When you’re in your 20s, whether you’re in college or looking to start your career, it’s important to find places that cater to your needs. The best places to live in your 20s are about focusing on what’s important to you – job prospects, safety, nightlife, green spaces, and more. Being in your 20s may also mean that you’re looking for more affordability.
Everyone has different financial situations. What a 40-year-old with a family (and a spouse to share expenses with) may not be affordable for those in their 20s. Additionally, you may be more interested in walkability scores than school districts.
So, what are the best cities to live in your 20s? We have ranked the 20 best places to explore throughout the United States to help you decide where to move.
Our Methodology Process
Here are some of the factors we considered:
- Safety: We looked at the safety of the cities to consider whether someone in their 20s would feel safe. This includes looking at the crime rates.
- Things to Do: We checked out the various activities offered within the city. Everyone in their 20s wants to spend their nights and weekends doing something. We looked at sports teams, city attractions, and the nightlife.
- Job Opportunities: We checked out what top companies are based in the city. Additionally, we looked to see if the city was considered up and coming to see if more job opportunities are soon to come.
- Walkability: Many in their 20s have yet to find reliable transportation. As such, it’s easier to walk. We’ve looked at how walkable the best cities to live in your 20s are.
- Commute Times: Some cities have more congestion than others – and with congestion comes traffic accidents. In your 20s, you don’t want to spend hours in traffic or deal with the higher insurance premiums.
- Cost of Living: In your 20s, you’re still proving yourself at your job. It’s common to penny pinch until you’ve reached your 30s. As such, the cost of living is a consideration so you can see whether it’s affordable – or whether you’ll need a roommate (or three) to afford living in the city.
“A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to a child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.” – Madeleine L’Engle
Remember that you’re always in a state of growth, and finding the best places to live in the US in your 20s will help you achieve that growth.
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. Boston’s tours and attractions are abundant.
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 the 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 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.According to SafeHome.org, too, property crimes across the state are low, and it’s been ranked low for crimes of all types.
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-somethings 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. Plus, you’ll love that the cost of living is lower than in many other cities.
17. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
If you’re young, broke, and single, the cost of living is reasonable, with the average 1 bedroom outside of the city costing only about $1155, according to Numbeo.com. 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. Depending on where you live, there’s a surprising amount of walkability. Be sure to explore the various neighborhoods to get what is important to you.
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.
Obviously, there are plenty of opportunities to work for the federal government. DC is also one of the best cities to move to in your 20s because of the many big companies to work for. Glassdoor identifies such companies as IBM, Amazon, Deloitte, and others.
13. Arlington, Virginia
Laid back, easygoing, and delightfully liberal, Arlington, Virginia is a great place for young professionals to call home. With a sizeable population of 232,965, 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 $128,145, according to the US Census, there’s clearly no shortage of well-paying jobs, either.
12. Wichita, Kansas
Wichita makes it to the list of best cities to move to in your 20s for a number of reasons. It starts with it being an affordable city, and MarketWatch has identified that it’s 13% less expensive than many other cities around the country.
While walkability isn’t great, depending on the neighborhood, the crime rate is low. This allows you to live here comfortably without having to worry about violent crimes or property crimes.
As for things to do, it might not have the vibrant nightlife that big cities have, but it does offer a zoo, museums, botanical gardens, and a long list of festivals that take place throughout the year.
11. Lincoln, Nebraska
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 principal city in Texas and a very attractive place to live for a twenty-something. It’s close to a lot – including NFL, NBA, and MLB teams.
The average salary for those in Irving is an impressive $80k, according to PayScale, 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. 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. Davis, California has a lot to offer and is conveniently located around many bigger cities, too.
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.
It’s home to a number of big companies, including:
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. Seattle is also home to countless attractions, so you can choose to work in tourism or simply play hard.
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.
Numbeo lists Minneapolis as one of the more affordable cities – rent is cheaper as is groceries in comparison to many other major cities. It’s why it’s one of the best places to live in your 20s. The fact that the Mall of America is here, too, certainly doesn’t hurt.
5. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts has earned the honor of being one of the best cities in MA for young professionals, according to Niche. 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 hometown on Niche. “Everything about Cambridge is great! It’s a very pretty city with a 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 encompass a significant number of historical artifacts & valuable knowledge. I also love how clean and environmentally friendly the city is. Plastic bags are prohibited & paper ones are charged to minimize waste.
Recycling is really emphasized. Restaurants and cafes are endless. Shopping is also great. The MBTA works well in Cambridge and connects it to the greater city of Boston, which makes commuting simple.
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 from those of your peers… as is your ideal place to live. According to Neighborhood Scout, the crime rate is relatively low – though it also depends on the neighborhood.
For the twenty-something who’s looking to settle down and start a family of their own, Denver, Colorado also makes a great option. The many green spaces are appealing to those of every age.
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. Montgomery, Alabama
When you want to live in the south, Montgomery, Alabama is a great choice. It’s a growing city with a lot of job opportunities. You are within a close drive of both beaches and mountains. Plus, US News & World Report identified it as one of the most affordable cities in 2023.
Montgomery offers low housing costs, too. As you explore the best places to live in the US in your 20s, it may also mean that you can afford an apartment without a roommate.
2. Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri has been placed in the top 30 places to live for years, and it’s one of the best cities to live in your 20s because of the cost of living. 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. The tourism site for KC also gives you plenty of ways to spend your days, nights, and weekends.
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 obviously one of the best cities to move to in your 20s. The walkability is impressive, and as long as you’re within walking distance or take the subway or train, the commute time usually isn’t too bad, either.
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. Plus, the US Census shows that there will be plenty of others in their 20s for you to share life with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Choosing a place in your 20s should focus on affordability so that you’re not spending your entire salary on rent. Additionally, consider what industries the city is known for, as it will help you to always find work. Then, consider how you like to spend your free time – whether it’s at a beach, at microbreweries, or at a sports game, for example.
Absolutely! Simply decide on all the factors that matter. Cities with a low cost of living, lots of things to do, and are known for good school districts can be ideal so that it works for you even as you mature and move forward with a new lifestyle.
While we focused on universal factors such as crime and cost of living, the factors for you individually can vary. If you’re single, you may want to look at the ratio of men: women. If you’re planning on starting a family in your early to mid-20s, consider exploring the ratings of schools in the area you plan to move to.
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Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn