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Choosing where to call home is a difficult, deeply personal decision. Some cities offer bustling job markets, exciting social opportunities, and affordability. Others can leave you grappling with a stagnant career and struggling to get by.
To help job seekers, Zippia examined major and mid-sized cities to find the best cities to live and work in the US in 2020.
We began with a list of criteria— job opportunities, work life balance, and affordability. From there, we took a more qualitative approach, looking into walkability, parks, social opportunities, culture, future development, and more.
We ended up with a list of 10 seriously underrated cities with a lot to offer those looking to relocate, both in their careers and beyond.
Median Home Price: 143,500.0
Median Earnings: $35,083
While Cedar Rapids is one of the largest cities in Iowa, it is the smallest city to be featured on our list. However, size does not define, or fully describe, Cedar Rapids and all it has to offer.
Residents of Cedar Rapids enjoy a below-average cost of living and above average amenities. The city can boast of its suburb park system and is home to numerous prestigious colleges, including Cornell College. Bonus, the University of Iowa is only a half-hour drive away in Iowa City.
More than that- Cedar Rapids is a city experiencing a Renaissance. After devastating flooding, the city regrouped and emerged stronger than ever- with record levels of development. Below we highlight some of what makes Cedar Rapids so special.
Developments To Watch: Negotiations are currently underway for development on 8 acres of land along Cedar River, opened up by flood damage. Few cities have the opportunity to plan and strategize such a significant development and Cedar Rapids is taking full advantage of their chance to re-shape the city’s downtown.
Current proposals include a dog park, ice skating rank, movie theatre, the world class Big Grove Brewery, and other intriguing options.
Hot Neighborhoods: While Cedar Rapids’ is known as being a great place for raising a family, trendy neighborhoods such as Czech village and Newbo are slowly drawing in a younger, hipper crowd. It is no surprise that these neighborhoods offer great craft beer (shout out to Iowa Brewing Co!), delicious food, and lively activities for those lucky enough to live there.
Cool Sites To Check Out: The American Discovery Trail, over 500 miles of trails, runs through Cedar Rapids, making it the perfect choice for a walk, run, or bike ride.
If physical activity isn’t your thing, the Market After Dark might do it. The giant night farmers market hosts live performances, street food, and local vendors. Cedar Rapids is also home to Brucmore, Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site, and houses a large collection of local Grant Wood’s art (including American Gothic) at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
Median Home Price: 178,200.0
Median Earnings: $33,391
Sioux Falls, South Dakota is a constantly growing city with a friendly community that makes it feel like an overgrown small town- in the best way possible.
Residents of Sioux Falls enjoy remarkably low unemployment, in part thanks to the strong local economy and constant growth. While pay may be a tad on the low side, affordable housing and low cost of living leave residents with more extra cash than most other comparable cities.
Sioux Falls is also home to truly, superb schools at all levels. 3 of the top 10 schools in South Dakota are in Sioux Falls. While Sioux Falls offers fun events, tasty restaurants that will make picking a favorite the true challenge, and livability, you can still drive anywhere in 20 minutes. Below are some gems of Sioux Falls.
Developments To Watch: In 2020, permits have been filed for $286 million in construction projects. While many of these projects are residential to keep up with housing demands, the commercial sector is also experiencing growth. Nordica, a cold storage company, is expanding their footprint in Sioux Falls. Since Nordica services Smithfield, one of the biggest employers in Sioux Falls, this is great news for the city. Boyer Trucks and Capital Services will also be expanding.
Hot Neighborhoods: Check out downtown Sioux Falls, where gorgeous lofts nest above businesses and have easy access to nightlife. Another neighborhood worth exploring is the historic McKennan Park District where notable homes ranging in design reside next to McKennan Park. McKennan park is home to a pergola, bandshell, horseshoe pits, shuffleboard courts, and fun events.
Cool Sites To Check Out: You cannot visit or live in Sioux Falls without seeing the water falls that garner the city its name. Grab an ice cream cone from Falls Overlook Cafe and stroll around (and right up!) to the falls. Or take advantage of the free observation tower for a breathtaking panoramic view. Other excellent public events include outdoor concerts in McKennan Park and the Moonlight Movie series in Fawick Park. For local eats and businesses, Jones421 downtown is the place to be.
Median Home Price: $204,600
Median Earnings: $31,594
Dallas, the shining gem of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is blowing up. Warm weather, affordable living, and a robust economy has been luring more and more transplants from across the country.
