The Best Places to Live in America
(MONEY Magazine) – If you could live anywhere in the U.S., where would it be? San Francisco? New York City? Plains, Ga.? Various surveys, such as Rand McNally's Places Rated Almanac, have attempted to identify the most livable metropolitan areas. But those previous lists have a serious flaw: they do not give extra weight to the key characteristics -- such as safety, the weather, the local economy -- that are most important to the public. Instead, they assume everyone cares equally about all factors. In reality, of course, different factors do matter more to different people. With that in mind, Money's editors set out to determine what characteristics our readers prize. We then ranked 300 metropolitan areas by their preferences. Specifically, Money's poll asked a representative sample of 226 readers (median age: 42; median household income: $56,000) to score each of 60 variables on a scale of 1 to 10. Their three most important variables: safety of property, personal safety and the likelihood that houses will appreciate in value. The three least important: proximity to an Amtrak station, availability of household help and closeness to a bus terminal. We then gathered data about the largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, as the Census Bureau calls them, using both government and private sources. Working closely with Bert Sperling, a Portland, Ore. researcher who designed a computer software package called Places, U.S.A., we awarded the appropriate amount of points to each area. The winner was Nashua, N.H. and its neighboring towns, primarily because of the area's strong economy, first-rate schools, and proximity to both Boston and the bountiful recreation spots in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Only one criterion required a subjective judgment: the definition of good weather. We decided the ideal was in San Diego, where the sun shines about 270 days a year, and it never snows. Undoubtedly, this choice helped boost two California areas into our top 10 list: Oxnard/Ventura and Anaheim/Santa Ana. A strong local economy mattered enormously to our respondents. Therefore, it was no surprise that seven of our best 10 places are in the booming Northeast, in or near large metropolitan areas. Unemployment is 3% to 4% in many northeastern cities. And house prices appreciated 10% to 25% in 1986 in most of the area, compared with 7.4% nationwide. Our two top 10 surprises are Wheeling, W.Va. and Scranton, Pa., where the local economies are sluggish at best. Both areas, however, boast low crime rates (fewer than three murders per 100,000 residents annually) and inexpensive houses ($20,000 to $80,000 for typical three-bedroom units).
1 NASHUA, N.H.
Attractions: growth economy, proximity to Boston and the White Mountains, no state income or sales taxes, high house-price appreciation, safety from crime
Detractions: cold weather, lack of arts, high house prices Typical three-bedroom house: $100,000 to $250,000
Paradise for Dennis and Nancy Daly and their three children (seen at right) is this New England family community, located just over the Massachusetts border, that 10 years ago people just drove through to get somewhere else. In 1979, when Mazda Motors Corp. transferred Dennis, a district manager, the Dalys had the choice of moving from Middletown, N.Y. to Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont. ''We wanted New Hampshire because of its central location,'' says Dennis, 43. ''We quizzed people in New Hampshire hotels where we stayed, Mazda dealerships and real estate offices, and began hearing a lot about the well- regarded youth programs in Merrimack.'' That town is eight miles west of Nashua. Sports buffs, the Dalys became hooked after they realized that the area was an hour from Boston Garden, home of the basketball Celtics and hockey Bruins. ''I'd never move back to New York. I'm here to stay,'' says Nancy, 38, a teacher's aide for learning-disabled students. Or at least she is until Mazda calls Dennis for his next regional assignment. Many people associate New Hampshire with great skiing and rustic charm. Nashua (pop. 75,000) and its neighboring towns offer that -- and a great deal more. -- Practically anyone who wants a well-paying job can have one. The unemployment rate is a mere 3% and has been among the nation's lowest consistently since 1980, though salaries are 5% below those of comparable jobs in Boston, 35 miles away. -- Nashua is the second largest city in the only U.S. state without an income tax or a sales tax. Now that sales taxes are no longer deductible on federal income tax returns, New Hampshire is that much more attractive. Nashua's new million-square-foot Pheasant Lane Mall, the state's biggest, acts as a magnet to Massachusetts shoppers escaping their state's 5% sales tax. The mall's parking lot is in Massachusetts but its 150 stores are safely over the line. -- Nashua is only an hour's drive from White Mountain skiing and outlet-store shopping to the north and Boston and Atlantic Ocean resorts to the east. -- Area house prices have doubled since 1982 and are expected to increase another 12% this year, says Jim Drivick, who runs two local ERA real estate offices. The priciest houses -- typically $200,000 to $250,000 for three bedrooms -- are in the outlying rural towns of Amherst and Hollis. Condominiums generally sell for $75,000 to $150,000. -- Nashua is the 20th safest metropolitan area in the country, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Residents cheer the lack of crime. Nancy Daly says, ''I'll leave my pocketbook overnight in my unlocked car in the driveway and never think of anything happening.''
