According to the United States Census Bureau, 11.2 percent of Americans waved goodbye to their old homes and embraced the new in 2016. Make sure your next move is an upgrade, not an upset. These cities will give you and your family access to the top schools, the best jobs and the most memorable experiences:
1. The Wildwoods, NJ
This summer getaway is a rite of passage for America’s beach lovers. But there are more than a few reasons to drop your anchor and make the Wildwoods your new home.
Families should house hunt in the sunny borough of Wildwood Crest. This beachside locale has distinguished itself as a clean, “dry” and safe place to live, making it the ideal area to raise your kids.
And it’s not short on work opportunities, either. Every year, 240,000 tourists descend on the small borough, spiking the demand for accommodation, entertainment, outdoor activities and eateries.
2. Chesapeake, VA
When Chesapeake cracked the top 100 of Money Magazine’s 2010 Best Places to Live, residents weren’t surprised. The diverse and vibrant city, located in the heart of coastal Virginia, checks every single box, from first-class work opportunities to advanced healthcare and medical facilities.
3. Santa Clarita, CA
You’ll know Santa Clarita as the home of Six Flags Magic Mountain, but don’t be fooled into thinking this city is a theme park. While the massive roller coasters attract visitors from across the country, the city has another claim to fame: it is the only Californian city to be ranked in the top 20 of 24/7 Wall St’s 50 Best Places to Live.
According to the report, residents benefit from being just an hour’s drive from Los Angeles’ job and education opportunities without being strapped with the big city’s exorbitant housing costs.
4. Newark, DE
The University of Delaware has become the beating heart of this bustling city, putting museums, galleries and a vibrant nightlife right on your doorstep. While housing costs in the area are slightly more expensive than the national average, securing a spot in one of Newark’s many quaint neighborhoods is worth the price of admission.
Local schools have a favourable student-teacher ratio (averaging 14-1), there are over 12,000 acres of parkland to explore, and more than 60 restaurants to visit, according to Livability.com, which also ranked the city as one of the most affordable in the country.
5. Emporia, KS
This college town, filled to the brim with trendy bars and raucous party venues, isn’t short on things to do. And people aren’t just flocking to the city center for happy hour. The cost of living in Emporia is 6% lower than the state average, reports Areavibes.com.
Want to get a real feel for what this city has to offer? Visit Commercial Street, where art supply shops and entertainment venues have taken over the block.
6. Overland Park, KS
The second biggest city in the state didn’t get that way by accident. More and more families are discovering the perks of moving to Overland Park, whether it’s affordable housing, abundant open parkland, or the high concentration of top schools. With exceptional affordability and healthcare services, Overland Park is the one of the best cities in the country to raise a family.
7. Chanhassen, MN
Living in the Twin Cities area is every intrepid outdoorsman’s ultimate goal. During the spring and summer, you’ll have the chance to hike, bike or run along 90 miles of nearby trails before winter turns the terrain into a snowy playground, prime real estate for sledding and ice-fishing.
Chanhassen has rebounded from a massive setback during the downturn, with the area experiencing rapid job growth and annual increases in real estate value. Bonus: the city has maintained low crime rates for decades, putting it among some of the safest in the country.
8. Lee’s Summit, MO
Farmer’s markets and trendy bars coexist in this sought-after suburb of Kansas City. And while park concerts, parades and festivals will quickly fill up your social calendar, a lucrative and growing job market will ensure you have the money to enjoy every second of your time off.
In 2015, Cerner Corporation announced it would invest $500 million to expand a data center in Lee’s Summit’s so-called tech corridor. The city is already home to the headquarters of major businesses, such as H&R Block and Sprint, and this move has gone further to cement Lee’s Summit’s place at the forefront of America’s ballooning tech industry.
9. Lakewood, OH
There aren’t many places in the world sought after by young and old alike. However, Lakewood, a small suburb in Kansas City, has earned the unlikely honor of being named among the best cities for retirees and among the most exciting cities for young socialites.
Residents of all ages benefit from visits to the many bars and eateries, of which just 3% are part of established franchises. Plus, the cost of living here is 6% lower than the national average, stretching your retirement (or college budget) that much further.
10. Dubuque, IA
Dubuque is a smaller city than most, but it’s packed with big opportunities, whether you’re looking for a good job or just something to do on the weekend. And you’ll have more free time here as less than 3% of residents spend longer than an hour commuting to work every day.
Spend those extra precious hours exploring the area’s historical sites, touring wineries, or golfing on one of the many nearby courses.
11. Coppell, TX
Shielded from the Dallas sprawl, Coppell is an urban oasis. Home to some of the best schools in the state, the suburb has become a popular destination for families looking to secure a top-level education for their children.
But it’s not all schools and sports days. The area boasts countless eateries, from Southern-style comfort food to fine dining experiences, and developers are continually erecting new buildings designed to echo the area’s original early-20th century architecture.
12. Chapel Hill, NC
This college town rewards its graduates with high-paying jobs, affordable housing, and an exciting music scene. The city has made Livability’s 100 Best Cities to Live list four years in a row, a feat few big cities can boast.
The cost of living in Chapel Hill is 4% below the national average, with utilities, transportation, and groceries costing substantially less than elsewhere in the U.S., according to Payscale.com.
13. Bentonville, AR
The birthplace of Wal-Mart was once just a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere. But now, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., attracting new residents to its quaint neighborhoods every year. Its secret weapon: top schools, affordable healthcare, and low crime rates.