambridge skyline in the background.

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- Location: City in Massachusetts
- Population: 117,962

Cambridge is across the Charles River from Boston and the home of Harvard University, the first higher education school in America, founded in 1636. The city was built by Puritan colonists, who got a deed from the female chief of the Massachusetts tribe. Today, Cambridge draws students who study at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Lesley University.

#41. Vernon Hills

Fall colored trees on a suburban neighborhood street.

Phani Chaturvedula // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Chicago
- Population: 26,750

Vernon Hills, an urban-suburban environment, serves as a hub for shopping, dining, and leisure. Its Hawthorn Mall, with over 140 stores, is being redeveloped to encompass a suite of luxury apartments, shopping and dining options, and green spaces for community events.

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#40. Princeton Junction

Bicycles parked outside of a train station.

EQRoy // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in New Jersey
- Population: 2,022

Princeton Junction, an affluent area, has a suburban feel with highly rated schools. Residents are positioned near all kinds of restaurants, playgrounds, and theme parks. There are multiple vineyards and an orchard as well as Princeton Battlefield State Park in the area.

#39. Kohler

Walkway through sand dunes along the Great Lake shores.

Tony Savino // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in Wisconsin
- Population: 2,142

Kohler is praised for two main attractions: world-class golf courses and a luxury resort. It is home to four of the country's top 100 golf courses, including The Straits, and has hosted PGA Tournaments and the Ryder Cup. It is also home to the only Forbes five-star spa in the state, the Kohler Waters Spa. One of its best attractions is free: In 1913, the town was designed as a garden community, and it's full of green spaces and flora.

#38. Sugar Land

Sugar Land Town Square, with fountain, sculptures, building, city traffic and people.

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- Location: Town in Texas
- Population: 110,077

Sugar Land's proximity to Houston means that it reaps the benefits of a highly skilled workforce: 60% of residents over 25 have a bachelor's degree or higher, and there are over 500,000 college graduates within a 30-minute drive. The town, which got its start as a hub for sugarcane production, was one of the fastest-growing in the country from 2017 to 2022. Today, many residents work in advanced manufacturing and biotech.

#37. Swarthmore

A green lawn with blooming trees and one Adirondack chair.

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- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
- Population: 6,507

In Swarthmore, crime rates are low, and schools are highly ranked. Its cost of living, driven by high housing prices, is 33% higher than the national average. The city is home to the prestigious Swarthmore College, founded in 1864 by members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.

#36. South Kensington

An aerial view of homes near the water.

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- Location: Suburb in Maryland
- Population: 8,371

South Kensington is near the Potomac River, with easy access to Washington D.C. Homes are expensive, with prices more than three times the national average. Most residents commute to work by car, and their average one-way trip is 30 minutes.

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#35. Madison

Sign advertising a local farmers market.

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- Location: Suburb of Huntsville, Alabama
- Population: 56,967

Madison is close to two large industries that have helped spur population, economic, and infrastructural growth: military and space. The Redstone Arsenal army base and Marshall Space Flight Center are based nearby, generating thousands of jobs. The median household income is over $118,000, far above the national average, and the unemployment rate is only 1.8%.

#34. Olivette

Aerial view of the city of St. Louis.

Silent O // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of St. Louis
- Population: 8,431

Olivette has a "sparse suburban feel," with residents citing a peaceful environment and friendly neighbors. It features hills and green spaces, while all the amenities and economic opportunities of St. Louis are still well within reach. A new 15-acre development, Olive Crossing, will attract more residents, with 181 apartments and a plethora of shopping options.

#33. Buffalo Grove

Aerial view of Chicago suburbs, after sunset.

Kamil Zelezik // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Chicago
- Population: 42,934

Buffalo Grove has a rich history of Native American settlement, with at least six Indigenous tribes' ancestral homelands within its borders. German and other European immigrants used much of the land for farming, and the suburb retains its pastoral roots. The Buffalo Grove Farmers Market runs from June through October, featuring locally grown produce, baked goods, and other products.