-- The cost of living is low. A pay-phone call still costs a dime, and you can lunch on, say, a plate of scallops in a downtown restaurant for $6. A yearlong war for market share by two grocery chains is keeping food prices down. The average daily charge for a semiprivate room in the 188-bed Nashua Memorial Hospital is $166, roughly 10% below the national average, according to the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association. -- And few areas can compete for sheer beauty and outdoor activities. Says Martha Oxner, 36, a credit-card representative who skis and hikes near her family's mountain cabin two hours from their Merrimack home: ''There is everything but surfboarding.'' A former textile-mill town that all but shut down in the late 1940s, Nashua has been on a slow, steady comeback ever since. Technology companies, aided in large measure by President Reagan's defense buildup, now propel the local economy. Today, 40% of local jobs are in high-tech. The region's job stability was further enhanced last year when Lockheed, the enormous defense contractor, bought Sanders Associates, the biggest employer in Nashua and the state. Sanders, based in Nashua, has 7,600 workers. Says Roger Brown, vice president of human resources at Sanders: ''We doubled or tripled our career opportunities for employees the day we became a member of the Lockheed family.'' Other big regional employers include Digital Equipment, Kollsman and the Nashua Corp. Electronics firms also dot Routes 495 and 128 in nearby Massachusetts, giving area residents various job choices. For example, Sue Will, 28, left her position as a program administrator at Sanders in January to become a manager at SofTech, an MIT spin-off computer software company in Waltham, Mass. A 10% raise lifted her annual salary to about $38,000. Sue's husband, Eric, 29, is a Sanders electrical engineer earning roughly $45,000 a year. No place is perfect, of course. Property taxes eat up about 5.6% of personal income compared with a 3.5% take nationwide. Arts enthusiasts will find no galleries in Nashua, and the two movie theaters rarely show anything but the latest stuff aimed at local teenagers. Local mass transit does not exist, unless you count the mass of cars on Route 101A that can turn a 20-minute trip into a 50-minute drag during rush hour. Low annual starting salaries of $13,000 three years ago deterred some teachers from moving in. But a new contract that raised starting pay to $18,000 this year has begun attracting teachers. Nature sometimes gets revenge too. The ground is blanketed by three or four snowstorms annually (about 15 inches per winter month), and winter temperatures often stay in the teens and 20s for days. A toxic-waste dump near the Nashua River is the first Superfund site -- part of the federally established hazardous-waste cleanup program. Fortunately, Nashua's drinking water is considered safe from the small, contained toxic site. Summing up the Nashua area, parents there say it's a spectacular place to raise a family. Says Nancy Daly: ''I don't think my kids would have all the options for skiing, swimming and playing other sports without crowds if we lived in a bigger area. We've got a lot of space to enjoy ourselves.''
