These are the best small cities in the US – hello, slower pace and better quality of life

As the exodus of workers from metropolitan areas continues, new research reveals the very best small cities to move to

Lake Sammamish view from Issaquah Highlands, WA
(Image credit: Nadia Yong / Alamy Stock Photo)

Want to know what the best small cities in US are? The pandemic has made everyone rethink how and where they want to live, and although it's not entirely true that everyone has left metropolitan areas en masse in order to lead a rural life, it is true that smaller places with a slower pace of life and more affordable homes have really come into their own in the past couple of years. 

From gorgeous nature to great property, and from low crime rates to high living standards, the criteria for picking out the best places to live are varied. A brand-new study*  has looked at several important factors, including the cost of housing, cost of living, homeownership and poverty rates, education and crime levels, and even the availability of coffee shops. Here are the top three small cities that met the criteria with flying colors.

1. Sammamish, WA

Lake Sammamish view from Issaquah Highlands, WA

(Image credit: Nadia Yong / Alamy Stock Photo)

This small city of just over 65,000 residents in Washington scored the highest for quality of life by quite some margin, and we can see why. First of all, the surrounding landscape is stunning, with Lake Sammamish and the surrounding state parks and forests providing endless opportunities for being in nature. 

This is also a prosperous little town, with most residents owning their own homes, highly rated local schools, and high employment rates. And – for a city of its size, Sammamish has a lively cafe and restaurant scene.

2. Carmel, IN

Carmel, Indiana, Arts and Design District

(Image credit: Kathleen Cavallaro / Alamy Stock Photo)

Just 30 minutes' drive from downtown Indianapolis, Carmel is the perfect spot if you're moving out of a larger metropolitan area in order to raise a family. With very low crime rates, great schools, and plenty to do on the weekend with a thriving downtown area of its own, it's no surprise that Carmel came in a close second. 

Residents do point out that this small city doesn't score that well on diversity, but its reputation as very safe and very friendly does make up for it. 

3. Brentwood, TN

Autumn colors in Brentwood, Tennessee, USA

(Image credit: Brian Jannsen / Alamy Stock Photo)

Brentwood has a population of 45,373, and it's only 15 minutes away from Nashville. Families with children consistently rate this city highly, not least because it has superb schools. For those who want a community feeling, Brentwood is known for being very friendly, with an active church congregation. There's also an excellent local library. And if you do crave real nightlife – you can always spend an evening in Nashville before coming back to your (affordable) home.  

* Study by Wallethub 

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.

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