Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Thanks to the boom in credit card jobs, Sioux Falls has blossomed in the past 20 years, and its healthy, educated residents are among the fittest in the country. Extensive bike trails circle the city, linking its 70 parks to the crown jewel: the waterfalls at Falls Park. And free trolley service makes using the downtown area fun and easy.
- Population: 142,396
- Median housing price: $159,500
- Average number of sunny days: 211
- Healthy bragging rights: Of our top-rated cities, Sioux Falls comes in number one for hospital beds and number two for teaching hospitals, on a per capita basis.
Okay, winters are cold and sleety, and housing is expensive. But residents love the area’s world-class arts, shopping, and restaurants. Walking and biking are easy, and the core of college students—some 250,000, attending more than 80 colleges—makes for one of the most educated addresses around; one in five persons is affiliated with higher education. Sports fans are fierce, whether worshiping at the feet of the Red Sox, New England Patriots, Celtics, or Bruins.
- Population: 4,455,217
- Median housing price: $479,700
- Average number of sunny days: 205
- Healthy bragging rights: Long known as America’s Walking City, Boston is home to the Freedom Trail, a fascinating 2.5-mile hike through history, offering cardio with a view of the old North Church (“One if by land…”) and Faneuil Hall.
St. Cloud, Minnesota
A Prairie Home Companion fans already know St. Cloud as a spiritual neighbor to fictitious Lake Wobegon, but few others have heard just how livable this classic low-key, midwestern town is. Locals of St. Cloud—which is set along the banks of the Mississippi—treasure Munsinger Gardens, a 14-acre gem from the Works Progress Administration era, as well as the newer Clemens Garden. Residents have some of the lowest rates of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes in the country.
- Population: 66,228
- Median housing price: $192,300
- Average number of sunny days: 196
- Healthy bragging rights: Of our top-rated cities, St. Cloud scores highest for its residents’ getting regular exercise and routine health checkups—no wonder St. Cloud is number two in the stress-free category.
City, country, and coast combine in these suburban standouts. Residents also love having their feet in two worlds: set on the shores of lovely Long Island Sound, this area offers coastal New England charm, right down to the oysters, sailboats, and a rich Revolutionary War history; yet New York City is an easy commuter-train ride away.
- Population: 900,440
- Median housing price: $815,100
- Average number of sunny days: 208
- Healthy bragging rights: Loads of transportation alternatives keep these cities clean and accessible, with plenty of trains, buses, and a beautiful ferry.
Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, California
For those who crave the sunny, outdoorsy life, this area offers plenty, what with its beautiful south-facing beaches, impressive Santa Ynez Mountains, hike-friendly Los Padres National Forest, and Channel Islands. But despite its California casual vibe, the area holds its own in sophistication, with restaurants and wine tastings that rival those in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
- Population: 400,335
- Median housing price: $854,100
- Average number of sunny days: 285
- Healthy bragging rights: Long live the locavore (the noble soul who tries to eat a only locally grown food). Santa Barbara is on the cutting edge of the latest healthy (and chic) dining trend, based on the area’s legendary produce, fish, and wine.
Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
Perfect for lake and mountain lovers, Burlington is the product of careful city planning and devoted environmentalism. It wins almost nonstop accolades for everything from its organic gardening to bike-friendly policies. But don’t hold those politically correct laurels against it—right next to the Green Mountains, it offers some terrific skiing and hiking. And Lake Champlain provides plenty of boating recreation. Home to the University of Vermont, Burlington attracts plenty of concerts and performances; it also offers an excellent array of health care options.
- Population: 206,007
- Median housing price: $329,800
- Average number of sunny days: 161
- Healthy bragging rights: Whether it’s putting up signs designating parking for seniors or families with small children or beefing up housing options for middle-class retirees, Burlington has taken a hands-on approach to helping people age on their own terms.
Even in a state known for clean living, the Provo–Orem region stands out as a lifestyle wonderland. It’s home to Brigham Young University, and the region offers top-notch health care. Plus, its outdoor recreational opportunities are unbeatable, whether residents prefer boating on nearby Utah Lake or playing at one of the 15 national parks, monuments, and recreation areas that are within a half-day’s drive. Sportsfishermen flock to the Provo River, famed for its rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout.
- Population: 474,180
- Median housing price: $360,300
- Average number of sunny days: 232
- Healthy bragging rights: Provo can trumpet its low per capita rate of fast-food joints.
Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine
This area on Maine’s rocky coast offers residents the perks of big-city life—great restaurants and plenty to do—on a small-city scale. Locals can picnic next to picture-perfect lighthouses, ride the ferries that crisscross Casco Bay, and choose from plenty of doctors. When the urge for adventure strikes, options include Maine’s parks and mountains, which beckon just a few hours north, or Boston, which is less than two hours south.
- Population: 513,667
- Median housing price: $312,200
- Average number of sunny days: 205
- Healthy bragging rights: Besides all the fresh-caught fish and wild blueberries available, these cities have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to reduce CO2 emissions. City-owned diesel vehicles run on a mix of vegetable-based biodiesel.
Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado
What’s not to love about a place that promises a mild climate and the Rocky Mountains in your backyard? This booming college town, home to Colorado State University, has plenty of nightlife, shopping, and restaurants. But most people move here to be near the mountains and the endless camping, hiking, skiing, and rafting options. Health care is good, but residents also like that Denver, with its major airport and hospitals, is less than 70 miles away.
- Population: 276,253
- Median housing price: $273,200
- Average number of sunny days: 246
- Healthy bragging rights: Among our top cities, Fort Collins came in number one in the emotional-support category—people here don’t just have good friends, they know they’re there for them.
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