The Best Place to Live?

The concept of the 10 best places to live in America or the 100 best towns in Americamust be incredibly subjective.  After all, everyone’s opinion on quality of life is different. Right? Some people may like wide open spaces and not mind driving to town, whereas others may want to walk everywhere and have constant activities available and public transportation. based its 2004 top 20 best places to live on quality of life.  Unfortunately, the link for the methodology of this study and conclusions cannot be found. Still, we should ask: what determines quality of life? Rather, who gets to determine quality of life for everyone else? Is it good schools, good hospitals, cultural activities, sports, shopping, geographic location, weather, housing prices, job growth, demographics, air quality? has based its 2008 list “best small cities” on affordability, income level, commuting times, temperature, age of citizens, fitness of citizens, and clean air. The 2007 list ranked small towns.  You can also sort through the list based on your preference of the factors (i.e. low home price or high home price, hot weather or cold weather, etc.)  There are the “top places” to live for business, relocation, families, small towns, metropolitan areas, and so on.  It makes sense that there are different lists for different people.  

In many of these lists, I have seen Cary, NC near the top or at least in the top 100.  This constantly astounds me as Cary is just a suburb of Raleigh. I’ve been to Cary and would not want to live there. I would not rank a suburb as the best place to live. But, apparently some people do. And that is just fine.  I would also prefer to avoid deserts and the humid, muggy weather of the southern states.

Perhaps a misconception towards or about preservationists is that we do not want people to live anywhere but “perfect” towns and cities, that suburbs are appalling and people who live in them couldn’t possibly be happy. Granted, some of us (i.e. I) occasionally give that impression. However, that is far from the truth. As a preservationist, I want people to love where they live, but to appreciate its past, present, and future.  When neighborhoods, whether suburban, urban, or rural are appreciated then the existing structures and fabric can be incorporated into the future and progress will be smart and planned.  When this happens, quality of life is high because the community is proud of itself.

Overall, I don’t put much stock in these lists, but that doesn’t mean the lists can’t serve a purpose.  Hopefully people who are looking to relocate will be able to identify what they like in certain areas and consider the overall factors that will produce their own, personal highest quality of life.  The U.S.A. wouldn’t be itself without diverse areas. In historic preservation, we aim to highlight such qualities and improve quality of life by appreciating character, culture, and history.

How do you rate your quality of life? Where would you live? Take a fun quiz, Find Your Spot, to find out. This eight section quiz (it’s fun!) asks about your preferences in terms of activities, geography, weather, schools, politics, and more.  In the end, just provide your email list and you’ll get your top 25 list. Enjoy!


3 thoughts on “The Best Place to Live?

  1. Maria says:

    I agree with you on questioning their methodology-especially when any survey (MSNBC) would put Fairfax County, VA in their top 20 places based on quality of life. For me, quality of life is somplace that is comfortable, is easy to navigate, well planned (as in well defined-there is a clear break between city, suburbs, and country-see Lexington, KY as a good example), scenic, friendly. I don’t think out of control sprawl and traffic so bad it takes at least 30 min longer than it should to go anywhere (including places 5 miles away or less) fits that description which is what many of those places on the list are.

    As a side note- just read this about how local residents in West Virginia are trying to delist Blair Mountain from the National Register and also
    Blair Mountain was the site of a famous 1921 labor battle at a coal mine. The mountain was listed last week and a lawyer from the coal company filed the objection this week.

  2. Elyse says:

    I think Money’s list is absolutely fascinating, since they consistently attempt to outline the jobs that are available in their top communities that are right in town, in addition to the fact that the towns are close to larger cities. I also wonder if these “Best Places to Live” lists aren’t intended for a particular set — upper middle-class white families who want some of those amenities that we discuss in preservation, but in a community that is also fairly exclusive (and homogenous). These people want to keep a city job, but live in a smaller city — if not “suburban sprawl,” per say, the “edge cities.” Unfortunately, some of our dream preservation locales also fit into the upper-class homogenous category. I wonder if we should come up with a special Preservation in Pink Top 25 Places to Live for the next newsletter, just for fun?

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