2 NORWALK, CONN.
Attractions: growth economy, health care, waterfront, no state income tax, community spirit, abundant arts, proximity to New York City
Detractions: high house prices, property taxes, cost of living
Three-bedroom house: $250,000 to $400,000
For years, snooty neighbors called Norwalk (pop. 78,000) ''the hole in the doughnut'' because it lacked the cachet of the tony southern Connecticut towns that surrounded it -- Greenwich, Darien and Westport. But seldom is heard a disparaging word about Norwalk these days. The local economy is humming, and a new tourist attraction called the Maritime Center, with an aquarium, a museum and restaurants on Long Island Sound, will open next spring. Roughly 10% of residents brave the 58-minute one-way train commute to New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The future looks promising. Sales and Marketing Management magazine forecasts that in 1990 the average household income in Norwalk, Danbury and ; nearby Fairfield County cities will reach $71,628, the highest in the U.S. and a 41% increase from the 1985 figure. The latest company considering moving its headquarters to the area from New York City: the national accounting firm Deloitte Haskins & Sells. Another strength is community spirit. City planners, residents and local business owners are converting a run-down former South Norwalk slum into a chic, artsy neighborhood dubbed SoNo. Last August, the 10th annual SoNo Arts Celebration, featuring 135 local and national artists, attracted 30,000 people, many from the New York City metropolitan area and eastern Connecticut. In addition, some 45 local companies, including Pepperidge Farm and Richardson-Vicks, actively urge employees to join Norwalk's Adopt-a-School program and teach classes in the public schools. The lack of affordable housing is the biggest drawback in Norwalk and the nearby ritzy three W's -- Wilton, Weston and Westport. Even one-bedroom condos, the typical starter homes, usually go for $175,000. Shrewd investors snapped up the first SoNo studio condos in 1982 for about $80,000; prices since have more than doubled.
3 WHEELING, W.VA.
Attractions: safety, diverse leisure activities, low house prices
Detractions: chronic unemployment, deteriorated downtown
Three-bedroom house: $20,000 to $80,000
Wheeling is still feeling the slowdowns at Wheeling-Pittsburgh and Weirton Steel companies along with diminished production in local coal mines. Unemployment remains at 9.5%, about three percentage points higher than the national average. So how does it rank third on Money's survey? There is no safer place to live in the U.S., and safety was the most important factor among the readers we polled. Wheeling (pop. 43,000) has topped the Justice Department's list of safe cities for the past two years. The low crime rate is primarily because of effective community watch programs, says police chief Edward Weith Jr. Weith adds that the criminals are often young, out-of-work repeat offenders who are well known to local police. Wheeling's appeal is enhanced by its magnificent parks. Some 3 million tourists and locals a year visit the 1,500-acre Oglebay Park, about a 10- minute drive from downtown. Its lush rolling acres offer vistas and accommodations few other public parks can rival. For minimal fees as low as 50 cents, you can picnic, hike, play tennis or golf. In addition, other leisuretime offerings include: Wheeling Park, the other city park; Jamboree USA, a country-and-wester n show held at Capitol Music Hall every Saturday night; and Wheeling Downs, a popular dog-racing track. Hoping to capitalize on its many Victorian homes, Wheeling has petitioned the state historic preservation office to declare certain additional sections of the city as historic districts. This would let the city get federal and matching state funds. Such support, along with private investments, would be used to redevelop the downtown Ohio River waterfront and -- some residents hope -- eventually turn the city into another Williamsburg. Local business leaders are working to boost the economy in other ways too. Patrick Lyle, marketing director of the Ohio Valley Industrial & Business Development Corp., a group trying to attract industry, says, ''Our future growth lies in light manufacturing, distribution, service industries and tourism.'' Two first steps: a joint project between Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and the Nisshin Steel Co. of Japan is expected to provide some 100 assembly- line and office jobs next year; and HessCo Industries, a La Habra, Calif. bathtub and shower manufacturer, expects to expand to an abandoned steel factory within a year, creating 400 jobs over three years. It will take five to 10 years to see if Wheeling's strides continue and produce a boomtown. Meantime, patient real estate investors could be richly rewarded. Some downtown Victorian homes are for sale for as little as $10,000.
4 BEAVER COUNTY, PA.
Attractions: safety, low house prices, proximity to Pittsburgh
Detraction: chronic unemployment
Three-bedroom house: $30,000 to $100,000
Even people who hate sports know that Joe Namath hails from Beaver Falls, a town in an area so football-crazy that it closes down for Friday night high school games. What else happens in Beaver County (pop. 190,300)? Not much. But the Ohio River area, with its charming small towns and farmland, is evolving into nearby Pittsburgh's back bedroom. The city and all it offers -- the Pirates, Steelers, symphony, universities, museums, large shopping centers and jobs -- is a one-hour highway drive away. Ultimately, Beaver County would like to lure away some of the 640 high-tech companies that have helped revitalize Steeltown, U.S.A. since 1981. Several economic organizations have been spawned to find service and manufacturing companies as well. The Southwest Pennsylvania Economic Development District created a new-business incubator in Vanport Township two years ago. Unemployment has fallen to about 9%. ''It's very difficult to lose a major industry like steel,'' says Clair Searfoss, president of the Beaver County Corp. for Economic Development. The hope for the future is the expanding Pittsburgh International Airport, the 15th busiest in the country. Beaver County is building several industrial parks within 15 minutes of the airport to attract major new employers keen on buying land some 20% cheaper than at the airport or in Pittsburgh.
