There are over 500 cities in the U.S. With so many to explore and possibly settle in, whittling down the list can feel overwhelming if you want a fresh start. Whether you're highly educated and working remotely, starting your career, or planning on retiring soon, some towns will fit you better than others. Below, we criss-cross the States to highlight perennial favs and spotlight some places that may have escaped your notice.

Portland, ME

How about a surprising town in the Northeast? Portland promises lighthouses, long walks on the beach, and cobblestone streets. It's more happening than you'd think, with museums, green spaces, hip cafes, and ethnic diversity. And during winter, when it's quieter, locals enjoy a thriving art and foodie scene that rivals bigger cities' events.

boats in body of water between buildings Photo by Patrick Lalonde on Unsplash


Raleigh and Durham, NC

Charlotte may seem like the obvious choice in the Old North State. But the affordability, education, and healthcare make these Raleigh and Durham real hotspots for domestic migration. Along with Chapel Hill, you've got a research-intensive triangle worth its weight in peer-reviewed journals. Plus, the local economy is healthy. You can look for work in interesting arenas such as aerospace and green energy. Raleigh is one of the best cities to buy a house and raise a family, and just about pips Durham to the post overall.

Skyline of Raleigh, NC from the Boylan Bridge Photo by Elijah Mears on Unsplash


Ann Arbor, MI

What feels like a stone's throw from Detroit, Ann Arbor is a busy college town with a different vibe altogether. This high-tech metro area is all about a high quality of life, with top marks for well-being, inclusivity, and access to quality health care. Public school kids are primed for college, homes are affordable, and it's a lovely place to raise a family. The delicious international cuisine is a bonus.

downtown ann arbor, michigan Photo by Chris Winchester on Unsplash


Fayetteville, AR

Are you looking for more of a small-town feel with a low cost of living but a high livability score? Fayetteville in the Ozarks could be your next home. Walmart hails from here, the bookstores are cute, and the politics lean right if that matters to you. It's a college town, so it's not sleepy, and Devil's Den State Park is a slice of heaven.

Residents enjoy the saturday morning Farmers Market on the square in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas Wesley Hitt / Getty Images


Boise, ID

Coming out of left field, Boise is hot stuff at the moment. Many Californians have cottoned on to what Idaho's capital can offer and have migrated for more affordable housing. Downtown is exciting, and you don't have to go far for spectacular and varied natural scenery and outdoor adventures. However, the city's Republican and conservative bent is as significant as its potatoes, so if you're worried about getting caught in the culture wars, you might want to look elsewhere.

people riding bicycle on road during daytime Photo by Jay Miller on Unsplash


Austin, TX

Where could you go if you're contemplating leaving California because of climate change risks? Consider Texas. The suburbs around Dallas are promising, and everyone loves culture-rich Austin. These cities are racially and politically diverse, have low unemployment rates, and accessible housing. The Woodlands near Houston consistently ranks high for satisfied residents, although the city is more vulnerable to hurricanes and rising sea levels.

Downtown view over the water from Lou Neff point of Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail. Photo by Tomek Baginski on Unsplash


Naples, FL

This sunny gem on Florida's west coast is beloved by retirees, but younger folks are into it, too, despite its price tag. Naples is a shopping and golfing destination home to some of the country's most expensive real estate. Many of the beaches could pass for Caribbean islands, so if fresh seafood and splashes of wealth are your cup of tea, head to Naples for the medium to long term.

Surfer at Naples Pier during sunset Photo by Richard Sagredo on Unsplash


Seattle, WA

Coffee lovers will be right at home in bustling Seattle, the birthplace of American coffee culture. This city famously serves as the backdrop to the drama on Shondaland's Grey's Anatomy. It's also known for its many rainy days, but the Olympic Peninsula means it's a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts, and the climate makes the landscape wondrously green. Seattle has culture coming out of its ears too. Also, consider nearby Bellevue, an area with a high annual median income. More than half of the residents here own their homes, whereas more people rent in Seattle.

seattle city skyline during night time" Photo by Catia Dombaxe on Unsplash


Boulder, CO

So you like your cities on the cooler side? Boulder embodies the word cool. It's a skiing paradise in the Rockies and a drawcard for families and health and fitness fundis. The high schools here rank high for college readiness. There's the thrum of college student life, and the Mile High City, Denver, is pretty close by with its many attractions, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Colorado Springs, another vacation destination you'll want to stay in throughout the year, also has an appealing job market.

Shops, businesses and restaurants along Pearl Street Mall, a pedestrian mall in Boulder County jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com


San Francisco, CA

California has progressive politics, fabulous weather, a diverse population, and natural beauty. In addition to its hilly streets and iconic bridge, healthy and walkable San Francisco has a creative spirit and a strong job market to compensate for its high cost of living. It's known for being a pioneering LGBTQ stronghold. And Telegraph Hill and Showplace Square in San Fran are popular with young professionals.

Bay area neighbor and tech mecca, San Jose, is another Golden State highlight, but homes can cost a pretty penny. And LA is for the dreamers and the doers, but the commutes suck.

San Francisco cable cars on powell street Photo by Ragnar Vorel on Unsplash


Honolulu, HI

Could you imagine living in postcard-perfect Hawaii? If you've kept Honolulu firmly in the tropical vacation category, perhaps it's time to rethink the city. Honolulu scores high on air quality, gender equality, healthcare, diversity, and warm winters. Think high rises and surf sessions after work on Waikiki Beach.

two friends enjoying the view in honolulu Photo by kevin turcios on Unsplash


Washington D.C.

World-altering decisions are made in Washington, and that energy can reach and inspire you in your corner of this unique and cosmopolitan city. With free, best-of-the-best museums, an enviable gastronomy scene, opportunities for business growth, and happy residents, the District of Columbia is right up there for community well-being.

wide road with vehicle traveling with white dome building Photo by Jorge Alcala on Unsplash


Atlanta, GA

Keen to work in the Hollywood of the South? Atlanta has lots to offer residents beyond its attractive job market in the entertainment and tech industries. The population is relatively young and diverse, but mild winters make it a nice place to retire. Sandy Springs is another Georgia jewel. It's safe, family-friendly, and has many well-kept public parks and impressive restaurants.

Atlanta Skyline Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash


New York, NY

Alicia Keys sang it best—New York's streets will make you feel brand new; big lights will inspire you. There's never a dull moment in New York City, where the boroughs are vibrant, and eateries and live entertainment venues are in plentiful supply. But the city isn't for everyone, at least not full-time. The subway is aging, commutes are the worst, and the crime rate could be better. Elsewhere in the state, Albany is less likely to cause burnout.

Times Square in New York City at night. Photo by Andreas Kruck on Unsplash


Boston, MA

The state capital of Massachusetts dates back to 1630. It oozes New England charm and is a fantastic springboard for Fall road trips and beachy breaks in Cape Cod. Boston caters to every culinary palate and interest, and the quality of life makes up for the cost. The sports fans here are some of the most passionate in the country, so if you enjoy live matches, you'll find the city a treat with the Patriots and the Red Sox, two of the most successful teams calling the area home. Not too far away, Cambridge is also a great place to live for its public schools, nightlife, diversity, and family-friendliness. Home to Harvard and MIT, young professionals, rate it highly.

woman taking photo using DSLR camera Photo by todd kent on Unsplash


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