Best 20 Small Cities in the Mid-West: 2023
By the Pachyy Editorial Team
The Pachyy Editorial Team comprises a diverse and experienced team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts whose aim is to provide you with useful insights, guidance and commentary on all matters related to small business and personal finance.
The Midwest region of the United States is known for its friendly communities, affordable living, and picturesque landscapes. Among the many cities and towns that make up this region, some stand out as excellent places to call home. In this article, we will take a closer look at the top 20 small cities (population less than 100,000) to live in, in the Midwest.
When computing our “livability” score, we considered numerous factors. Some of the most important metrics that we considered were:
- Household Income
- Cost of property and housing
Below is a list of the top 20 highest scoring small cities in the Midwest.
- Stevens Point, WI (100)
- Marinette, WI-MI (99)
- Cape Girardeau, MO-IL (93.7)
- Manitowoc, WI (92.8)
- Farmington, MO (91.9)
- Columbus, IN (91.1)
- Findlay, OH (87.7)
- Warsaw, IN (86.8)
- Dubuque, IA (85.5)
- New Philadelphia-Dover, OH (85)
- Baraboo, WI (84)
- Watertown-Fort Atkinson,WI (82.4)
- Beaver Dam, WI (82)
- Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield, WI (81.5)
- Richmond, IN (79.3)
- Faribault-Northfield, MN (75.8)
- Grand Island, NE (73.5)
- Adrian, MI (72.1)
- Quincy, IL-MO (71.5)
- Midland, MI (70.7)
1. Stevens Point, WI (100)
Ranked as number 1 on our list with a perfect score of 100, Stevens Point is a charming small city located in central Wisconsin, with a population of approximately 70,000 people. Notably, the city boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States, and over 20% of its workforce is made up of remote workers.
Home to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the city is surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes, including several parks and lakes that provide ample opportunities for recreation. The downtown area is a hub of activity, featuring a mix of locally-owned shops, restaurants, and breweries.
In summary, Stevens Point is a friendly and tight-knit community with a perfect combination of economic prosperity, beautiful surroundings, and a unique atmosphere that make it a highly desirable place to live.
2. Marinette, WI (99)
Ranked second on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest is the Marinette, WI Micro Area, which comprises Marinette County, WI, and Menominee County, MI.
With a combined population of around 65,000 people, this area boasts stunning natural beauty, with numerous parks, lakes, and forests providing abundant opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and hunting.
The area’s economy is driven by several key industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and education. Residents can enjoy a stable and thriving economy, with an unemployment rate of 2.3%, and low living costs.
Overall, Marinette is an excellent place to live, work, and play, offering residents a high quality of life in a beautiful and welcoming community.
3. Cape Girardeau, MO (94)
The Cape Girardeau, MO is a gem located in the heart of southeastern Missouri. As the fourth-ranked small city on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest, it scored an impressive 94 points.
This charming and friendly community is home to Cape Girardeau County and Scott County, with a combined population of around 60,000 people. The area is rich in history, with a vibrant culture, and numerous attractions throughout the year. From the Mississippi River’s scenic beauty to the thriving downtown area, filled with unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, there’s something for everyone in Cape Girardeau.
The area’s growing local economy is driven by a mix of industries, providing residents with an unemployment rate of just 3.3% and some of the lowest living costs in the US.
Overall, Cape Girardeau, MO is a wonderful place to call home, with a welcoming community, a beautiful natural setting, and a thriving economy.
4. Manitowoc, WI (93)
Manitowoc, WI is a little known treasure located in eastern Wisconsin, coming in fifth place on our list with a score of 93.
The area comprises Manitowoc County, with a population of ~60,000 people. The community is known for its strong sense of tradition and history, as well as its stunning natural beauty. From the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan to the picturesque countryside, Manitowoc is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
The area is also home to a diverse range of locally-owned businesses, including cozy cafes, unique shops, and artisanal breweries, giving the community a welcoming and charming character. With a thriving manufacturing industry, Manitowoc boasts a low unemployment rate of 1.4%, affordable living costs and a high private healthcare coverage among workers.
Manitowoc is a great place to live, work, and play.
5. Farmington, MO (92)
Farmington, MO is located in the eastern Ozark foothills of Missouri, is a wonderful small city with a score of 92. The area comprises St. Francois County and boasts a population of approximately 68,000 people.
With its rolling hills and beautiful natural surroundings, Farmington provides residents with a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, and hunting. The area is also known for its excellent wineries and local farm-to-table cuisine, making it a foodie’s paradise.
Farmington has a growing and diversified economy, with top industries including healthcare, education, and retail. The unemployment rate in the area is just 2.8%, close to 30% of workers can commute to work in less than 10 minutes, and the cost of living is very affordable.