A decade ago moving from the Big Apple or other big cities to Dallas meant settling for far less- less entertainment options, less walkability, and in general losing out on city amenities. Don’t get me wrong, Dallas is far from Manhattan, but the city has been growing far denser and more urban in the past 5 years. While the sushi will always be second-rate for California transplants, the city has top-rate almost everything else. All at a price you can actually afford.
The lower cost of living has also been luring in big corporations to the region. Dallas, as well as nearby cities such as Arlington and Plano, have seen large corporations like Toyota choose to relocate to there in recent years. A growing number of transplants are not eyeing Dallas as a potential home will seriously consider it when the right job comes knocking.
Developments To Watch: For the past 6 years, Dallas has led the nation in multifamily construction, growing denser and more urban rather than out. The remarkable $450 million redo of downtown’s landmark First National Bank 52 story-tower will finish end of the year. The remodel of the midcentury modern skyscraper has been underway for a decade. Another transformative development, The Central, aims to have 5 million square feet of office, residential, hospitality, entertainment and retail with a few acres of parkland in the middle.
Hot Neighborhoods: Deep Ellum is arguably the coolest neighborhood in Dallas. Not only is the hip area the center of the city’s music scene, it also the most walkable part of Dallas. Living in Deep Ellum feels like you live in a city. For those seeking a bit more sprawl, Preston Highlands, Campbell Green, or even some of the thriving smaller cities in the metroplex such as Plano may be a better option.
Cool Sites To Check Out: In addition to a surprisingly vibrant music scene, Dallas has some A+ cultural institutions including the Dallas Arboretum, the Dallas Museum Of Art, and the Aquarium. If you’re into art the The Graffiti fabrication yard is a one of a kind organic exhibit. And of course, get some delicious Dallas barbeque. I firmly suggest going to Lockhearts and getting the brisket (and some of everything else).
Median Home Price: $166,600
Median Earnings: $32,751
Little Rock is perhaps best known nationally for its roll in the Civil Rights’ Era, with the Little Rock 9 boldly integrating Little Rock High. Today Little Rock, Arkansas offers residents’ affordability that is hard to beat, paired with Southern culture and charm.
However, in the past decade, Little Rock has evolved from a nice, southern town where your dollar goes further, to something a bit more hip. No where is that more evident than at the River Market. The River Market has the culture, events, and vigor of a far bigger city. Twice a week the market is crushed with families perusing local honey and organic salsas. Some take a break inside at the food hall, mix matching foods from the 15 restaurants that make up the International food bazar.
Live music is often featured there, often local, but sometimes bigger acts, too. When you hear the jazz, look around and see the other families enjoying the city, it’s easy to see Little Rock is a city worth getting to know. Below you can see some of our favorite things you can find in Little Rock:
Developments To Watch: Little Rock is building its first high school in 50 years, a massive, much needed 40,000 square ft building. Bank OZK’s new headquarters is a $98 million investment in Little Rock, strengthening the company’s investment in area. While phase one may be complete, it is just part one of the eventual 44 acre campus that is planned to take another decade.
Hot Neighborhoods: Check out condos near the river market downtown or walkable Hillcrest where young professionals flourish. Across the bridge, Argenta is another great option.
Cool Sites To Check Out: Check out Pinnacle State Park for some outdoor fun. Or the Big Dam Bridge at the Arkansas River, the country’s largest exclusively pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Of course, there is always something going on at the River Market, we described above, from farmers’ markets to concerts and other events. In general, the river is home to a plethora of great local bars and restaurants.
Median Home Price: $136,400
Median Earnings: $30,947
Amarillo lacks the trendy reputation of booming Dallas or hip Austin, but has an understated charm all its own.
Amarillo is proud of its past, carefully preserving its history. However, the city’s true treasure is the untouched canyons and rugged outdoors surrounding it. Within city borders, is a quietly thriving community where income outstrips cost of living. Amarillo is one of the most business-friendly cities in the country, allowing it to compete above its weight for economic growth.
Overall, Amarillo offers a pleasant combination of southern hospitality paired with a thriving economy. The cherry glazed doughnuts at Donut St. aren’t bad either.
Developments To Watch: While Amarillo’s history and culture is in beef, modern Amarillo is more diverse. The City of Amarillo will soon start it’s development projects in the San Jacinto neighborhood following the adoption of a redevelopment plan. Possible places to start include beloved 6th Street.