#32. Fishers

An aerial view of Fishers in spring.

Ted Alexander Somerville // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Indianapolis
- Population: 99,041

With highly rated public schools and high median incomes, Fishers has earned its ranking as the second-best place in Indiana to live. Life in Fishers is about to improve noticeably, as well: The city announced a $1 billion investment in quality of life for its citizens, including expansions to public parks, entertainment venues, and more.

#31. Ho-Ho-Kus

The New Jersey transit train arriving at a station.

Krtz07 // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb in New Jersey
- Population: 4,234

A 1.7-square-mile suburb in Bergen County established in 1698, Ho-Ho-Kus is 20 miles from New York City. Its name reflects its Native American origins—the area was home to the Lenni Lenape tribe—and likely was derived from "Mah-Ho-Ho-Kus," or "red cedar." Ho-Ho-Kus has a small-town atmosphere and remains a tight-knit and safe place to live.

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#30. Richmond Heights

A two-story brick home with trees in bloom.

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- Location: Suburb of St. Louis
- Population: 9,186

Richmond Heights features stately older homes, many of which were built before World War II. The town is full of history and minutes from the attractions of St. Louis. Most working residents are white-collar professionals, and more than 75% of adults have at least a four-year college degree compared with the national average of 37.7%.

#29. Troy

Aerial view of houses and trees.

gg5795 // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in Michigan
- Population: 87,170

Considering Troy's proximity to Detroit, it's no surprise the city is home to a thriving automobile manufacturing industry. It's also a booming high-tech hub and has one of the lowest tax rates in the region. The median home value is $375,600, and the median household income is $115,639.

#28. Los Alamos

An aerial view of Los Alamos at sunset.

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- Location: Town in New Mexico
- Population: 13,460

Los Alamos is known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb, but it's also charming and livable. It has more than 300 days of sunshine each year; easy access to wilderness, mesas, mountains, and canyons; and a thriving arts scene. Its schools are among the best in the state, and jobs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory draw highly educated and innovative people to the area.

#27. Great Neck Plaza

The view from a boat on the water.

Nata.reiis // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of New York City
- Population: 7,443

Great Neck Plaza is home to educated professionals. The village is diverse, with internationally-born residents accounting for 36.6% of the population. Those who commute often use public transportation, such as the Long Island Rail Road.

#26. Ballwin

Midsummer agricultural field with red roof barn in Missouri.

Paul Thomas Curry // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of St. Louis
- Population: 30,948

Ballwin sprang up as a mail route between nearby St. Louis and Jefferson City. Today, Manchester Road is still a retail hotspot. The town is a half-hour drive from major universities—including the University of Missouri-St. Louis—and has inexpensive water and energy as well as robust parks, schools, and entertainment options.

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#25. Princeton

A park bench on a path covered in fall leaves.

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- Location: Town in New Jersey
- Population: 30,450

Besides being home to Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton has been recognized as a healthy place to live. It boasts parks and a wildlife refuge and is a semi-wooded community with various types of housing, including an 86-year-old affordable housing program.

#24. Hinsdale

An American flag reflecting in window of home.

Christine Dannhausen-Brun // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Chicago
- Population: 17,169

So many historic buildings are still standing in downtown Hinsdale that the district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, particularly for the architecture. Residents can immerse themselves in the town's past at the Hinsdale History Museum, which features a historically restored home filled with relics donated by local citizens.

#23. Clayton

A couple holding hands walking along a path in a park while a child runs in the grass and a man walks his dog ahead.

Tales.org // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of St. Louis
- Population: 17,212

Various parks, camps, and the Historic Hanley House museum are notable points of interest in Clayton. Washington University—one of the Midwest's most prestigious higher education institutions—has a campus there as well.

