New Study: 10 Best Cities To Live, Work & Play In.

Just a few weeks ago I posted the results of a study by Best Life magazine, detailing the best 100 best cities to raise a family in. Now I have the results of a new study along the same lines, but this one has the 10 best cities to live, work & play in, as presented by Kiplingers. So what does their study have to say? (And be sure to check the link at the bottom of this post to take a quiz that can help you pick out your “best city”!)

1. Houston – It’s the city of big plans and no rules, beat-the-heat tunnels and loop-the-loop highways, world-class museums and wiry cowboys, humidity that demands an ice-cold martini and the biggest damn liquor store on the planet. How could you not love Houston? (If that is what makes a city…)

2. Raleigh – Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle is living up to its reputation as a high-tech hotbed isn’t news. But anyone familiar with the Raleigh angle will be happy to hear the tired city is on the road to a renaissance. “Three years ago, this was a ghost town”. (I went to college in Virginia and went down there quite often – it wasn’t that bad even that long ago)

3. Omaha – Don’t pigeonhole Omaha as insurance, Warren Buffett and mail-order steaks. This one-time Great Plains pioneer town has a stereotype-busting cultural scene. Walk through north downtown and discover the indie-rock club Slowdown next to Film Streams, a cinema art house. In Old Market, red-brick roads run past open-air restaurants, galleries and chic boutiques. (Never been there, but sounds pretty nice…)

4. Boise – How do folks get any work done around here? The skiing, snowboarding, fishing, biking and kayaking in and around Boise are an almost irresistible temptation to desert your desk. Glance northward from the city’s orderly downtown business and shopping district, and the majestic slopes of the Boise foothills beckon. (I have heard great things about Boise!)

5. Colorado Springs – Be ye crunchy or conservative, the common thread in Colorado Springs is a love of the outdoors. The air is better up here. At 6,000 feet, it’s crisp and clean, much like the city itself. From snow-capped Pikes Peak to the red rocks of the Garden of the Gods, natural beauty abounds, and with an average of 300 days of sunshine annually, citizens of “the Springs” are always off on their next adventure to bask in it. (I have friends moving here next year, so hopefully I will get many chances to visit)

6. Austin – Don’t think for a minute that the laid-back, rockers-and-tacos atmosphere of downtown Austin is all this metro area has to offer. In fact, Austin and the surrounding region offer a strong economy, a solid, moderately priced housing market, a growing population and enough natural beauty to justify staying outside even if the weather weren’t great — which, by the way, it is. (This is one place I could live in Texas, no doubt!)

7. Fayettville – This four-season, guitar-pickin’ university town, set in the foothills of the Ozarks, is serendipitously within reach of Wal-Mart’s corporate backyard. In the past decade, more than 1300 companies, P&G, PepsiCo and Pinnacle Foods, have built operations in the region to better serve their biggest customer, Wal-Mart. (Definitely not for me, but I am sure a lot of people have benefited from job creation there)

8. Sacramento – Sacramento’s first foray into big business was during the 1849 Gold Rush, after which California’s state capital morphed into an orderly center of politics, commerce and farming. (Locals called it “Sacra-tomato.”) Today, ag and politics are still priorities, but the city has been transformed into a hub of technology, biotech and energy. (We stopped in here last year for the day after visiting Nevada City, CA. And I have to say it is a pretty nice little city!)

9. Des Moines – Des Moines’s friendly, hometown atmosphere, top public schooling and affordable cost of living make it an ideal place to raise a family. But it also has big city amenities, including a growing arts scene with galleries, a symphony orchestra, a ballet and opera, trendy shops and an expanding skyscraper cityscape. (I took a train through here once, looked like a very nice city to live in)

10. Provo – Driving along the stretch of I-15 between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, you can’t help but wonder if locals take the scenery for granted. The snow-capped Wasatch Mountains rise more than seven thousand feet above a string of neat and orderly communities. (I have heard that this is an incredibly beautiful city – anyone live there?)

So what do you think? Did this study do a better job of picking out great places to live than the other one did? And have you found your “best city”? If not, you can take their quiz that can help you pinpoint where you are supposed to be living!

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Comments (20)

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  1. Well I have to disagree on many of these points. Being a Dallas born, and descendent I think Dallas beats Houston except for one thing, the ball field. Watching Baseball in not 100 weather is brilliant. Dallas has the most beautiful ballpark, but it does lack A/C!

    Colorado Springs if you have a chance go there, there is so much to do and see. I love just driving by the Broadmore, it is spectacular. Red rocks are just like God has designed a perfect acoustic theater, and any performance there is fabulous.

