The 8 Absolute Best Cities to Live In the USA

We looked at results from 7 very different, "best of" lists to come up with the 8 best cities in the USA for 2015.

Minneapolis, MN by Matthew Paulson/Flickr
Minneapolis, MN by Matthew Paulson/Flickr

 

Published October 18, 2015

Every year research organizations, corporations, and media outlets come up with the best cities in America based on a wide variety of factors–and each list is different. But, what happens when you put all of the lists together? Which are the absolute best of the top cities in the US?

To figure this out, we looked at the Top 10 finalists on seven different, major lists. We left out any lists that were tailored to one gender only, or one career only. Then we looked at which cities consistently appeared on multiple lists, and tallied up the ones that appeared most often to come up with our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Read on to find out which cities made our Top 8 cities in the US, then read the lists to find out why they stand out from the crowd.


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The 8 Cities that Show Up Most Often on “Best Of” Lists

First place winner:

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN! It shows up on five of the lists below. It’s considered very green, with a great food scene and fantastic job market. Plus it’s a good place to live without a car. To find out more about what’s happening there, check out this website.

St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN by Pixabay
St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN by Pixabay

Tied for 2nd place:

These cities show up on four of the lists below.

They’re all full of book lovers. Denver and Portland are also very green. Denver is considered extremely easy to get around without a car and wonderful for retirement, while Portland has a superb food scene and an especially robust job market. Austin is great for retirement and jobs.

Tied for 3rd place:

San Francisco by David Yu/Flickr
San Francisco by David Yu/Flickr

 

These cities show up on three of the lists below.

Total Results from the Lists We Looked At:

Grufnik/Flickr
New York City by Grufnik/Flickr

America’s Greenest Cities

A new study by the website Wallethub.com generated the report 2015’s Greenest Cities in America.  It looks at 100 cities using 13 major metrics (things like how much green space they have and how much per capita greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the city’s policies aimed at protecting the environment).

According to it, the top 10 greenest cities are:

  1. New York, NY
  2. Portland, OR
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Honolulu, HI
  6. Seattle, WA
  7. Minneapolis, MN
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Oakland, CA
  10. Fremont, CA

New York City ranked highest partly because it ranked number 1 for its “greenness of transportation.” When it came to other factors (environmental quality, “greenness of energy sources,” and “green lifestyle and local policies”) it ranked number 5.

Click on the map below to see how your city ranks in terms of green living:

Source: WalletHub
Portland, OR by Randy Kashka/Flickr
Portland, OR by Randy Kashka/Flickr

America’s Best Cities for Foodies

This report by Travel + Leisure magazine from March 2015 highlights the 20 cities that cater most to the food-loving crowd. Here are the top 10 on their list:

  1. Houston, TX
  2. Providence, RI
  3. Kansas City, KS
  4. Atlanta, GA
  5. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  6. Albuquerque, NM
  7. Cleveland, OH
  8. Portland, OR
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. New York, NY
Denver, CO by Clint Mickel/Flickr
Denver, CO by Clint Mickel/Flickr

The 10 Best Cities for Retirement in America

In this report, Bankrate.com ranked 196 top cities in the US based on a range of variables that would make retirement a nicer proposition–from walkability and cost of living, to crime rate and weather. Here are the top 10:

  1. Mesa (Metro Phoenix), AZ
  2. Arlington, VA
  3. Prescott, AZ
  4. Tucson, AZ
  5. Des Moines, IA
  6. Denver, CO
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Cape Coral, FL
  9. Colorado Springs, CO
  10. Franklin, TN
Seattle by Frank Fukimoto/Flickr
Seattle by Frank Fukimoto/Flickr

The Best Cities for Book Lovers

Assuming, as a book lover, that you like being surrounded by other book lovers, Amazon’s 2015 list of The Most Well-Read Cities in America is very revealing. They determined the ranking based on sales of all books, newspapers, and magazines (in Kindle and print format) from April 2014 to April 2015, and limited the selection pool to cities with 500,000 residents or more. The top 10 are:

  1. Seattle, WA
  2. Portland, OR
  3. Las Vegas, NV
  4. Tucson, AZ
  5. Washington, DC
  6. Austin, TX
  7. San Francisco, CA
  8. Albuquerque, NM
  9. Denver, CO
  10. Louisville, KY
Austin, TX by milpool79/Flickr
Austin, TX by milpool79/Flickr

The Best Cities for Job Seekers

Nerdwallet.com came up with this list by crunching numbers of 100 of the top cities all across the nation. They weighed factors like workforce growth rates, affordability, and job availability. Here are the top 10 if you’re looking for employment:

  1. Lincoln, NE
  2. Fort Worth, TX
  3. Columbus, OH
  4. Minneapolis, MN
  5. Denver, CO
  6. Austin, TX
  7. Greensboro, NC
  8. Portland, OR
  9. Oklahoma City, OK
  10. St. Paul, MN

Fortune magazine also came up with its list of the “Best Cities to Get a Job in 2015.” They based it mainly on unemployment rates. Here are their top 10:

