Most Livable Cities in the U.S.
Livability takes into account a number of factors like safety, affordability, traffic, pollution and access to healthcare. It gives us some much-needed insight into the quality of life of a city — in other words, how pleasant or unpleasant it is to reside there.
And while the United States doesn't tend to do great in global livability rankings, that doesn't mean that you can't find a good quality of life in its cities. Here, we've compiled the best U.S. cities to live in. Honorees include major coastal hubs like San Francisco and New York City, interior metropolises like St. Louis and Minneapolis and smaller cities like Charlotte.
Read on to find out the most livable cities in the U.S., which also happen to be some of America's best places to visit.
Bottom Line: Detroit
If frigid winters aren’t your thing, visit Detroit in the summer — the lakeside gales that chill you to the bone in January are pleasantly refreshing in the warmer months.
A city in the throes of a cultural revival, Detroit is not the factory town it was 10 years ago — or one year ago, for that matter. An overflow of creatives has helped transform Michigan’s major city into a buzzing collection of hip bars, restaurants and cultural forums.
Best Things to Do in Detroit
This renaissance is returning Detroit to its rightful place as a cultural epicenter. In addition to its Motown roots — which you can learn about at the excellent Motown Museum — the city is home to one of the finest historic art museums in the country. The Detroit Institute of Arts Museum was established in 1885 and stages both contemporary and classical exhibits, on par with New York City’s Met Museum.
Other notable galleries include the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, presenting pieces that grapple with Detroit’s manufacturing past and question-marked future; and the Detroit Artists Market, where local talent is distinctly put on display.
29. Los Angeles
Population: 3.967 million
Bottom Line: Los Angeles
One of the two most sought-after cities in the U.S. — New York City wins this one — L.A. holds an enduring appeal for new transplants, travelers and longtime residents alike.
A climate of year-round warm weather is incentive enough to visit or move to L.A., although Los Angelites can sometimes act a bit too smug about this blessing. A downside here is the notorious traffic, which means it can take hours to move just a few miles. This is also not where you want to go if you’re pinching pennies.
Best Things to Do in Los Angeles
L.A. is an exceedingly enjoyable destination promising an overwhelming array of things to do. Take in the cinematic cityscape from Griffith Observatory, soak in the sun at the Santa Monica Pier or browse through fresh produce at the Original Farmer’s Market.
And that's to say nothing of a revitalized downtown alive with culture, a culinary scene to rival any city in the world and — of course — a bevy of bodacious Pacific beaches.
Bottom Line: Miami
Gorgeous weather, a thriving Latin music scene, Art Deco architecture and authentic Cuban dishes — the list of reasons to visit Miami could fill this entire article.
Miami, like every city, has its downsides, including throngs of tourists, overpriced real estate and traffic that makes you wonder, “How did any of these people get a driver’s license?!” (The answer: Driving tests are more lenient in Florida.)
But it's a small price to pay for being in one of the country's most exciting and unique cities.
Best Things to Do in Miami
Sip on a cocktail from the Wharf Miami at sunset, soaking in those South Florida evening skies of orange and pink, and you’ll find it hard to leave. Brickell and nearby Wynwood are the city’s trendiest districts, full of city-sanctioned graffiti, art museums and hip, buzzy bars.
By day, Brickell is the buttoned-up financial district, but come 5 o’clock, it becomes a downtown hot spot, a transformation that feels so Miami.
Population: 1.579 million
Bottom Line: Philadelphia
Philly is under-the-radar cool. The city perfectly balances small-town charm in its quaint neighborhoods with the metropolitan glamour of Center City.
At first glance, Philly appears to be a city that can be done in a weekend: See the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then shop the local vendors at the Reading Terminal Market and head back home.
But visitors to the City of Brotherly Love are catching on to what locals have long known — Philly is like an onion, with multiple layers to peel back.
Best Things to Do in Philadelphia
You could easily fill several days exploring its rooftop bars, live-music venues (jazz and, yes, opera are big here) and restaurants, which serve so much more than the famous Philly cheesesteak, often called the best sandwich in America.
This is also a city that takes its sports scene (very) seriously; catch a 76ers, Phillies or Eagles game to mix with locals who are ride or die for their hometown favorites.
26. New York City
State: New York
Population: 8.419 million
Bottom Line: New York City
New York City is the veritable center of the universe — a collision of cultures in only a few square miles that makes it the most potent example of America’s moniker, “the melting pot.”
The ceaseless forward-motion of the city is both addicting and exhausting at the same time. But one thing’s for sure, you will never be bored.
