The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021

These metro areas offer the best combination of jobs, desirability, cost of living, quality of life and more.

U.S. News & World Report

The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021

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13. Seattle

Metro Population: 3,809,717
Median Home Price: $463,600
Average Annual Salary: $65,400

Seattle ranks No. 13 this year, thanks to its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. The job market contributes to its high ranking for desirability at 12th out of the 150 metro areas on the list. With an average individual salary of $65,400, Seattle has the fifth-highest average salary on the list, following San Jose, California, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

Learn more about Seattle.

Ann Arbor is a city in the US state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County
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12. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Metro Population: 365,961
Median Home Price: $263,225
Average Annual Salary: $55,130

Most people recognize this metro area in southeastern Michigan as home of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor receives the highest score out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its access to quality health care based on data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking, tied with Reading, Pennsylvania; York, Pennsylvania; and Trenton, New Jersey. Ann Arbor’s high school students also appear ready for higher education – the metro area ranks third in college readiness, following Boulder, Colorado, and San Jose.

Learn more about Ann Arbor.

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Naples, Florida is the best place to travel alone
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14. Naples, Florida

Metro Population: 363,922
Median Home Price: $326,900
Average Annual Salary: $46,290

New to the list this year, Naples is a fairly small metro area with a little over 350,000 residents. With a southern location on the Gulf Coast of Florida where the Everglades begin, Naples doesn’t attract the same number of tourists as Miami or Tampa, but many people want to move there – and plenty are already. Naples is the third-fastest growing metro area out of the 150 places on the list.

Learn more about Naples.

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The Best Places to Live in 2020-2021

What makes a place an ideal hometown? Happy residents, plenty of job opportunities, great schools and affordable living are often-cited factors. To determine the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News looks at data on the country’s 150 most populous metro areas, including the cost of living, job market, crime rates, quality of education and more. The data is weighted based on responses from a survey of more than 3,000 people throughout the U.S. to determine what matters most to them when picking their next place to live. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021.

25. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Metro Population: 317,702
Median Home Price: $175,117
Average Annual Salary: $45,570

Best known as the hometown of the Packers NFL football team, Green Bay is situated roughly 100 miles north of Milwaukee. In the Best Places to Live ranking, Green Bay scores highest for its low cost of living compared to the area's median household income. Green Bay residents spend just 20.46% of median household income on rent or mortgage payments, along with additional costs including property taxes and utilities.

Learn more about Green Bay.

24. Dallas-Fort Worth

Metro Population: 7,255,028
Median Home Price: $255,033
Average Annual Salary: $52,590

The most populous metro area in the top 25, Dallas-Fort Worth’s highest score is for net migration. The Dallas-Fort Worth area grew by 4.84% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is the second-highest ranking metro area in Texas on the list.

Learn more about Dallas-Fort Worth.

23. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Metro Population: 1,050,440
Median Home Price: $195,775
Average Annual Salary: $45,670

Grand Rapids ranks ninth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for affordability. The western Michigan metro area also scores highly for quality of life, which takes into account the quality of public high school education, commute time, property crime and murder rates, and general happiness among residents, per the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, which asks residents about where they live as it pertains to mental well-being, sense of security, community pride and more.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

22. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Metro Population: 3,557,528
Median Home Price: $237,367
Average Annual Salary: $57,420

After ranking No. 6 in Best Places to Live in 2019, Minnesota’s Twin Cities take the No. 22 spot this year. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area still scores highly for its affordable cost of living compared to the area's median household income, but it has dropped in desirability and now ranks in the bottom half of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. The desirability score is based on a survey conducted in late August that asked U.S. residents where they would prefer to live.

Learn more about Minneapolis-St. Paul.

21. Madison, Wisconsin

Metro Population: 647,281
Median Home Price: $259,500
Average Annual Salary: $52,890

Madison takes the No. 21 spot in the Best Places to Live ranking, in large part due to the metro area’s strong job market. Madison residents earn an average annual salary of $52,890, which is above the national average of $51,960. Prior to the start of the pandemic, the Madison metro area had a low unemployment rate of just 2.5%.

Learn more about Madison.

