Methodology: How We Chose the Best Places to Live

We also show you how to build a list of your own.

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To find our Best Places to Live for 2009, we scoured our database of 2,000 locales scattered throughout the country. These 2,000 places represent areas with populations of at least 10,000 and crime that's at or below the national average. We also added all cities with populations of 100,000 or greater. From there, we looked at areas with strong economies, low living costs, and plenty of fun things to do.

But in a nation as expansive and diverse as our own, no single list could nail down the perfect place for every American. Instead, we consider our list a springboard to get you thinking about the qualities you're looking for in a Best Places to Live list of your own—so we can help you create it.

[Learn more about the 10 best places to live.]

To assist you in finding the city that best fits your lifestyle, U.S. News launched a brand new Best Places to Live online search tool. The tool lets users sift through mountains of economic and quality-of-life data in a simple, straightforward fashion. For example, use the search-by-state function for an overview of all major cities in a given state, and you'll find information broken down by population, crime, cost of living, healthcare, housing prices, and income. To get more granular, try our advanced search feature. This allows users to isolate a given state or region and then enter attributes—say, mild winters, median home prices of around $300,000, and fishing opportunities—that make for a desirable place to live. The search tool examines all your requirements and produces a list of places that meet your criteria.

[See a slideshow of the 10 best places to live.]

Once you've got a handful of candidates, U.S. News helps you dig deeper. By drilling down to a specific city—Pittsburgh, for example—users can access even more information. Find out what Pittsburgh's sales taxes are like, the average number of children per square mile, and what recreational activities are available. By leveraging U.S. News's other rankings franchises—like Best Colleges, Best High Schools, Best Hospitals, and Best Nursing Homes—our online search tool can even tell you how close a city is to leading educational and healthcare institutions.

Check out 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.