Where would you live in the U.S. if money were no object? Many people might automatically pick New York or San Francisco, maybe New Orleans or Boston. But they might be missing out. All these cities are great, but other cities are even better. Welcome to Businessweek.com’s first America’s Best Cities ranking. With assistance from Bloomberg Rankings, Businessweek.com evaluated 100 of the country’s largest cities based on 16 criteria, which include: the number of restaurants, bars, and museums per capita; the number of colleges, libraries, and professional sports teams; the income, poverty, unemployment, crime, and foreclosure rates; percent of population with bachelor’s degrees, public school performance, park acres per 1,000 residents, and air quality. Greater weighting was placed on recreational amenities such as parks, bars, restaurants, and museums, and on educational attainment, school performance, poverty, and air quality. The data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sperling’s BestPlaces, GreatSchools, Onboard Informatics, RealtyTrac, and the Trust for Public Land. Read on to find out which cities top the ranking. Is your city on the list?

Click here to see the best cities in America.

Where would you live in the U.S. if money were no object? Many people might automatically pick New York or San Francisco, maybe New Orleans or Boston. But they might be missing out. All these cities are great, but other cities are even better. Welcome to Businessweek.com’s first America’s Best Cities ranking. With assistance from Bloomberg Rankings, Businessweek.com evaluated 100 of the country’s largest cities based on 16 criteria, which include: the number of restaurants, bars, and museums per capita; the number of colleges, libraries, and professional sports teams; the income, poverty, unemployment, crime, and foreclosure rates; percent of population with bachelor’s degrees, public school performance, park acres per 1,000 residents, and air quality. Greater weighting was placed on recreational amenities such as parks, bars, restaurants, and museums, and on educational attainment, school performance, poverty, and air quality. The data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sperling’s BestPlaces, GreatSchools, Onboard Informatics, RealtyTrac, and the Trust for Public Land. Read on to find out which cities top the ranking. Is your city on the list?

Click here to see the best cities in America.

America's 50 Best Cities

The Best Places to Live
The Best Places to Live

Where would you live in the U.S. if money were no object? Many people might automatically pick New York or San Francisco, maybe New Orleans or Boston. But they might be missing out. All these cities are great, but other cities are even better. Welcome to Businessweek.com’s first America’s Best Cities ranking. With assistance from Bloomberg Rankings, Businessweek.com evaluated 100 of the country’s largest cities based on 16 criteria, which include: the number of restaurants, bars, and museums per capita; the number of colleges, libraries, and professional sports teams; the income, poverty, unemployment, crime, and foreclosure rates; percent of population with bachelor’s degrees, public school performance, park acres per 1,000 residents, and air quality. Greater weighting was placed on recreational amenities such as parks, bars, restaurants, and museums, and on educational attainment, school performance, poverty, and air quality. The data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sperling’s BestPlaces, GreatSchools, Onboard Informatics, RealtyTrac, and the Trust for Public Land. Read on to find out which cities top the ranking. Is your city on the list?

Click here to see the best cities in America.

Irving, Tex.
Irving, Tex.
America’s Best Places Rank: 50th
Population: 197,830*
Mayor: Beth Van Duyne

Why it’s ranked: Irving is in the center of a broad metroplex that stretches among Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth. Dallas and Plano also ranked high on our list as areas with great parks, golf courses, large numbers of restaurants, and a low rate of violent crime. Irving itself is home to one of America’s first large-scale, master-planned developments, the 12,000-acre Las Colinas, which hosts the headquarters of six of the 500 largest companies in the world and offices of roughly 2,000 other businesses, as well as residential areas, hotels, and four golf courses.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 30.6*
Percent under poverty level 15.1*
Median household income: $47,269*
Violent crime rate: 298.3°
Property crime rate: 4,162.6° School score: 69.28◊
Pro sports teams:
Foreclosure rate: .005 ı
Percent Unemployment: 7.7`
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 9.1∞
Bars:
Restaurants: 460ª
Museums:
Colleges:
Libraries:
Air Quality Index: 109ª

* U.S. Census Bureau 2005-09 estimates
° Sperling's BestPlaces, 2009 crimes per 100,000 people
Greatschools.org
˚Bloomberg
ı RealtyTrac, Jan.-Jun. 2011
` percent unemployment Jan-May 2011 Avg: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
∞ Total Park Acres: The Trust for Public Land, Center for City Park Excellence FY 2010
ª Onboard Informatics
Phoenix
Phoenix
America’s Best Places Rank: 49th
Population: 1,536,632
Mayor: Phil Gordon

Why it’s ranked: Arizona’s sprawling capital hits an average temperature of 95 degrees in the summer and stays warm in the winter. Despite the hard-hit real estate market, the weather (not to mention the more than 200 golf courses in the area) still draws many snowbirds during the winter. The city ranked lower due to a high foreclosure rate and low percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees. The area has a high number of great restaurants, four professional sports teams, and more parks than the average.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 24
Percent under poverty level: 18.2
Median household income: $48,881
Violent crime rate: 546.5
Property crime rate: 4,107.7
School score: 69.41
Pro sports teams: 4*
Foreclosure rate: .0313
Percent Unemployment: 9.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 32
Bars: 233
Restaurants: 2,188
Museums: 69
Colleges: 22
Libraries: 44
Air Quality Index: 103

