Whether we’re 20, 40, or 60, there’s certain things we all look for in a place to live. Safety, job prospects, green spaces, and enough amenities to keep us fed, watered, and entertained, to name a few. But the priorities of the young, the broke, and the single are not always the same as those of the older generation. Financial situations are different, for a start. What’s affordable to a 40-year CEO could be a fortune to a 25-year-old administrator. Similarly, someone born post – 1990 is likely to be more interested in the number of good bars in their home town than the number of decent schools. So, where exactly should a 20-something set their sights? Which cities rank as the best for the young and the restless? Find out as we trawl through the 20 best places to live in your 20s.
20. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts may have more than its fair share of historical sights, but this is a city that’s firmly grounded in the 21st century. The range of entertainment options on offer is hard to fault – best of all (particularly for the young and the broke), most of them can be enjoyed for free. Whether you spend your weekend walking around the Seaport, touring the historical sites, taking in a Red Sox game, or soaking up the sun on the gorgeous Greenway at North End, the one thing you’ll never be is bored. Neither are you likely to be broke for long – the city might be relatively small, but it’s bursting at the seams with job opportunities, many of which are suitable for entry and mid-level applicants. Housing is diverse and relatively affordable, while the safe, clean streets and vibrant, friendly atmosphere are attractions in their own right. If you want to live in the city but don’t want to give up on small-town charm, Boston could be just the place for you.
19. Nashville, Tennessee
If there’s one thing every twenty- something needs, it’s a good job. With a good income and good prospects. In Nashville, your chances of finding just that are among the best in Tennessee. The city’s job market has been growing steadily for the past decade, and (COVID crisis aside), shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Health care, technology and business services form the main industries, but you’ll also find no shortage of entry and mid-level positions in other sectors. And then, of course, there’s the entertainment. As you’d expect, you’ll find no end of places to kick back and relax in… although obviously, it helps if you like country music.
18. Ann Arbor, Michigan
If you’re into reliable incomes, good school systems, friendly neighbors, excellent public transportation systems, safe streets, and fabulous amenities, Ann Arbor, Michigan might be your ideal destination. Best for twenty- something’s who’ve already put their wild years behind them, it’s a great place to start getting serious about your career, your family, and yes, your pension plan.
17. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
If you’re young, broke and single, moneyunder30.com has some great recommendations about where to head. Oklahoma City ranks as one of their preferred destinations, and little wonder. Warm weather is practically guaranteed (the average temperature is a bikini-worthy 72), as is a steady income, particularly if you’re hoping to work in the federal government or the energy industry. The population is big enough to have plenty of diversity, while the range of affordable housing options makes it a great choice for those on a tight budget.
16. Berkeley, California
With its vibrant atmosphere, fabulous diversity, gorgeous weather, and friendly community, Berkeley is a fantastic place to live, regardless of your age. But seeing as we’re talking about the younger generation in particular, special mention has to go to the great range of affordable housing (just be sure to look beyond the Bay Area if you’re on a budget), faultless entertainment options, superb job opportunities, and outstanding education system.
15. Salt Lake City, Utah
There’s more to Salt Lake City than Mormons. Regardless of your religious preferences, the city is a hugely attractive proposition, offering more jobs (yep, tech is a mainstay) and amenities than you could shake a stick at. It’s also surprisingly diverse – Utah might not be the most LGBTQ friendly of places, but considering Salt Lake City elected its first gay mayor in 2015, things are clearly a little more tolerant in its capital city.
14. Washington, District of Columbia
If you like small cities, Washington, D.C.’s population of 684,498 is unlikely to appeal. If, on the other hand, you like a booming job market, a thriving arts scene, a plethora of shops, bars, museums, and restaurants, and enough housing options to satisfy all tastes and budgets, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
13. Arlington, Virginia
Laid back, easy going, and delightfully liberal, Arlington, Virginia is a great place for young professionals to call home. With a sizeable population of 231,803, it’s not exactly small, but somehow, it still manages to retain a small-town charm and close-knit community spirit. The crime rate is low enough to keep the streets safe, while those looking to start a family are likely to be won over by the excellent school system and surplus of public amenities. With a median household income of $117,374, there’s clearly no shortage of well-paying jobs, either.
12. Portland, Oregon
If you’re looking for a good time, a good time is what you’ll find in Portland, Oregon. Wonderfully diverse and with more coffee shops, small businesses, seasonal festivals and events, restaurants, and shops than you could visit in a lifetime, it does Entertainment with a capital E. Property might be on the expensive side, but you should be able to source something affordable if you look hard enough, particularly if you’re willing to share. The job market is booming, with plenty of positions for entry level candidates. But it’s the laid-back. liberal atmosphere that’s the star of the show here – if you’re looking for the kind of place where no one will blink an eye if you cycle naked through the streets, this is it.
11. Lincoln, Nebraska
As Move.com highlights, Lincoln might not be somewhere that immediately springs to mind when you’re considering the best cities to live for 20-somethings, but it’s actually one of Nebraska’s hidden gems. Chief among its attractions is the fantastic range of affordable housing options available; which no doubt contributes to its supremely low living cost. Despite its sizeable population (not to mention the quantity (and quality) of amenities on offer), it boasts a small-town charm that’s positively infectious, no matter what your age.