#22. Long Grove

View of a Long Grove village.

elesi // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Chicago
- Population: 8,279

Residents of Long Grove will always enjoy the annual Chocolate Fest, Strawberry Fest, Craft Beer Fest, and Apple Fest. Its historic district is the oldest in Illinois and has a rural feel along with gardens, shops, and restaurants.

#21. Penn Wynne

A street of small, colorful homes, one with an American flag hanging out front.

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- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
- Population: 6,127

In the leafy Philadelphia suburb of Penn Wynne, public school test scores are higher than the national average. There is an active civic association, and dining, shopping, entertainment, and leisure options abound.

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#20. Cary

A cul-de-sac of homes with a paved sidewalk.

AlexLinck // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina
- Population: 174,880

Cary, located near North Carolina's Research Triangle, has been called one of the safest cities in America. The town is home to the North Carolina Courage of the National Women's Soccer League and USA Baseball's national training complex. Cary has its own public transportation system with fixed-route and door-to-door service.

#19. North Potomac

An aerial view of homes surrounded by trees.

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- Location: Suburb in Maryland
- Population: 24,692

About 20 miles from Washington D.C., North Potomac has great public schools and plenty of diversity. During spring and fall, trails fill with fitness enthusiasts. It's also home to the Westleigh Recreation Club and close to art museums, historic parks, and plenty of shopping options.

#18. Clarendon Hills

Chicago suburbs, after sunset.

Kamil Zelezik // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Chicago
- Population: 8,658

Only 18 miles from Chicago, Clarendon Hills has low crime and a high quality of life. Downtown is often bustling with community events, including Dancin' in the Street, Daisy Days, and an annual tree lighting ceremony.

#17. The Woodlands

Woman jogging in a waterfront downtown area next to a trolley that has the words, ride for free, on it.

Cranium Pictures // Shutterstock

- Location: City in Texas
- Population: 118,402

If life in The Woodlands is good, it's because it was designed to be that way: The town was a planned community founded in 1974, intended to offer both convenient amenities and proximity to nature. The latter is certainly true—it boasts 151 parks and 220 miles of hiking and biking trails. Major employers include ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, and multiple hospitals, with energy and health care dominating the job market.

#16. Alpharetta

Avalon resident and retail development in Alpharetta.

Darryl Brooks // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in Georgia
- Population: 65,884

Alpharetta has existed since the early 19th century, when it was a trading post for pioneers in search of fertile land. Today, it is known as the "Technology City of the South" because of the companies based there, including Verizon, Fiserv, and LexisNexis. Tech enthusiasts can also enjoy a visit to the nearby Computer Museum of America.

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#15. Naperville

Aerial view of Downtown Naperville.

Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

- Location: City in Illinois
- Population: 149,089

Naperville doesn't just have a variety of employment industries, a low crime rate, and public and parochial schools—it also has the best public library system in the U.S. The town has many entertainment sources, including a municipal band that hosts summer concerts, a local theater, a farmers market, and a robust pickleball culture.

#14. Stone Ridge

Four and five storey blue and tan apartment buildings.

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- Location: Suburb in Virginia
- Population: 16,049

Stone Ridge is less than 40 miles from Washington D.C. and close to Dulles International Airport. Nearly nine in 10 families own their homes. The town has a clubhouse with a fitness center, an amphitheater, three swimming pools, miles of walking trails, and the Loudoun County Gum Spring Library.

#13. Innsbrook

Tall trees by a lake.

Francisco Sebastian Gb // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Richmond, Virginia
- Population: 8,699

Innsbrook is a mixed-use community with residences, office spaces, lakes, and trails. It was founded in 1979 on 850 acres of undeveloped rural land not far from Richmond, the state capital.

#12. Chesterfield

A large glass building surrounded by a lake.

Dstarj // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of St. Louis
- Population: 49,645

While there are many wonders in nearby St. Louis, few of the big city's attractions are as unique as the Butterfly House in Chesterfield, a tropical conservatory that opened in 1998. The city is home to excellent public schools, is a great place to raise a family, and also has a hopping beer scene.