* Includes the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Coyotes, and Arizona
Cardinals.
Oakland
Oakland
America’s Best Places Rank: 48th
Population: 398,793
Mayor: Jean Quan

Why it’s ranked: Oakland scores well with large numbers of restaurants, good air quality, and a high median income. The city, however, has the highest violent crime rate and the highest unemployment among cities on this list. That’s why Oakland did not rate higher, despite great parks and good schools.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 36.3
Percent under poverty level: 17.5
Median household income: $49,695
Violent crime rate: 1,679.1
Property crime rate: 4,986.5
School score: 65.81
Pro sports teams: 3
Foreclosure rate: .0179
Percent Unemployment: 15.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 12.8
Bars: 84
Restaurants: 828
Museums: 43
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 24
Air Quality Index: 88
Tampa
Tampa
America’s Best Places Rank: 47th
Population: 335,406
Mayor: Bob Buckhorn

Why it’s ranked: Tampa is a touch of paradise, with nearby beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and good weather for most of the year. The city might have scored higher had it not been for a relatively low median income and the second-worst air quality among these cities.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 31.2
Percent under poverty level: 18.6
Median household income: $43,215
Violent crime rate: 752.2
Property crime rate: 3,754
School score: 71.88
Pro sports teams: 3*
Foreclosure rate: .0122
Percent Unemployment: 11.1
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 9.8
Bars: 122
Restaurants: 1,008
Museums: 42
Colleges: 8
Libraries: 19
Air Quality Index: 167

* Includes the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem
America’s Best Places Rank: 46th
Population: 223,672
Mayor: Allen Joines

Why it’s ranked: In the heart of North Carolina, Winston-Salem has a high amount of parkland compared with other cities, boasts good schools, and is home to a number of institutions of higher education, including Wake Forest University. The city would have been ranked higher had it not been for a relatively low median household income and a high rate of property crime.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 31.3
Percent under poverty level: 19.1
Median household income: $41,979
Violent crime rate: 752.9
Property crime rate: 5,969.4
School score: 70.67
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0073
Percent Unemployment: 9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 15
Bars: 50
Restaurants: 432
Museums: 46
Colleges: 12
Libraries: 11
Air Quality Index: 93
Chandler, Ariz.
Chandler, Ariz.
America’s Best Places Rank: 45th
Population: 242,522
Mayor: Jay Tibshraeny

Why it’s ranked: One of Phoenix’s sprawling cousins, Chandler has some of the highest-ranked schools on our list and a low rate of violent crime. The city suffers from a high foreclosure rate, though unemployment, at 6.5 percent, is well below the national average of 9.1 percent. Photograph courtesy of City of Chandler

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 38.2
Percent under poverty level: 7.5
Median household income: $70,413
Violent crime rate: 289
Property crime rate: 2,912.2
School score: 76.38
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0303
Percent Unemployment: 6.5
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 6.1
Bars: 21
Restaurants: 369
Museums: 7
Colleges: 2
Libraries: 6
Air Quality Index: 105
Reno, Nev.
Reno, Nev.
America’s Best Places Rank: 44th
Population: 213,772
Mayor: Bob Cashell

Why it’s ranked: Close enough to Tahoe for great skiing and solid hiking in the summer, Reno is a good city for the outdoorsman and gambler alike. Home to the National Bowling Stadium, as well as a host of casinos, bars, and restaurants, Reno pretty much rocks. It got knocked down a few notches on this list due to a high foreclosure rate paired with high unemployment.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 28.2
Percent under poverty level: 14.7
Median household income: $49,917
Violent crime rate: 666.5
Property crime rate: 3,986.2
School score: 73.36
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0286
Percent Unemployment: 12.5
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 11.1
Bars: 108
Restaurants: 520
Museums: 30
Colleges: 6
Libraries: 15
Air Quality Index: 92
Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City, Mo.
America’s Best Places Rank: 43rd
Population: 474,396
Mayor: Sly James

Why it’s ranked: The pilot (along with the Kansas side of Kansas City) for Google’s plan to put ultra-high-speed broadband in place for a single city, the “Paris of the Plains” is a good place to live if you want to surf the Web. Unemployment, which is above the national average, may get a boost from the initiative. Kansas City is home to such companies as H&R Block, Interstate Bakeries, and AMC Entertainment. Its pro sports teams are the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 29.8
Percent under poverty level: 17
Median household income: $44,436
Violent crime rate: 1,300.4
Property crime rate: 5,507.7
School score: 70.3
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0115
Percent Unemployment: 10
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 35.8
Bars: 146
Restaurants: 847
Museums: 64
Colleges: 22
Libraries: 21
Air Quality Index: 98
Dallas
Dallas
America’s Best Places Rank: 42nd
Population: 1,269,204
Mayor: Mike Rawlings

Why it’s ranked: A large city in the heart of America, Dallas has literally thousands of restaurants, 150 museums, and many other attractions that embody the slogan of the city, “Live large. Think big.” The city might have ranked higher but for a relatively low median household income and poor air quality.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 28.2
Percent under poverty level: 21.8
Median household income: $41,266
Violent crime rate: 792.2
Property crime rate: 5,531
School score: 68.6
Pro sports teams: 3
Foreclosure rate: .0047
Percent Unemployment: 8.5
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 22.6
Bars: 281
Restaurants: 2,665
Museums: 150
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 42
Air Quality Index: 103
Gilbert, Ariz.
Gilbert, Ariz.
America’s Best Places Rank: 41st
Population: 204,904
Mayor: John Lewis