The slow times have kept house prices about 25% lower than those in nearby Allegheny County. For less than $100,000, you can get a five-bedroom Spanish- style house or a remodeled farmhouse with 10 acres.
5 DANBURY, CONN.
Attractions: strong economy, scenic beauty, public schools, no state income tax, health care
Detractions: high house prices, property taxes, cost of living, long commute to New York City
Three-bedroom house: $175,000 to $400,000
For the past five years, corporate executives and managers have been migrating to the rolling hills surrounding Danbury, 25 miles north of Norwalk and a two- hour car and train trip to Manhattan. The flight to Danbury (pop. 67,000) began when Union Carbide moved its 3,000-person headquarters there from New York. As the starched-shirt crowd has settled into the nearby towns, a mix of Chinese, Cambodians, and South and Central Americans have moved into downtown Danbury and filled jobs largely at small businesses. The population growth has produced a vibrant local economy. ''If you drive down the street and don't see a help-wanted sign, you need glasses,'' says local real estate agent Fred Koontz. Continued low unemployment of around 4% and high job growth of 2.5% a year appear likely. Even the local hangout is a cafe called Rosy Tomorrows. House price appreciation has been phenomenal -- 25% a year, on average, in 1985 and 1986 -- before cooling to the national average of 7% to 10% this year. You can still get a small three-bedroom colonial for $200,000, roughly $30,000 more than a comparable home 10 miles west in high-tax New York's Putnam County. Area school systems and medical care are exceptional. The public schools are especially noteworthy in the Danbury suburbs of Ridgefield, New Fairfield and Bethel. The 450-bed Danbury Hospital is pioneering for a medical center its size. For example, it is one of only three in Connecticut allowed by the Food and Drug Administration to give heart-attack patients Genentech's experimental pain-killer called t-PA, designed to stop damage to heart tissue. Leisure activities feature beauty and the beats. The 11-mile Candlewood Lake delights families who swim, sail and fish in the summer or skate and ice- fish in winter. Fans of jazz, country and other American music need not travel to New York City to tap their toes. Danbury's three-year-old, 39-acre, outdoor Charles Ives Center for the Arts has booked Ray Charles, jazz greats Miles Davis and Chick Corea and Broadway star Barbara Cook.
6 LONG ISLAND, N.Y.
Attractions: well-regarded schools and colleges, health care, waterfront, strong economy, proximity to New York City
Detractions: high house prices, cost of living, commute to New York City, taxes
Three-bedroom house: $140,000 to $250,000
The world's biggest suburb -- the 120-mile stretch east of New York City, comprising Nassau and Suffolk counties -- appears routinely in surveys of great places to live. For example, American Demographics magazine recently chose Long Island as the best metropolitan area for blacks, largely because of Long Island's high median black income ($18,826) and home ownership rate (61%). Many towns on the island remain as affluent as Jay Gatsby's East Egg. Three of the 10 wealthiest U.S. locales (median income: about $70,000) are on Long Island's North Shore -- Great Neck, Roslyn and Manhasset. The price of affluence is steep. House prices rose an average of 15% to 30% last year. The owner of a $200,000 house might have to pay $3,000 a year in property taxes. Long Island's auto insurance rates are among the nation's highest, averaging about $650 a year. And the 38 hospitals, including some noteworthy ones, charge nosebleed rates: a semiprivate room at Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow costs $345 a day. The quality of life depends mostly on whether residents work on the island or commute to New York City. Long Island, which has no central city, houses more residents (2.6 million) than 21 other states, and nearly 80% of them work in Nassau and Suffolk counties, many at 1,000-odd high-tech companies. The unlucky 20% who commute to New York suffer endless aggravation. Some drive in ! on the Long Island Expressway, often called ''the world's largest parking lot.'' Others take the Long Island Railroad, usually a 1 1/2-hour trip door to door at 30 miles an hour each way. Education gets high marks. Since 1984, the U.S. Department of Education has cited six Long Island public elementary and secondary schools for excellence; most are on the North Shore. Long Island also has 19 colleges, including intimate Adelphi and striving Hofstra. Long Island is fun suburb to New York's fun city. The island's 1,600 miles of shoreline, featuring the Hamptons, Fire Island and other beach communities earned Long Island its designation as the 21st best vacation spot in the U.S., according to Vacation Places Rated (Rand McNally, $12.95). Other entertainment includes Belmont racetrack and the Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders hockey team. Newsday, considered one of the nation's best newspapers, is the local paper.
