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The 20 Best Places to Live in the Midwest


With beautiful landscapes, a unique history, and charming towns, the Midwest offers a great quality of life for a very affordable price. Choose your hometown carefully, and you can expect welcoming neighbors, low crime rates, great wining and dining options, and a positive plethora of attractions, events, and amenities. Convinced to give America’s Heartland a try? Then check out our roundup of the 20 very best places to live in the Midwest.

20. Chicago, IL

Chicago may have a reputation for crime, but look behind the headlines and you’ll find a city that’s bursting at the seams with award-winning restaurants, world-class museums, architectural wonders, and first-class entertainment. Choose your neighborhood wisely, and you can expect to experience all the best of the city (affordable housing, great job opportunities, excellent schools, a diverse community, and outstanding attractions) with none of the downsides.

19. Rapid City, SD

As Dangerous Business notes, for nature lovers, Rapid City’s proximity to the Black Hills is a dream come true. Hand over the very affordable $170,700 it takes to buy a property here, and you can expect access to some of the most majestic outdoor scenery in the US, including the 71,000-acre Custer State Park and the breathtakingly scenic Sylvan Lake. The town itself is small, friendly, and home to an ever-growing food and beer scene that’s guaranteed to delight gourmets and gourmands alike.

18. Cincinnati, OH

With its vibrant downtown, quiet suburbs, eclectic neighborhoods, and superb array of family-friendly activities (including the Cincinnati Zoo, the Newport Aquarium, the Children's Museum, and Coney Island), Cincinnati makes an outstanding choice for those looking to combine the thrills of the big city with a friendly, small-town vibe. As an added bonus, the median home price is a very affordable $124,200.

17. Des Moines, IA

Ranked by Kiplinger as one of the best places to retire in the Midwest, Des Moines makes an excellent choice for those looking to experience big city living on a shoestring. The average home price comes in at a very affordable $123,300, while the range of things to do, see, and experience (including a zoo, botanical gardens, casinos, a racetrack, and a fine selection of libraries, museums, parks, shops, local businesses, and restaurants) is hard to fault.

16. Milwaukee, WI

Want affordable housing without sacrificing a great quality of life? If so, you may want to consider Milwaukee. With a superbly affordable median home value of just $115,800, a vibrant, diverse community, ongoing revitalization efforts in its historic neighborhoods, excellent schools, and a deserved reputation for some of the finest craft beer in the US, it makes the ideal choice for home buyers looking to make the move to Wisconsin.

15. Traverse City, MI

It may be a tourist town, but for the 15,550 residents of Traverse City, Michigan, it’s also an outstanding place to live. Home to a plethora of cultural events and attractions (including a film festival, a cherry festival, and a huge variety of restaurants, wineries, breweries, and local businesses) there’s no shortage of entertainment on offer. Its beachside location and numerous forests, trails, and ski slopes, meanwhile, are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Although the average property price in this idyllic little town is slightly above the US average, it’s still eminently affordable at $216,800 for a single-family home.

14. Indianapolis, IN

Yes, it's huge, and if it’s a small-town vibe you’re after, you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you’re attracted to the idea of living somewhere where a good-sized property can be had for as little as $123,500, where there’s an abundance of job opportunities to choose from, where the range of wining, dining, and shopping options are almost limitless, and where the community is as friendly as its diverse, Indianapolis, Indiana makes a first-class option.

13. Cleveland, OH

With its gorgeous setting on Lake Erie, a history that dates all the way back to the 1700s, and more restaurants, museums, galleries, breweries, and local businesses than you can shake a stick at, Cleveland, Ohio makes a first-class choice for homeowners. Once considered the butt of a million jokes, Cleveland has shaken off its old image to emerge as a forward-thinking, vibrant city, full of life, energy, and superbly affordable housing (with an average home value of $67,600, it makes the kind of option first-time buyers on a budget will drool over).

12. Sioux Falls, SD

With a very affordable median home value of $168,600, a monthly rental price of $771, and a median income of $56,714, Sioux Falls would probably make our list even if it weren’t for its superb range of restaurants, bars/pubs, coffee shops and local businesses, the diverse, welcoming community, the low crime rate, the fantastic annual lineup of events (including the fascinating annual Sculpture Walk), and the abundance of outdoor leisure opportunities.

11. Appleton, WI

A low crime rate combines with some outstanding public schools to make Appleton, WI one of the most family-friendly destinations in the Mideast. If you need more convincing of its appeal, check out some of the sterling reviews from local residents on Niche. “Appleton is a wonderful place to live! The people in the communities of Appleton are generally kind and outgoing. It is vibrant with small businesses as well as large corporations. There are several accredited institutions of higher education that are very successful in helping their graduates get careers in their professional or technical fields. It is a great place to raise a family and have a career. Appleton is also near Green Bay and Door County. The Farmer's Market is extraordinary. The schools are reputable for their good understanding of how children learn. There are many culturally diverse restaurants unique to Appleton.