Best Things to Do in New York City
Albeit a little too romanticized — thank you, Carrie Bradshaw — New York really does have it all. Food, so much food; endless nightlife options for every orientation; gorgeous skyline views; a theater scene to beat all theater scenes; and even nature, found not only in Central Park but in little pockets of greenery throughout the city.
There is a neighborhood for your every mood: quiet Park Slope, chic Chelsea, buttoned-up Financial District, creative Bushwick, or secluded Forest Hills. But really, no one attitude can accurately capture any district, or even street, in New York City.
Population: 2.71 million
Bottom Line: Chicago
Whatever inspires you to travel — architecture, food, drinks, music, shopping, nature, culture, sports, reflective bean sculptures — Chicago is guaranteed to have it.
The Windy City earned its nickname for a reason — avoid visiting Chicago in the winter, when winds from the Great Lakes bring a whole new meaning to "frigid." The summers are gorgeous, though, with every neighborhood, from flamboyant Boystown to residential Jefferson Park, at its best.
Best Things to Do in Chicago
Make sure to stroll along the lakefront for postcard views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.
And don’t forget to indulge in the city’s culinary delights. Yes, there’s superb fine-dining here, but casual dining is the city's real forte. Deep-dish pizza is a classic, as is the Chicago-style hot dog. Add in delectable donut shops, sizzling taquerias and so much comfort food, and you have an ideal place to bring your drawstring pants to.
Bottom Line: Atlanta
Atlanta is growing rapidly — in fact, it’s the third-fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation. This means the city, famously home to trendy neighborhoods and some of the best Southern food the U.S. has to offer, is more exciting than ever.
New urban green space projects are breathing life into the metropolis, while concerts, museums and events keep both locals and visitors entertained.
Best Things to Do in Atlanta
Three top-of-mind tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other: Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. From here, you can take a quick drive to the stylish Buckhead neighborhood, where a crop of new restaurants, luxury hotels, chic shopping options and exciting nightlife meet. The neighborhood’s idyllic Chastain Park is one of many examples of Atlanta’s unique blend of nature and urban sprawl.
If you’re looking for a more historic Atlanta experience, visit Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights or the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.
Bottom Line: Minneapolis
The Twin Cities — Minneapolis and neighboring capital city St. Paul — are home to a diverse population of local Minnesotans and many immigrant communities (including a large population of Hmong Americans), making for a beguiling mix of cultural influences.
The Twin Cities themselves are actually considerably different, with Minneapolis modern and updated and St. Paul more historic and old-school. Of the two, Minneapolis comes out on top as the most livable.
Best Things to Do in Minneapolis
Although the winters in Minnesota are famously brutal, Minneapolis is still a city that can be explored in every season — the Minneapolis Skyway is an indoor pedestrian walkway that spans seven miles and connects many downtown buildings.
In the summers, Minneapolis comes alive and is ripe for exploration. There are countless trails, parks, lakes and outdoor recreation areas around the city, making it easy to enjoy the splendors of Minnesota nature.
22. San Francisco
Bottom Line: San Francisco
San Francisco has always been a city that is constantly redefining itself, but the rapid growth of nearby Silicon Valley has exponentially changed the area in recent years. Underneath the fog, eclectic creatives coexist with innovative techies, and proud hippies explore city hot spots alongside tons of college students.
While S.F. (as locals say) is one of America’s most livable city, it is also one of its most expensive — the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,825.
Best Things to Do in San Francisco
San Francisco exemplifies California’s unfair natural diversity, which makes it one of the prettiest states in the country. Within a few hours drive, you have the beach, the city, world-renowned vineyards and some of the country’s best skiing.
When the mist clears and the sun peeks out, the city reveals those iconic shimmering views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
21. Washington, D.C.
State: N/A (federal district, capital of the United States)
Bottom Line: Washington, D.C.
True, the most notable features of the nation’s capital are political in nature: the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House and Capitol Building immediately come to mind. But zoom out a bit, and you’ll find there's so much more to D.C. than politics (though that will always be the elephant in the room).
An effective and reliable public transit system makes it easy for locals to move about without a car — a rarity in the United States. While expensive, the area boasts high-quality healthcare, diverse dining and multiculturalism.
Best Things to Do in Washington, D.C.
Tons of superb (and free) museums, including the National Air & Space Museum and International Spy Museum, explore almost everything you could imagine. A thriving nightlife scene includes — surprise — some of the nation’s best punk-music venues. And there are many fascinating art galleries, including the Renwick Gallery, featuring cutting-edge exhibits like a chromatic wall of skulls and a lattice installation of vibrating colors.
