Best places to live in America

Published 4:00 am Friday, October 22, 2021

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Best places to live in America

Pristine beaches along the Pacific Ocean, a stellar school system, outdoor ice rinks galore, safe neighborhoods, ample golf courses—depending on priorities, any of these might be deciding factors in choosing the best place to live in America.

To help make a choice, Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in every state using Niche’s 2020 rankings. Niche ranks places to live based on an array of factors, including the cost of living, educational level of residents, housing, and public schools. Each slide includes the total population, median home value, median rent, and median household income. Check out the details of Niche’s methodology.

The list features college towns, suburbs, and cities. Many are appealing for many reasons—from their safe and quiet streets and commitment to education to their proximity to the cultural attractions of an urban area and nearby wilderness for hiking and skiing. Some grew popular when a major company moved in, boosting local job opportunities. Some are especially quaint and historical, while others have been experiencing tech booms.

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

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Chris Pruitt // Wikimedia Commons

#50. Madison, Alabama

– Population: 49,327
– Median home value: $253,000 (71% own)
– Median rent: $946 (29% rent)
– Median household income: $99,188

With several dog parks and playgrounds, Madison, Alabama, offers recreational options for both kids and canines. In 2020, a new minor league baseball team moved into town. The city is home to growing corporations, offers numerous civic organizations and volunteer opportunities.

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#49. Devon, Pennsylvania

– Population: 1,869
– Median home value: $657,700 (92% own)
– Median rent: $2,177 (8% rent)
– Median household income: $193,015

Leafy Devon, Pennsylvania, is a suburb about 15 miles from Philadelphia, with Tudor mansions, historic carriage houses, and colonial homes. It hosts the Devon Horse Show, an annual event that originated in 1896, and its Jenkins Arboretum is home to nearly 100 species of songbirds.

Famartin // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Cascades, Virginia

– Population: 11,389
– Median home value: $486,000 (77% own)
– Median rent: $1,944 (23% rent)
– Median household income: $151,111

Suburban Cascades, Virginia, is home to many families and young professionals, and it’s an easy commute to Washington, D.C. The public schools are highly rated, and nearly one-third of residents have a master’s degree or higher.

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#47. Johns Creek, Georgia

– Population: 83,999
– Median home value: $400,100 (76% own)
– Median rent: $1,677 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $122,514

Johns Creek, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, has a variety of top-flight golf courses. The Johns Creek International Festival draws almost 20,000 visitors each year, and the city has since gained recognition from Amazon for its innovation in local business.

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#46. Bloomfield Charter Township, Michigan

– Population: 42,054
– Median home value: $427,700 (90% own)
– Median rent: $1,388 (10% rent)
– Median household income: $132,929

Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield hosts some of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, but the local skating club may be even more prestigious, having groomed several Olympians. Currently, the town has a AAA bond rating, showing a healthy tax base. Singer Aretha Franklin and actor-comedian Robin Williams have both fondly recalled living in Bloomfield.

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Mark Ravenscraft // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Chesterfield, Missouri

– Population: 47,605
– Median home value: $379,800 (78% own)
– Median rent: $1,200 (22% rent)
– Median household income: $113,315

While there are many nearby wonders in St. Louis, few of the big city’s attractions are as specific as the Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri, a butterfly zoo that opened in 1998. One of Chesterfield’s most famous former residents is pitcher Max Scherzer, who won a World Series title with the Washington Nationals in 2019.

Doug Kerr // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania

– Population: 4,642
– Median home value: $324,900 (82% own)
– Median rent: $1,170 (18% rent)
– Median household income: $105,891

Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, situated near Penn State University, is a picturesque small town filled with Victorian-style homes and quaint shops. It is considered the birthplace of the Memorial Day holiday, and each year the town hosts a celebration that attracts thousands of visitors.

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#43. Troy, Michigan

– Population: 83,989
– Median home value: $301,500 (74% own)
– Median rent: $1,215 (26% rent)
– Median household income: $101,882

Numerous Troy Recreation Department events—including the Halloween 5K run and Winter Wonderland—provide a communal feel to this growing suburb of Detroit. Oakland/Troy Airport serves business travelers, while Interstate 75 leads directly into Detroit. The Stage Nature Center is a hub for all things outdoors in Troy, Michigan.

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#42. Fishers, Indiana

– Population: 90,332
– Median home value: $264,200 (78% own)
– Median rent: $1,250 (22% rent)
– Median household income: $109,454

As this Indianapolis suburb experiences rapid growth, the Fishers, Indiana, schools are seeing heavy investment. Geist Reservoir is a popular recreation spot, and there is an annual renaissance fair. Several members of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers have resided in Fishers.

