The Best Little Cities in the U.S.

The attraction of smaller cities has been growing. Whether you're just starting out, making a career change, or planning retirement, one of these cities just might fit the bill.
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Many of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. are not mega cities like New York and Los Angeles, but smaller cities, according to the census bureau. The five fastest growing cities have populations of less than 200,000, at least for now. Frisco, Texas, grew by 71% from 2010 to 2019.

With the high cost of living in many large cities, the complications of a pandemic and many working from home, Americans may be rethinking where they'll want to plant their feet.

To find the best small cities in the U.S., (pop. 100,000-500,000), Resonance Consultancy, a tourism, real estate and economic development research and marketing firm, used a combination of statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors in 23 areas grouped into six core categories. These include:

Place: The perceived quality of a city’s natural and built environment, including the sub-categories of weather, safety, neighborhoods & landmarks, and outdoors.

Product: A city’s key institutions, attractions and infrastructure, including the sub-categories of airport connectivity, attractions, museums, university ranking, convention center, and pro sports teams.

Programming: The arts, culture, entertainment and culinary scene in a city, including the sub-categories of shopping, culture, restaurants, and nightlife.

People: The immigration rate and diversity of a city, including the subcategories of foreign-born and educational attainment.

Prosperity: A city’s employment and corporate head offices, including the sub-categories of Fortune 500 companies and household income.

Promotion: The quantity of stories, references and recommendations shared online about a city, including the sub-categories of Google search results, Google trends, Facebook check-ins, Instagram hashtags, and TripAdvisor reviews.

The ranking incorporates factors such as weather, crime and household incomes, but also user-generated data to quantify the number of quality restaurants, shops, nightlife and other experiences that make urban living enjoyable.

Based on the Resonance Consultancy Best Cities report, these are the best little cities in the U.S. We included some of the top subcategory rankings for each city.