Top 5 Places to Live in the U.S.

At one point or another, we’ve all pondered our dream destination after college. Now, I love a sandy beach as much as the next, but in terms of successful living, a variety of factors—job opportunities, schools, economic growth, etc.—all come into play. Due to differences in survey sizes and data collected, information points to many different places all over the country. However, there are a few stand-outs that you may want to include in your round-up as you sketch out your next major move.

1. Austin, TX

Texas had a strong representation in almost every top-living list that I found, ranging from Forbes to CNBC. Austin boasts strong economic growth and low housing prices (perfect for a recent college graduate). According to areavibes.com, it also received an “A+” rating in schools and amenities. In addition to logistics, Austin boasts a lively social and cultural landscape, named the Live Music Capital of the World. The demographics of the area bring the average age to about 34 with an almost equal married-to-single ratio. This means that Austin caters to singles and families alike, giving it great potential as a permanent living destination as residents make the transition from 21-year-old job seekers to stable families. With major universities and nearly 250 parks, there is always something to do in this bustling city (and did I mention, Kendra Scott headquarters!) so it definitely earned its slot in this list, coming in at #1.

2. Colorado Springs, CO

Coming in at #2 is Colorado Springs, referred to as a “well-kept secret” by Doug Rice, President and CEO of Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Center. Along with sweeping mountain views, this picturesque destination boasts new economic growth followed by historically low unemployment rates. In 2017, Colorado Springs was ranked the 11th best place to live by U.S. News & World Report but jumped an impressive nine spots in just one year to #2. Significant military bases and tourist attractions, like the Garden of the Gods sandstone formations, all take part in bringing in nearly 5 million tourists to the area as of 2018. With a manageable population density of about 700,000, residents enjoy a spacious urban footprint that retains the integrity of its surrounding environment. The combination of practical gains and aesthetic appeals brings this historic city in at #2.

3. Ann Arbor, MI

In addition to being ranked one of the top 10 best college towns by livability.com, this Michigan jewel offers a variety of recreational activities and delectable cuisine catering to multiple walks of life. Known as the home of the Michigan Wolverines, immense amounts of tourism allow for extensive growth on all fronts—commercial, cultural, residential, etc. With the average age being only 28, it is the perfect city for a young ex-collegiate looking for a place to settle down but still be connected to that lively atmosphere that exudes from all major universities. The city was ranked the #1 most educated by Forbes in 2014, making it an ideal environment to raise a family or to just immerse yourself! With a combination of tourism, education and growth, Ann Arbor offers many opportunities to its residents that other destinations simply cannot match. A unique balance of nightlife with family-friendly activities brings this option into the middle of the pack at #3.

4. Seattle, WA

In spite of popular belief, a life in Seattle would not just consist of grey, rainy days! In fact, Seattle gets less rain annually than Boston and New York City among others. With about a 30-minute average commute time and $60,000 average annual income, living in this metropolitan area offers many perks. The Pacific Northwest makes Seattle lush with mild weather and lots of fresh seafood. The booming city life that accompanies a multi-million-person city makes its presence with events like the Pike Place Farmer’s Market and NFL football games at Safeco Stadium. Similar to the aesthetic of Colorado Springs, Seattle boasts stunning mountain views including Mt. Saint Helens and the Cascades. Lastly, and this one is for the apartment-searching 20-something that is still addicted to caffeine, Seattle has the most coffee shops per capita in the U.S. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a significant factor earning this city a solid #4 slot.

5. Washington, D.C.

Last, but certainly not least, our nation’s capital offers a unique combination of historic, national pastimes and a lively modern-day political climate. Due to the city’s stipulation that no building may surpass the height of the U.S. Capitol, it feels quaint and welcoming as opposed to the “concrete jungle” feel of many other major cities. Looking for a job in law or with the federal government? D.C. is for you! Employing nearly 140,000 locals, government unsurprisingly dominates the job market. However, even if your dream job doesn’t lead to Capitol Hill, the D.C. suburbs will leave you swooning. With some of the highest rankings in education, income and schools, this city’s living situation manages to appear exclusive while still offering a variety of affordable options. In terms of weather, being below the Northeast’s winter blizzards and above the South’s blazing summers, D.C. experiences the best of all four seasons—and who could forget the cherry blossoms to kick off spring! The bustling feel of one of the most famous cities in the nation, combined with its modern-day appeal, brings this historical gem in to round out the list at #5. 

Deciding where to spend your life after college can be one of the most exciting, yet intimidating, decisions we will ever make. The plethora of factors affecting the decision can make it feel less spontaneous and more laborious than you may have dreamed of so many years ago. However, moving to a new place also implies making new connections, trying new things and meeting new people. Whether your next move takes you to the forests of Seattle or the mountains of Colorado, you’ll be sure to make memories unlike any other, so enjoy!

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5