7 OXNARD/VENTURA, CALIF.
Attractions: sunny weather, diverse leisure activities, proximity to Los Angeles
Detractions: high house prices, cost of living
Three-bedroom house: $120,000 to $200,000
Who would like to enjoy prosperity on the Pacific coast, in sunny 70 degrees weather, about an hour's drive north of Los Angeles? Some 639,000 residents do now, and the Southern California Association of Governments predicts that the Oxnard/ Ventura population will grow by 70% to hit 1 million in 20 years as people move from cities south of the area. The economy seems strong enough to withstand the growth. The Woods & Poole economics firm says the metropolitan region is only one of 16 in the country that has not suffered a recession since 1969. Tourism is the big business. The Channel Islands National Park, along with the other beaches, parks and boating facilities, generate enough visitors to fill nearly 196,000 rooms each year. In addition, two naval facilities, Port Hueneme Naval Construction Battalion and the Pacific Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, employ more than 18,000. Several downtown industrial sites are being developed for offices and malls. Growth is so rapid that the largely rural residents are worrying about urbanization and its byproducts, traffic jams and air pollution. Oxnard officials rejected a business park near the city airport recently that would have added traffic, despite the fact that all new developers must already pay , a tax based on estimates of increased road use. Still, many area leaders keep plugging away for growth. The cities of Oxnard, Ventura and Port Hueneme have asked the America's Cup Defense Committee to consider the area to host the America's Cup Yacht Race in 1990. Jack Stewart, director of economic development for Oxnard, says: ''We want to be the Fremantle of the future. We have the winds, the hotels and the boat slips.'' And the booster spirit.
8 BOSTON'S NORTH SHORE
Attractions: scenic beauty, safety, waterfront, proximity to Boston
Detractions: high house prices, property taxes
Three-bedroom house: $150,000 to $200,000
Few places in America combine waterfront charm and an easy train commute to a great city as well as the surprisingly unheralded 20 miles of coastline north of Boston. The towns from Salem to a few knots beyond Gloucester, once primarily fishing villages, now largely attract Back Bay defectors and retirees. Most outsiders know Salem (pop. 38,000) only for its witch trials and Gloucester (pop. 28,000) as home of the Gorton's sea captain with his familiar yellow slicker.
Prices of the area's handsome 18th- and 19th-century clapboard houses are expensive and getting pricier. Massachusetts Bay waterfront homes in Marblehead, Manchester and Gloucester generally start at $400,000. Average appreciation last year was 20% to 25%; another 10% to 15% increase is expected this year. Proximity to Boston gives North Shore residents access to some of the country's finest medical care. Best known of Boston's 27 hospitals is Massachusetts General, the largest hospital in New England and a pioneer in treating heart patients as well as burn and stroke victims. Well-regarded specialty medical centers include the Joslin Diabetes Clinic, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Leisure activities shine. Rockport's artist colony is world renowned, and Cape Ann offers some of the country's best whale watching. Museums celebrate Salem's maritime history and witch lore, as well as native author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Seafood lovers feast on what may be the best fresh lobster in the U.S., netted off Gloucester's shore.
