- Rochester, Minnesota
Rochester’s rise to the top of our Best Places index has been steady but not surprising. The city first appeared on the Top 100 Best Places to Live 2014 as the seventh best city, then climbed to No. 2 on 2015’s index. New scores for Rochester’s schools, civil engagement, health-care scene and, most notably, its diverse range of affordable housing, pushed it to the top spot. Home to the renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester is experiencing an economic boom that is bringing in thousands of new residents and new businesses, and giving those who live here an expanding assortment of entertainment options.
- Bellevue Washington
Lakes and mountains surround Bellevue, Wash., a Seattle suburb of more than 120,000 residents, while a tapestry of lush parks provide residents with abundant outdoor recreation options. Bike paths and sidewalks make getting to and from the city’s many festivals, museums, restaurants and music venues easy. A range of amenities provides many things to do in Bellevue. About 40 percent of the city’s population are minorities, which contributes to an overall diverse range of lifestyles and ideas. Bellevue schools have been recognized among the top in the country by major media outlets. This makes the third time the city has appeared on this list.
Not only does Madison have one of the top rated health-care systems in the country, it also has a high performing school system and strong economy. The University of Wisconsin, and a handful of other schools, gives Madison a large student population, but being the state capital means this city offers some serious culture. There are always things to do in Madison. The city’s 33 percent minority population creates diversity that pairs well with an urban/suburban vibe. Madison has been at or near the top of the Best Places index for three years in a row.
A collection of beaches, mountain views and resorts help make Santa Barbara a popular tourist destination. Those same amenities, great schools, a highly ranked health-care scene and strong economy make living in this California city feel like a dream come true. Great farm-to-table restaurants, unique shopping experiences, plenty of outdoor recreation options and fantastic weather keep Santa Barbara residents on the go.
Known as one of the best cities for liberals, Boulder spoils its 100,300 residents with pristine natural surroundings, a strong farm-to-table restaurant scene, and dynamic arts and cultural attractions. Each season brings more things to do in Boulder. Many of the city’s highly active residents plan their days around hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking and fishing. Schools in Boulder rank high, which has helped the city appear on the Top 100 since 2014.