25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life

These metro areas offer the best quality of life when it comes to education, access to health services and crime rates.

U.S. News & World Report

25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life

Young family preparing for Christmas holiday. They walking on street and carrying Christmas stuff.
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Taking your quality of life into account

Many factors play into truly loving where you live. Affordability and career opportunities certainly contribute, but you shouldn’t discount daily commute, access to quality education and health care, crime rates and general well-being. As part of the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News has compiled information on these important aspects of a top-notch place to live. These five categories combined measure the quality of life in a given place. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live for Quality of Life in 2020-2021.

Kalamazoo is a city in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Michigan.
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25. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 46
Metro Population: 336,845
Median Home Price: $154,142
Average Annual Salary: $47,060

This western Michigan metro area of less than 400,000 residents ranks seventh out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its proximity to quality health care, based on data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking. In addition, living in a less-populated part of the state pays off, as Kalamazoo area residents spend just 21.1 minutes commuting to work in the morning, on average. The national average commute time is 24.8 minutes.

Learn more about Kalamazoo.

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Taking your quality of life into account

Many factors play into truly loving where you live. Affordability and career opportunities certainly contribute, but you shouldn’t discount daily commute, access to quality education and health care, crime rates and general well-being. As part of the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News has compiled information on these important aspects of a top-notch place to live. These five categories combined measure the quality of life in a given place. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live for Quality of Life in 2020-2021.

25. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 46
Metro Population: 336,845
Median Home Price: $154,142
Average Annual Salary: $47,060

This western Michigan metro area of less than 400,000 residents ranks seventh out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its proximity to quality health care, based on data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking. In addition, living in a less-populated part of the state pays off, as Kalamazoo area residents spend just 21.1 minutes commuting to work in the morning, on average. The national average commute time is 24.8 minutes.

Learn more about Kalamazoo.

24. Hartford, Connecticut

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 65
Metro Population: 1,209,367
Median Home Price: $217,358
Average Annual Salary: $60,820

Hartford’s highest score among the categories that make up the quality of life list is in college readiness, where it ranks 19th. College readiness is based on test scores from area public high school students, which are part of the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings data. Hartford also ranks higher than 114 metro areas on the list for its low rates of property crime and murder, based on Federal Bureau of Investigation data.

Learn more about Hartford.

23. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 526,412
Median Home Price: $192,708
Average Annual Salary: $46,470

Like Kalamazoo, Fayetteville has residents who get to spend less time between work and home – the average morning commute is just 21.1 minutes. This northwestern Arkansas metro area sees high performances among high school students, as it ranks 32nd out of 150 in college readiness. These details, along with relatively low crime rates and a low cost of living, contribute to Fayetteville’s spot at No. 8 in the overall Best Places to Live ranking.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

22. Melbourne, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 28
Metro Population: 576,808
Median Home Price: $207,417
Average Annual Salary: $48,940

The Melbourne metro area is home to Cape Canaveral and the John F. Kennedy Space Center, which means the area is home to many engineers, scientists and specialists in the aerospace industry. Children in the area show similar promise for technical and high-flying careers, as Melbourne ranks fifth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students. The average morning commute matches the national average at 24.8 minutes.

Learn more about Melbourne.

21. Sarasota, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 16
Metro Population: 785,997
Median Home Price: $227,754
Average Annual Salary: $44,230

Sunny weather and access to beaches certainly make some people happy – and that’s the case in Sarasota. The area ranks ninth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, which surveys U.S. residents about their community pride, sense of security and overall happiness based on where they live. Sarasota also ranks No. 1 in the Best Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2020-2021 ranking.

Learn more about Sarasota.

20. Rochester, New York

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 66
Metro Population: 1,074,667
Median Home Price: $141,808
Average Annual Salary: $50,830

In Rochester, residents spend less time going to work – just 21.4 minutes, on average – ranking 19th in the category out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. This upstate New York metro area also performs well for its high scores among high school students, based on Best High Schools data, and for its low rates of property crime and murder, based on FBI data.

Learn more about Rochester.

19. Boise, Idaho

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 20
Metro Population: 693,952
Median Home Price: $221,475
Average Annual Salary: $45,470

Boise ranks fifth out of the 150 metro areas on the list for its low crime rates. Just nine murders occurred in the metro area in 2018 and there were just over 1,500 property crimes per 100,000 people in 2018, which is the most recent complete data set from the FBI at the time of calculation. Both statistics are well below the average in the U.S. and compared to metro areas of a similar size.