Hot Neighborhoods: Amarillo is a safe city, where it’s hard to go wrong picking a home. However, some neighborhoods are a little bit more special than others. The Colonies and Greenways at Hillside are worth a second look.
Cool Sites To Check Out: Palo Duro Canyon State Park highlights the raw, southwestern beauty of Amarillo. Palo Duro is sometimes called the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” and the name is fitting. If you have an eye for man-made art, Cadillac Ranch is the place to go, but be sure to bring a spray paint to leave your mark on the buried Cadillac’s. For the ears’ delight, June Jazz, the outdoor jazz concert series every June, is another Amarillo highlight.
Median Home Price: $466,000
Median Earnings: $49,876
Scottsdale is a prosperous Phoenix suburb that offers its residents all the proximity of the bigger city with unbeatable livability.
Not only do are they surrounded by jaw dropping nature, they have an above average amount of public nature space. Scottsdale was once known as a safe suburb with world class golf. But Scottsdale is changing culturally and demographically. Don’t get me wrong, the city is still safe and still has exceptional golf courses (over 200!), but more young people are choosing to vacation there and even call it home.
With them, the city is gaining a bit more of a cultural edge and night life that isn’t just tourists. You can see some highlights of what makes Scottsdale so great below:
Developments To Watch: A massive development is planned for Old Town Scottsdale, bringing much needed office space and residential housing to the area. Currently 10 hotels are under construction in the city to accommodate for the tourists who can’t get enough of Scottsdale’s charms. Nearby Phoenix’s bustling development also adds to the Scottsdale boom.
Hot Neighborhoods: South Scottsdale is a quirky yet family friendly neighborhood with numerous art galleries and a weekly art walk. Downtown Scottsdale is a magnet for young professionals with vibrant night life. For a quieter pace, Gainey Ranch and McCormick Ranch win the day.
Cool Sites To Check Out: Outdoors is where Scottsdale truly shines. Papago Park is jaw-dropping in its beauty, featuring Hunt’s tomb, Desert Botanical Garden (140 acre botanical garden), and a plethora of trails to hike your heart out. Camelback Mountain is a steep hike with a legendary view and Tom’s Thumb Trail is another good one. It you want something a little whacky, a little weird, and indoors check out Wonderspaces, which may best be summed up as an interactive art museum. Old Town Scottsdale brings a fun old Western twist to dining, entertainment and the arts.
Median Home Price: $155,700
Median Earnings: $32,599
Omaha isn’t just “some town in middle America.” Omaha, Nebraska is home to the Silicon Prairie, known as such for its growing tech startup community, and powerhouse companies like Berkshire Hathaway.
Despite Warren Buffet and other elite calling Omaha home, the city remains shockingly affordable. Omaha has bottom of the barrel unemployment, paired with a low cost of living (even when compared to its Midwestern neighbors), and safety that makes it an ideal location for young professionals and young families seeking city living- but at a price they can actually afford.
In fact, Omaha, Nebraska may truly be one of the best kept secrets when it comes to city living. The city’s strong, growing economy isn’t all it has to offer. Omaha also supports a local food scene and great local music. Here are a few highlights of what makes Omaha so special:
Developments To Watch: Currently, Omaha’s riverfront and Gene Leahy green space is undergoing a dramatic transformation. the formerly dreary mall is being revitalized with construction that will create a sculpture garden, children’s play area, dog park, performance pavilion, interactive water features and commercial space for downtown entertainment. Eventually, the ambitious development will go all the way to the Missouri River.
Hot Neighborhoods: If you’re not looking for suburban, look at Old Town, with cobblestone streets and hundred year old houses, or at Arksarben Village, a self-contained community of condos and apartments, retail and entertainment venues.
Cool Sites To Check Out: Omaha is a beer drinking city. Don’t believe me? There’s Extreme Beer Fest, Omaha Beer Fest, Omaha Beer Week, Brew Haha Benefit for Habitat for Humanity, a plethora of local breweries to attest to the fact Omaha likes a good beer. Their other love is the Huskers. In Lincoln you catch them in action. Of course, it’s not all beer and football. The city has museums, Shakespeare on the green, and the other amenities you’d expect of a city its size.