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#41. Ottawa Hills, Ohio

– Population: 4,450
– Median home value: $319,100 (86% own)
– Median rent: $1,338 (14% rent)
– Median household income: $155,893

Ottawa Hills, Ohio, located near the University of Toledo in northwestern Ohio, gets high ratings for being family-friendly, safe, and quiet. But its cost of living and its home and rental prices are much higher than elsewhere in the state.

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#40. Long Grove, Illinois

– Population: 7,963
– Median home value: $648,700 (98% own)
– Median rent: $3,250 (2% rent)
– Median household income: $214,073

Long Grove, the first historic district designated in the state of Illinois, has cobblestone walks and charming architecture that dates to the 1800s. Northwest of Chicago, the village recently renovated its one-lane-covered bridge.

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#39. Elm Grove, Wisconsin

– Population: 6,153
– Median home value: $370,500 (93% own)
– Median rent: $950 (7% rent)
– Median household income: $106,058

Elm Grove, Wisconsin, has a small-town feel, yet it’s just 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee. It is one of Wisconsin’s official Bird Cities that takes special care so that its public spaces and private yards provide habitat, feeding areas, nesting areas, and open water for local and migratory birds.

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#38. Brighton, New York

– Population: 36,272
– Median home value: $184,600 (55% own)
– Median rent: $1,049 (45% rent)
– Median household income: $75,807

A suburb of Rochester, New York, Brighton is family-friendly and more than half of its families have children under 18 years old. It gets top reviews for its amenities, schools, job opportunities, and low crime. As to affordability, its median real estate prices are lower than the rest of the state. Average test scores at public schools are 22% higher than the national average, and two-thirds of the residents have a bachelor’s degree.

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#37. Prairie Village, Kansas

– Population: 22,170
– Median home value: $290,600 (77% own)
– Median rent: $1,337 (23% rent)
– Median household income: $91,136

A small shopping center built in 1947 started the ascent of Prairie Village, Kansas, as one of America’s best places to live. Today, a Village Vision Strategic Investment Plan is ensuring safe and steady growth for this Kansas City suburb. A 2018 citizen survey showed 99% of residents rated Prairie Village as an excellent or good place to live.

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#36. Alpharetta, Georgia

– Population: 65,590
– Median home value: $422,800 (66% own)
– Median rent: $1,451 (34% rent)
– Median household income: $113,802

Near Atlanta, Alpharetta, Georgia, is home to the park-like Ameris Bank Amphitheatre for concerts; Wills Park Equestrian Center, which spans 50 acres; and the Big Creek Greenway, a wildlife-filled conservation park for jogging, biking, and inline skating. Its City Center is a 26-acre locale that includes the downtown historic district, shops and restaurants, office space, luxury apartments, and green space.

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Lincolnh // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Decatur, Georgia

– Population: 24,002
– Median home value: $521,900 (66% own)
– Median rent: $1,015 (34% rent)
– Median household income: $106,088

European settlers originally moved onto farmland in Decatur, Georgia, in the 19th century, but today the town is known for its commuters into Atlanta. Decatur’s schools are some of the best in the state, and Emory University is nearby.

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#34. Creve Coeur, Missouri

– Population: 18,538
– Median home value: $402,300 (69% own)
– Median rent: $1,244 (31% rent)
– Median household income: $96,319

Creve Coeur, Missouri, used to be synonymous with Monsanto, but a 2018 acquisition by Bayer put the future of the agricultural company town in doubt. However, Bayer is now filling the job gap in Creve Coeur, keeping this St. Louis suburb, located near Chesterfield, on the upswing. Among those who have called Creve Coeur home is actor Jon Hamm, who grew up in the small town.

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#33. Innsbrook, Virginia

– Population: 8,888
– Median home value: $363,600 (57% own)
– Median rent: $1,185 (43% rent)
– Median household income: $91,457

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

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#32. The Woodlands, Texas

– Population: 113,819
– Median home value: $374,200 (71% own)
– Median rent: $1,566 (29% rent)
– Median household income: $122,634

A short drive from Sugar Land, Texas, The Woodlands beats out its neighbor with a community of villages developed specifically around good schools, nature, and prime housing. Halliburton and Chevron are among the companies with large campuses in The Woodlands. Recreationally, a koi garden and boathouse are just two of the highlights in the city.