Why it’s ranked: Another Phoenix suburb with great schools, a high income level, and low unemployment, Gilbert scores well on nearly everything except cultural offerings and foreclosures. The low number of bars, restaurants, museums, libraries, and colleges set the city back in our rankings. Further, the city has the worst foreclosure level among any city we ranked. Still, fewer people are under the poverty level in Gilbert, and it has the third-best schools among the cities we ranked.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 37.8
Percent under poverty level: 4.9
Median household income: $79,921
Violent crime rate: 83.7
Property crime rate: 1,972
School score: 78.8
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0625
Percent Unemployment: 4.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 6
Bars: 9
Restaurants: 203
Museums: 6
Colleges: 0
Libraries: 1
Air Quality Index: 106
San Antonio
San Antonio
America’s Best Places Rank: 40th
Population: 1,319,492
Mayor: Julián Castro

Why it’s ranked: One of America’s fastest-growing cities, San Antonio draws people with low unemployment, endless choices in restaurants, and great air quality. The city might have ranked higher had it not been for the highest level of property crime among cities on our list.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 23.4
Percent under poverty level: 18.6
Median household income: $43,087
Violent crime rate: 570.9
Property crime rate: 6,670.7
School score: 70.18
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0061
Percent Unemployment: 7.1
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 17
Bars: 386
Restaurants: 2,675
Museums: 106
Colleges: 12
Libraries: 36
Air Quality Index: 82
St. Paul, Minn.
St. Paul, Minn.
America’s Best Places Rank: 39th
Population: 278,342
Mayor: Christopher B. Coleman

Why it’s ranked: Coping with some of the widest weather fluctuations on the planet, citizens of this half of the Twin Cities are certainly hardy. Average low temperature in January is 6F, but St. Paul citizens don’t care: That’s when they hold the St. Paul Winter Carnival, known as the “coolest celebration on earth.” In summer, it’s all about the many local lakes, as temperatures hit an average high of 83F in July. The city boasts many parks, solid schools, and great air quality.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 37.8
Percent under poverty level: 19.8
Median household income: $46,026
Violent crime rate: 762.7
Property crime rate: 4,079.7
School score: 68.43
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0089
Percent Unemployment: 7.1
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 14.1
Bars: 72
Restaurants: 469
Museums: 37
Colleges: 14
Libraries: 33
Air Quality Index: 89
Henderson, Nev.
Henderson, Nev.
America’s Best Places Rank: 38th
Population: 246,369
Mayor: Andy A. Hafen

Why it’s ranked: A wealthy Las Vegas suburb, Henderson has great schools, high median income, and many restaurants. Along with the rest of the Vegas area, however, Henderson is suffering economically. The city has the second-worst foreclosure rate among cities on our list and unemployment well above the national average.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 28.2
Percent under poverty level: 7
Median household income: $67,819
Violent crime rate: 233.7
Property crime rate: 1,974.5
School score: 76.76
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0556
Percent Unemployment: 12
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7.7
Bars: 39
Restaurants: 410 Museums: 15 Colleges: 6 Libraries: 10 Air Quality Index: 86
Durham, N.C.
Durham, N.C.
America’s Best Places Rank: 37th
Population: 217,254
Mayor: William V. Bell

Why it’s ranked: The Bull City has great parks, many restaurants, and good air quality. Home to Duke University and its medical center, the city has become a hub for the health-care industry, with the nickname of “City of Medicine.” The area has done well in this economic environment, with a below-average unemployment rate and one of the lowest rates of foreclosures among cities on our list.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 45.6
Percent under poverty level: 16.3
Median household income: $47,384
Violent crime rate: 699.4
Property crime rate: 5,170.7
School score: 68.41
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0026
Percent Unemployment: 7
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 10.6
Bars: 29
Restaurants: 526
Museums: 16
Colleges: 6
Libraries: 13
Air Quality Index: 98
Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City
America’s Best Places Rank: 36th
Population: 546,051
Mayor: Mick Cornett

Why it’s ranked: A sprawling city in America’s heartland, Oklahoma City has low unemployment, more than 1,000 restaurants, and great parks, including the Myriad Botanical Gardens that grace downtown. The city dropped in our rankings due in part to a very low percentage, 26.9, of citizens with bachelor's degrees and a high rate of property crime.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 26.9
Percent under poverty level: 17.3
Median household income: $42,181
Violent crime rate: 930.3
Property crime rate: 6,098.3
School score: 68.58
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0048
Percent Unemployment: 5.4
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 39
Bars: 131
Restaurants: 1,187
Museums: 51
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 14
Air Quality Index: 83
Houston
Houston
America’s Best Places Rank: 35th
Population: 2,191,400
Mayor: Annise Parker

Why it’s ranked: Houston has a high number of restaurants and bars compared with other cities on our list. The city might have ranked higher had it not been for a high rate of violent crime. Further, one in five residents are under the poverty level, and only about one in four residents has a bachelor's degree.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 28.3
Percent under poverty level: 20.8
Median household income: $42,797
Violent crime rate: 1,125.6
Property crime rate: 5,318.6
School score: 70.31
Pro sports teams: 3
Foreclosure rate: .0059
Percent Unemployment: 8
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 49,643
Bars: 543
Restaurants: 4,497
Museums: 188
Colleges: 22
Libraries: 58
Air Quality Index: 88
Omaha
Omaha
America’s Best Places Rank: 34th
Population: 443,003
Mayor: Jim Suttle

