Jean Chatzky
You don't have to live in a big city to find booming businesses, great schools and things to do. In Money magazine's annual ranking of the best places to live in America, 100 cities and towns with populations between 7,500 and 50,000 were rated for their affordable housing options, safe neighborhoods, good schools, job opportunities and more. Jean talks to Craig Matters, who edited the article, about the top five places that made the list.

  1. Middleton, Wisconsin
    In addition to its close proximity to Madison—Wisconsin's capital and a bustling college town—Craig says Middleton topped the list for its small-town charm, booming economy and beautiful natural scenery. "There's this nice, office/industrial area of town, and then this really nice, bucolic [part of] town with unbelievable amounts of green space," he says.
  2. Hanover, New Hampshire
    Hanover is inseparable from Dartmouth College, Craig says, which lends itself to creating a cosmopolitan, diverse community with plenty of cultural offerings. "It's a small town, but pretty much everything you could possibly want to do is there," he says. Great schools and outdoor activities are additional perks.
  3. Louisville, Colorado
    Founded by miners in the 19th century, the prosperous town of Louisville offers residents a beautiful mountain setting just minutes from Boulder, Craig says. The city is known for its hospitality, too. "It's a place where folks are ridiculously super friendly," he says. "It is the place where when you move in, someone will come with a pie on move-in day."
  4. Lake Mary, Florida
    While Lake Mary is close to Orlando, Disneyworld and Daytona Beach, Craig says the town itself is very livable, has terrific schools, affordable housing and a healthy economy. He says that unlike some other highly developed parts of Florida, Lake Mary has kept its communities attractive. "It's not all about office parks," he says.
  5. Claremont, California
    Nicknamed "the City of Trees and PhDs," Claremont boasts an urban forest of beautiful trees, Craig says. "They're giant and they cover the place like a canopy," he says. Moreover, he says the city's ties with The Claremont Colleges provide the town with great architecture and a happening downtown. Craig says that by southern California standards, Claremont is also pretty affordable.