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#31. Buffalo Grove, Illinois

– Population: 41,062
– Median home value: $332,300 (80% own)
– Median rent: $1,643 (20% rent)
– Median household income: $115,951

Buffalo Grove’s schools have a diverse student body population, with 75% of students taking Advanced Placement exams. Buffalo Grove was formerly frontier land, which later became populated by dairy farms.

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#30. Brentwood, Missouri

– Population: 8,005
– Median home value: $228,800 (64% own)
– Median rent: $1,239 (36% rent)
– Median household income: $81,069

Brentwood, Missouri, residents tend to be white-collar professionals, many in computer and math fields. The Brentwood Ice Rink hosts the St. Louis Rockets, a youth hockey organization, and the St. Louis Skating Club, a figure skating club founded in 1932. It ranks among the top 10 school districts in the state. Real estate prices are high compared with the rest of Missouri.

Alexander Migl // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Santa Monica, California

– Population: 91,577
– Median home value: $1,382,700 (29% own)
– Median rent: $1,802 (71% rent)
– Median household income: $96,570

The Santa Monica Pier is this coastal city’s iconic landmark, providing entertainment and scenic views for more than a century. A film festival and outdoor shopping attractions draw visitors and locals, who can arrive via Santa Monica Airport. In 2028, residents will watch beach volleyball and surfing competitions from the area during the Summer Olympics.

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#28. Mount Lebanon Township, Pennsylvania

– Population: 32,303
– Median home value: $268,500 (72% own)
– Median rent: $928 (28% rent)
– Median household income: $100,011

Mt. Lebanon Township, Pennsylvania, takes pride in its tree-lined sidewalks, nature trails, outdoor swim center, tennis courts, and ice rink. The Pittsburgh suburb’s name is derived from two cedar trees brought back by a local preacher who visited Lebanon and planted them in front of his home in the mid-1800s.

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#27. Jericho, New York

– Population: 13,889
– Median home value: $797,400 (87% own)
– Median rent: $2,008 (13% rent)
– Median household income: $173,709

Jericho is a New York City suburb with highly ranked schools. Its median income is nearly three times the national average. But its median home value also is nearly three times higher than the rest of the country, and its median rent is twice as high as the rest of the country. Less than 30 miles from midtown Manhattan, it’s a quick commute by train or bus.

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#26. Short Pump, Virginia

– Population: 28,328
– Median home value: $413,900 (57% own)
– Median rent: $1,434 (43% rent)
– Median household income: $107,321

Short Pump, Virginia, is less than 10 miles from Richmond, Virginia, and slightly more than 100 miles from Washington, D.C. It has an open-air mall for shopping, parkland with picnic facilities, spray fountains, athletic fields, and a restored 1902 two-room schoolhouse. Its name is traced back to a short-handled water pump at a local tavern where stagecoach drivers would stop in the early 1800s.

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#25. Sugar Land, Texas

– Population: 118,709
– Median home value: $323,300 (81% own)
– Median rent: $1,775 (19% rent)
– Median household income: $121,274

For two centuries, Imperial Sugar played a key role in the evolution of Sugar Land, Texas. No longer dependent on just sugar, this Houston suburb welcomed major companies like Minute Maid and Glazer Properties. For entertainment, the Sugar Land Skeeters minor league baseball team hosts thousands of fans each summer.

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#24. Arlington, Virginia

– Population: 233,464
– Median home value: $705,400 (43% own)
– Median rent: $1,970 (57% rent)
– Median household income: $120,071

The Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery are two of the most-visited spots in Arlington, Virginia, but this city has much more to offer. George Mason University law school and satellite campuses for the University of Virginia are located in Arlington. Soon, Amazon will have a giant facility in Arlington as well.

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#23. North Bethesda, Maryland

– Population: 49,872
– Median home value: $567,500 (52% own)
– Median rent: $1,910 (48% rent)
– Median household income: $107,220

Several nonprofits are headquartered in North Bethesda, Maryland, including the Society of American Foresters. North Bethesda’s high schools post high rankings in state surveys, while Georgetown Preparatory School is one of the oldest boarding schools in the United States. Workers in the Washington, D.C., area have a short commute into the nation’s capital.

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#22. Madeira, Ohio

– Population: 9,147
– Median home value: $294,400 (88% own)
– Median rent: $1,336 (12% rent)
– Median household income: $117,944

Madeira, Ohio, is a suburb of Cincinnati, where Procter & Gamble is the area’s largest industry and employer. Madeira’s cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, and its population has grown nearly 4% since 2010. Its spending on schools is slightly higher than the national average, and its student-to-teacher ratio is lower than that of the rest of the country.

