Are you looking for a nice place to hang out before or after a business trip? Or maybe you’ve recently visited a city and thought, “Hmm, I could live here!”
The website Livability.com has just come out with its third annual ranking of the 100 best small to mid-sized cities in the U.S. It looked at more than 2,000 cities with populations ranging from 20,000 to 350,000, analyzing a variety of lifestyle factors including the local economy, housing, education, public amenities, health care, demographics, transportation and infrastructure, among others.
The study ranked Rochester, Minnesota in the number one spot, up from number two last year and number seven the previous year. The home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic, Rochester also scored big for its range of affordable housing, its educational opportunities, and its civic engagement. It’s located about an hour and an half southeast of Minneapolis. Rochester is probably a great place for a family, but I’m not sure it would be on the top of my travel bucket list!
Just outside Seattle, the techie, new suburb of Bellevue, Washington (hometown of the like of Microsoft or Expedia) took the second spot this year, mainly for its many outdoor recreation options; its cultural activities and restaurants; and its schools. When I was working with Expedia, I spend a lot of time in Bellevue, and it was indeed one of those places where I thought, “Gee, I could live here!” (at least when the sun was out).
Ranking third was Madison, Wisconsin — the state capital and the home of the University of Wisconsin, cited for its top-rated school system, its strong economy, effective health-care systems and cultural activities tied to the university. I’ve never been to Madison, but know a ton of folks who went to school there, and love the place. So it’s in the bucket list!
In fourth place this year is Santa Barbara, California; if you’ve ever visited there, you need no further explanation of its abundant attractions — seaside location and beaches, mountains in the background, perfect climate and more. (If Oprah likes it, I like it! And I would love to visit anytime, or move there.)
And rounding out the top five was Boulder, Colorado — a city that appears on all kinds of top-10 lifestyle rankings. Google knows about Boulder’s charms and will soon open a large campus there. Boulder’s outdoor activities — hiking, cycling, water sports and more — are supplemented by a highly educated population, the University of Colorado, a great restaurant scene, and the Flatirons as a scenic backdrop. Having spent five of my tender young years at the University of Colorado, I hold a special place in my heart for Boulder, and try to go back at least once every year or so. If I were not living in San Francisco, I’d probably be in Boulder.
If you could drop everything and move to one of these top 20 cities, which would it be? Which one(s) have you or would you most like to visit?
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Surviving San Francisco + Photos: New United first class seat + Save money on calls from other countries + 6 secrets for snagging low fares