Top 10 Best Small Towns, 2013
About This List
People across the country are in search of authentic communities with unique atmospheres, colorful characters and a true sense that there is no other place like it. While this has made many big cities only bigger, a closer look at some smaller towns reveals some of the same desirable qualities minus the hassles of urban living. Sprinkled between major highways and busy airports are drive-by or fly-over cities offering a slower, and some say richer, slice of life.
To find the Top 10 Best Small Towns in America for 2013 we started with Livability.com's 500 best places to live, then narrowed down our search to micropolitan areas. We steered clear of big-city suburbs and places considered part of a larger metropolitan region, which we included in the Top 10 Small Towns 2012 list. Next, we examined these cities' population and economic growth rates to see which of these towns were attracting new residents and businesses. Then we looked at how they scored on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Amenities Scale. Finally, we talked to people who live in these towns, assessed the amenities they offer, and compared employment rates, cost of living and other economic factors. Our sources included the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Labor and town representatives.
"The best small towns all have one thing in common: something unique that sets them apart from other towns," says Mitch Moody, president of Growing Your Town, an economic development consulting company that works with small to mid-size cities.
Moody encourages towns to consider that unique quality (or qualities) and then be deliberate in using it to promote themselves. "A distinctive identity is absolutely vital if a town is to stand out among all the other small towns vying for attention from businesses and the general public," he says.
In our assessment of towns, we considered many of the intangible factors about an area relocating businesses consider, which Moody says include: a less hurried atmosphere, tight community bonds, good schools, environmentally friendly planning, an emphasis on family values and historic preservation.
Whether you're looking for a place to settle down, or an authentic spot to visit, check out our picks for the best small towns in the country.