#11. Coppell

Aerial view of a neighborhood in Coppell.

Trong Nguyen // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Dallas
- Population: 42,513

Coppell has a small-town feel, partially thanks to its Old Town district, the original site of a small farming community. It ranks particularly well for its public schools and family-friendly atmosphere.

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#10. Brentwood

The glass TIAA Bank office building in Brentwood.

JHVEPhoto // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of St. Louis
- Population: 8,173

Close to St. Louis, Brentwood packs multiple parks, housing options, schools, restaurants, and leisure options into just two square miles. One year ago, the city approved $436 million to revitalize 77.2 acres along Manchester Road, including flood mitigation, a new park, and infrastructure upgrades.

#9. Blue Ash

Single family homes in a suburban neighborhood.

JazK2 // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Cincinnati
- Population: 13,325

A regional college of the University of Cincinnati is located in Blue Ash, which is also home to the popular Summit Park and accompanying observation tower. Major employers in the city include the university, Kroger, and Allegion.

#8. Okemos

A long wooden boardwalk lined with trees.

T-I // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Lansing, Michigan
- Population: 25,549

Named after an Ojibwe (Chippewa) chief, Okemos is a favored settling site for employees of nearby Michigan State University. It's diverse and has some of the best-ranked schools in Michigan. A short drive away, Potter Park Zoo is an excellent attraction. Art and architecture admirers can also marvel at the Goetsch-Winckler House.

#7. North Bethesda

A neighborhood covered in snow.

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- Location: Suburb in Maryland
- Population: 49,763

Several nonprofits, including the KID Museum, are headquartered in North Bethesda. Its public schools post high rankings, while Georgetown Preparatory School is one of the oldest boarding schools in the U.S. Residents who work in Washington D.C. have a relatively short commute to the nation's capital.

#6. Johns Creek

An aerial view of suburban malls and plazas.

RodClementPhotography // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Atlanta
- Population: 82,230

Johns Creek has been ranked the safest city in Georgia multiple times. With an international community that comprises one-fourth of the population, it also gets high marks for cultural diversity. The town is home to quality restaurants, stores, and parks and even has its own arts center and symphony orchestra.

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#5. Ardmore

A park with blooming cherry blossom trees.

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- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
- Population: 14,075

One of the first outdoor shopping centers in the country, Suburban Square opened in 1928. Ardmore is also home to great schools, parks, dining options, and a daily farmers market. The affluent, historic suburb spawned the Clover Market of vintage and artisanal goods, and each year it hosts Ardmore Restaurant Week and Ardmore Oktoberfest.

#4. Brookline

Historic red brick buildings and a church.

Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

- Location: Suburb of Boston
- Population: 62,698

Brookline has its own puppet theater, the Puppet Showplace Theater. Residents and visitors can also step inside John F. Kennedy's childhood home, and comedian Conan O'Brien is among the noted graduates of Brookline High School.

#3. Cinco Ranch

Large brick and stone homes.

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- Location: Suburb of Houston
- Population: 18,856

There are pools for everyone in the family to enjoy in the planned community of Cinco Ranch near Katy. Residents also take advantage of a golf club and several trails and parks. It has top-of-the-line schools and educated, diverse residents who double the national median household income.

#2. Chesterbrook

Fall trees in the forest.

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- Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
- Population: 5,428

Residents enjoy top-quality schools, parklands, quiet streets, and safety in Chesterbrook, about a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia. It's adjacent to Valley Forge National Historical Park, the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army. During that time, the ragtag soldiers trained to become a disciplined and unified force.

#1. Carmel

West Park during the fall.

Ted Alexander Somerville // Shutterstock

- Location: Town in Indiana
- Population: 99,453

In recent years, Carmel has been recognized as the best place to raise a family in Indiana, one of America's safest cities, and the best place to launch a career. The town also has a serene Japanese garden for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Story editing by Mike Taylor. Copy editing by Robert Wickwire. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

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