Best 25 Small Cities in America: 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 your personal finances.
Are you looking to relocate to a small city with an excellent quality of life? You’re not alone! With the rising trend of remote work and a growing desire for affordable living, many Americans are leaving cities in search of the best small cities in America to call home.
To help you find the perfect small city, we conducted extensive research and compiled a list of the best small cities in America. Our selection criteria focused on identifying towns that offer affordable living, ample employment opportunities, and an overall high quality of life.
Our list provides a definitive guide to the best 25 small cities in America.
- Stevens Point, WI: 100
- Marinette, WI-MI: 99
- Indiana, PA: 95.9
- Cape Girardeau, MO-IL: 93.7
- Manitowoc, WI: 92.8
- Farmington, MO: 91.9
- Columbus, IN: 91.1
- Olean, NY: 89.1
- Shawnee, OK: 88.5
- DuBois, PA: 88.2
- Pocatello, ID: 88
- Findlay, OH: 87.7
- Russellville, AR: 87.2
- Warsaw, IN: 86.8
- Dubuque, IA: 85.5
- Frankfort, KY: 85.1
- New Philadelphia-Dover, OH: 85
- Cumberland, MD-WV: 85
- Enid, OK: 84.9
- Baraboo, WI: 84
- Paducah, KY-IL: 83.3
- Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI: 82.4
- Beaver Dam, WI: 82
- Greenwood, SC: 81.9
- Cullman, AL: 81.8
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 America 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. Indiana, PA (96)
The Indiana, PA Micro Area, with a score of 96, is located in western Pennsylvania and includes Indiana County. With a population of approximately 85,000 people, the area is known for its beautiful scenery, including parks, hiking trails, and fishing streams.
The area’s economy is primarily driven by education, healthcare, and manufacturing. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania is located in the area, providing educational opportunities and an educated workforce. The unemployment rate in the area is relatively low and over 18% of workers work from home.
Overall, the Indiana, PA Micro Area offers a unique combination of small-town charm, beautiful scenery, and economic opportunity, making it an ideal place to live, work, and raise a family.
4. 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 America, 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.
5. 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.
6. Farmington, MO (92)
Farmington, MO micro area, 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
7. Columbus, IN (91)
Columbus, IN micro area – coming in at number 6 on our list of best small cities in America 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.
8. Olean, NY (89)
Olean, NY, coming in at number 8 on the list with a score of 89, is a charming micro area located in western New York. The area comprises Cattaraugus County and has a population of approximately 76,000 people.
The area boasts a rich cultural heritage, with several historic sites and museums, including the Olean Public Library and the Cattaraugus County Museum. The area is also known for its scenic beauty, with several parks and forests that offer hiking and outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.
The local economy is robust, , with healthcare, education, and manufacturing among the top industries. The area has a low unemployment rate of 4.7%, an affordable cost of living, and has a high proportion of workers are on private medical plans.
Overall, Olean is a welcoming and friendly community that values its history, natural beauty, and economic growth. The area’s residents take pride in their community, working together to make it a great place to call home.
9. Shawnee, OK (88)
Shawnee, OK micro area comes in at 9th place on our list, scoring 88 out of 100.
This friendly community located in central Oklahoma offers its residents a high quality of life and a wide range of recreational activities. The area has several parks, lakes, and golf courses that provide ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
The town is also home to several historical sites and museums, including the Santa Fe Depot Museum and the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. Shawnee boasts a diverse economy with a mix of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and education.
With a cost of living that is well below the national average, and high private healthcare coverage among employed residents, Shawnee is an affordable place to call home. Overall, Shawnee, OK Micro Area is a great place to live, offering residents a small-town feel with all the amenities of a larger city.
10. DuBois, PA (88)
DuBois, PA Micro area is a friendly and welcoming community that ranks 10th on our list with an impressive score of 88.
The area offers a high quality of life with an array of amenities for its residents. It is home to several beautiful parks, including Treasure Lake, which provides opportunities for outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and hiking. The town also boasts several excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops, making it a great place for food and shopping enthusiasts.
In addition to its scenic beauty and recreational activities, the area has a strong economy, with a mix of industries including healthcare (Penn Highlands DuBois, which is the largest employer in the area), education, and manufacturing.
