Each year U.S. News & World Report releases a list of the Best Places to Live in the US. These top-rated cities always include a few big players, like Boston and San Francisco, as well as some surprises, like Green Bay, Wisconsin, landing the #1 spot. To determine the best cities, U.S. News considers a multitude of factors, including quality of life, the local job market, value for your money, and the place’s desirability. And while we agree that all these factors are important in determining where to live in America, we’d also throw access to art and design into the mix. That’s why we used the U.S. News list as a jumping off point—zeroing in on the top 75 and picking the 15 best places to live for design lovers.
Before you read on, a little more about the methodology:
What is the #1 US city?
As mentioned above, Green Bay, Wisconsin, earned top honors in the U.S. News list thanks to its big-city conveniences and small-town vibes. While we can appreciate a city with a sufficient number of old-school supper clubs, the competition was steep when we factored in design-centric amenities, so we didn’t include Green Bay in our list. However, fellow Wisconsin cities Madison and Milwaukee are in our top 15.
What city is #1 quality of life?
U.S. News determines quality of life based on factors that matter to Americans most, including crime rates, quality of education, and quality and availability of health care. Ann Arbor, Michigan, nabbed the highest score for quality of life, with Boulder, Colorado (in our design list), a close second.
Where is the nicest place to live in the US with affordable housing?
As part of its value assessment, U.S. News examined each city’s median annual household compared to home prices in the area. As you’ll see in our list, good design and affordable real estate aren’t mutually exclusive.
What is the #1 place to live in the US for design lovers?
Focusing on the cream of the crop, the top 75 out of 150 from the U.S. News list, we chose our top 15 based on access to museums, art, cultural institutions, and top-notch architecture. We also considered which cities best fuel creative energy and make the best places to live for designers, artists, and innovators.
U.S. News & World Report ranking: #4
Boulder nabbed a top-five ranking in the U.S. News list thanks to its high quality of life. That’s due in large part to its natural beauty—towering mountains, awe-inspiring canyons, and rushing waters inspire hiking, biking, fly-fishing and a number of other outdoor pursuits. Boulder even has an annual Tube to Work Day. But the city is no slouch in the arts department either, with galleries, literary festivals, and a First Friday and Second Saturday art walk every month. A recent report even ranked Boulder in the top ten most vibrant arts communities among medium-size US communities.
U.S. News & World Report ranking: #5
It’s possible to hit the beach and the ballet in the same day in Sarasota, a coastal city that stands apart from other beachy spots in Florida for its buzzing arts scene. In addition to a critically acclaimed ballet company, Sarasota has an opera company and contemporary theater company. At The Ringling—home to an art museum, circus museum, gardens, and a 56-room 1920s mansion that’s open to the public for tours—admission is free each Monday. And while Sarasota used to have a reputation for only attracting retirees, the city’s Rosemary District has been luring young professionals with a slew of new apartment buildings. Within the same area, the Sarasota Design District has become a hub for architects, furniture makers, and interior designers.
U.S. News & World Report ranking: #11