9 SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE, PA.
Attractions: safety, low house prices, short commute to jobs, cost of living, many nearby colleges
Detractions: high unemployment, far from big cities
Three-bedroom house: $35,000 to $80,000
These two quiet northeastern Pennsylvania cities, 20 miles apart, in the heart of the coal region are truly underrated treasures. This region -- and Wheeling, W.Va. -- boasts the lowest crime rate in the country. Housing prices, though slowly rising, are still a steal; they are about 65% less than in Philadelphia and 75% less than in New York City. The average commute to work is less than 20 minutes. And the lush Pocono mountains and lakes are only 45 minutes away. Northeastern city dwellers eager for a slower pace are starting to discover the area. One former Philadelphia resident said, in amazement: ''Being stuck in traffic here for 10 minutes is considered a big deal.'' And Francois Ysambart, who opened Le Paris, a French restaurant, in the town of Kingston about a year ago, says he is willing to work hard to make his business go because ''I want my children raised in the fresh air.'' The drawback: unemployment is about 7% in Scranton (pop.82,000) and Wilkes- Barre (pop. 50,000), though that's down from around 13% four years ago. New employers are gradually compensating for the loss of the old coal producers. For instance, Martin Holdrich, an economist with the forecasting firm Woods & Poole, says: ''The area's service industry, helped by the boom in recreational facilities, has grown from 12% in 1970 to 19% in 1983.'' Tourist developments remain strong. Montage, a three-year-old $14 million ski center and office park that is just five minutes from downtown Scranton, offers year-round recreation for tourists as well as quick lunchtime runs down its slopes for the local office workers. The abandoned Erie Lackawanna Railroad Station was converted into a $13 million Hilton in 1983. Steamtown USA, a historic park, features train rides to the Poconos, as well as a railroad museum. A dozen nearby colleges, led by the University of Scranton and Wilkes College, offer undergraduate, graduate and technical degrees. And Wilkes- Barre, once considered devoid of culture, got a boost in 1986 when community leaders raised $3 million to create the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, a restored 1930s movie house that now features Broadway road companies, orchestras and dance companies such as the Ballet Gran Folklorico de Mexico.
10 ANAHEIM/SANTA ANA, CALIF.
Attractions: sunny weather, diverse leisure activities, booming economy
& Detractions: high house prices, congestion, health-care costs
Three-bedroom house: $100,000 to $200,000
Sunny weather and Mickey Mouse mean jobs. This region (pop. 2,317,800) will have the third largest increase in employment, behind Los Angeles and Washington D.C., by the year 2010, according to the National Planning Association. Anaheim's major attractions remain Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium, home of the California Angels and Los Angeles Rams. In addition, last year, 10% of California's entrepreneurs, mainly in high-tech and light manufacturing, opened businesses or announced plans to do so in Orange County. Some 800 acres of industrial area near Anaheim Stadium are being converted to office space. Development in Santa Ana's ethnically diverse downtown (44% Hispanic) is booming: half a dozen major projects are under way, including MainPlace, a $400 million 100-store mall, hotel and office complex; and MacArthur Place, a $600 million urban village of homes, hotels, offices and public areas. Orange County offers terrific weather, though its annual average rainfall of 12 inches tops San Diego's by three inches. (By contrast, Seattle's annual rainfall is 39 inches.) It's increasingly difficult to find affordable housing. In some areas such as posh Newport Beach, three-bedroom homes can cost as much as $500,000. And the roads are often jammed. The area, known as the Golden Triangle, is surrounded by Interstate 5 and Freeways 57 and 91, all suffer chronic congestion. Accidents happen. The average annual auto insurance rate of $663 is one of the highest nationwide.
One other worry: some experts say there is a 50% chance of a major earthquake within the next 30 years.
BOX: THE BOTTOM 10
These places, dominated by five in Michigan, scored worst in Money's survey of 300 areas, largely due to their high crime rates, weak economies and relatively few arts and leisure activities.