Why it’s ranked: Omaha has bounced back from the downturn better than many other cities; it has an extremely low rate of foreclosures and the third-lowest unemployment level on our list. The “Gateway to the West” doesn’t have as many parks as other cities and has a relatively low median income level.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 33
Percent under poverty level: 14.1
Median household income: $47,184
Violent crime rate: 533.4
Property crime rate: 4,128.5
School score: 69.3
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .004
Percent Unemployment: 4.7
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 4.7
Bars: 245
Restaurants: 743
Museums: 56
Colleges: 12
Libraries: 25
Air Quality Index: 88
Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho
America’s Best Places Rank: 33rd
Population: 202,703
Mayor: David H. Bieter

Why it’s ranked: Tucked against foothills that rise into the Rocky Mountains, Boise offers great outdoor opportunities near the city. The schools are among the best in the nation, and the city also boasts of Boise State University. The city scored poorly, however, on park acres, cultural offerings, and air quality.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 36.2
Percent under poverty level: 11.5
Median household income: $50,633
Violent crime rate: 2,788.7
Property crime rate: 2,788.7
School score: 75.19
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0143
Percent Unemployment: 8.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 13.5
Bars: 65
Restaurants: 466
Museums: 24
Colleges: 2
Libraries: 12
Air Quality Index: 115
Atlanta
Atlanta
America’s Best Places Rank: 32nd
Population: 515,843
Mayor: Kasim Reed

Why it’s ranked: Atlanta’s well-educated population is deservedly proud that the Peachtree City is home to Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and UPS, some of the South’s best restaurants, many museums, and plentiful libraries, top colleges, and pro sports teams. City boosters may be less boastful, however, about the city’s high rates of violent and property crime, among the worst on this list.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 45.7
Percent under poverty level: 21.4
Median household income: $50,243
Violent crime rate: 1,150.1
Property crime rate: 6,212.5
School score: 67.64
Pro sports teams: 4
Foreclosure rate: .0135
Percent Unemployment: 10.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7.2
Bars: 187
Restaurants: 1,384
Museums: 132
Colleges: 18
Libraries: 40
Air Quality Index: 84
Greensboro, N.C.
Greensboro, N.C.
America’s Best Places Rank: 31st
Population: 245,776
Mayor: William H. Knight

Why it’s ranked: For a relatively small city, Greensboro has a large number of restaurants, bars, and museums. The city also has a high number of acres of parks per person. This pretty city would have scored higher were it not for above-average unemployment and high levels of both violent and property crime.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 34.9
Percent under poverty level: 17.9
Median household income: $41,050
Violent crime rate: 766.2
Property crime rate: 6,044.1
School score: 72.02
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0064
Percent Unemployment: 9.7
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 24.2
Bars: 77
Restaurants: 635
Museums: 36
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 13
Air Quality Index: 93
Minneapolis
Minneapolis
America’s Best Places Rank: 30th
Population: 379,499
Mayor: R.T. Rybak

Why it’s ranked: The city of lakes is a fun place, with great bars, restaurants, and three pro sports teams. Minneapolis has low unemployment, and a large percentage of the population holds a bachelor's degree. The city has much to offer but scored a bit lower in our rankings due to a high rate of violent crime.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 43.3
Percent under poverty level: 21.5
Median household income: $45,625
Violent crime rate: 1,108.7
Property crime rate: 4,667.6
School score: 68.2
Pro sports teams: 3
Foreclosure rate: .0104
Percent Unemployment: 6.2
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 13.3
Bars: 135
Restaurants: 843
Museums: 79
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 32
Air Quality Index: 90
New Orleans
New Orleans
America’s Best Places Rank: 29th
Population: 328,669
Mayor: Mitchell J. Landrieu

Why it’s ranked: With America’s best Mardi Gras celebration and a feast of nightlife opportunities, New Orleans offers a great deal of culture. Nearly one in four citizens of the Big Easy, however, are under the poverty level, and fewer than one in three has a bachelor’s degree. The city isn’t for everyone, but for those who love it, nowhere else comes close.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 29.3
Percent under poverty level: 23.4
Median household income: $36,258
Violent crime rate: 777
Property crime rate: 3,846.3
School score: 68.63
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0065
Percent Unemployment: 9.2
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 84.1
Bars: 314
Restaurants: 904
Museums: 168
Colleges: 18
Libraries: 19
Air Quality Index: 90
Nashville
Nashville
America’s Best Places Rank: 28th
Population: 592,497
Mayor: Karl Dean

Why it’s ranked: With the Cumberland River curling through town, Nashville is green with parks and has an unusually high number of university campuses, compared with other cities on our list. Nashville might have ranked higher were it not for the high violent crime rate.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 32.9
Percent under poverty level: 16
Median household income: $45,194
Violent crime rate: 1,140.5
Property crime rate: 4,778.3
School score: 65.94
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0074
Percent Unemployment: 8.6
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 17.8
Bars: 168
Restaurants: 1,452
Museums: 85
Colleges: 22
Libraries: 41
Air Quality Index: 101
Denver
Denver
America’s Best Places Rank: 27th
Population: 582,447
Mayor: Michael B. Hancock