    Austin has NO, I repeat No medium priced housing. All of my friends have moved out. Nearby towns to me (an Hour from Austin) are overrun with Austin working people looking for a reasonable place to live. It does have wonderful things to do but the traffic is horrendous. Unless you can walk there, it is very stressful to go anywhere. It is almost as bad as Los Angeles traffic. Great place to visit wouldn’t want to live there, and my brother did for years. He thought it would fit him perfectly, until he lived there.

  2. Lynnae says:

    I’m not understanding why Fayetteville isn’t for you…;)

    The only city on the list I’ve actually been to is Sacramento, and I’m not super fond of Sacramento. It’s better than other places in California, though. I’m surprised Portland didn’t make the list.

    My husband’s friend lived in Houston for a number of years and hated it. They live here now, and he’s sworn he’ll never go back.

    I took the quiz, and apparently Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, WA is my ideal place. I’ve been through there on my way to Spokane, and it’s OK. I think I’ll stay where I am though. I like it here. 🙂

  3. david says:

    @Kathy – Just as bad as LA traffic? Didn’t even know that was possible! 😉

    @Lynnae – You don’t, huh? 😉 So glad you like your spot – I took the test and it named 4 places all within an hour or 2 of where we are moving, so I am thinking we made the right choice for us.

  4. I have been stuck in Austin traffic several times for over 3 hours. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to avoid it!

    Here is a link that describes it better, but right now because of construction there is no down time. My brother worked construction, and close to a job site if he could. Nothing he did made it okay and he thought Denver had bad traffic.


  5. David says:

    Thanks…the traffic is one of many reasons we are moving out of LA to a nice small mountain town where a traffic jam is 11 cars long!

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  7. I lived in Austin for a couple of years (2002-2004) and rarely had a problem with traffic. I lived across the street from my place of employment and rarely drove during rush hour times. I guess it is worse now but since I rarely drove on Mopac or 35 it probably still would have been ok for me.

  8. plonkee says:

    Well, of all those places I’ve only been to Austin, which I loved. My abiding impression of Des Moines is based on a Bill Bryson book (he grew up there), where he says that it’s full of people who just stopped for a hamburger and seemed not to leave.

  9. david says:

    That’s incredibly funny Plonkee, I wonder what that looks like!

  10. Patrick says:

    Wow, I lived in Houston for several years, and I don’t think it is the best place to live… The traffic is horrendous, the weather is awful, nothing is centrally located, and there isn’t much of a definitive city culture (though Houston is working hard to improve its downtown and create more of a culture). I don’t think Houston is a bad place. In fact, there are professional sports teams, great restaurants, solid universities, some of the best medical centers in the nation, and very affordable housing. I just don’t think Houston is the best place in the US. But, I guess that is why these “subjective” rankings stir up so much conversation and controversy. 😉

  11. Brendan says:

    Omaha? Omaha? Are you kidding me? After visiting dozens of colleges, my parents told me that the ONLY school they would not pay for was Creighton because Omaha sucked so bad. The only good thing they got going for them is the College World Series.

  12. Daniel says:

    I live in Salt Lake City and have been to Provo many times for both work and personal things. It is a very beautiful (and clean) city, like the rest of the metro area. The only caveat I’d mention to living there is the very, very conservative culture. There is a slight counter culture popping up in nearby Orem (a lot of new “punk” music comes from there, and there are a lot of concerts as well), but overall it is a very conservative area. If that isn’t your cup of tea, Salt Lake City has a much more liberal attitude, more big city panache, and is just as beautiful and clean (but just a tad more urban).

  13. Sara says:

    Big thumbs up for Boise! It’s completely different than most people picture it–both sophisticated and humble, fun and forward-looking. Everyone who has visited us here has really been taken with the area. Either way, it beats Sac, or at least the part of Sac I lived in.

  14. […] For more on finding a quality place to live, check out My Two Dollar’s post on the ten best cities to live and work. […]

  15. PT says:

    Ditto Patrick’s comments. Houston??? That’s weird. And I agree, David…what’s with their reasoning…martinis/liquor stores?

    My wife finished HS in Houston and vows to never return. N.Dallas is the place to be in Texas.

  16. david says:

    I often find so many problems with these studies, but it is always good to see what they come up with each time!

  17. Garrett says:

    The only trains that run through Des Moines are freight trains. Please explain.

  18. Houston says:

    The best city ever. Love the place, love the heat, and best of all Love the diversed culture.

  19. […] David at My Two Dollars has an excellent list of the New Study: 10 Best Cities To Live, Work & Play In […]

  20. Sue Ann Thomi says:


    I was surprised not to see Tulsa Oklahoma not on your lists that I am aware. Kluv radio station stated that it is clean, safe, and nice city to raise a family.
    My sister raised her children there after living in Dallas Texas for years. They haven’t left. Grand Lake best for outdoor sports and fishing.
    This could not be in your data, but just thought I would comment.

    Sue Ann Thomi, M.S.Edu.,LPC