20. Boise, Idaho

Metro Population: 693,952
Median Home Price: $221,475
Average Annual Salary: $45,470

Idaho’s capital makes the list with high scores for population growth due to net migration and housing affordability compared with median annual household income. Residents need just 22.49% of median household income to cover rent or mortgage payments, as well as additional housing costs like property taxes and utilities. Boise scores lower, however, in desirability among U.S. residents considering where they would want to live.

Learn more about Boise.

19. Portland, Maine

Metro Population: 529,323
Median Home Price: $292,250
Average Annual Salary: $51,260

The most populous metro area in Maine jumped a few spots from No. 23 in 2019 due to its quality of life, fairly steady job market and growing reputation as a desirable place to live. For quality of life, factoring in college readiness among high school students, proximity to quality health care, crime, average commute time and overall well-being, Portland ranks 14th out of the 150 metro areas on the list.

Learn more about Portland.

18. Boston

Metro Population: 4,811,732
Median Home Price: $441,358
Average Annual Salary: $67,370

Boston jumps nine spots this year to No. 18. It remains a pricey place to live, but the biggest factor contributing to Boston’s rise in the ranks is desirability, where it ranks 15th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., based on the survey of U.S. residents.

Learn more about Boston.

17. Nashville, Tennessee

Metro Population: 1,864,138
Median Home Price: $263,625
Average Annual Salary: $48,370

Nashville takes the No. 17 spot, with many U.S. residents viewing the Tennessee metro area as a desirable place to live. People are also acting on that feeling, as Nashville has grown by 5.55% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone. Nashville ranks 13th out of the 150 metro areas on the list for desirability.

Learn more about Nashville.

16. Sarasota, Florida

Metro Population: 785,997
Median Home Price: $227,754
Average Annual Salary: $44,230

Sarasota has risen two spots from No. 18 in 2019. This metro area on the Gulf Coast of Florida is the fourth-fastest growing metro area out of the 150 places on the list. From 2014 to 2018, Sarasota saw a population increase of 10.85% due to net migration.

Learn more about Sarasota.

15. Huntsville, Alabama

Metro Population: 450,612
Median Home Price: $179,175
Average Annual Salary: $54,630

Huntsville falls back four spots on the list from 2019 with the introduction of new metro areas to the ranking. This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

Learn more about Huntsville.

14. Naples, Florida

Metro Population: 363,922
Median Home Price: $326,900
Average Annual Salary: $46,290

New to the list this year, Naples is a fairly small metro area with a little over 350,000 residents. With a southern location on the Gulf Coast of Florida where the Everglades begin, Naples doesn’t attract the same number of tourists as Miami or Tampa, but many people want to move there – and plenty are already. Naples is the third-fastest growing metro area out of the 150 places on the list.

Learn more about Naples.

13. Seattle

Metro Population: 3,809,717
Median Home Price: $463,600
Average Annual Salary: $65,400

Seattle ranks No. 13 this year, thanks to its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. The job market contributes to its high ranking for desirability at 12th out of the 150 metro areas on the list. With an average individual salary of $65,400, Seattle has the fifth-highest average salary on the list, following San Jose, California, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

Learn more about Seattle.

12. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Metro Population: 365,961
Median Home Price: $263,225
Average Annual Salary: $55,130

Most people recognize this metro area in southeastern Michigan as home of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor receives the highest score out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its access to quality health care based on data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking, tied with Reading, Pennsylvania; York, Pennsylvania; and Trenton, New Jersey. Ann Arbor’s high school students also appear ready for higher education – the metro area ranks third in college readiness, following Boulder, Colorado, and San Jose.

Learn more about Ann Arbor.

11. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Metro Population: 1,861,123
Median Home Price: $259,429
Average Annual Salary: $54,789

The Raleigh and Durham metro area continues to be an attractive place for people to relocate, thanks to its affordability and job market. Research, technology, education and health care are consistently growing industries in the area. From 2014 to 2018, the Raleigh and Durham metro area grew by 5.44% due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Raleigh and Durham.

