Education Quality Index score:
A state capital with a state university is almost economically bulletproof. Throw a large health care community into that mix and subtract any potentially troublesome manufacturing industries and you get the mild downturn Lincoln's basically yawned through for the past few years.
This is just part of the reason Lincoln residents are loving life. They live in a city where Nebraska Cornhuskers football outdraws pro teams, where vast swaths of green space including Antelope Park's Lincoln Children's Zoo and Sunken Gardens soften the landscape and where movie theaters, live music venues, museums and bars and restaurants along O Street keep the city alive and thriving.
It's a city with five arboretums and telephone, tractors and roller skating museums that doesn't take itself too seriously, but isn't to be underestimated -- especially for the price. Single-family housing can be had for a median $132,000 and the area's median family income is close to $68,000, all of which has fueled a 14.5% spike in the city's population over the past decade and made it the most affordable city on this list.
Lincoln's downtown and the entire length of O Street are eminently walkable, as is the funky, bohemian New South neighborhood of student and artist residences and coffee shops, the bungalow-laden Woods Park neighborhood that houses the Children's Zoo and pretty much all of University Place.
Lincoln's one weakness: schools that are among the lowest-rated on this list. Its elementary schools are stellar and middle schools such as the Lux and Pound schools also get high marks, but the cellar-dwelling high schools give parents some tough choices after eighth grade.