Newton, Massachusetts

These Are the Best Small Cities in America

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Newton, Massachusetts

Slicker Cities

The United States is full of charming small towns. But if small towns aren’t your jam and giant cities overwhelm you, you’re in luck. WalletHub recently completed a study of 1,300 locales to determine the best small cities in America.

These cities have 25,000 to 100,000 residents and were rated according to 43 metrics in five broad categories: affordability, economic health, education and health, quality of life, and safety. Each of the metrics was scored from 0 to 100. The average across all domains was then used to determine which cities are best. If you’re looking for a place to vacation or even move, here are the small cities worth considering.

Related: Retirees Are Trading the City for These Small Towns

Leesburg, Virginia

25. Leesburg, Virginia

Overall Score: 69.26

With a population of just under 53,000, Leesburg falls right in the middle of small cities as defined by WalletHub, but it offers no shortage of entertainment. There are dozens of restaurants, 16 city-maintained parks, a happening arts district, and many festivals held annually. 

Related: The Most Beautiful Main Streets in Every State

Radburn Plaza
Radburn Plaza by Rickyrab (CC BY-SA)

24. Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Overall Score: 69.31

Fair Lawn provides many services to its community members. Folks who live there can make use of the Community Center and free transportation on the popular minibus, or enjoy a visit to the local theater. This small city also ranks among the top 50 for health and education. 

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Aerial drone view above suburb homes in Cedar Park , Texas

23. Cedar Park, Texas

Overall Score: 69.38

If you want to be close to the hustle and bustle of the big city without the big city costs and crimes, Cedar Park is the place to be. It is 17 miles from downtown Austin but still has a small city feel. WalletHub ranked it 12th overall for economic health among small cities. It earns huge bonus points for being home to two professional sports teams: the Austin Spurs (basketball) and the Texas Stars (hockey).  

Related: These States Have All of the Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the Nation

Northwest Lancaster, PA cityscape

22. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Overall Score: 69.41

Lancaster ranks 11th overall for quality of life, making it a fabulous place to live or simply visit. Historical buildings and landmarks make this city unique. There are also numerous parks and museums worth a stop.

Related: The Most Underrated Town in Every State

Saratoga Springs, New York, Exterior of brick building.
Photo Italia LLC/istockphoto

21. Saratoga Springs, New York

Overall Score: 69.69

There is no shortage of activities in Saratoga Springs. Its proximity to Albany means the city is just minutes away. In Saratoga Springs you can visit the winery, hit up the casino, or take a cruise. Museums, parks, and restaurants also abound, making this small city a fantastic place to visit or live. Saratoga Springs is also a popular destination for horse racing at the Saratoga Racetrack. The iconic track has hosted many of the world’s most famous thoroughbreds. The city is also home to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Related: The Most Overlooked Travel Cities in America

Southlake, Texas
Wikimedia Commons

20. Southlake, Texas

Overall Score: 69.77

With around 30,000 residents, Southlake is on the small end of small cities. But while it is small, it offers big advantages. It's in the top 15 for both affordability and economic health. Living here also gives residents access to many community programs for kids and adults.

Leawood Kansas City

19. Leawood, Kansas

Overall Score: 69.78

This small city is close to the Kansas City metro area, which is bustling with activity, arts, and culture. However, Leawood itself also has a lot to offer. It's one of the fastest-growing cities in Kansas, with multiple parks, shopping, and dining. The city also holds community events throughout the year.

Burlington, Massachusetts town hall
Burlington, Massachusetts town hall by John Phelan (CC BY)

16. (Tie) Burlington, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 69.82

Ranked No. 9 for education and health, Burlington is a desirable place to raise kids or grow old. The city is also home to over 250 acres of conservation area where people can relax and unwind. If you prefer the bustle of the big city, Boston is only 13 miles away.

Children Playing
Children Playing by Michael Femia (CC BY-NC-ND)

16. (Tie) Needham, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 69.82

Turns out Massachusetts is an ideal place to live if you’re seeking the best small city life. Needham, with its population of just over 30,000, is just one of several Massachusetts cities to make the top 25 list. So, what makes this place so special? Well, the Charles River wraps around it on three sides, meaning outdoor recreation is plentiful. There are also many local shops and restaurants, and the community works hard to support small businesses. 

Related: Underrated Places to Retire Across America

Newton, Massachusetts

16. (Tie) Newton, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 69.82

Needham’s neighbor, Newton, is also tied for 16th among the best small cities. Many of the same opportunities exist here, like outdoor recreation and a short drive to Boston. The city also prides itself on offering high-quality education and top-notch safety. It should come as no surprise, then, that it comes in fourth in education and health, according to WalletHub’s study. 

Princeton University landscape
Mystic Lakes, Arlington, Massachusetts -05

14. Arlington, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 69.92

Across the five primary domains used by WalletHub’s study, Arlington claims top-10 spots for two of them. It ranks seventh in education and health and eighth in safety. The city also provides access to art, history, and outdoor activities within its borders and in Boston, which is only 8 miles away. 