Learn more about Boise.

18. Des Moines, Iowa

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 634,201
Median Home Price: $196,067
Average Annual Salary: $52,220

Des Moines’ low crime rates, short average morning commute and general happiness all contribute to its No. 18 spot on this list and the No. 7 spot in the overall Best Places to Live ranking. Des Moines has an average commute of 20.4 minutes, which is the 10th-shortest commute out of the 150 metro areas on the list. Des Moines also ranks 28th out of the 150 most populous U.S. metro areas on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Des Moines.

17. Reno, Nevada

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 38
Metro Population: 454,427
Median Home Price: $360,792
Average Annual Salary: $47,380

Reno may be a bit more off the beaten path than other metro areas on the list – it sits on the western edge of Nevada, with the closest major city, Sacramento, more than two hours away by car – but it offers plenty to residents of all ages. Reno ranks 10th out of the 150 metro areas on the list for college readiness among high school students. For working adults, the average annual commute is short, at just 21.6 minutes.

Learn more about Reno.

16. Asheville, North Carolina

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 34
Metro Population: 449,937
Median Home Price: $264,450
Average Annual Salary: $43,070

If a mountain setting appeals to your happiness level, Asheville may be the right destination for you. Residents of the metro area located along the Blue Ridge Parkway report overall satisfaction with where they live, as Asheville ranks 10th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. Plus, an average commute of just 21.2 minutes leaves more time in the day to take in mountain views or to explore the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests in your free time.

Learn more about Asheville.

15. San Diego

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 45
Metro Population: 3,302,833
Median Home Price: $564,092
Average Annual Salary: $58,090

You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who lives in the San Diego metro area that isn’t happy with living there. Warm weather, sunny days and proximity to the beach certainly contribute to San Diego ranking 13th in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. San Diego also ranks 11th for college readiness among high school students, based on data from the Best High Schools ranking.

Learn more about San Diego.

14. Portland, Maine

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 19
Metro Population: 529,323
Median Home Price: $292,250
Average Annual Salary: $51,260

Portland ranks third out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its low crime rates, behind only Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Des Moines. The Portland metro area saw just five murders in 2018 and about 1,327 property crimes per 100,000 people, according to FBI data. Portland also ranks 22nd out of the metro areas on the list in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Portland.

13. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 67
Metro Population: 538,347
Median Home Price: $215,975
Average Annual Salary: $44,960

Lancaster’s best score among those included in the quality of life index is for the metro area’s proximity to quality health care, for which it ranks sixth out of the 150 places on the list. Lancaster also ranks eighth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, with many residents reporting overall happiness with where they live, a sense of community pride and a feeling of financial security.

Learn more about Lancaster.

12. Santa Rosa, California

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 102
Metro Population: 501,317
Median Home Price: $608,367
Average Annual Salary: $55,290

This metro area in California wine country ranks highly for reported positive well-being among residents, low rates of property crime and murder, and high scores among high school students to showcase college readiness. In particular, Santa Rosa ranks fourth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index and 11th for its low crime rates, based on FBI data.

Learn more about Santa Rosa.

11. Naples, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 14
Metro Population: 363,922
Median Home Price: $326,900
Average Annual Salary: $46,290

This South Florida metro area along the Gulf Coast takes the No. 14 spot in the overall Best Places to Live ranking, helped by its scores for well-being, crime rates and college readiness among high school students. While Naples ranks 26th for college readiness among high school students out of the 150 metro areas on the list, it’s also a popular place to live for retirees – it ranks No. 4 on the Best Places to Retire list and has a median age of 50.3 years.

Learn more about Naples.

10. Fort Collins, Colorado

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 5
Metro Population: 338,161
Median Home Price: $381,358
Average Annual Salary: $51,050

Residents report being satisfied with life in Fort Collins, as it ranks seventh out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. Combined with low crime rates and high test scores among high school students to showcase college readiness, Fort Collins takes the No. 10 spot for quality of life. Additionally, Fort Collins is seeing many people moving to the metro area, with its population having grown by 8.34% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Fort Collins.

9. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 23
Metro Population: 1,050,440
Median Home Price: $195,775
Average Annual Salary: $45,670

This western Michigan metro area boasts high scores in well-being, crime, college readiness among high school students and commute. The average morning commute for Grand Rapids area residents is just 21.8 minutes. Grand Rapids’ weakest score of the categories that make up the quality of life ranking is for its access to quality health care – hospitals that rank highly on the Best Hospitals list aren’t as close as other metro areas, but Grand Rapids still ranks better than 91 places in the category.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

8. San Jose, California

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 29
Metro Population: 1,981,616
Median Home Price: $1,024,650
Average Annual Salary: $80,480

San Jose takes the top spot for college readiness among high schools students, tied with Boulder, Colorado. Additionally, San Jose residents report general satisfaction with where they live, as San Jose ranks 19th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. One trade-off is the time spent getting to work: The average morning commute is 28.9 minutes. Another trade-off is the high home prices, with the median home price above $1 million for the metro area, according to Zillow data.

Learn more about San Jose.

7. Santa Barbara, California

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 104
Metro Population: 443,738
Median Home Price: $464,954
Average Annual Salary: $54,890

Located just up the Pacific coast from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a fairly isolated metro area, nestled between the Los Padres National Forest and the ocean. Because residents are more likely to stay close by for work, the average morning commute is short at just 19.8 minutes. Santa Barbara also ranks 12th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Santa Barbara.

6. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 317,702
Median Home Price: $175,117
Average Annual Salary: $45,570

Green Bay takes the top spot out of the 150 metro areas on the list for its low rates of property crime and murder. The metro area saw just one murder and fewer than 3,800 property crimes total in 2018, according to FBI data. The average morning commute in this Wisconsin metro area is just 20 minutes, and the metro area also ranks 28th for its proximity to quality health care.

Learn more about Green Bay.

5. Madison, Wisconsin

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 21
Metro Population: 647,281
Median Home Price: $259,500
Average Annual Salary: $52,890

As the home of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, it’s not just college students who are getting a quality education. The metro area’s high schoolers rank 23rd among students in the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness. Additionally, Madison’s rates of property crime and murder are low, with Madison experiencing just 1.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2018, according to FBI data.

Learn more about Madison.

4. Brownsville, Texas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 138
Metro Population: 421,750
Median Home Value: $114,775*
Average Annual Salary: $35,230

In South Texas, Brownsville residents benefit from well-educated high school students, low crime rates and short commutes that leave more room for enjoying free time. Brownsville ranks 14th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students, and the average morning commute is just 20.2 minutes.

Learn more about Brownsville.

(*The median home price for Brownsville was not available, median home value is listed.)

3. McAllen, Texas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 136
Metro Population: 849,389
Median Home Value: $127,188*
Average Annual Salary: $36,700

This metro area located at Texas’s border with Mexico ranks fourth out of the 150 metro areas on the list for its college readiness among high school students. High test scores are a particular boon to McAllen, as the metro area is quite young, with a median age under 30. McAllen also ranks No. 17 for its low crime rates.

Learn more about McAllen.

(*The median home price for McAllen was not available, median home value is listed.)

2. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 12
Metro Population: 365,961
Median Home Price: $263,225
Average Annual Salary: $55,130

This Michigan metro area of less than 400,000 residents is home to the University of Michigan, which naturally means many residents are connected to the college and its associated health system. Ann Arbor ties for the No. 1 spot for proximity to quality health care with Reading, Pennsylvania; York, Pennsylvania; and Trenton, New Jersey. The area isn’t just recognized for its higher education opportunities: The metro ranks third out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students.

Learn more about Ann Arbor.

1. Boulder, Colorado

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 1
Metro Population: 321,030
Median Home Price: $524,417
Average Annual Salary: $64,690

The No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. for 2020-2021 also takes the top spot in the quality of life category. Boulder ties for the top spot with San Jose, California, for its test scores among high school students to determine college readiness. Boulder residents also report that they’re happy living in the area – the Colorado metro area ranks third out of the 150 metro areas on the list in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Boulder.

The best places to live in the U.S. for quality of life are:

  • Boulder, Colorado.
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • McAllen, Texas.
  • Brownsville, Texas.
  • Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin.
  • Santa Barbara, California.
  • San Jose, California.
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Fort Collins, Colorado.

See full rankings.

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Updated on Jan. 26, 2021: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.