Unemployment rate: 4.2%
Walk score: 62
P/I ratio: 3.67
Education Quality Index score: 75.01
On the eastern shores of Lake Champlain and with Vermont's Green Mountains, most notably Mount Mansfield, towering over the city, Burlington sure looks like an American Dream. A mellowed, hazy, noodling American Dream, but some cities' economies are just different than others. The Small Business and Entrepreneur Council hates Burlington and the rest of Vermont for placing a high tax on corporate and personal income, capital gains and property and wishes its utility bills were a bit lower and its government wasn't so stringent about workers compensation, but Burlington's actual businesses don't seem to mind. Burton Snowboards, Unilever's ( UN) Ben & Jerry's ice cream, North American Breweries' Magic Hat Brewery and Bruegger's all call the area home and add to a job base bolstered by the University of Vermont, Burlington College and Champlain College. Small businesses, meanwhile, keep Burlington's broad and beautiful Church Street Marktplace's 86 businesses humming with shops, galleries and restaurants. They also keep it incredibly convenient, with less than 30% of Burlington dependent on cars and amenities well within reach for much of Burlington between Lake Champlain and the University of Vermont. The town that produced Phish also has no problem producing nightlife, with the local clubs, cafes and colleges turning out a string of laid-back bands including Strangefolk, Dispatch and the Jazz Mandolin Project in the '90s and still nurturing roots-rock acts such as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. If peanuts and Cracker Jack are part of the American Dream, fans wary of moving to a place where Hacky Sack and ultimate Frisbee would appear to be the sports of choice would be advised to check out a University of Vermont hockey game. Its Hockey East conference is not only a breeding ground for NHL talent, but is college hockey's competitive equivalent to college football's Southeast Conference or college basketball's Big East. Vermont's American Dream doesn't come cheap, though, as a median home price of $271,000 is still pretty high compared against a median household income of $73,800. The aforementioned taxes aren't great, but the 10 public schools are. There's not a perfect score in the bunch, but the majority are well above average.