Why it’s ranked: A sprawling Western city at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Denver offers the recreational opportunities of the mountains with broad room to grow. The city has more than 1,000 restaurants, four professional sports teams, and more than a few neighborhood parks to keep citizens entertained and relaxed.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 39.3
Percent under poverty level: 17.8
Median household income: $45,438
Violent crime rate: 577.7
Property crime rate: 3,452.9
School score: 66.93
Pro sports teams: 4
Foreclosure rate: .0112
Percent Unemployment: 10
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 9.7
Bars: 255
Restaurants: 1,483
Museums: 136
Colleges: 16
Libraries: 37
Air Quality Index: 95
Jacksonville
Jacksonville
America’s Best Places Rank: 26th
Population: 802,843
Mayor: Alvin Brown

Why it’s ranked: With miles of Florida beaches nearby and thousands of acres of parks and preserves, residents of Jacksonville are spoiled with outdoor activities. The Atlantic Ocean provides both great air quality and a hurricane now and then. The city has good schools, low poverty rates, and plenty of great options for nightlife.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 24.3
Percent under poverty level: 13.5
Median household income: $48,514
Violent crime rate: 836
Property crime rate: 5,157.7
School score: 70.71
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0127
Percent Unemployment: 10.5
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 54.2
Bars: 156
Restaurants: 1,648
Museums: 46
Colleges: 14
Libraries: 28
Air Quality Index: 78
Lexington/Fayette, Ky.
Lexington/Fayette, Ky.
America’s Best Places Rank: 25th
Population: 287,537
Mayor: Jim Gray

Why it’s ranked: The thoroughbred city has great schools, sprawling parks, and a high percentage of college-educated residents. Lexington has done well recovering from the downturn, with below average unemployment and a low foreclosure rate. There’s no question that Lexington would have ranked higher if it's air quality, the worst among cities on this list, were better.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 39
Percent under poverty level: 17
Median household income: $46,874
Violent crime rate: 593.8
Property crime rate: 3,415.6
School score: 74.29
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0031
Percent Unemployment: 8
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 20.5
Bars: 67
Restaurants: 678
Museums: 42
Colleges: 4
Libraries: 14
Air Quality Index: 170
Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh
America’s Best Places Rank: 24th
Population: 313,118
Mayor: Luke Ravenstahl

Why it’s ranked: Located where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River, Pittsburgh has green parks as well as broad rivers that provide a pleasant backdrop to what used to be an industrial center based on the steel industry. The new drivers of Pittsburgh’s economy—technology and health care—helped the city prosper through the recession, with low unemployment and a low foreclosure rate. Oh, yeah, they have pretty good pro sports teams too.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 33.2
Percent under poverty level: 21.7
Median household income: $35,732
Violent crime rate: 988.7
Property crime rate: 3,771.2
School score: 72.94
Pro sports teams: 3
Foreclosure rate: .0032
Percent Unemployment: 7.3
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 10.1
Bars: 174
Restaurants: 824
Museums: 66
Colleges: 16
Libraries: 31
Air Quality Index: 94
San Jose
San Jose
America’s Best Places Rank: 23rd
Population: 934,415
Mayor: Chuck Reed

Why it’s ranked: Called the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” San Jose records a high median income level of $78,660 and a low poverty level of just one in 10 citizens. Although the city struggles with high unemployment, the area is dotted with green parks, and citizens have many restaurants and bars to choose among.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 35.7
Percent under poverty level: 10.2
Median household income: $78,660
Violent crime rate: 360.5
Property crime rate: 2,385.2
School score: 70.2
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0167
Percent Unemployment: 11.3
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 16.6
Bars: 80
Restaurants: 1,461
Museums: 31
Colleges: 6
Libraries: 27
Air Quality Index: 88
Lincoln, Neb.
Lincoln, Neb.
America’s Best Places Rank: 22nd
Population: 247,882
Mayor: Chris Beutler

Why it’s ranked: Nebraska’s capital city recorded the second-lowest unemployment and level of foreclosures among cities on our list. The area has great air quality and many parks. Visitors and locals alike enjoy such sights as the state capitol building and Memorial Stadium, home to the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 35.2
Percent under poverty level: 14.4
Median household income: $48,302
Violent crime rate: 457.9
Property crime rate: 3,933
School score: 69.13
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0011
Percent Unemployment: 3.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 24.8
Bars: 95
Restaurants: 483
Museums: 36
Colleges: 6
Libraries: 18
Air Quality Index: 75
Chesapeake, Va.
Chesapeake, Va.
America’s Best Places Rank: 21st
Population: 219,425
Mayor: Alan P. Krasnoff

Why it’s ranked: Chesapeake has broad acres of parks, highly ranked schools, and great air quality. Denizens of the city are generally well-to-do, with low unemployment and few folk under the poverty line. With nearby amenities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, not to mention the beauty of the both aptly and not aptly named Great Dismal Swamp, the area offers much recreation.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 27.6
Percent under poverty level: 6.3
Median household income: $66,932
Violent crime rate: 372.2
Property crime rate: 3,462.8
School score: 73.81
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0099
Percent Unemployment: 6.4
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 252
Bars: 25
Restaurants: 438
Museums: 6
Colleges: 0
Libraries: 8
Air Quality Index: 84
Charlotte
Charlotte
America’s Best Places Rank: 20th
Population: 669,064
Mayor: Anthony Foxx