With a low cost of living, the area is an affordable place to call home. The friendly locals and community events make DuBois, PA Micro area a great place to live and raise a family.
11. Pocatello, ID (88)
Nestled in the picturesque mountains of southeast Idaho, Pocatello, a thriving small city with a livability score of 88 ranks 11th on our list of the best small cities in America.
Pocatello is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, including nearby forests, rivers, and mountains, making it an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Pocatello also offers a strong sense of community, with numerous events and festivals that bring residents together throughout the year.
The city is home to Idaho State University, providing exceptional educational opportunities. Pocatello also offers a low crime rate, excellent schools, and a relatively low cost of living, making it an attractive place for families to settle down.
12. Findlay, OH (87.7)
Findlay, OH ranks 12th on our list of best small cities in America, 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.
13. Russellville, AR (87.2)
Located in the Arkansas River Valley, Russellville is a charming small city with a livability score of 87.2.
Russellville boasts a friendly community, rich history, and a low cost of living, making it an ideal place for those seeking a close-knit community with a slower pace of life. Lastly, being located near the Arkansas River and the Ozark Mountains, Russellville offers a variety of opportunities to explore nearby lakes, parks, and hiking trails, thus making it ideal for the outdoor enthusiast.
14. Warsaw, IN (86.8)
Coming in at 14th on our list of the best small cities in America 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.
15. Dubuque, IA (85.5)
Dubuque, IA comes in at number 15 on our list of the best small cities in America, 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.
16. Frankfort, KY (85.1)
Nestled along the Kentucky River, Frankfort is the capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and offers a livability score of 85.1.
Frankfort is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, with many historic sites, museums, and landmarks including the Kentucky State Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion, and the Old State Capitol.
Frankfort offers a close-knit community with a small-town charm, where residents can enjoy local shops, restaurants, and events. The city also hosts a variety of festivals and cultural events throughout the year, which add to its vibrant atmosphere.
Lastly, Frankfort is known for its excellent schools, affordable living and great local economy, making it an appealing place for families and young professional alike.
17. 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 17th best small city in America, 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.
18. Cumberland, MD-WV-PA (85)
Located in the tri-state area of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Cumberland is a small city with a rich history and a livability score of 85.
The city offers a mix of natural beauty, historic architecture, and a strong sense of community. Being surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, Cumberland is known for its scenic beauty, with the nearby mountains, rivers, and parks providing ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Cumberland also boats a low cost of living and affordable housing, making it an attractive place for those looking for a budget-friendly lifestyle. Additionally, Cumberland offers a variety of cultural amenities, including theaters, museums, and local events that showcase the area’s unique heritage and add to the cities vibrant cultural scene.
19. Enid, OK (84.9)
Located in north-central Oklahoma, Enid is a small city with a rich agricultural heritage and a livability score of 84.9.
Enid offers a strong sense of community, with numerous community organizations and events that bring residents together. Enid also has a low crime rate and offers a relatively low cost of living, making it an appealing place for families and retirees.
Enid is known for its vibrant downtown area, with local shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues that offer a variety of amenities for residents and visitors alike. Lastly, Enid has a strong economy mainly focused on the agriculture, oil and gas, and manufacturing industries.
20. Baraboo, WI (84)
At number 20 on our list of the best small cities in America, 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.
21. Paducah, KY-IL (83.3)
Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, Paducah is a small city that straddles the border between Kentucky and Illinois, with a livability score of 83.3.
Paducah is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, with a vibrant arts scene that includes numerous galleries, studios, and theaters.
Paducah also offers a variety of recreational opportunities, with nearby parks, rivers, and lakes that provide options for outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, and hiking. Moreover, Paducah has a strong sense of community, with friendly residents, welcoming atmosphere and a solid local economy.
22. Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI (82.4)
With a score of 82.4, the Watertown and Fort Atkinson area ranks as the 22nd best small city in America.
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.
23. Beaver Dam, WI (82)
Coming in at 23rd on our list of the best small cities in America 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.
24. Greenwood, SC (81.9)
Located in the Upstate region of South Carolina, Greenwood is a small city with a livability score of 81.9.