10. San Francisco

Metro Population: 4,673,221
Median Home Price: $782,350
Average Annual Salary: $72,400

Falling back three spots to No. 10 this year, San Francisco remains highly ranked for its strong job market – ranking second out of the 150 metro areas on the list, following its Bay Area neighbor San Jose. Prior to the start of the pandemic, San Francisco had an unemployment rate of just 2.6%. The metro area has an average annual salary of $72,400.

Learn more about San Francisco.

9. Portland, Oregon

Metro Population: 2,417,931
Median Home Price: $390,350
Average Annual Salary: $56,160

U.S. residents view Portland as a highly desirable place to live, with the city ranking No. 4 in that category, behind Colorado Springs, Colorado, Honolulu and Los Angeles, which are tied for the top spot. Additionally, a strong job market and consistent growth in population due to net migration over a five-year period are behind the Rose City’s No. 9 rank.

Learn more about Portland.

8. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Metro Population: 526,412
Median Home Price: $192,708
Average Annual Salary: $46,470

This fast-growing metro area in Arkansas has long been a strong contender in the Best Places to Live ranking – and this year is no different. A low cost of living compared with household income, strong population growth due to net migration and high quality of life scores all contribute to Fayetteville’s No. 8 ranking in 2020.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

7. Des Moines, Iowa

Metro Population: 634,201
Median Home Price: $196,067
Average Annual Salary: $52,220

Des Moines takes the No. 7 spot this year, with continued growth in its job market prior to the start of the pandemic, sustained net migration to the metro area and solid quality of life scores. Des Moines also maintains a low cost of living compared to the median household income, ranking third for affordability out of the 150 metro areas on the list.

Learn more about Des Moines.

6. Charlotte, North Carolina

Metro Population: 2,473,125
Median Home Price: $231,233
Average Annual Salary: $51,000

Moving up from the No. 20 spot in 2019, Charlotte receives its high score for its fast and sustained population growth. The Charlotte metro area grew by 5.83% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone. Charlotte also rounds out the top 10 most desirable places to live, with many U.S. residents expressing an interest in living there compared to other places on the list.

Learn more about Charlotte.

5. Fort Collins, Colorado

Metro Population: 338,161
Median Home Price: $381,358
Average Annual Salary: $51,050

Roughly 30 miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming state line, Fort Collins is a small metro area in Colorado that's seeing a lot of growth. Fort Collins ranks ninth out of the 150 metro areas on the list for population growth due to net migration, which increased by 8.34% from 2014 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Fort Collins.

4. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Metro Population: 712,266
Median Home Price: $304,500
Average Annual Salary: $51,430

Aside from holding the No. 4 spot in the overall Best Places to Live list, Colorado Springs is the most desirable place to live, sharing the top spot with Honolulu and Los Angeles. Consistent population growth due to net migration and a consistently strong job market help Colorado Springs rank near the top of the list this year.

Learn more about Colorado Springs.

3. Austin, Texas

Metro Population: 2,058,351
Median Home Price: $313,308
Average Annual Salary: $53,810

After ranking as the No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. for three years in a row, Austin has been unseated and falls back to No. 3. Still, Austin remains an ideal place to live for many, with a strong job market, high quality of life and continued long-term population growth due to net migration.

Learn more about Austin.

2. Denver

Metro Population: 2,850,221
Median Home Price: $401,542
Average Annual Salary: $59,440

Despite there being a new No. 1 metro area on the Best Places to Live list for 2020 that's just down the road, Denver holds strong at the No. 2 spot. Denver remains a desirable destination for U.S. residents, and its pre-pandemic job market has been reliably strong from year to year.

Learn more about Denver.

1. Boulder, Colorado

Metro Population: 321,030
Median Home Price: $524,417
Average Annual Salary: $64,690

New to the Best Places to Live list, Boulder debuts as the No. 1 place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for 2020-2021. Boulder has a positive reputation among U.S. residents, based on the desirability survey, and excellent education for high schoolers, tying for the top spot with San Jose. Boulder residents enjoy a high quality of life with the mountains at their doorstep and an average annual salary of more than $64,000.

Learn more about Boulder.

The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021:

  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Denver
  • Austin, Texas
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco
  • Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Seattle
  • Naples, Florida
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Sarasota, Florida
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Boston
  • Portland, Maine
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin

See the full rankings.

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