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Best Places to Live the Simple Life

How We Picked the Best Cities

Here's what we considered before we made our selection.

Outdoor amenities:  We looked for an abundance of fun things to do, both recreationally and culturally. We looked at access to sporting events, golf courses, coastline, rivers and lakes, museums, art galleries, gardens and arboretums, skiing facilities, and more.

Hiking and biking trails:  Using data from and Rails-to-Trails, we calculated the number of hiking, walking, biking, and running trails within a 20-mile radius.

State parks:  We also looked for local parks and surrounding national forests and parks.

Green values—Sperling's Green Living Index is based on the number of food co-ops, farmer's markets, and LEED-certified buildings and homes; possibilities for alternative commuting (walk, bike, ride); energy efficiency and renewable-energy policies.

Alternative energy sources:  We looked at the state production of wind energy, and the availability of alternative fuel outlets in a particular area.

Energy efficiency programs—Many states have policies to encourage energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.

Stress index—Sperling's Stress Index is based on stressful living indicators including divorce, crime, suicide, unemployment, rates of depression, and other social measures.

Healthy living score:  This was calculated based on the number of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains the average resident consumes, and the number of residents who get regular exercise, from an annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Percentage who commute by bike or by walking—This data came from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Of 324 metropolitan areas we surveyed, about 25 rose to the top. We then looked at different regions of the country, choosing one metropolitan area from each region (after all, not everyone wants to live in the South), to come up with our top five cities and top five runners-up.

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