A visit to D.C. is most spectacular during cherry blossom season. For just a few days every spring, the city’s 3,800 cherry blossom trees — a gift from Japan — come into full bloom. The city welcomes about 1.5 million visitors during this extraordinary time.
Bottom Line: Honolulu
It’s Honolulu — do you really need an explanation of why you should visit?
It is no surprise that Honolulu is within the United States’ top 20 most livable cities, as it is a magical paradise that is both beautiful and safe.
The epicenter of Honolulu culture and nightlife is the Waikiki neighborhood, home to famous beaches and glitzy hotels that shimmer like the sea. Apart from the soft white sand, boutique shops, galleries and high-end restaurants are common tourist draws.
Best Things to Do in Honolulu
There’s so much more to do in Honolulu, and across the island of Oahu, than to just lounge on the beach (though you should absolutely lounge on the beach). Hike through the island’s tropical rainforest to Diamond Head or Manoa Falls, or spend a few hours exploring the Dole Plantation, a source of all things pineapple.
And make sure to spend an afternoon of remembrance at the Pearl Harbor Museum to fully understand the solemnity and importance of the site, not to mention the little island’s massive significance in American history.
Bottom Line: Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has grown from a steel manufacturing hub to a bustling city that is constantly redefining itself.
One compelling aspect of this revitalized metropolis is its standout architecture. Stylish contemporary buildings rise beside reimagined old factories, Art Deco stunners and gothic courthouses. For a day trip, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural marvel Fallingwater, a house built into a waterfall, is located just over an hour south of Pittsburgh. And then there's the matter of bridges. There are more of these architectural wonders here than anywhere else in the world, earning Pittsburgh the nickname “The City of Bridges.”
Best Things to Do in Pittsburg
Too few are aware that Pittsburgh is also on the cutting edge of the arts scene. At the avant-garde Mattress Factory, exhibits have explored everything from civil rights in South Africa to solar power to sensory deprivation. The Andy Warhol Museum houses the works of the iconic pop artist, a Pittsburgh native. And Randyland is just plain weird in a completely delightful way — a yellow house where guests can see vintage toys from around the world, painted furniture and colorful murals.
When you've had your fill of artistic wonders, ride the Duquesne Incline, a century-old cable car, to take in views of the city skyline.
18. St. Louis
Bottom Line: St. Louis
The spirit of St. Louis is strong — as the gateway to the West, the city has always welcomed visitors with open arms.
Baseball, bars and craft beers are the impetus for a visit or relocation to St. Louis. Locals love watching the Cardinals with religious-like fervor, especially while enjoying a local brew.
Best Things to Do in St. Louis
Beers can be sipped at superb tap rooms like 21st Street Brewers Bar, which pours over 50 brews on draft in a renovated factory building; Narrow Gauge, home to a number of perfectly hopped IPAs; and 4 Hands Brewing Company, famous for its robust ales and tall boys (beers served to big drinkers in 24-ounce cans). And that’s to say nothing of the stalwart Anheuser-Busch factory, which first planted its roots here over 150 years ago.
After hours, out-of-towners and locals alike head to the city's live-music venues, where musicians strive to become the next Chuck Berry, Tina Turner or Miles Davis — all of whom have called St. Louis home.
Population: 2.31 million
Bottom Line: Houston
America’s fourth-largest city is a coastal center of commerce, space technology and arts. Houston enjoys a year-round warm climate that makes it enjoyable in the winter months, though it can be humid in the summer.
The food scene in Houston is nationally renowned and a great reason to visit. A galaxy of Tex-Mex and barbecue restaurants cover the sprawling metropolis, infusing flavors from across the border with Southern staples and fresh catches from the Gulf.
Best Things to Do in Houston
Houston is home to world-class museums of astonishing diversity: Learn about WWII history at the Holocaust Museum Houston, medical science at the Health Museum, artistic masters at the Museum of Fine Arts, and science and history at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Texas’ most popular museum (the dinosaur-fossil collection in particular wows).
Just outside the city, the Space Center Houston shines a light on NASA’s extraordinary feats of space exploration.
Bottom Line: Boston
Historic attractions, spectacular buildings and wicked good food make up the fabric of Boston, a city that easily satisfies its famously proud locals and curious out-of-towners. Enjoy a stroll through Boston Common park, go a Red Sox game at Fenway Park and get ready to eat: New England lobster rolls, fresh cannolis in the North End and the best clam chowder of your life are all waiting to be enjoyed here.