With a high quality of life, a thriving economy, and a charming small-town feel, Farmington, MO is a fantastic place to call home
6. Columbus, IN (91)
Columbus, IN – coming in at number 6 on our list of best small cities in the Midwest with a score of 91, is a charming and welcoming community located in southern Indiana with a population of 80,000 people.
The city is known for its stunning architecture, having been home to several notable architects. Columbus is also home to a variety of parks and green spaces, including Mill Race Park, which features a scenic walking trail and a unique splash pad.
The city’s vibrant downtown area offers a mix of locally-owned shops and restaurants, as well as several art galleries and theaters. The areas economy is driven by several industries, providing residents with stable employment opportunities, resulting in one of the highest median household incomes in the country ($74,000).
Overall, Columbus, IN is a wonderful place to call home, with a strong sense of community, a rich cultural heritage, and a thriving economy. It’s no wonder that Columbus has become one of the best small cities to live in, in America.
7. Findlay, OH (87.7)
Findlay, OH ranks seventh on our list of best small cities in the Midwest, with a score of 87.7.
This city in northwest Ohio is known for its strong economy driven by the oil and gas industry, manufacturing, and education. Findlay boats brilliant schools and educational opportunities, being home to is home to the University of Findlay.
Findlay offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including parks, golf courses, and the Blanchard River Greenway Trail for outdoor enthusiasts.
Findlay has a strong sense of community and hosts events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Riverside Wine Festival and the Flag City BalloonFest.
8. Warsaw, IN (86.8)
Coming in at number eight on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest is Warsaw, IN, with a score of 86.8.
Located in northern Indiana, Warsaw is known for its picturesque lakes and strong economy focused on orthopedic and medical device manufacturing, earning it the nickname “Orthopedic Capital of the World.”
Warsaw offers affordable housing options, excellent schools, and a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing, and hiking.
Warsaw also has a strong sense of community and hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Warsaw First Friday Art Walk and the Northern Indiana Lakes Festival.
9. Dubuque, IA (85.5)
Dubuque, IA comes in at number nine on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest, with a score of 85.5.
Dubuque is known for its scenic beauty, well-preserved Victorian architecture, and vibrant arts and culture scene.
Dubuque is home to several higher education institutions, including the University of Dubuque and Loras College. Moreover, Dubuque boasts excellent high schools, a low crime rate, and a variety of amenities, including parks, museums, and recreational opportunities along the Mississippi River.
10. New Philadelphia-Dover, OH (85)
New Philadelphia and Dover are neighboring cities located in Eastern Ohio, known for their scenic beauty, rich history, and strong sense of community.
Together, both New Philadelphia and Dover rank as the 10th best small city in the Midwest, with a score of 85.
New Philadelphia-Dover offers a high quality of life with affordable housing, a strong job market, and highly regarded private and public schools.
New Philadelphia-Dover is known for its natural beauty, including the nearby Appalachian Mountains, and offers a variety of recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
11. Baraboo, WI (84)
At number 11 on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest, Baraboo, WI (with a score of 84) is located in south-central Wisconsin.
Baraboo is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. Baraboo is located near to Devil’s Lake State Park and the Baraboo Range, which both offer stunning landscapes, hiking trails, and opportunities for outdoor activities such as camping and rock climbing.
Moreover, Baraboo boats a low cost of living, strong sense of community, and excellent schools, making it an attractive place to live for families and nature lovers alike.
Baraboo residents also benefit from an energetic arts and culture scene and the city is home to Circus World, a historic site and museum dedicated to the history of the circus, reflecting the city’s rich circus heritage.
12. Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI (82.4)
With a score of 82.4, the Watertown and Fort Atkinson area ranks as the 12th best small city in the Midwest.
Watertown and Fort Atkinson are located in southern Wisconsin and offer a relaxed, small-town atmosphere with historic downtowns, local parks, and recreational opportunities along the Rock River.
Both Watertown and Fort Atkinson are known for their excellent schools, with highly regarded public and private schools that provide quality education for residents. Moreover, Watertown and Fort Atkinson boast a lively cultural scene, hosting events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Watertown Riverfest and the Fort Atkinson Farmers’ Market.
13. Beaver Dam, WI (82)
Coming in at 13th on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest is another city located in Wisconsin – Beaver Dam, with a score of 82.
Beaver Dam is situated in central Wisconsin and is known for its natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and thriving arts and culture scene.
Beaver Dam is located near the Beaver Dam Lake, thus offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities. Additionally, Beaver Dam is home to several cultural attractions, including the Beaver Dam Area Arts Association and the Dodge County Center for the Arts.
Besides outdoor recreation and a rich cultural scene, Beaver Dam has a very high standard of living with affordable housing, safe communities and abundant educational opportunities, making it an ideal place to raise a family.
14. Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield, WI (81.5)
Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield collectively rank 14th on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest, with a score of 81.5.
This area in central Wisconsin offers a high quality of life with its affordable housing options, good schools, and strong sense of community.
