25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life

·14 min read

Taking your quality of life into account

Many factors play into truly loving where you live. Affordability and career opportunities certainly contribute, but you shouldn't discount daily commute, access to quality education and health care, crime rates and general well-being. As part of the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News has compiled information on these important aspects of a top-notch place to live. These five categories combined measure the quality of life in a given place. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live for Quality of Life in 2021-2022.

25. Boston

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 31
Metro Population: 4,832,346
Median Home Price: $632,943
Average Annual Salary: $69,240

People who live in Boston are largely pleased with their community, as the metro area ranks fourth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, which surveys people across the country, asking about their overall happiness, sense of community pride and sense of security, among other details. Additionally, Boston ranks No. 17 for college readiness among high school students, based on data from the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.

Learn more about Boston.

24. Miami

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 128
Metro Population: 6,090,660
Median Home Price: $247,112
Average Annual Salary: $50,060

Miami is a pricey place to live, but many of the factors falling under quality of life make it a worthy hometown. Miami scores well for its college readiness among high school students, overall well-being of residents and for its relatively low rates of property crime and murder. One trade-off, as is the case with many more populous metro areas, is the commute, as Miami-area residents spend, on average, nearly 30 minutes going from home to work, three minutes more than the national average.

Learn more about Miami.

23. Brownsville, Texas

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 140
Metro Population: 421,666
Median Home Value: $133,568*
Average Annual Salary: $35,050

In South Texas, Brownsville residents benefit from well-educated high school students, low crime rates and short commutes that leave more room for enjoying free time. Brownsville ranks 14th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students, and the average morning commute is just 19.9 minutes.

Learn more about Brownsville.

(*The median home price for Brownsville was not available, median home value is listed.)

22. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 540,999
Median Home Price: $226,550
Average Annual Salary: $46,150

Lancaster's best score among those included in the quality of life index is for the metro area's proximity to quality health care based on data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings, for which it ranks seventh out of the 150 places on the list. Lancaster also ranks 17th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its low rates of property crime and murder, based on 2020 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Learn more about Lancaster.

21. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 4
Metro Population: 514,259
Median Home Price: $203,150
Average Annual Salary: $47,600

Fayetteville has residents who get to spend less time between work and home -- the average morning commute is just 20.9 minutes. This northwestern Arkansas metro area sees high performances among high school students, as it ranks 33rd out of 150 in college readiness. These details, along with relatively low crime rates and a low cost of living, contribute to Fayetteville's spot at No. 4 in the overall Best Places to Live ranking.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

20. Salinas, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 141
Metro Population: 433,410
Median Home Price: $628,350
Average Annual Salary: $52,060

The Salinas metro area, which includes coastal Monterey, California, scores well for college readiness among high school students, well-being, commute and crime rates. According to FBI data, there were 14 murders in the metro area in 2020, a rate of just 3.2 per 100,000 people. The average commute for Salinas-area residents is 23.4 minutes.

Learn more about Salinas.

19. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 21
Metro Population: 319,401
Median Home Price: $181,700
Average Annual Salary: $47,400

Green Bay takes the No. 22 spot out of the 150 metro areas on the list for its low rates of property crime and murder. The metro area saw eight murders and just over 3,000 property crimes total in 2020, according to FBI data. The average morning commute in this Wisconsin metro area is just 20 minutes, and the metro area also ranks 28th for its proximity to quality health care.

Learn more about Green Bay.

18. Reno, Nevada

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 56
Metro Population: 460,924
Median Home Price: $388,200
Average Annual Salary: $48,460

Reno may be a bit more off the beaten path than other metro areas on the list -- it sits on the western edge of Nevada, with the closest major city, Sacramento, more than two hours away by car -- but it offers plenty to residents of all ages. Reno ranks 10th out of the 150 metro areas on the list for college readiness among high school students. For working adults, the average annual commute is short, at just 22.1 minutes.

Learn more about Reno.