Median Home Price: $233,300
Median Earnings: $36,549
Raleigh is the largest city in the flourishing North Carolina Research Triangle. This economic growth is based on tech and high-paying jobs, bringing prosperity to the city and luring in transplants with top-notch opportunity.
Downtown Raleigh tells the story of the city’s transformation. Industrial spaces have been taken over by hotels and modern business spaces. The Raleigh downtown has experienced $1 billion in construction over a short 4 years. Despite the rapid growth and exciting job opportunities, costs remain low. Housing is still 30% cheaper than the national average.
According to economists, Raleigh and the region will only continue to grow, making it the perfect choice for professionals looking for a community to thrive.
Developments To Watch: Drive around downtown Raleigh and count the cranes. The amount of growth in the past decade and even the past 5 years is truly impressive. One future proof development project is City campus. The two 20 story City of Raleigh towers will replace scattered offices and is expected to save Raleigh millions in rent as costs rise in Raleigh.
Hot Neighborhoods: Five Points, a group of sought after historic neighborhoods with beautiful bungalow homes is worth seeing. Those who want to be in the middle of the city’s booming economy should check out walkable Midtown.
Cool Sites To Check Out: There are three world-class universities that you can browse around and explore (North Carolina State, UNC, Duke). The natural science and history museums are free and offer great opportunities to explore the state without leaving Raleigh. Of course, for a more casual perspective of Raleigh, take a walk around the Warehouse district. The old brick buildings house hipster night life, breweries, and night life.
Median Home Price: $234,000
Median Earnings: $31,452
Like many Midwestern cities, Madison has struggled with population growth and experienced a decline in recent years. But don’t count the city out; it’s in the perfect position to attract new businesses and nurture new ideas.
You can see some of the promise in Capital Entreprenuers, a growing community of startups and innovators. Madison’s bubbling entrepreneurial community isn’t its only asset. Madison is a young city, with a large millennial population drawn in by strong educational institutions. Low costs of living and strong job opportunities encourage them to stay after they earn their degree. Madison isn’t just a great place to go to college, it’s a great place to live and work at all stages of life.
Here are a few of what makes Madison so exceptional:
Developments To Watch: BioForward Wisconsin, a group representing over 200 Wisconsin Biohealth firms, many with a stake in Madison, projects confidence at the area’s future in Biohealth. For housing, The Ace is building more affordable units to Madison.
Hot Neighborhoods: Check out the vibrant Willy neighborhood (or sometimes known as Williamson Street if you want to get proper), within walking distance of the square. The area is young and hip, with lots of bikes, co-op groceries, and backyard chickens in addition to the great eats and drinks. The Marquette neighborhood is less trendy, but still worth a visit.
Cool Sites To Check Out: Madison is a football town. Love it or hate it, you will at some point end up at at UW-Badgers game. Don’t worry, this is Madison, the beer will be a step above- probably some local brews from Ale Asylum, One Barrel Brewing Company, or New Glarus Brewing. If you like your outdoor time to involve a little bit less frantic screaming, the Arboretum and parks near Wingra lake are beautiful and free.
Median Home Price: $186,300
Median Earnings: $30,837
Huntsville’s an interesting city, a former small town that over the past 20 years has gotten significantly less small. And it’s not done growing yet.
The city is highly educated, particularly when compared to fellow Alabama cities. If you enjoy an intellectual chat, Huntsville is for you. Your neighbor might be a professor, a rocket scientist, an entrepreneur, or an Army officer with frequent DC trips.
The city is also growing into its own and the downtown has grown into something pretty neat, bordering on downright cool. Despite these, the city offers a strong job market and affordability that makes folks in the coastal cities weep with envy. Here are a few highlights of what make Huntsville so great:
Developments To Watch: Huntsville has 1 billion dollars of economic development slated in 2020. This includes expansions by Dynetics, Torch Technologies, and Invariant Corporation to name a few. On a cultural front, just this year, Mars Music Hall finished development, bringing much needed bigger musical acts to the Rocket City.
Hot Neighborhoods: Check out Huntsville’s Historic Five Points Community for historic charm that’s trending again.
Cool Sites To Check Out: The US Space And Rocket Center is worth a visit. After you get your science fill, take a walk around Lowe Mill, a converted warehouse that houses art studios, events, and general quirkiness. Huntsville punches above its weight class in craft beer, with the tasty Yellowhammer, Straight to Ale, and Campus 805.
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