Brookfield, Wisconsin
Brookfield, Wisconsin by Chris Favero (CC BY-SA)

13. Brookfield, Wisconsin

Overall Score: 70.07

A common theme among many of the best small cities is they are close to the big city but offer an escape to their residents. Brookfield is no different, with its location only 14 miles from Milwaukee on Lake Michigan’s shore. Still, Brookfield boasts a surprising number of amenities for a small city. It has escape rooms, a spa, and various ways to stay fit like attending yoga classes or playing at the indoor soccer complex.

Microsoft Corporation Head Office

12. Redmond, Washington

Overall Score: 70.12

If a robust economy is important to you, Redmond is one of the best places to find one that is thriving in a small city. WalletHub ranks it in fifth place for economic health compared to other cities of its size. One other unique feature is Redmond’s commitment to volunteerism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Seems like a friendly place to live.

Westfield, Indiana
Westfield, Indiana by Derek Jensen (CC BY)

11. Westfield, Indiana

Overall Score: 70.18

One of the most notable features in Westfield is a 400-acre multi-sport complex, which draws many people to the area. In 2019, the complex boasted 2.5 million visits. It is home to the Colts National Football League training camp, the Pacer’s National Basketball Association athletic center, and the Indy Eleven Major League Soccer training center. There are also 10 miles of hiking trails and many athletic fields for the community to use. 

Related: Idyllic Parks That Bring Nature to the City

Dublin parks concrete corn tribute to agriculture.

10. Dublin, Ohio

Overall Score: 70.44

Dublin, although a far cry from Ireland’s capital, has plenty to offer, including its own Irish festival. One major draw for residents is that it claims the sixth place spot for affordability among small cities. In 2018, rated it the best place to live in Ohio.

The Gazebo at Ell Pond Park
The Gazebo at Ell Pond Park by Elizabeth B. Thomsen (CC BY-SA)

9. Melrose, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 70.65

Melrose is yet another place where people can get close to Boston while enjoying small city living. Melrose is filled with Victorian-era homes and open spaces. It is also well known for the quality of its education and health, claiming the eighth spot in this domain, according to WalletHub. 

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Milton, MA - Three Churches

8. Milton, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 70.66

If you want open space near the big city, Milton is the place to be. Although it is only 7 miles from downtown Boston, Milton has the most conserved land within 20 miles. A whopping 22% of the city’s land is protected on the Blue Hills Reservation

Portland, ME

7. Portland, Maine

Overall Score: 70.88

Portland, Maine, often flies under the radar compared with its much larger West Coast counterpart in Oregon. Although the former is small, the Chamber of Commerce puts on over 100 events every year. You also can’t beat being right on the coast. Lighthouses and lobsters abound here.

Downtown Zionsville
Downtown Zionsville by Paula Henry (CC BY)

6. Zionsville, Indiana

Overall Score: 70.92

Many Midwest cities enjoy a lower cost of living, and Zionsville is no different. It ranks third for affordability compared with the other best small cities. It also has many desirable features, like a nature center, a cultural center, and many opportunities for recreation.

Reading, Massachusetts
Reading, Massachusetts by Terageorge (CC BY-SA)

5. Reading, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 71.13

Reading has some of the best education in the country, coming in at No. 3 for small cities. It also claims another top 10 spot in safety for which it ranks ninth. These features, combined with a bustling downtown and easy access to Boston, make Reading a smart choice for raising kids.

Buckman Tavern in Lexington, Massachusetts

4. Lexington, Massachusetts

Overall Score: 71.54

If the education and health category is the most important for you, Lexington is where you want to go: It is ranked No. 1. WalletHub also ranked it seventh for safety. Lexington prides itself as being “The Birthplace of American Liberty.” Unsurprisingly, there are many historic places nearby, like the Lexington Battle Green and the Old Belfry, to name a couple.

Large brick single family home in Brentwood Tennessee

3. Brentwood, Tennessee

Overall Score: 71.57

Brentwood is a well-rounded, small city with a bit of everything. With Nashville only 10 miles away, it's just a short drive to the heart of country music. Historic places are also easy to find throughout the city.

Carmel City Hall, wide angle

2. Carmel, Indiana

Overall Score: 71.79

Carmel is a leader in business and community. Over 125 corporate headquarters are in Carmel, which is just a short drive from Indianapolis. There is also a rich arts district and a large central park in town. More than 100 free events are hosted every year.

Pine Lake Sammamish Washington USA Aerial View

1. Sammamish, Washington

Overall Score: 72.55

The best small city overall is Sammamish, a Seattle suburb that has received many “best of” awards for both Washington and the United States. It’s no surprise it claims WalletHub's No. 1 spot. Sammamish has multiple parks where you can walk, bike, or boat. It also hosts plenty of special events throughout the year. Among all the other small cities in the study, Sammamish ranked third overall in economic health, making it an ideal place for residents to thrive.