Greenwood is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, including nearby lakes, parks, and forests, which provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Greenwood also offers a strong sense of community, with a close-knit atmosphere and friendly residents. Additionally, Greenwood boasts both a low crime rate and a relatively low cost of living, making it an appealing place for families and retirees.
Lastly, Greenwood has a variety of cultural amenities, including museums, theaters, and local events that showcase the area’s history and add to the cultural vibrancy of the city.
25. Cullman, AL (81.8)
Completing our list of the best small cities in America is Cullman with a score of 81.8.
Cullman is located in northern Alabama near the William B. Bankhead National Forest and the picturesque Smith Lake. As a result, Cullman is known for its picturesque scenery, with rolling hills, forests, and lakes providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating.
Cullman offers a strong sense of community, with friendly residents and a welcoming atmosphere. Additionally, Cullman boats a low crime rate and a relatively low cost of living, making it an attractive place to live for those seeking a quieter, more affordable lifestyle.
Lastly, Cullman has vibrant cultural scene, hosting variety of local events and festivals though out the year.
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.
|City / Micro Area||Population||Household Median Income||% Employed Residents Working From Home||% Employed residents with less than a 10 minute commute||Unemployment Rate||% Employed residents with private healthcare coverage||Median House Value||Median monthly owner costs (incl. mortgage)||Median monthly owner costs (excl. mortgage)||Score / 100|
|Stevens Point, WI||70,468||65,928||20.9%||27.8%||3.1%||89.8%||190,100||1,293||509||99|
|Cape Girardeau, MO-IL||96,456||60,726||17.1%||19.6%||3.4%||82.1%||174,600||1,172||449||94|
|New Philadelphia-Dover, OH||92,500||58,060||11.0%||21.0%||3.4%||76.7%||158,800||1,139||412||85|
|Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI||84,943||68,319||18.9%||18.9%||4.5%||86.2%||241,400||1,486||608||82|
|Beaver Dam, WI||89,313||65,773||12.2%||20.7%||2.5%||88.5%||191,600||1,336||562||82|
|Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield, WI||74,070||52,627||15.5%||26.0%||5.1%||84.7%||158,600||1,145||461||81|
|Fort Payne, AL||71,813||41,800||10.2%||17.1%||2.4%||68.8%||111,100||999||323||75|
|New Castle, PA||85,497||59,536||22.2%||19.5%||8.5%||81.8%||141,800||1,171||469||74|
|Grand Island, NE||76,175||61,749||8.3%||24.0%||1.3%||79.5%||186,600||1,284||469||74|
|Mount Airy, NC||71,152||51,950||11.7%||15.8%||5.2%||79.5%||152,000||1,032||318||73|
|Great Falls, MT||84,511||57,706||11.2%||28.1%||3.8%||77.3%||226,600||1,307||440||70|
|Lake City, FL||70,385||54,077||16.0%||10.4%||5.5%||77.8%||173,800||1,215||342||69|
|Carson City, NV||58,993||65,330||14.8%||24.7%||5.2%||78.2%||393,500||1,628||455||62|
|Glenwood Springs, CO||81,084||86,772||18.1%||11.8%||3.5%||78.6%||482,900||2,041||596||56|
|Morehead City, NC||68,541||62,907||20.0%||14.9%||7.0%||77.6%||266,300||1,521||463||56|
|Pine Bluff, AR||86,747||46,826||19.0%||13.2%||8.8%||77.8%||115,200||1,070||386||54|
|Ocean City, NJ||95,661||78,657||21.0%||17.8%||6.0%||85.9%||365,100||2,113||812||45|
|North Wilkesboro, NC||65,806||43,933||21.2%||11.6%||11.1%||73.4%||150,700||974||307||45|
|Roanoke Rapids, NC||65,470||35,618||20.7%||27.1%||16.0%||82.2%||95,200||1,114||383||42|
|Oak Harbor, WA||87,432||76,505||22.5%||29.3%||7.0%||87.6%||470,400||2,021||623||40|
|Key West, FL||82,170||68,563||20.0%||27.5%||2.7%||64.8%||661,400||2,817||734||39|
|Port Angeles, WA||78,209||62,695||20.5%||26.8%||9.3%||74.9%||365,100||1,574||556||34|
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