  1. Lincoln, NE
  2. Omaha, NE
  3. Austin, TX
  4. Lubbock, TX
  5. Madison, WI
  6. Irvine, CA
  7. San Antonio, TX
  8. Oklahoma City, OK
  9. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  10. Honolulu, HI
Washington, DC by Richard Ricciardi/Flickr
Washington, DC by Richard Ricciardi/Flickr

The Best Cities for Walkability and Public Transportation

We found this list of the “13 Best Cities for Students Without a Car 2015” on BestColleges.com. They looked at data from sources such as U.S. News & World Report and Bicycling Magazine. Criteria included how bike-friendly the city is; availability of public transit; and walkability. Here are the top 10:

  1. New York, NY
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Washington, DC
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
  6. Seattle, WA
  7. Los Angeles, CA
  8. Baltimore, MD
  9. Denver, CO
  10. Chicago, IL

What do you think is the best city in the US and why? Share it with us by leaving a comment below!

50 COMMENTS

  1. Huh, so it looks like Minneapolis got 5th place on most things, but adding up those scores puts it in first place. Cool, I sort of figured my home was something of a jack-of-all trades.

  2. I’d vote for Duluth, Minnesota. Great food, brew pubs and music scene. Fabulous mountain biking, skiing, fishing, hunting, rock climbing and golf right outside your door. Canal Park and Park Point right on Lake Superior. Awesome scenery on the North Shore of Superior. The John Bear Grease Sled Dog Marathon and Great Lakes Aquarium are among the attractions. Plus, Superior, Wisconsin is right across the bridge.

  3. I built my business in the Twin Cities, then retired to the Phoenix area. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS according to your article. My advice ? Try a few of these TERRIFIC areas before you get serious.

  4. The park system that provides incredible walkway, the freeway system that allows people to commute very fast everywhere, the job markets, the robustness of the economy, the diversity of the population and food, the affordable cost of living, and the quality of educational system, are the eight main reasons why I never left Minneapolis Saint Paul. I moved in 30 years ago.

    • Really, the freeway system that allows fast commutes? Are u sure you live here? You must not have to take 35W to east Crosstown any day of the week or get caught in the clog machine on I94 on the south side of downtown (both ways) which is a parking lot for several hours during both am & pm rush hour and even on a weekend day. There’s a lot of good things about Minneapolis, the serious traffic congestion is not one of them.

      • For how large the Twin Cities Municipally is, the commute is staggeringly better here than else where. Ex: Seattle. Also I will admit crosstown does clog up more often than none.

  5. MSP a great place to live without a car? Unless you’re planning on living in the downtowns, a car would be highly recommended for the winter. Public transit is great around the metro but a car would make the winters just a bit better.

  6. These lists are silly. I grew up in the Twin Cities. Wonderful in many ways but I would not choose to live there nor would many other people I know. The weather there negates much of the good. Many people in Seattle, Portland, and Mpls/St Paul are unhappy for six months of the year. Common sense tells us if people complain for 6 months it can’t compare to cities that are filled with truly happy people year round. Denver is bursting with newcomers who are thrilled to be there. Tucson almost makes it. The summer is just too hot. The best of all worlds would be to live in Denver part time and Tucson part time. That’s exactly what I do.

  7. All the weather complaints are silly. Almost every city has bad weather. At least MSP has the decency to be honest that our winters are cold and the winter has the decency to freeze hard for many months instead of being perpetually muddy. Have you been to quote-unquote temperate cities in July? Most make Minneapolis in January look delightful. If you’re choosing a best city for the weather, it had better be San Diego.

  8. I don’t agree with this list. I grew up in Minneapolis, but I live in Chicago. As far as public transportation, job seekers and the food scene Chicago beats Minneapolis by a landslide.

      • There’s crime in all major urban areas, Doug. Don’t be naive. And the highs and lows are cyclical. I’m from Chicago and will happily return. But when we moved to DC for work it was the “murder capital of the world,” now on a top 10 list. Crime is everywhere.

      • This list isn’t about crime levels, school systems or poverty levels. I noted that I disagree with the public transportation, food scene and job opportunists. For a young professional who doesn’t want to drive a car, find better cuisines and generally have a more interesting job than Chicago wins. I don’t live here because I want my family here, and this post isn’t about where to raise a family.

    • Sara, Since the light-rail has been put in, it has changed our transportation. We also have Ubber here and it has transformed how fast we can get around. But I agree, Chicago has much better public transportation. We have a very green public transportation with the light-rail. Now if they could get rid of all the smelly buses.

      • That’s great news, Angela. I do visit Minneapolis every few months and I do enjoy the transportation it has to offer. However, I don’t feel that I could ever survive without a car in Minneapolis versus Chicago. Chicagos transportation is affordable, reliable and more convenient.

  9. the freeway system that allows people to commute very fast everywhere…..really? Anyone who has to go east on Crosstown from 35W will disagree…what a mess that it is, even on weekends. Anyone who has to go south, north, east or west on I94 south of downtown would most certainly disagree….it’s a parking lot for hours both a.m. and p.m. And it’s nice they took out all those car lanes and gave them to the bicyclists, but now all those major streets are clogged and bogged down. It’s getting so you can’t find a reasonable way home without sitting in traffic both on and off the freeway anymore. It really is a nightmare to drive in Minneapolis area from 6 am to around 10/11 am and from 2 pm to 7 pm.