The region is known for its natural beauty. Wisconsin Rapids is located along the Wisconsin River, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities, while Marshfield is known for its picturesque parks and trails.
Both Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield have a vibrant arts and culture scene, with theaters, galleries, and museums, such as the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center and the Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre.
15. Richmond, IN (79.3)
Coming in as the 15th best small city in the Midwest is Richmond, IN, with a score of 79.3.
Richmond is located in eastern Indiana and provides a great standard of living for its residents with its affordable housing costs, good schools, and strong local economy. Richmond is also home to Indiana University East.
Moreover, Richmond offers a variety of activities and amenities, including parks, and museums such as the Wayne County Historical Museum and the Gennett Walk of Fame.
Lastly, Richmond offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including parks, trails, and golf courses, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities.
16. Faribault-Northfield, MN (75.8)
Ranking 16th on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest with a score of 75.8 is Faribault and Northfield, neighboring cities located in Southern Minnesota.
Both cities are known for their historic downtowns, cultural attractions, and strong sense of community. Faribault is known for its historic downtown area with well-preserved buildings from the 19th century, and Northfield is home to several cultural attractions, including the Northfield Arts Guild and the Northfield Historical Society.
Faribault and Northfield both offer a high quality of life with its good schools, affordable housing options, and recreational opportunities, including parks, trails, and nearby lakes.
17. Grand Island, NE (73.5)
Grand Island, NE ranks 17th on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest, with a score of 73.5.
Located in central Nebraska, Grand Island offers a low cost of living, good schools, and a variety of recreational opportunities to its residents, including parks, golf courses, and water activities.
The city is known for its strong agricultural economy as well as its vibrant cultural scene. Grand Island is is home to the Nebraska State Fairgrounds, hosting one of the largest state fairs in the country.
18. Adrian, MI (72.1)
Ranking 18th on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest is Adrian, MI, with a score of 72.1.
Adrian is Located in southeastern Michigan, offering a small-town atmosphere with its historic downtown consisting of the Croswell Opera House and the Adrian College Historic District.
Moreover, Adrian’s residents can enjoy numerous local parks, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities.
Adrian is known to provide a high standard of living to its residents through affordable housing options, good schools, and a strong sense of community.
Lastly, Adrian is known for its cultural attractions, including theaters and museums, and hosts events and festivals throughout the year.
19. Quincy, IL-MO (71.5)
Quincy, IL-MO ranks 19th on our list of the best small cities in the Midwest, with a score of 71.5.
Located on the Mississippi River, Quincy offers a high quality of life to its residents with affordable housing opportunities, fantastic schools, and abundant recreational opportunities, including parks, trails, and riverfront activities.
The city has a strong sense of community and hosts events and festivals throughout the year, such as the such as the Dogwood Festival and the Blues in the District making it a lively place to live.
20. Midland, MI (70.7)
Midland, MI rounds out our list of the best small cities in the Midwest coming in at number 20, with a score of 70.7.
Located in central Michigan, Midland is known for its science and technology industries, educational institutions, and recreational opportunities. Midland is home to several global corporations and research facilities, including the Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning.
As a result of the strong local economy, Midland offers a high quality of life to its residents. Moreover, Midland is home to numerous excellent schools, including the Midland Public Schools and Northwood University.
Lastly, in addition to its strong economy and fantastic schools, Midland has a vibrent cultural scene, hosting various events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Midland Balloon Festival and the Riverdays Festival.
Data used to compile our list and score each area is taken from the US Census Bureau. In determining our scores, we considered a multitude of variables covering i) income, ii) healthcare coverage, iii) working & commuting habits and iv) cost of living.
|Geographic Area Name||Region||Population||Household Median Income||Work from home %||Travel Time To Work (Less Than 10 Minutes)||Unemployment||% Employed residents with private healthcare coverage||House value - median||Monthly owner costs with a mortgage - median||Monthly owner costs without a mortgage -median||Score|
|Stevens Point, WI||Mid-west||70,468||65,928||20.9%||27.8%||3.1%||89.8%||190,100||1,293||509||100|
|Cape Girardeau, MO-IL||Mid-west||96,456||60,726||17.1%||19.6%||3.4%||82.1%||174,600||1,172||449||94|
|New Philadelphia-Dover, OH||Mid-west||92,500||58,060||11.0%||21.0%||3.4%||76.7%||158,800||1,139||412||85|
|Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI||Mid-west||84,943||68,319||18.9%||18.9%||4.5%||86.2%||241,400||1,486||608||82|
|Beaver Dam, WI||Mid-west||89,313||65,773||12.2%||20.7%||2.5%||88.5%||191,600||1,336||562||82|
|Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield, WI||Mid-west||74,070||52,627||15.5%||26.0%||5.1%||84.7%||158,600||1,145||461||81|
|Grand Island, NE||Mid-west||76,175||61,749||8.3%||24.0%||1.3%||79.5%||186,600||1,284||469||74|
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