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#21. North Potomac, Maryland

– Population: 23,914
– Median home value: $672,900 (84% own)
– Median rent: $2,129 (16% rent)
– Median household income: $171,066

About 20 miles from Washington, D.C., North Potomac, Maryland, has a low unemployment rate and a good housing market. Its elementary schools are among the best in Maryland. During the spring and fall, trails throughout North Potomac become full of fitness enthusiasts.

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#20. Coppell, Texas

– Population: 41,645
– Median home value: $388,800 (72% own)
– Median rent: $1,450 (28% rent)
– Median household income: $122,340

Amazon and Samsung are two major corporations with facilities in Coppell, Texas. Combined with an easy commute to Dallas and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Coppell became a hopping business hub. Coppell also won numerous awards for promoting healthy living, schools, and recreational opportunities for kids.

Deel2 // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Cinco Ranch, Texas

– Population: 16,437
– Median home value: $373,600 (83% own)
– Median rent: $1,375 (17% rent)
– Median household income: $141,752

There are pools for everyone in the family to enjoy inside the planned community of Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas. Residents also take advantage of a golf club and several trails and parks. Home-price values in Katy—which include part of Cinco Ranch—have skyrocketed in the Houston suburb that has been one of the best places to live.

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#18. Cary, North Carolina

– Population: 166,268
– Median home value: $356,400 (68% own)
– Median rent: $1,246 (32% rent)
– Median household income: $104,669

Cary, located near North Carolina’s Research Triangle, has been called one of the safest cities in America by some outlets. The town hosts 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.

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#17. South Kensington, Maryland

– Population: 8,763
– Median home value: $754,200 (89% own)
– Median rent: $2,180 (11% rent)
– Median household income: $180,000

South Kensington, Maryland, sits on the Potomac River between southern Maryland and northern Virginia, with easy access to Washington, D.C. Homes are expensive, and the prices have appreciated nearly four times the national average in the past decade. Two-thirds of residents commute to work by car, and their average commute one-way is just over 30 minutes.

Lucius Kwok // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Berwyn, Pennsylvania

– Population: 3,531
– Median home value: $475,200 (68% own)
– Median rent: $1,351 (32% rent)
– Median household income: $102,147

Berwyn, Pennsylvania, schools are ranked among the top 10 in the state, and it is praised as a good place to live both for families and for retirees. A third of the small town’s residents have bachelor’s degrees, and a third have master’s degrees or higher. Housing is costly, however, and Berwyn’s median home value is more than twice the national average.

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#15. Clayton, Missouri

– Population: 16,588
– Median home value: $633,400 (59% own)
– Median rent: $1,249 (41% rent)
– Median household income: $107,596

Clayton, Missouri’s restaurants specialize in pastries, with doughnuts a favorite among locals. Various dog parks, camps, and the Historic Hanley House museum are notable points of interest in town. Washington University—one of the Midwest’s most prestigious higher education institutions—has a property in Clayton.

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#14. Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

– Population: 6,318
– Median home value: $415,200 (77% own)
– Median rent: $1,021 (23% rent)
– Median household income: $107,778

In Swarthmore, a suburb of Philadelphia, crime rates are low, and schools are highly ranked. Public school test scores are 67% above the national average. But Swarthmore’s cost of living, driven by high housing prices, is 29% higher than the national average. It is home to prestigious Swarthmore College, founded in 1864 by Quakers.

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#13. Stone Ridge, Virginia

– Population: 14,220
– Median home value: $473,800 (87% own)
– Median rent: $2,592 (13% rent)
– Median household income: $153,628

Stone Ridge, Virginia, is less than 40 miles from Washington, D.C., and close to Dulles International Airport. Its housing stock features single-family homes, condominiums, and townhomes, and nearly nine out of 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.

Anora McGaha // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Morrisville, North Carolina

– Population: 26,280
– Median home value: $331,800 (48% own)
– Median rent: $1,398 (52% rent)
– Median household income: $101,738

Technology company Lenovo has a giant headquarters in Morrisville, North Carolina, which makes sense given the town’s location within the state’s Research Triangle. Good public schools, the housing market, and jobs have put Morrisville atop lists of the best places to live.