17. Rochester, New York

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 72
Metro Population: 1,072,877
Median Home Price: $246,692
Average Annual Salary: $52,170

In Rochester, residents spend less time going to work -- just 21.6 minutes, on average -- ranking 19th in the category out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. This upstate New York metro area also performs well for its high scores among high school students, based on Best High Schools data, and for its low rates of property crime and murder, based on FBI data.

Learn more about Rochester.

16. Boise, Idaho

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 11
Metro Population: 710,743
Median Home Price: $221,475
Average Annual Salary: $47,170

Boise ranks seventh out of the 150 metro areas on the list for its low crime rates. Just eight murders occurred in the metro area in 2020 and there were about 924 property crimes per 100,000 people in 2020, which is the most recent complete data set from the FBI at the time of calculation. Both statistics are well below the average in the U.S. and compared to metro areas of a similar size.

Learn more about Boise.

15. Sarasota, Florida

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 9
Metro Population: 803,709
Median Home Price: $387,630
Average Annual Salary: $46,040

Sunny weather and access to beaches certainly make some people happy -- and that's the case in Sarasota. The area ranks fifth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its low rates of property crime and murder, according to FBI data, and 35th for college readiness among high school students, according to Best High Schools data.

Learn more about Sarasota.

14. Tallahassee, Florida

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 76
Metro Population: 382,197
Median Home Price: $190,500
Average Annual Salary: $46,500

The metro area surrounding Florida's capital city ranks No. 14 for quality of life. High school students perform particularly well in Tallahassee, as the metro area ranks eighth out of the 150 most populous places in the U.S. for college readiness. With an average morning commute of 23 minutes, Tallahassee area residents are able to spend more time at home (or work) as well.

Learn more about Tallahassee.

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 34
Metro Population: 1,062,392
Median Home Price: $296,730
Average Annual Salary: $47,010

This western Michigan metro area boasts high scores in crime, college readiness among high school students and commute. The average morning commute for Grand Rapids area residents is just 21.8 minutes. For the Grand Rapids metro area, the weakest score of the categories that make up the quality of life ranking is for access to quality health care -- hospitals that rank highly on the Best Hospitals list aren't as close as other metro areas, but Grand Rapids still ranks better than 88 places in the category.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

12. Hartford, Connecticut

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 53
Metro Population: 1,207,677
Median Home Price: $327,006
Average Annual Salary: $62,900

Jumping 12 spots from No. 24 on the list last year, Hartford sees its highest score among the categories that make up the Quality of Life index in college readiness, where it ranks 19th. Hartford also ranks No. 31 out of the metro areas on the list for well-being, based on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Hartford.

11. San Diego

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 97
Metro Population: 3,316,073
Median Home Price: $835,207
Average Annual Salary: $60,230

You'll be hard-pressed to find someone who lives in the San Diego metro area who isn't happy with living there. Warm weather, sunny days and proximity to the beach certainly contribute to San Diego ranking eighth in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. San Diego also ranks 11th for college readiness among high school students, based on data from the Best High Schools ranking.

Learn more about San Diego.

10. Fort Collins, Colorado

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 17
Metro Population: 344,786
Median Home Price: $462,481
Average Annual Salary: $53,230

Residents report being satisfied with life in Fort Collins, as it ranks No. 23 out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. Combined with low crime rates and high test scores among high school students to showcase college readiness, Fort Collins takes the No. 10 spot for quality of life. Additionally, Fort Collins is seeing many people moving to the metro area, with its population having grown by 8.2% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Fort Collins.

9. Portland, Maine

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 532,075
Median Home Price: $310,300
Average Annual Salary: $52,820

Portland ranks No. 1 out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its low crime rates. The Portland metro area saw zero murders in 2020 and less than 900 property crimes per 100,000 people, according to FBI data. Portland also ranks 24th out of the metro areas on the list in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Portland.

8. Santa Rosa, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 121
Metro Population: 499,772
Median Home Price: $617,550
Average Annual Salary: $57,080

This metro area in California wine country ranks highly for reported positive well-being among residents, low rates of property crime and murder, and high scores among high school students to showcase college readiness. In particular, Santa Rosa ranks 12th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index and 25th for its low crime rates, based on FBI data.

