Best Places to Live 2009

U.S. News looked at areas with strong economies, low living costs, and plenty of fun things to do.


Although area home prices have fallen by as much as 35 percent over the past two years, the national housing bust may have also created another reason to make San Luis Obispo your home, says John Day, a local real estate broker. "There are just plain good deals" in the current market, he says.

St. Augustine, Florida

As the nation's longest continually inhabited European-founded city, St. Augustine, Fla., considers itself the oldest city in the United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish Adm. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, this community of 13,000 residents on Florida's northeastern coast has managed to maintain its colonial charm. Take the Castillo de San Marcos, for example. This remarkable stone-and-mortar fort is located right in the heart of St. Augustine's cobblestoned historic district. And even though 300 years of violent storms and enemy firepower couldn't penetrate its walls, visitors can enter the 20.5-acre monument site today for just $6. But St. Augustine's appeal extends beyond the history books. With a highly educated workforce, world-class golfing nearby—the immaculate TPC Sawgrass course is located just up the road—and that refreshing Atlantic breeze, this "ancient city" offers enough activities to satisfy even the most fanatical outdoor sports enthusiast. "Fishing, kayaking, boating—we have just about everything," says Donald Edwards, a clerk at the Avid Angler fishing shop. "I wouldn't live anywhere else."

Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania

For a quiet residential option, consider Upper St. Clair, Pa. This quaint town of fewer than 20,000 residents is located in the hilly woodlands outside Pittsburgh, where the Whiskey Rebellion of the late 1700s was centered. The median home price of this family-oriented community was $240,000 in 2008. And its school system is superb: Ninety-eight percent of its high school graduates go on to college, and the Upper St. Clair school district currently boasts 10 federal government blue-ribbon "Excellence in Education" awards. After the spring thaw, residents head outside to enjoy the region's abundant greenery. "Pennsylvania is a fairly robust and rich place in terms of resources, if you just look a little bit," says Ed Di Gangi, the president of the Upper St. Clair Fly Fishing Club. In addition to fishing, popular outdoor activities include hiking, cycling, golf, and bocce. And with Pittsburgh about 10 miles away, residents of this small town are never too far removed from big-city comforts. "From here to a Pirates [baseball] game or here to a Penguins [hockey] game, it's 30 minutes or less," Di Gangi says.

Here's our list of the 10 best places to live:

  1. Albuquerque, N.M.
  2. Auburn, Ala.
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Boise, Idaho
  5. Durham, N.C.
  6. La Crosse, Wis.
  7. Loveland, Colo.
  8. San Luis Obispo, Calif.
  9. St. Augustine, Fla.
  10. Upper St. Clair, Pa.
  11. Consider this list a springboard to get you thinking about the qualities you're looking for in your own Best Places to Live search.

    Updated on 06/10/09: U.S. News worked with Onboard Informatics to create their list of the Best Places to Live. Onboard Informatics provided the underlying data and algorithm.