Check out picture-worthy Acorn Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, a quaint one-lane cobblestone street with Victorian brick houses and tree-lined views.
Best Things to Do in Boston
The remarkable history of this city is defined by an extensive collection of revolutionary artifacts that demand any visitor's attention. Colonial connoisseurs can explore the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walk that guides visitors through Boston’s most significant historical sites, like Paul Revere’s house, the Boston Massacre site, the Old State House and more.
And don't leave without exploring the city's youthful, edgy side in areas like Davis Square, Allston and Brighton, home to hipster cafes, tattoo shops and live-music venues hosting the hottest indie acts.
Population: 1.331 million
Bottom Line: Dallas
Although Austin is the capital and Houston is the largest city, no city feels more Texas than Dallas, with its cowboy-booted culture and mix of down-home and upscale attractions.
Dallas is home to a flourishing LGBT community and is renowned for its drag culture and rainbow-adorned cowboy bars. Primarily anchored in the Oak Lawn neighborhood, the gay community here doesn’t stray away from Texas’ Christian roots — Dallas is where you’ll find the LGBT mega-church, the Cathedral of Hope.
Best Things to Do in Dallas
The Dallas-Fort Worth area’s large size — everything is bigger here, remember — means that this is a city most easily explored by car.
Check out affluent Highland Park, home to a number of arts establishments; Downtown, the nightlife hub of Dallas; and Uptown, with wide tree-lined roads and trendy restaurants.
Bottom Line: Jacksonville
Jacksonville — not Miami — is actually Florida's most populous city. Located in the north, quite close to the Georgian border, the city is not as famous as other seaside towns in the state. Still, it boasts beautiful, expansive beaches, with less oppressive heat.
Residents enjoy the water, but also the modern downtown area, the southern food scene and the strong sports culture.
Best Things to Do in Jacksonville
For a dose of culture and history, head to Historic Riverside, where you'll find a host of heritage buildings, art galleries and boutique shops. If you're visiting on a Saturday, you can also buy unique souvenirs at the Riverside Arts Market. Other cultural offerings in Jacksonville include the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and the Ritz Theatre and Museum, which celebrates Black American heritage.
For a bit of nature, there's nothing like the water, but we also recommend biking around Little Talbot Island State Park and the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail.
Bottom Line: Seattle
Tech-savvy Seattle is the quintessential example of Pacific Northwest beauty. Located on Puget Sound, it is one of America’s most gorgeous cities, especially in the summer.
Heavy rainfall year-round lends to lush greenery in the warmer months, best explored via abundant walking and hiking trails within and around the city. The winter promises great skiing at many nearby mountains, so really there’s no bad time to visit Seattle.
Best Things to Do in Seattle
The Emerald City is always buzzing, in part thanks to its native coffee culture, and it’s never afraid to tackle new trends and ideas. (Its tech scene innovation is starting to rival Silicon Valley’s.)
Embrace Seattle’s quirkiness by checking out the Museum of Pop Culture, soon to be showcasing a Minecraft exhibit; organ-pipe weather vanes at the Sound Garden on the shores of Lake Washington; intricate records of ghosts at the Metaphysical Library; and of course the Space Needle, not necessarily quirky but still iconically Seattle.
12. San Antonio
Population: 1.508 million
Bottom Line: San Antonio
Known mostly for the Alamo, San Antonio is often considered one of Texas' coolest cities. The city's large Mexican and Chicano population give it a specific culture that can be seen everywhere from its architecture to its food.
The city is a popular place to live for young people, who are attracted to its relatively low cost of living (compared to other giant metropolises in the country) as well as its numerous bars, restaurants and shops — all things that also make it a perfect place for a stateside vacation.
Best Things to Do in San Antonio
Social life often centers around the River Walk, a scenic promenade that serves views worth flying in for.
We've already mentioned food, but in San Antonio, it's necessary to really delve into it. Yes, you'll find some of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in the U.S., but there's also plenty of mouth-watering Tex-Mex and true Texan staples like the unmissable barbecue and brisket. We can't think of why anyone would want anything else, but if you do, world cuisine is readily at your fingertips here.
11. Kansas City
State: Missouri and Kansas
Bottom Line: Kansas City
You may be surprised to find Kansas City on here. After all, the city isn't as well-known as other metropolises like New York or L.A. But that only means that the city is sorely underrated.