10. Irving, Texas
Drive in a northwest direction from Dallas, and pretty soon, you’ll happen on Irving, a principle city in Texas and, according to Business Insider, a very attractive place to live for a twenty-something. With a monthly median starting salary of $3,060, the job market is clearly booming. Even better, a huge number of those jobs are entry level positions, making it the ideal spot for fresh graduates to head.
9. Davis, California
For the younger generation, mobility is a real concern. According to The Guardian, the number of 21- to 34-year-olds buying cars in the US has dropped by a hefty 11% since its peak in the mid-1980s. Finding a place where you don’t need a car to get around, then, is clearly a big priority for many of today’s youngsters. On that score, the city of Davis in California has it sussed. In most US cities, only 2% of trips are made by bike. In Davis, that figure stands at a whopping 20%. The result? Better air quality and a surfeit of cycling lanes – not to mention less money wasted on fuel and more to spend at the bar.
8. Austin, Texas
For the young Texan professional, few places can compete with Austin. Diverse, vibrant, and just the right side of weird, there’s more than enough to keep everyone entertained, regardless of taste, age, or budget. Unemployment is a fraction of what it is in some of Texas’s other big cities, yet despite the relatively high median income, housing is still more than affordable. If you like bars, music, good food, and a welcoming community, it could well be your ideal home.
7. Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington has a heap of things to offer the young professional. Coffee shops are obviously in abundance, as are shops, restaurants, bars, and cultural venues. The arts scene is thriving, as is the food scene. Jobs are bountiful, with almost a surfeit of entry level positions available across a vast range of industries. Although the average rental price is fairly high at just short of $1500, there’s no shortage of cheaper options available if you scour the property listings.
6. Minneapolis, Minnesota
It’s affordable, it’s diverse, it’s got an arts and culture scene that’s positively thriving. Where are we talking about? Minneapolis, a growing city that’s fast becoming one of the US’s most attractive destinations for young professionals.
5. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts has earned the honor of a number one place on Niche’s round up of the best places in America for young professionals. It’s easy to understand why. With a population of 115,665, it’s a sizeable metropolis packed with diversity, history, and, of course, one of the best universities in the world. If you need any more reason to understand the attraction, check out what some of the local residents have to say about their home town on Niche. “Everything about Cambridge is great! It’s a very pretty city with remarkable history. It has one of the best colleges in the world; Harvard, which helped the city to be highly educated, even if they weren’t Harvard students. Also, the city is rich in museums & galleries that encompasses a significant number historical artifacts & valuable knowledge. I also love how clean and environment friendly the city is. Plastic bags are prohibited & paper ones are charged to minimize waste. Recycling is really emphasized. Restaurants & cafes are endless! Shopping is great at Cambridge! There are unlimited shopping options and there are many vintage and hand-made gift stores all around. People are nice and super friendly. The MBTA works well in Cambridge and connect it to the greater city of Boston, which makes commuting much easier,” says one clearly enamored resident, with another adding the shorter, but no less complimentary, comment, “I initially moved to Cambridge for school, and I love it! Yes, the winters can be a bit annoying – they’re a bit longer than I’m used to. But everything else about Cambridge is A+.” Can’t ask for much better than that.
4. Denver, Colorado
Some young people may live for the weekend, but not everyone’s cut from the same cloth. If you’re already starting to plan a family, your priorities are likely to be somewhat different to those of your peers… as is your ideal place to live. For the twenty-something who’s looking to settle down and start a family of their own, Denver, Colorado makes a great option. As theestateupdate.com notes, Denver is packed with attractions, along with a much lower average rental price than places like Chicago and New York, an outstanding school system, and plenty of cultural and sporting activities suitable for young families.
3. San Francisco, California
in the 1960s, San Francisco was THE place to head. 60 years later, not a lot’s changed. The reason for its coolness, on the other hand, most certainly has. These days, you’re more likely to see the city’s 20 somethings with a laptop and Smartphone in their hand than a flower in their hair. This, after all, is the city of the start- up. Regardless of your profession, your position, and (increasingly) your age, there’s a start- up to suit. Forget stuffy boardrooms and glass ceilings – if you want to work in the kind of place where creativity is welcomed and originality is nurtured, San Fransico has your name written all over it.
2. Kansas City, Missouri
Back in 2015, Buzzfeed named Kansas City, Missouri one of the top “29 Cities All Twentysomethings Should Pick Up and Move To”. Five years later, and it’s still the same story. Considered by many to be one of the ‘coolest cities’ in the US, Kansas City is a city that never sleeps… or, if recent developments are anything to go by, never stops growing. Job prospects are amazing (especially for those looking for graduate and entry level positions), housing is affordable, and the range of amenities, shops, bars, and trendy venues is nothing short of outstanding. Little wonder Buzzfeed recommends it so highly.
1. New York, New York
Sure, it’s predictable. It’s also inevitable. New York isn’t just the most exciting place to live in the US, it’s one of the most exciting places in the entire world. Stuffed with jobs, attractions, and everything else you could possibly imagine or want, it’s where every twenty- something secretly dreams of living. Its property prices may bring a tear to your eye, but for jobs, public transportation, racial diversity, food options, and entertainment choices, it’s impossible to beat. No wonder they named it twice.