The most livable cities in the US, ranked


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What makes a city livable? And more importantly, what makes a city’s “livability score” better than another city? (See also: 10 Cities That Revolve Around Credit)

That’s a fair question and one that the American Association of Retired People sought to answer with its AARP Livability Index for 2018.

The index names the top large, mid-size, and small cities that earn the moniker of one of the most livable cities in the U.S.

In doing so, the AARP index pulls together 50 national data sources to score every neighborhood and community in the U.S. based on seven categories of livability, including affordable housing, public transportation, social engagement and access to health and wellness services, among other things.

Which cities came out on top? And which states hold the most “livable” cities (hint: the home of cheese heads and Packer-Backers top’s the state list).

Additionally, the AARP data shows that once a city makes its livability list, it tends to stay there. Of the 30 cities that were on the “best of” list in 2015 (the last time AARP rated cities by livability), 19 found themselves on the 2018 list, too.

Here’s how AARP ranks the top large cities, the top mid-size cities, and the top small cities in the U.S.:

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The 5 most livable large cities in the United States

First up on the list are the most livable large cities. These are U.S. cities with a population of 500,000 people or more.

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5. Milwaukee

Milwaukee is rated near the top of the list for safe and convenient local transportation, and for vibrant neighborhoods with access to work, life, and play.

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4. Denver

Denver ranks among the top cities in access to quality healthcare — and access to great wellness programs for the public.

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3. Seattle, WA

Like, Denver Seattle offers some of the best health and wellness programs in the United States., according to AARP. It also ranks highly in safe and affordable public transportation.

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2. Boston

Besides the Red Sox and Fenway Park (deemed a national treasure by certain baseball enthusiasts), Beantown ranks highly among U.S. cities, with clean air and water, great neighborhoods, and access to city sites and solid local schools.

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1. San Francisco

The City by the Bay ranks No. 1 on the AARP livability index, thanks to high marks for great transportation services and for access to great health care centers.

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The 5 most livable mid-size cities in the U.S.

Next up on the list are the five most-livable, mid-size cities. Mid-size describes cities that have a population between 100,000 and 499,999.

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5. Minneapolis

Great neighborhoods, pristine air, and friendly people earn Minneapolis a spot on AARP’s livability list.

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4. Boulder, Colorado

Boulder makes the AARP list for the first time, thanks primarily to a great environmental record, easy access to quality health services, and safe, fun neighborhoods.

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3. St. Paul, Minnesotta

St. Paul earns high marks from AARP for clean air and efficient public transport options. It also ranks highly on civic engagement by residents.

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2. Arlington, Virginia

This suburb of Washington, D.C., is known for its affluence and government worker residential base. It also earns high marks on civic engagement, clean air and great health care services.

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1. Madison, Wisconsin

The home town of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, like many college towns, offers plenty of opportunities for civic engagement, charitable opportunities, and solid job opportunities.

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The five most livable small cities

Finally, we come to the five most-livable small cities in the United States. These quaint communities top out at just under 100,000 residents.

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5. Silver Spring, Maryland

Another affluent D.C. suburb, Silver Spring offers ample access to health and wellness services, tight-knit neighborhoods, and easy access to public transportation — around town and into D.C.

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4. Lafayette, Colorado

Lafayette rates high on AARP’s list for quality of health care and safe and interesting neighborhood benchmarks. It also offers good job opportunities for residents and relatively affordable housing.

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3. La Crosse, Wisconsin

Affordable housing, a clean, healthy environment, and robust civic engagement make La Crosse another Wisconsin addition to the AARP livability index.

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2. Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Sheboygan is yet another Wisconsin city on the AARP list. It offers affordable housing, that clean Midwestern air that so many Wisconsin cities offer, and great public transportation.

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1. Fitchburg, WI

The No. 1 pick on AARP’s “top small cities” list is Fitchburg, cementing Wisconsin as the best state to live in. Fitchburg tops the AARP list thanks to solid job opportunities, inclusive neighborhoods, and the kind of friendly, engaging residents that mark the Wisconsin living experience.

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Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell is a freelance writer and contributor at