Really the only thing you need to know to be convinced that it's a worthwhile city to live in or visit is that it's the Barbecue Capital of the country. Not even in Texas will you find barbecue quite like it's done in Kansas City — sorry, Lone Star residents, these are simply indisputable facts!
Best Things to Do in Kansas City
But if world-famous barbecue isn't enough to lure you in, consider the city's rich jazz heritage, which is preserved and celebrated in the Historic Jazz District. When you visit, you can roam the same streets and go to the same venues where the likes of Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald once performed. There is also the American Jazz Museum, and it's not the only one the city offers. You can also enhance your mind and knowledge at the National World War I Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
But really, Kansas City, you had us at burnt ends, smoked ribs and cheesy cornbake.
10. San Diego
Population: 1.41 million
Bottom Line: San Diego
Move over, San Francisco and L.A., San Diego is actually where it's at. The beautiful city proudly shows off its historic architecture, of which there is so much, you couldn't avoid it if you tried. But if you want to do the opposite of avoiding it, you can simply head to Old Town San Diego, the oldest neighborhood in the city and an actual state historic park.
And if you're considering moving there, let us give you one more reason to do it: San Diego was named the most fun American city to live in.
Best Things to Do in San Diego
Besides admiring how pretty the city is and enjoying its year-round sun and good weather, there are plenty of art galleries, family-owned boutiques, gardens and parks. And then there's the shoreline and numerous beaches that can be found along it.
Here, you can enjoy the Pacific Ocean to its fullest by surfing or swimming in it. Though if you don't want to brave the harsh waves, you can always enjoy some seafood or a refreshing drink with ocean views.
9. San Jose
State: San Jose
Population: 1.028 million
Bottom Line: San Jose
Want to enjoy all the best of San Francisco without paying San Francisco prices? Head to San Jose.
Don't get us wrong, you'll probably be stretching your pockets quite a bit in this Bay Area city, just not as much. This is why San Jose has become a popular place for Silicon Valley techies, who prefer to live in the quieter, safer and cleaner city.
Best Things to Do in San Jose
As in San Francisco, you'll have all the treasures of nature within grasp. The Pacific Ocean is nearby, mountains abound, and you won't be too far from some of California's best destinations, such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.
The food scene is also nothing to scoff at.
State: New York
Bottom Line: Buffalo
Like Detroit, Buffalo's infamous fall from grace as one of America's industry darlings has affected how people see it. But while we can't deny that there was a fall, and that it was harsh, we also want to point out that the city has been reinventing itself for decades.
Food tours, nature trails and, yes, casinos, have kept the city's economy alive.
Best Things to Do in Buffalo
The city's main draw is and always has been Niagara Falls, a powerful testament to the force and beauty of nature that you should definitely see at least once in your life. But there are plenty of other things to do and see. For starters, once you've seen the falls, make sure you also do the Niagara Wine Trail, a small route of local vineyards that take advantage of the microclimate created by the falls.
Wine pairings checked off, you can do a mini tour of the world through plants at the majestic Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. If you are into architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House is a must-visit. Museum lovers will also have more of their share to see at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
7. Oklahoma City
Bottom Line: Oklahoma City
If you're surprised to see Oklahoma City on here, don't be. Yes, the state capital may not be as glamorous as other world-renowned cities, but it has a unique charm that allows it to hold its own. That and you get a great quality of life for a pretty good price.
The city has a strong cowboy culture and definitely exudes Old West nostalgia, but it also does a better job than most cities at preserving and celebrating the legacy of Native American tribes.
Best Things to Do in Oklahoma City
You can visit the First Americans Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian institution. Other museums include the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center.
We also recommend getting out into nature at the scenic Scissortail Park. Or if the idea of walking is enticing, but you'd rather be surrounding by modernity, take a stroll along the city's fun Bricktown, where you'll find shops, bars and restaurants.
Bottom Line: Richmond
Richmond is overshadowed by the national capital, which has taken over parts of Virginia as its suburbs. We won't pretend the city can contend with D.C. in terms of things to do, but we do think Richmond doesn't always get as much attention as it should.
The city is blessed with historic architecture painted in pretty colors. But there is also a modern district whose skyline is dotted with high rises and busy business people coming to and from.
Best Things to Do in Richmond
One of the most popular activities for both residents and visitors is visiting the museums. There are plenty to pick from: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, for instance, has an impressive collection and is known for its early 20th-century European works, proving you don't have to be in New York or D.C. to see a Picasso or a Matisse. There is also the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, housed at the Old Stone House, the oldest house in the city.