Why it’s ranked: A pedestrian-friendly city with a light rail line that opened in 2007, Charlotte is hip and accessible, with more than 1,000 restaurants, 70 museums, and two pro sports teams. It is also home to such companies as Bank of America, Nucor, and Duke Energy.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 39.8
Percent under poverty level: 12.8
Median household income: $52,364
Violent crime rate: 723.3
Property crime rate: 4,954.7
School score: 72.25
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0104
Percent Unemployment: 8.8
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 20.3
Bars: 159
Restaurants: 1,361
Museums: 70
Colleges: 12
Libraries: 25
Air Quality Index: 92
Portland, Ore.
Portland, Ore.
America’s Best Places Rank: 19th
Population: 548,988
Mayor: Sam Adams

Why it’s ranked: Even with a population of roughly half a million, the “City of Roses” sports more bars than bigger cities such as Dallas, Washington, D.C., and San Diego. Located just an hour from the triumvirate of Pacific Ocean beaches, Columbia River Gorge, and Mount Hood, the city is an outdoorsman’s paradise. That’s part of what has helped citizens build what is often referred to as the country’s greenest city.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 40.2
Percent under poverty level: 16.1
Median household income: $48,053
Violent crime rate: 553.6
Property crime rate: 4,723.6
School score: 71.49
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0007
Percent Unemployment: 9.1
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 24.5
Bars: 406
Restaurants: 1,861
Museums: 118
Colleges: 22
Libraries: 33
Air Quality Index: 108
Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs
America’s Best Places Rank: 18th
Population: 397,913
Mayor: Steve Bach

Why it’s ranked: Denver’s southern sister on the range that fronts the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is dominated by the stunning 14,110-foot Pikes Peak. The area has a median income of $53,359, great scores on schools, and good air quality. In winter, superb skiing is right outside the front door.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 35.7
Percent under poverty level: 11.3
Median household income: $53,359
Violent crime rate: 490
Property crime rate: 3,665.8
School score: 74.56
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0108
Percent Unemployment: 9.7
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 29.8
Bars: 98
Restaurants: 822
Museums: 50
Colleges: 16
Libraries: 13
Air Quality Index: 94
Madison, Wisc.
Madison, Wisc.
America’s Best Places Rank: 17th
Population: 229,051
Mayor: Paul R. Soglin

Why it’s ranked: Laid out among many gorgeous lakes, Madison is a lovely city amenable to pedestrians and bicycles alike. The flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin brings all the cultural benefits of a college town, while Madison also serves as the state capital, something hard to miss with the white dome of the capitol building rising up in the center of town. The people are highly educated; more than half the population has earned a college degree. Madison also enjoys very low unemployment and great air quality.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 51.1
Percent under poverty level: 19.4
Median household income: $51,288
Violent crime rate: 363.8
Property crime rate: 3,362.6
School score: 68.98
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0051
Percent Unemployment: 5
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 22.3
Bars: 131
Restaurants: 610
Museums: 35
Colleges: 4
Libraries: 37
Air Quality Index: 80
Boston
Boston
America’s Best Places Rank: 16th
Population: 625,304
Mayor: Thomas M. Menino

Why it’s ranked: With dozens of institutions of higher education, innumerable restaurants, and hundreds of years of history, Beantown is one of America’s great urban environments. The area has done well through the recession, with lower than average unemployment, a low level of foreclosures, and a steady level of high median income.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 42.9
Percent under poverty level: 19.1
Median household income: $52,433
Violent crime rate: 992
Property crime rate: 3,324
School score: 69.94
Pro sports teams: 4*
Foreclosure rate: .0032
Percent Unemployment: 7.1
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7.6
Bars: 199
Restaurants: 1,863
Museums: 148
Colleges: 34
Libraries: 59
Air Quality Index: 104

* Includes the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, and New England
Patriots.
Albuquerque
Albuquerque
America’s Best Places Rank: 15th
Population: 515,107
Mayor: Richard J. Berry

Why it’s ranked: With the Rio Grande running through and the Sandia Mountains to the east, New Mexico’s largest city is a picturesque and sunny place to live. The schools are great, unemployment is low, and Albuquerque has lots of park acres per person.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 32.2
Percent under poverty level: 15.2
Median household income: $45,478
Violent crime rate: 769.3
Property crime rate: 5,491.5
School score: 73.33
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0079
Percent Unemployment: 7.3
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 61.5
Bars: 71
Restaurants: 1,115
Museums: 105
Colleges: 8
Libraries: 23
Air Quality Index: 90
New York City
New York City
America’s Best Places Rank: 14th
Population: 8,302,659
Mayor: Michael Bloomberg

Why it’s ranked: If it’s choice you want, New York is probably the answer. The city has more sports teams, bars, restaurants, museums, and colleges than any other city on this list. Still, New York dropped in our rankings because of bad air quality, a large number of people under the poverty line, and low numbers of park acres per person. Photographer: Mladen Antonov/Newscom

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 33.1
Percent under poverty level: 18.6
Median household income: $50,173
Violent crime rate: 551.8
Property crime rate: 1,690.3
School score: 71.31
Pro sports teams: 7
Foreclosure rate: .0005
Percent Unemployment: 8.8
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 4.5
Bars: 1,558
Restaurants: 20,120
Museums: 1,594
Colleges: 156
Libraries: 362
Air Quality Index: 112
Seattle
Seattle
America’s Best Places Rank: 13th
Population: 594,005
Mayor: Michael McGinn