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#11. Houserville, Pennsylvania

– Population: 1,972
– Median home value: $1,972 (82% own)
– Median rent: $1,257 (18% rent)
– Median household income: $90,750

The tiny town of Houserville, Pennsylvania, is close to Penn State University. It has a rural feel, and its housing prices are not much higher than the national average. Students attend State College Area High School, rated the best high school in the county. State test scores show 83% of students are proficient or higher in math and 82% are proficient or higher in reading, and the high school graduation rate is 95%.

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Paul Sableman // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Richmond Heights, Missouri

– Population: 8,500
– Median home value: $253,700 (56% own)
– Median rent: $1,035 (44% rent)
– Median household income: $82,261

Located near St. Louis, Richmond Heights, Missouri, is filled with stately older homes, mostly built before World War II. Most working residents are white-collar professionals, although it also has a remarkably high number of resident artists, designers, and members of the media. More than 70% of adults have a four-year college degree, master’s degree, doctorate, or degrees in medicine or law, compared with a national average of less than 22%.

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#9. Clarendon Hills, Illinois

– Population: 8,716
– Median home value: $506,400 (84% own)
– Median rent: $978 (16% rent)
– Median household income: $111,958

Suburban Clarendon Hills, Illinois, draws families and young professionals alike with its quality schools, low crime rates, and proximity to Chicago. At more than 32 minutes, the typical commute is longer than the national average. Most people use public transit to get to work.

Montgomery County Planning Commission // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Ardmore, Pennsylvania

– Population: 12,808
– Median home value: $355,400 (59% own)
– Median rent: $1,415 (41% rent)
– Median household income: $96,780

Ardmore, Pennsylvania, is an affluent, historic suburb of Philadelphia. One of the first shopping centers in the country, its Suburban Square, opened in 1928. There’s also shopping at Lancaster Avenue and nearby streets, and a farmers market. Five weekends each year, Ardmore traditionally hosts the Clover Market of vintage and artisanal goods, and each year it hosts its Ardmore Restaurant Week and Ardmore Oktoberfest.

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#7. Los Alamos, New Mexico

– Population: 12,666
– Median home value: $308,100 (67% own)
– Median rent: $1,042 (33% rent)
– Median household income: $116,116

Known as the birthplace of the atom bomb, developed by Manhattan Project scientists at Los Alamos, the New Mexico locale is a great place to live. 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 have been named the best in the state, and jobs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory draw highly educated and innovative people to the area.

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#6. Okemos, Michigan

– Population: 24,141
– Median home value: $243,200 (61% own)
– Median rent: $989 (39% rent)
– Median household income: $78,600

Named after a Chippewa chief, Okemos, Michigan, is a favored settling site for employees and visitors of nearby Michigan State University. The Okemos schools are diverse and among the best ranked in Michigan. A short drive away, Potter Park Zoo is a favored attraction for children. Art and architecture admirers can also marvel at the Goetsch–Winckler House in Okemos.

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#5. Brookline, Massachusetts

– Population: 59,180
– Median home value: $933,200 (49% own)
– Median rent: $2,268 (51% rent)
– Median household income: $117,326

Located outside of Boston, Brookline has its own puppet theater—the Puppet Showplace Theater. Visitors can also step inside John F. Kennedy’s childhood home. Comedian Conan O’Brien is among the noted graduates of Brookline High School.

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#4. Carmel, Indiana

– Population: 97,464
– Median home value: $333,200 (76% own)
– Median rent: $1,207 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $112,765

In recent years, Carmel, Indiana, 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. Besides being Niche’s best place to live in America, Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb, has a serene Japanese garden.

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#3. Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania

– Population: 5,932
– Median home value: $366,000 (87% own)
– Median rent: $1,416 (13% rent)
– Median household income: $123,854

In the leafy Philadelphia suburb of Penn Wynne, public school test scores are 70% higher than the national average, and all but 2% of its students graduate high school. Crime rates are extremely low. But the cost of living is high, pushed up in particular by home values that are 95% higher than the U.S. average.

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#2. Holly Hills, Colorado

– Population: 2,835
– Median home value: $460,100 (97% own)
– Median rent: $2,634 (3% rent)
– Median household income: $132,955

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

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#1. Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania

– Population: 4,800
– Median home value: $323,000 (77% own)
– Median rent: $1,832 (23% rent)
– Median household income: $130,000

Residents enjoy top-quality schools, parklands, quiet streets, and safety in Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, a suburb that’s about a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia. It’s adjacent to the Valley Forge National Historical Park, the site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of George Washington and the Continental Army. During that time, the ragtag soldiers trained to become a disciplined and unified force.

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