A stroll down Church Hill Historic District takes you to St. John's Episcopal Church, where Patrick Henry is said to have shouted, "Give me liberty or give me death!" during a pro-revolutionary speech. There are plenty of memorials and museums that are tied to the Civil War, but since most of them are tinged with hints of nostalgia for the Confederacy, we'd advise you to skip these altogether.
Bottom Line: Madison
The state capital of Wisconsin stands out for several things: a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright designs, the University of Wisconsin and a thriving craft beer scene. It also has a plethora of great restaurants to choose from.
Note: Winters are absolutely brutal here, so if you're moving here, good luck, and if you're visiting, make sure you come during summer.
Best Things to Do in Madison
Appreciate Frank Lloyd Wright houses at the Taliesin Estate and Monona Terrace, two buildings that constitute a great source of pride for the city.
Madison takes its craft beer very seriously. Not only are there more microbreweries than you can count, but there are also events like Craft Beer Week and the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Festival.
As for the arts, the University of Wisconsin brings a breath of fresh air and ideas to the city, guaranteeing a strong cafe culture and well as bringing interest to cultural institutions like the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and Chazen Museum of Art. It's also one of the things that fuel the third.
Bottom Line: Austin
Despite many other Texan cities making it on this list, none can compete with the state capital in terms of quality of living.
The city has everything without losing its trademark niceness — which is more than many other cities on here can say. The University of Texas brings a student population that keeps Austin weird and quirky.
Best Things to Do in Austin
The city's alternative, underground vibe is best experienced at SoCo District and Sixth Street, Austin's answer to New York's 42nd Street.
It's not all city lights in this undeniably cool city, there are also plenty of opportunities to get out in nature. During summer, people cool off by getting in the water at the Barton Creek Greenbelt or one of the rivers near the city. Boating is also a big activity. If you want to appreciate the water without necessarily getting in, you can choose from places like the McKinney Falls State Park, the trails around Lady Bird Lake or Mount Bonnell, which is said to have the best views of the city.
Bottom Line: Columbus
Ohio's capital is an overlooked destination, which is surprising given its parks, museums and historical districts.
Residents enjoy its cultural diversity, which translates to an interesting restaurant scene. As far as cities go, Columbus is also fairly affordbale.
Best Thing to Do in Columbus
One of Columbus' main attractions is the Scioto Mile, a series of trails surrounding the river that provide opportunities for residents and visitors to stretch their legs and get some sunlight. Another trendy spot is the colorful Short North Arts District, where you'll find plenty of galleries, second-hand shops and cool bars. The district itself is an open-air gallery, with street art decorating its streets.
For more historical attractions, visit the Historic North Market Farmers Market, which has been providing fresh produce to the city since 1876, or head to the German Village, where you'll find early 19th-century houses and plenty of German bars and restaurants.
State: North Carolina
Bottom Line: Charlotte
It's difficult to define Charlotte, though not difficult to understand why it would end up as the second-best city in America to live in.
First, the city perfectly balances its historic charm with a modern city center. It enjoys feeling high brow with the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and the Levine Museum of the New South, but it also has no shame in its undying love for race cars, proudly boasting of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Best Things to Do in Charlotte
For food, all you really need to do is turn any corner and go into the first place you find. This is the South, after all. But if you want an experience with your meal, head to the 7th Street Public Market, where people do an around-the-world tour of small bites from different places.
Once you've gotten your fill of city entertainment, have a picnic at Freedom Park, or better yet, go hiking at Crowders Mountain State Park. If you want an adrenaline rush, head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where you'll be able to raft through rapids, zipline, rock climb, mountain bike and more.
State: North Carolina
Bottom Line: Raleigh
The only place that beats Charlotte for livability is another North Carolinian city. And not just any city, but the state capital itself. With a reasonable cost of living, numerous museums, a thriving bar scene, a globalized culinary culture and outdoor activities galore, we have no problem believing Raleigh earns its place.
As one of the points in the state's Research Triangle, there are always new ideas coming out of the city, something that seems to infuse the air with the electricity of possibility and innovation.
Best Things to Do in Raleigh
Let's start with the museums, of which there are plenty to keep you occupied for weeks. The city is home to the state's Museum of Art, Museum of Natural Sciences and Museum of History as well as the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh and plenty of others.
But Raleigh is not all about metropolitan pursuits. Here, disconnecting from media and connecting to nature is an almost sacred pastime. There are many green spaces in the city itself, but there are also countless trails to explore right outside of it. The majestic Blue Ridge Mountains are also easily within reach, providing fun outdoor activities at any time of year.