August 6, 2015 — We are always pleased to see a “Best” list that is actually based on more than just someone’s personal opinion. 100 Most Livable Small Towns from Livability.com, which is based on overall livability, is a great example. To come up with their list they claim to have examined more than 40 data points for 12,000 towns with populations between 1,000 and 20,000. One caution is that their “livability” list is meant for people of all ages, not just retirees. Fortunately, most of their criteria apply to everyone, with the possible exception of the quality of the schools. The four major criteria used were in the broad categories of Schools, Businesses, Health Care, and Real Estate options.
Some people might be disappointed that these towns are not necessarily the most inexpensive places to live. That wasn’t a criterion, but on the other
hand if you want to live somewhere nice you might have to pay a little extra. Home prices shown in this article are from Livability.com – they might differ from the prices listed in the Topretirements.com city reviews (when available they are linked to the city names).
Top 10 Livable Small Towns
We have showcased the top 10 of the Livability 100 list here.
1. Lebanon, New Hampshire. This small town on the Connecticut River is home to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. It is so pretty with key institutions clustered around the town green that it has been described as the quintessential New England town.
Reasons for selection: Visual appeal, strong economy and educational system, affordable housing, civic engagement, health care, outdoor recreation.
Median Home Price: $235,400.
2. Los Alamos, New Mexico. Los Alamos is built on the Pajarito Plateau between White Rock Canyon and the Valles Caldera, part of the Jemez Mountains. The town is a household name because it was home to the Manhattan Project, culminating in the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in WWII.
Reasons for selection: Located in the mountains it is visually and vibrantly appealing. There is no shortage of things to do in Los Alamos, from the cultural to outdoor adventures.
Median Home Price: $293,000.
3. Durango, Colorado. The Animas River, a gold medal fly fishing stream, flows through the center of town. The town is world famous for every kind of outdoor recreation including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and golf. Because it is an old railroad and mining town, it has an interesting downtown. Five major ski areas are close by. Note: After this article was written in early August there was a major spill of old toxic mining waste-contaminated water into the Animas River. Locals are very concerned and anxious to learn when it will be cleaned up.
Reasons for selection: Old western heritage, shops, great outdoor recreation.
Median home Price: $362,000.
4. St. Augustine, Florida. This popular retirement community was established in 1565 by the Spanish. It has been under 4 flags – Spanish, English, Confederate, and U.S. – and some of these (Spain and U.S.) more than once! It’s located on Florida’s northeast coast, southeast of Jacksonville.
Reasons for selection: historic Spanish architecture, beautiful beaches, lush parks, and a vibrant downtown filled with restaurants, shops and museums.
Median home Price: $204,500.
5. Bar Harbor, Maine Located along the coast, this idyllic spot was fiercely protected by the Rockefeller family, who were instrumental in the formation of Acadia National Park. There are great beaches here, whale watching, and an interesting, if slightly touristy town. It is a great summer spot for snowbirds to live, if you an afford it.
Reasons for selection: This is one of the prettiest spots in America with a stunning National Park. Bar Harbor is home to College of the Atlantic.
Median home Price: $310,000.
6. Louisville, Colorado. Louisville is the home of several high-technology companies, including the Space Systems component of Sierra Nevada Corporation. An old coal mining town, it has an interesting downtown with shopping in its Old Town.
Reasons for selection: Galleries, studios, restaurants and music venues occupy many of the 100-year old buildings that line streets in the downtown area. The city has made numerous “Best Places to Live” lists.
Median home Price: $370,800.
7. Hood River, Oregon. Located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Hood River, a popular tourist destination, is one of the world’s premiere wind surfing spots due to the high winds generated by the gorge and its 4,000-foot cliffs.
Reasons for selection: An outdoor lover’s playground, Hood River provides opportunities to snow ski, windsurf and mountain bike, all in the same day. Perched on the Columbia River,
Median home Price: $314,200.
8. Spearfish, South Dakota. Spearfish is a growing town of 10,500 located on the western South Dakota border with Wyoming. This is in the Black Hills area famous for the gold rush that displaced so many native Americans.
Reasons for selection: Crows Peak, Lookout Mountain and Spearfish Mountain offer residents impressive views. There are quaint shops and a lively arts and entertainment district. Frank Llloyd Wright visited the area and said that its beauty – “unique and unparalleled elsewhere in our country.” The 40-bed Spearfish Regional Hospital serves area residents.
Median home Price: $172,200.
9. Sebastopol, California. This former plum and apple growing region is about a 20-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, between Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay. It is known for its liberal politics and small-town charm.
Reasons for selection: Sebastopol ranks high in cultural and outdoor amenities with small-town charm. Although Livability.com cites affordable housing across a range of home types, the median home price hovers around a half million dollars. They must mean affordable for the Bay Area! The city hosts an annual Apple Blossom Festival and Gravenstein Apple Fair.
Median home Price: $492,500
10. Port Angeles, Washington. A busy port on the northern portion of the Olympic Peninsula, the town offers spectacular scenery and recreational opportunities. Victoria, British Columbia is across the Strait by ferry. Port Angeles is home to Peninsula College.
Reasons for selection: The city connects to the Olympic Discovery Trail that traverses 130 miles of lowlands bordered by the Olympic Mountain Range and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Other recreational opportunities for residents include mountains, rivers, lakes and forestland.
Median home Price: $201,900.
About the list methodology
Livability.com’s “100 Most Livable Small Towns” used a modified version of the methodology developed with the Martin Prosperity Institute.
Can anyone report on their experience living in one of these towns? Do you have other livable small towns that should have made the list – if so please list in the Comments section below.