Why it’s ranked: It just takes one view of the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier to fall in love with Seattle. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, the area is perfect for those who like to be outdoors. With such anchoring companies as Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon.com, the city has low unemployment and a low foreclosure rate. More than one in two Seattlites has a college education, area schools rank high, and the city has numerous restaurants.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 54.3
Percent under poverty level: 12.2
Median household income: $58,990
Violent crime rate: 640.8
Property crime rate: 5,823.8
School score: 72.96
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0059
Percent Unemployment: 7.7
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 8.9
Bars: 296
Restaurants: 1966
Museums: 171
Colleges: 8
Libraries: 50
Air Quality Index: 108
Austin, Tex.
Austin, Tex.
America’s Best Places Rank: 12th
Population: 747,984
Mayor: Lee Leffingwell

Why it’s ranked: The “live music capital of the world” hosts a few of America’s best music festivals, not to mention the generally great acts that play the city’s more than 200 bars on any given night. Beyond nightlife, Austin has high numbers of park acres per person, great air quality, and low unemployment. Were it not for the second-highest rate of property crimes on this list, Austin definitely would have made our top 10.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 43.5
Percent under poverty level: 17.5
Median household income: $50,236
Violent crime rate: 523.3
Property crime rate: 6,245.5
School score: 71.89
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0046
Percent Unemployment: 6.4
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 36.8
Bars: 209
Restaurants: 1818
Museums: 88
Colleges: 8
Libraries: 46
Air Quality Index: 80
Plano, Tex.
Plano, Tex.
America’s Best Places Rank: 11th
Population: 261,902
Mayor: Phil Dyer

Why it’s ranked: This wealthy Dallas suburb has much going for it. The city is home to numerous corporate headquarters, such as Frito-Lay, J.C. Penney, and Rent-a-Center, that anchor the solid economy, reflected in just 6 percent living under the poverty line, low numbers of foreclosures, and a median income of $82,866.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 52.6
Percent under poverty level: 6
Median household income: $82,866
Violent crime rate: 170.1
Property crime rate: 2,930.6
School score: 77.62
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0034
Percent Unemployment: 7.1
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 15.4
Bars: 14
Restaurants: 618
Museums: 9
Colleges: 2
Libraries: 7
Air Quality Index: 102
Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska
America’s Best Places Rank: 10th
Population: 291,826
Mayor: Dan Sullivan

Why it’s ranked: By the numbers, Anchorage ranks high, although it suffers extremes of light and dark, with 24 hours of daylight on the summer solstice and about five and a half hours of daylight in the winter. The city has far more park acres per person than any other city we ranked and the best air quality by a long shot. Anchorage has also done well through the downturn, with low unemployment, a high median income, and a low rate of foreclosures.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 32.3
Percent under poverty level: 7.8
Median household income: $70,151
Violent crime rate: 878.2
Property crime rate: 3,641.4
School score: 73.21
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0053
Percent Unemployment: 6.4
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 1,753.2
Bars: 111
Restaurants: 606
Museums: 57
Colleges: 4
Libraries: 17
Air Quality Index: 69
San Francisco
San Francisco
America’s Best Places Rank: 9th
Population: 797,271
Mayor: Edwin M. Lee

Why it’s ranked: San Francisco has it all. From culture, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to the leafy trees and conservatory of Golden Gate Park to the hippie history of the Haight, the city by the bay is a thriving, soulful city. The extensive restaurants, bars, and corresponding nightlife are the cherry on top.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 51.1
Percent under poverty level: 11.5
Median household income: $70,040
Violent crime rate: 735.7
Property crime rate: 4,261.7
School score: 70.15
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0055
Percent Unemployment: 8.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 6.6
Bars: 463
Restaurants: 3,204
Museums: 334
Colleges: 20
Libraries: 80
Air Quality Index: 87
Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach
America’s Best Places Rank: 8th
Population: 434,922
Mayor: William D. Sessoms, Jr.

Why it’s ranked: Endless miles of sandy beaches and a happening three-mile boardwalk, along with thousands of acres of parks, make Virginia Beach a beautiful place to live. The city has low unemployment, more than 1,000 restaurants to choose from, great schools, and low levels of crime.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 31.6
Percent under poverty level: 6.9
Median household income: $63,370
Violent crime rate: 208.6
Property crime rate: 3,062.8
School score: 72.66
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0091
Percent Unemployment: 6
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 77.7
Bars: 75
Restaurants: 1,097
Museums: 33
Colleges: 4
Libraries: 18
Air Quality Index: 88
San Diego
San Diego
America’s Best Places Rank: 7th
Population: 1,297,618
Mayor: Jerry Sanders

Why it’s ranked: It’s difficult to find a city that has weather more classically perfect. Essentially, it’s always sunny—shorts and flip-flop weather. So grab your surfboard and head to the beach, one of the hundreds of bars or thousands of restaurants. Or put on a pair of loafers and head to one of the nearly 200 museums in the area. "America’s finest city" is just waiting to please you.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 40.6
Percent under poverty level: 13.1
Median household income: $61,962
Violent crime rate: 451.1
Property crime rate: 2,452.6
School score: 70.79
Pro sports teams: 2
Foreclosure rate: .0139
Percent Unemployment: 8.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 36.3
Bars: 283
Restaurants: 2,945
Museums: 199
Colleges: 24
Libraries: 54
Air Quality Index: 105
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
America’s Best Places Rank: 6th
Population: 588,433
Mayor: Vincent C. Gray

