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The 15 Best Places to Live in the US

Did your city make the cut?

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.

Best Places to Live in the USA view of Boulder’s famous Pearl Street. Photo: Getty Images

Boulder, Colorado

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.

Sarasota, Florida

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #5

Best Places to Live in the USThe skyline in Sarasota, Florida, at dusk Photo: Getty Images/Sean Pavone

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.

best places to live in the usA view of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. Photo: Getty Images/Walter Bibikow

Madison, Wisconsin

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #11

The capital of the Dairy State is a thriving food hub where spots like Fromagination—a local cheesemonger—and the Dane County Farmers’ Market stock some of the Midwest’s best bounties. And with the University of Wisconsin-Madison in town, the city is also an intellectual gathering ground. Architectural enthusiasts can visit multiple buildings designed by the Wisconsin-born Frank Lloyd Wright nearby. Both the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center and the Unitarian Meeting House host tours regularly, and the Seth Peterson Cottage—about an hour north—is available for overnight stays.

Best Places to Live in the USAn aerial view of Boise, Idaho. Photo: Getty Images/Anna Gorin

Boise, Idaho

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #12

One of Boise’s biggest draws—in addition to its hiking, biking, and river surfing—is its affordability. Compared to other cities in the Pacific Northwest, such as Seattle and Portland, Boise offers much more bang for your housing buck. And culturally speaking, it has the chops to lure both San Franciscans and Angelenos from the Golden State. The Opera IdahoIdaho Dance TheatreBoise PhilharmonicBoise Art Museum, and Ballet Idaho are all based here.

The 15 Best Places to Live in the USFrederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo: Getty Images/Michael Deemer

Grand Rapids, Michigan

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #20

Not only does Michigan’s second-largest city have 1,200 acres of public parks, over 100 colorful murals, and public sculptures like La Grande Vitesse, it also has housing costs that fall below the national median. And furnishing that affordable house could be a design lover’s dream, considering one of the local furniture companies is Herman Miller. In fact, Grand Rapids has a long history of fostering furniture innovation and even earned the nickname Furniture City. Today, Grand Rapids Public Museum is home to a collection of over 2,000 historically significant pieces of furniture.

best places to live in the usAn aerial view overlooking Asheville. Photo: Getty Images

Asheville, North Carolina

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #29

Hundreds of artists create and showcase their work in the studios and galleries of Asheville’s River Arts District, an area that has the nickname Paris of the South. As for where all these painters, potters, jewelers, and woodworkers might live, Asheville has an abundance of Arts and Crafts–style homes. But its most famous residence is the French Renaissance Biltmore Estate, which was George Vanderbilt’s 250-room castle and is considered the largest home in America.

Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minnesotta

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #35

Mall of America may be the most famous shopping destination in the area, but design-loving denizens of the Twin Cities have plenty of other artsy outposts to shop for homewares. Arlee Park is stocked with carefully curated vintage decor, while The Foundry Home Goods and Golden Age Design are filled with fresh accessories and furniture. If it’s inspiration you’re after, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Walker Art Center, and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are the places to be.

Savannah, Georgia

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #37

best places to live in the usPhoto: Getty Images

America’s Hostess City of the South, also known as the country’s first planned city, has the winning combo of small-town charm with a big history of showstopping architecture. In fact, more than 40% of 2,500 buildings inventoried here have architectural or historical significance. Plus, thanks in large part to the Savannah College of Art and Design, preservation is a top priority. Spot everything from Federal- to Gothic Revival– to Regency-style buildings in this southern city, and consider owning your own piece of the architectural pie. Finding a low-cost home is possible here, as the median home price is below the national average.

Austin, Texas

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #40

Job opportunities in tech, education, and health care abound in Austin, as do activities for the design-loving crowd. Museums in town include The Contemporary Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art, and the Mexic-Arte Museum. The last in that list is located in Austin’s bustling Warehouse District, where old warehouses have been ingeniously redesigned to host restaurants, bars, and shops. Twice a year, the arts nonprofit Big Medium coordinates studio tours, offering a peek behind the creative curtains of nearly 500 local artists and makers.

San Francisco, California

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #45

best places to live in the usSan Francisco’s skyline at dusk. Photo: Getty Images

It probably won’t surprise anyone to hear that San Francisco is expensive. But what it lacks in low-cost living, it more than makes up for in artistic appeal. In fact, analysis done last year determined that SF tops the list of Most Artsy Cities in America, with “the most art museums, theaters, music venues, cultural centers, art supply stores, and music shops per square mile” of all the cities on the list. And despite the metro area’s high cost of living, San Francisco still attracts a variety of residents, including everyone from students to tech wizzes to scores of graphic designers.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #47

Steel City can’t seem to shake its old industrial reputation. But that’s good for anyone looking to buy a home here. Housing prices are still cheaper than in other major US cities, though residents report they have been creeping up in the last couple years. What the wider world doesn’t quite know yet is that Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol’s hometown, has slowly morphed into a vibrant cultural center. Get an eyeful of art at the Andy Warhol MuseumCarnegie Museum of Art, and Mattress Factory (set in, you guessed it, a former mattress factory), then catch a show at Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

best places to live in americaA charming street in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Getty Images

Charleston, South Carolina

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #53

With over 2,800 historically significant buildings in town, you’re likely to pass head-turning architecture each time you so much as run to the grocery store. Plus, in Charleston it’s not only individual buildings that have been preserved, but entire neighborhoods, like Rainbow Row—a stretch of pastel-hued houses built in the 18th century. But this level of top-notch architecture comes with a price tag, and homes in this part of the country are more expensive than the national average.

Nashville, Tennessee

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #61

Music City is clearly a hub for entertainment, and all that creative energy spills into other fields, like fashion and the culinary arts. As U.S. News points out, there’s a thirst for handmade and artisanal everything here, from “marshmallows to small-batch gin.” There’s also an appetite for interior design, thanks to both a growing job market attracting new residents and thriving tourism driving a boutique hotel boom in recent years. Giving New York City and Los Angeles a run for their money, Nashville has quickly become a must-watch city for designers.

Atlanta, Georgia

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #64

The ever-expanding tech hub of the Southeast, Atlanta has welcomed new offices from tech giants like Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft. And like Nashville, Georgia’s capital also landed on our list of four cities designers must watch. When innovation flourishes so does a desire for design, as evidenced by the success of the Atlanta Design Festival, which launched in 2007 and brings exhibitions, expert panels, and architecture tours to the community. The city is also home to the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, which has 50 showrooms and the region’s largest collection of luxury furnishings for residential, hospitality, and contract projects.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

U.S. News & World Report ranking: #65

best places to live in the usMilwaukee’s skyline includes an iconic museum designed by Santiago Calatrava. Photo: Getty Images

Milwaukee has the winning combo of historical architecture and a cost of living that’s lower than other major US metropolitan areas. The Midwestern city made our own list of The 8 Most Unexpected Places to See World-Class Architecture in the US, with the Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Santiago Calatrava), the Renaissance-style Basilica of St. Josaphat, and the six homes that make up Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block among its most notable structures.

Joyce Rey
Joyce Rey
Joyce Rey

Joyce Rey is one of the most respected names in luxury real estate worldwide, having represented some of the most significant properties in the world.



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