  10. This is a joke. Los Angeles public transportation sucks. Half the metro subway lines lead to nowhere, many of the stations are in the middle of the freeway, it takes more than an hour and half to go by bus from Westwood (West LA) to Downtown (East LA). To go from Westwood to Hollywood by subway you have to loop around entire Los Angeles.

    • These ranks tend to be highly inaccurate even when the comment is made by the authors that the rankings only apply to core city & not their metros. Take for example Austin & San Antonio Tx. Since the annexation laws are minimal in Tx Austin has grown to 260 sq mi & San Antonio has grown to 460 sq miles. Minneapolis, the highest ranked city is only 55 sq mi because annexation laws in Mn are very strict. The Minneapolis St. Paul metro pop is twice the size of Austin’s metro pop. If metro growth was the measure & all of the 75+ suburbs in MSP were counted it would rank higher than Austin’s growth. With 1000 fishable lakes over 10 acres each in MSP’s metro it arguably has the most attractive natural area of any city. So even though Mpls only ranks 5th on 5 of the 7 best lists, if it was to include all of its metro it would likely rank at the top of every list.

  11. These ranks tend to be highly inaccurate even when the comment is made by the authors that the rankings only apply to core city & not their metros. Take for example Austin & San Antonio Tx. Since the annexation laws are minimal in Tx Austin has grown to 260 sq mi & San Antonio has grown to 460 sq miles. Minneapolis, the highest ranked city is only 55 sq mi because annexation laws in Mn are very strict. The Minneapolis St. Paul metro pop is twice the size of Austin’s metro pop. If metro growth was the measure & all of the 75+ suburbs in MSP were counted it would rank higher than Austin’s growth. With 1000 fishable lakes over 10 acres each in MSP’s metro it arguably has the most attractive natural area of any city. So even though Mpls only ranks 5th on 5 of the 7 best lists, if it was to include all of its metro it would likely rank at the top of every list.

  12. Just make note that Madison, WI, usually near the top of all “Best of…….” cities lists, has lost its ranking in several categories because of our Governor of the last five years. His arrogant destructive attitude and actions coupled with his illegal and cover-up behavior of himself and staff, in addition to his very poor and uncaring decision making have given Wisconsin a status close to that of Mississippi.
    Fortunately his campaign for U.S. President ended rather quickly and we are very thankful for that, although not one bit comfortable that he has returned to ram through destructive educational policies. He could do best by focusing on a deep cleansing of his own life, rather than continuing to destroy the lives of so many of our citizens.
    Unfortunately, we are probably stuck with him for another three years and that is frightening, as he is out to destroy much of the progressive values and programs of which WI citizens are mighty proud.

  13. Hello to everyone,
    I grew up in the twin cities and i would say that it is one of the best places to raise your family, jobs just all around great places to live. But to each ot’s own!!!

  14. No doubt the Twin Cities is one of the best places on earth, specially if you need a good job and an affordable house. Well educated people, polite, liberal attitudes, good social services… I still miss the impressive public transportation systems of cities like Madrid, for example – I’m from there – but the light-rail system is a good starting point. But when I get up in the morning and the only thing I can hear is birds I realized my luck for living here.

  15. The Twin Cities have a lot going for them, especially culturally and civically, and there are many smart, wonderful, creative people doing good things there. There are also many great job opportunities and mostly good schools. It’s certainly more affordable than SF, DC, NYC, Seattle, and Boston.

    It also can be very hard to make friends and find a community, and if you’re not from Minnesota, be prepared for a kind of suffocating insularity and relentless self-congratulation. Transportation’s OK if you live in a a few specific neighborhoods; even then, it helps a lot to have a car, and for most of the city, not to mention a sprawling swath of suburbs, a car is absolutely a necessity If you have a decent job, you can still find a pretty nice house that won’t make you completely house-poor, but it is no longer an easy place to live if you don’t have a good job (although, to be fair, this housing-costs-to-income ratio is a growing problem in most cities over a certain size).

    If you like the prairie, the landscape is for you; if not, you will find yourself eternally longing for hills and rolling rivers, and either the majesty of the West or the lush green charm of the East, which no number of lakes can match.

    Also be prepared for five months of winter, much of it brutal (try waiting with your kid for the school bus on a pitch-black January morning), and all of it a huge hassle; followed by a month of mud and slowly emerging dog poop, two or three weeks of often chilly spring, a summer that can be glorious or can be a humid, mosquito-ridden sauna, and four weeks of fall before the cycle begins again. This is called “Oh, I like living where there are seasons,” even though there are many places where you can live where those same four seasons exist but in much better balance (including places where in spring you think you’ve died and gone to heaven; never once have I felt that in Minnesota).

    There are certainly transplants who come here and love it, and more power to them. For that matter, more power to the natives who never left (or returnees whose sole basis for comparison is either southern California or New York City) who also love it. But please please please: Just stop it.

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