300. Flint, Mich. 299. Muskegon, Mich. 298. Benton Harbor, Mich. 297. Atlantic City 296. Rockford, Ill. 295. Odessa, Texas 294. Jackson, Mich. 293. Wilmington, N.C. 292. Saginaw, Mich. 291. Mansfield, Ohio
CHART: THE TOP 100 PLACES TO LIVE 1. Nashua, N.H. 2. Norwalk, Conn. 3. Wheeling, W.Va. 4. Beaver County, Pa. 5. Danbury, Conn. 6. Long Island, N.Y. | 7. Oxnard/Ventura, Calif. 8. Boston's North Shore, Mass. 9. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 10. Anaheim/Santa Ana, Calif. 11. Houma/Thibodaux, La. 12. San Francisco 13. Central New Jersey 14. Rochester, Minn. 15. Cumberland, Md. 16. Johnstown, Pa. 17. Los Angeles 18. Burlington, Vt. 19. Johnson City/Kingsport, Tenn. 20. Binghamton, N.Y. 21. San Jose 22. San Diego 23. Monmouth/Ocean counties, N.J. 24. Danville, Va. 25. Stamford, Conn. 26. Lancaster, Pa. 27. Southeastern New Hampshire 28. Fargo, N.D. 29. Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif. 30. St. Cloud, Minn. 31. Altoona, Pa. 32. Wausau, Wis. 33. Santa Cruz, Calif. 34. Utica-Rome, N.Y. 35. Manchester, N.H. 36. Bismarck, N.D. 37. Bridgeport/Milford, Conn. 38. Orange County, N.Y. 39. Bergen/Passaic counties, N.J. 40. Eau Claire, Wis. 41. York, Pa. 42. Lafayette, Ind. 43. Pittsburgh 44. Santa Rosa/Petaluma, Calif. 45. Boston 46. Oakland, Calif. 47. Duluth, Minn. 48. Chicago 49. Parkersburg, W.Va. 50. Sioux Falls, S.D. 51. Green Bay 52. Vallejo/Fairfield/Napa, Calif. 53. Appleton/Oshkosh, Wis. 54. Williamsport, Pa. 55. Philadelphia 56. Steubenville, Ohio 57. Bangor, Maine 58. Honolulu 59. Provo/Orem, Utah 60. Seattle 61. Fort Walton Beach, Fla. 62. Florence, Ala. 63. Minneapolis/St. Paul 64. La Crosse, Wis. 65. Harrisburg, Pa. 66. Fayetteville, Ark. 67. Olympia, Wash. 68. Newark, N.J. 69. Milwaukee 70. Washington, D.C. 71. Asheville, N.C. 72. Lowell, Mass. 73. Allentown/Bethlehem, Pa. 74. Knoxville, Tenn. 75. Reading, Pa. 76. Lorain/Elyria, Ohio 77. Madison, Wis. 78. Kenosha, Wis. 79. State College, Pa. 80. Albany/Schenectady, N.Y. 81. Dallas 82. New York City 83. Cleveland 84. Ann Arbor 85. Lake County, Ill. 86. Raleigh/Durham, N.C. 87. Bremerton, Wash. 88. Lawrence, Mass. 89. Charlottesville, Va. 90. Worcester, Mass. 91. Jersey City, N.J. 92. Gary/Hammond, Ind. 93. Aurora/Elgin, Ill. 94. Santa Barbara 95. New Orleans 96. Buffalo 97. Fort Meyers, Fla. 98. Atlanta 99. Lafayette, La. 100. Wilmington
CREDIT: NO CREDIT CAPTION: NO CAPTION DESCRIPTION: See above. Color illustration: Map of United States with the 100 places indicated.
CHART: TEXT NOT AVAILABLE CAPTION: THE TOP 10: How they rate head to head
This table shows how each of the 10 best places ranks in nine categories. The best possible score for each category, as well as the overall ranking, is 100. High scores in the crime column signify safety. High scores in housing signify low housing costs. Some places, such as Nashua and Norwalk, scored well in several categories. Others, such as Beaver County, had one or two par ticular strengths but were weak in many other areas. A yellow box represents the best score among the top 10 in a category.
Nashua, N.H. Norwalk, Conn. Wheeling, W.Va. Beaver County, Pa. Danbury, Conn. Long Island, N.Y. Oxnard/Ventura, Calif. Boston's North Shore, Mass. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Anaheim/Santa Ana, Calif.
DESCRIPTION: Ten places ranked for Crime, Economy, Housing, Health, Weather, Leisure, Arts, Education, Transit.