Learn more about Santa Rosa.

7. Melbourne, Florida

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 18
Metro Population: 585,507
Median Home Price: $217,400
Average Annual Salary: $51,180

Jumping from the No. 22 spot last year to No. 7 for 2021-2022, the Melbourne metro area is home to Cape Canaveral and the John F. Kennedy Space Center, which means the area is home to many engineers, scientists and specialists in the aerospace industry. Children in the area show similar promise for technical and high-flying careers, as Melbourne ranks fifth out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students. The average morning commute is 1.7 minutes less than the national average, at 25.2 minutes.

Learn more about Melbourne.

6. Santa Barbara, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 115
Metro Population: 444,829
Median Home Price: $464,954
Average Annual Salary: $56,540

Located just up the Pacific coast from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a fairly isolated metro area, nestled between the Los Padres National Forest and the ocean. Because residents are more likely to stay close by for work, the average morning commute is short at just 20.5 minutes. Santa Barbara also ranks 21st out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Santa Barbara.

5. San Jose, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 36
Metro Population: 1,987,846
Median Home Price: $1,302,118
Average Annual Salary: $83,960

San Jose takes the top spot for college readiness among high schools students, tied with Boulder, Colorado. Additionally, San Jose residents report general satisfaction with where they live, as San Jose ranks third out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. One trade-off is the time spent getting to work: The average morning commute is 29.5 minutes. Another trade-off is the high home prices, with the median home price above $1.3 million for the metro area, according to Zillow data.

Learn more about San Jose.

4. Madison, Wisconsin

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 16
Metro Population: 653,725
Median Home Price: $348,940
Average Annual Salary: $54,300

As the home of the University of Wisconsin--Madison, it's not just college students who are getting a quality education in Madison. The metro area's high schoolers rank 23rd among students in the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness. Additionally, Madison's rates of property crime and murder are low, with Madison experiencing 3.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2020, according to FBI data.

Learn more about Madison.

3. Naples, Florida

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 371,453
Median Home Price: $345,000
Average Annual Salary: $47,980

This South Florida metro area along the Gulf Coast takes the No. 7 spot in the overall Best Places to Live ranking, helped by its scores for well-being, crime rates and college readiness among high school students. Naples ranks 26th for college readiness among high school students out of the 150 metro areas on the list and 13th for well-being. With a median age of 50.8 years, it's also a popular place to live for retirees.

Learn more about Naples.

2. Boulder, Colorado

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 1
Metro Population: 322,510
Median Home Price: $528,833
Average Annual Salary: $67,160

The No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. for 2021-2022 takes the No. 2 spot in the quality of life category. Boulder ties for the top spot with San Jose for its test scores among high school students to determine college readiness. Boulder residents also report that they're happy living in the area -- the Colorado metro area ranks fifth out of the 150 metro areas on the list in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Boulder.

1. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 12
Metro Population: 367,000
Median Home Price: $270,567
Average Annual Salary: $56,370

This Michigan metro area of less than 400,000 residents is home to the University of Michigan, which naturally means many residents are connected to the college and its associated health system. Ann Arbor ties for the No. 1 spot for proximity to quality health care with Kalamazoo, Michigan; Reading, Pennsylvania; York, Pennsylvania; and Trenton, New Jersey. The area isn't just recognized for its higher education opportunities: The metro area ranks third out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students and second for well-being, making it the No. 1 best place to live for quality of life in 2021-2022.

Learn more about Ann Arbor.

The best places to live in the U.S. for quality of life are:

-- Ann Arbor, Michigan.

-- Boulder, Colorado.

-- Naples, Florida.

-- Madison, Wisconsin.

-- San Jose, California.

-- Santa Barbara, California.

-- Melbourne, Florida.

-- Santa Rosa, California.

-- Portland, Maine.

-- Fort Collins, Colorado.

See full rankings.