It is a great place for visitors and well as for residents,” says one, while another enthuses “I grew up in Appleton and still live here. Growing up, it has always been a safe environment with diversity. Appleton has many fun local events downtown and at parks. In the summer, every Saturday morning is reserved for the farmers market downtown. This is a great time to get involved in the community and support local businesses and vendors. Along with this, Appleton has an event called Mile of Music that lasts a few days. This event features many bands and artists, big and small. There are many bars for adults and many parks and community pools for younger kids.”

10. Plymouth, MN

Granted, you’ll need to hand over the princely sum of $327,000 for a family home in the desirable Minnesota town of Plymouth, but considering most households are netting the equally regal income of $91,867, it’s more than worth a second glance. The excellence of the schools serving the area makes the town a hugely attractive draw to families (and considering the 96% graduation rate and 54% test scores, it’s little wonder). Throw in a low crime rate (according to Area Vibes the total crime rate of 1,311 per 100k people is 52% lower than the US average), a 2% unemployment rate (54% lower than the US average), and a great lineup of amenities and events, and its easy to see why the town ranks as one of the most desirable in the Midwest.

9. Cedar Rapids, IA

If you’re looking for a safe, affordable place to raise a family, Cedar Rapids delivers the goods and then some. The public schools serving the area are excellent, with 76% of the town’s students testing as proficient in math and approximately 74% as proficient in reading (just to put that in perspective, that’s a whopping 45% higher than the US average. The graduation rate, meanwhile, is 8% higher than the US average at 90%). The average cost of a house in the city is almost as attractive as its school system: for a good-sized, three-bedroom family home, expect to part with no more than around $138,500.

8. Parma, OH

If you’re looking for an affordable option in Ohio, you’ll struggle to do better than the Cleveland suburb of Parma. The average property here costs just $108,800, nearly $80,000 less than the US national average (and comprising just 18.60% of the median income). Other than affordability, the community boasts a low crime rate, a wonderful array of amenities, recreational opportunities, and local events to join in, very decent public schools, a convenient location next to three major highways, and a quirky predilection for pink flamingoes.

7. Naperville, IL

According to SmartAsset, Naperville, IL is one of the safest cities in the US. Combine that little fact with the affordable property values (housing costs make up just 18% of the very significant median income of $114,014), the safe, friendly neighborhoods, the great parks, and array of sporting and cultural events on offer, and it’s understandable why so many home buyers are falling over themselves to move in.

6. Rochester Hills, MI

With unemployment sat at the unfeasibly low rate of just 2.60%, there’s clearly no shortage of jobs in Rochester Hills (and good ones at that – by the latest reports, most households are bringing in the very healthy net income of $87,475). Schools are some of the best in the district (with Rochester Adams High School, Brewster Elementary School, University Hills Elementary School, Musson Elementary School, and Stoney Creek High School all scoring top marks for test scores and graduation rates), while the low crime rates, superb array of restaurants, shops, bars, and locally-owned stores and markets, full calendar of events (including the ever-popular Bright Lights Show at Christmas), and various outdoor opportunities at the adjacent Paint Creek Trail makes the town as attractive to single professionals as it does to families and retirees.

5. Eagan, MN

Despite the fact it ranked 14th best place to live in the U.S. by Money Magazine in 2012, not many people have heard of the low-key little city of Eagan- something which, given the commendable list of attributes it has to its name, comes as something of a surprise. Considering most households are bringing in the robust income of $84,756, the average home price of $262,500 is more than affordable. The low crime rate, first rate amenities, and easy access to the gorgeous (and huge) Lebanon Hills Park add to the attraction.

4. Fishers, IN

If you want low crime, welcoming neighbors, a superbly high income of $101,469 (and a comparatively tiny median property price of $240,100), first class job opportunities, a bunch of stellar schools, an easy commute into Indianapolis, and a safe, friendly vibe, Fishers may just be the destination of your dreams.

3. Olathe, KS

Yes, housing in Olathe may be a touch over the national average at $211,600, but with the median income standing at a very respectable $82,649, most homebuyers are unlikely to be ruing their investment. Above average high school graduation rates, excellent amenities, low unemployment rates, and safe, clean streets round of the pretty picture – and no doubt helps explain why the suburb ranks #1 in SmartAsset’s round up of the most popular places in the US for millennials to buy a home.

2. Overland Park, KS

With a population of 186,147, Overland Park is the 2nd most populous city in Kansas, a claim that comes with a superb selection of job opportunities and an outstanding range of attractions. An excellent family atmosphere is complimented by a decent crime rate, a stellar selection of top-notch school, a strong property market, a friendly community, and a clutch of first rates parks and trails. Single professionals, meanwhile, are unlikely to feel short changed by the excellent selection of restaurants, bars, and clubs that populate the area, nor the easy drive into the heart of Kansas City.

1. Carmel, IN

At first, Carmel’s median house price seems high ($320,400 by the last count). A quick glance at some of the perks of living in the gorgeous town, however, will soon make that price seem a lot more reasonable. The median income of $109,201 smacks of a plethora of job opportunities and a very comfortable lifestyle. The first-class schools, low unemployment and poverty rates, next to nonexistent crime levels, and abundance of parks and outdoor spaces (including West Park, Founder's Park, Coxhall Garden, and the superb Monon trail that cuts through the heart of the town), meanwhile, are hard to beat.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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