Why it’s ranked: The nation’s capital doubles as a pretty cool city. There are great bars, endless restaurants for hobnobbing, and some of the best museums on the planet. On the downside, however, Washington suffers from the second-highest level of violent crime on this list and a poverty level that nears one in five citizens. The city is much in demand, however, with fine schools and the lowest foreclosure rate on our list.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 47.1
Percent under poverty level: 18.3
Median household income: $56,519
Violent crime rate: 1,265
Property crime rate: 4,503.7
School score: 73.95
Pro sports teams: 4
Foreclosure rate: .0005
Percent Unemployment: 9.8
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 12.4
Bars: 236
Restaurants: 2,132
Museums: 210
Colleges: 24
Libraries: 146
Air Quality Index: 93
Irvine, Calif.
Irvine, Calif.
America’s Best Places Rank: 5th
Population: 197,498
Mayor: Sukhee Kang

Why it’s ranked: In a broad valley between the San Joaquin Hills and Loma Ridge, Irvine is a wealthy Los Angeles suburb that sets the standard on many levels. The median income is $92,195, and 64.1 percent of the population is educated at the college level. Further, the area has the best schools among the cities on our list. In short, it’s a splendid place to settle down.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 64.1
Percent under poverty level: 9.4
Median household income: $92,195
Violent crime rate: 70.9
Property crime rate: 1,389.1
School score: 86.69
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0143
Percent Unemployment: 6.7
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 36.5
Bars: 5
Restaurants: 402
Museums: 20
Colleges: 6
Libraries: 6
Air Quality Index: 98
Scottsdale, Ariz.
Scottsdale, Ariz.
America’s Best Places Rank: 4th
Population: 233,105
Mayor: W.J. “Jim” Lane

Why it’s ranked: A wealthy Phoenix suburb, Scottsdale has the second-best schools among cities we ranked, low unemployment, and a high number of park acres per person. More than half the population has a college degree. Like many other Arizona cities, the foreclosure rate is high, but Scottsdale bucks the trend with low unemployment.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 50.5
Percent under poverty level: 6.7
Median household income: $70,040
Violent crime rate: 171.5
Property crime rate: 2,843
School score: 79.74
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0208
Percent Unemployment: 6.3
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 72.2
Bars: 76
Restaurants: 622
Museums: 95
Colleges: 4
Libraries: 7
Air Quality Index: 103
Honolulu
Honolulu
America’s Best Places Rank: 3rd
Population: 374,359
Mayor: Peter Carlisle

Why it’s ranked: From the prominent slopes of Diamond Head to the white beaches of Waikiki, Honolulu is a beautiful place to live and play. The area has done well through the recession, with extremely low unemployment and a low level of foreclosures. Go surfing and hang 10, then breathe deeply, because the air quality is about as good as it gets.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 35.3
Percent under poverty level: 10.5
Median household income: $57,936
Violent crime rate: 279.7
Property crime rate: 3,679.2
School score: 72.72
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0028
Percent Unemployment: 5
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 6.7
Bars: 130
Restaurants: 1,264
Museums: 64
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 32
Air Quality Index: 80
Arlington, Va.
Arlington, Va.
America’s Best Places Rank: 2nd
Population: 206,405
County Board Chairman: Christopher Zimmerman

Why it’s ranked: Home to numerous headquarters of companies and government agencies, this Washington, D.C., suburb is a draw in its own right. The area is highly educated, with more than two-thirds of the population holding a college degree. Arlington has a median income of $93,806, low levels of foreclosures, and the lowest unemployment among cities we ranked. (Arlington is not incorporated as a municipality but is in the U.S. Census Bureau's list of incorporated places and was included in our survey.)

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 68.8
Percent under poverty level: 13.9
Median household income: $93,806
Violent crime rate: 492.9
Property crime rate: 3,403.2
School score: 70.99
Pro sports teams: 0
Foreclosure rate: .0019
Percent Unemployment: 3.8
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 8.4
Bars: 25
Restaurants: 566
Museums: 16
Colleges: 8
Libraries: 17
Air Quality Index: 91
Raleigh, N.C.
Raleigh, N.C.
Population: 377,487
Mayor: Charles Meeker

Why it’s ranked: Taking more than a dozen data points into account, Raleigh ranks as the best place to live in the U.S. The city sports a high number of bars, restaurants, and cultural institutions as well as a thriving social scene, great parks, and good schools. Raleigh reflects the cultural graces that go along with anchoring the so-called research triangle, home to North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Of course, it’s also much more. The city offers a great deal on nights and weekends, from concerts and opera to the 30,000-sq.-ft. State Farmer’s Market. North Carolina’s state capital is tops in our book.

How it ranked:
Percent with bachelor's degrees: 47.5
Percent under poverty level: 13.9
Median household income: $53,370
Violent crime rate: 492.9
Property crime rate: 3,403.2
School score: 74.4
Pro sports teams: 1
Foreclosure rate: .0056
Percent Unemployment: 6.9
Park acres per 1,000 residents: 30.8
Bars: 110
Restaurants: 867
Museums: 51
Colleges: 10
Libraries: 18
Air Quality Index: 83