Home to major cities including Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit, the Midwest is full of fascinating cultures, key centers of innovation and business, and some pretty great sports teams as well.. But which places are simply the best of the Midwest?
That’s what the Movoto Real Estate Blog decided to find out. We marveled at snowy photographs, licked our lips at some unusual and tasty grub, and crunched some numbers to come up with this list of the greatest Midwest spots to live in:
Some states might not be represented very well in this top 10, but, rest assured, the top 50 at the bottom of this article show a wide range of Midwest places.
You might be wondering what we consider “the best.” Well, wonder no more, because we’ll discuss how we created these rankings in the very next section.
As with all our Big Deal Lists, we used pure data to get our results.
First off, we made a list of all the places in the Midwest states with more than 30,000 residents. Then, we looked to sources including the 2010 U.S. Census and business listings in order to find data in seven different criteria:
- Amenities per capita
- Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio)
- Total crimes
- Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
- Commute time
- Weather (temperature and air quality)
We omitted any place we couldn’t get data for, which left us with 295 places—so if your hometown fits the criteria but isn’t listed, that could be what’s going on.
From there, we ranked each place in each category from one to 295, with rankings closer to one being better. Then, we averaged each place’s rankings into one Big Deal Score. The location with the lowest number for that score became our best spot in the Midwest.
If you are curious if your home made the top 50, just check the chart at the bottom of this article. For now though, let’s look at each of our top 10 more closely to see why they earned top honors.
1. Leawood, KS
Although it’s a little city at only 31,867 people, that doesn’t mean Leadwood is short on great things to offer locals. In addition to the stats we’ll talk about in a moment, locals can enjoy BBQ at Oklahoma Joe’s or savor a touch of class at Bristol Seafood Grill—just for starters.
As a follow up, locals can also savor the fifth best quality of life ranking or the sixth lowest unemployment rate. Throw in the 25th lowest crime, and Leawood is a pretty safe bet for people in a lot of regards.
As an extra plus, the weather here was actually pretty good, ranking 24th overall, which helped keep Leawood in our No. 1 spot.
2. Brookfield, WI
Let’s start by saying that none of this place’s rankings were below the top 50 percent of our list, which means that Brookfield was a solid contender across the board.
Still, in addition to the fairly low crime, taxes, and commute times, there were a couple of standout scores.
Brookfield boasted the 25th lowest unemployment rate, as well as second best quality of life score. It got that ranking due to a median income of over $86,000 and a low student-teacher ratio.
This place also had the 12th most amenities per capita thanks to spots like Kopp’s Frozen Custard and Cafe Manna.
3. Menomonee Falls, WI
Another Wisconsin representative, this village posted some pretty great all-around scores.
Although it didn’t have a ton of amenities per capita, it still had Ninja Japanese Steakhouse and Ally’s Bistro—so what more do you need?
Well, maybe you need low crime and low unemployment, and Menomonee Falls can offer that, too. It also had fairly low taxes and commute times, so it had plenty of perks to go around.
It’s also worth mentioning that Menomonee Falls had the 47th best quality of life score, thanks to several factors. The cost of living here was lower than many others at the top of our list, and the rent was actually affordable.
4. Urbandale, IA
This city of 39,564 was also home to some pretty stellar scores. To start with, Urbandale had the lowest unemployment on our list, with merely 2.7 percent of locals being without a job.
More than that, this place had the 16th best quality of life, the 54th lowest crime, and low commute times as well as good weather. Really, there were very few downsides to living in this little city.
It’s true that there were fewer amenities per capita here than in any other place in our top 10, but there were still many interesting options to choose from, including Irina’s Restaurant and Bar and Palmer’s Deli & Market.
5. Manhattan, KS
Manhattan has a reputation for being awesome. It was recently ranked as one of our Happiest Small Cities, due in part to its sixth lowest average commute time.
Manhattan also had the 16th best weather, the 20th lowest unemployment rate, and the 87th lowest crime. All in all, living here sounds like a pretty good deal.
Speaking of good deals, this place may have had the 114th best quality of life score, but it also had the second lowest cost of living and a very affordable median home price.
5. West Des Moines, IA
Although this place may be tied for fifth, West Des Moines is certainly in a class all its own. If the 60th most amenities per capita doesn’t help convince you of that, maybe the crazy good fried plantains at Mi Patria will.
More than good eats, this city posted good stats in general. The unemployment was the 12th lowest, the average commute time was the 68th lowest, and even the weather was ranked the 76th best in the Midwest.
As the icing on the cake, West Des Moines had the 28th best quality of life scores. What got it there, you ask? A low cost of living, a great student-teacher ratio, and a median income of almost $64,000.
7. Iowa City, IA
Another Iowa locale, this city is a great place for people of all sorts.
For one, Iowa City had the 32nd best air quality, which helped it earn the 14th best weather ranking. So enjoying that 18 minute average commute on a sunny day might not be much of a problem, either.
The crime was decently low, the quality of life was good, and the unemployment was the 49th lowest on our entire list.
Iowa City also had the 27th most amenities per capita, which meant that locals are able to choose between eclectic options such as Oasis Falafel, Nodo, or La Michoacana Taqueria for their next meal.
8. Kearney, NE
While Kearney was the smallest place in our top 10, and one of the tiniest on our entire list, it packed one serious punch in the stats department.
The scores here were mostly in the top 50 percent, with a few standouts like the 49th lowest unemployment really keeping Kearney’s ranking high.
The weather here was also good, ranking 81st, and the taxes were lower than many others in our top 10, so enjoying the weather and your well-earned paycheck is a little easier in these parts.
The real standout score here was the lowest average commute time on our entire list, at a measly 15 minutes. With that short of commute, it’s even more tempting to stop at places like Barista’s Daily Grind for a cup of coffee.
9. Sioux Falls, SD
You didn’t think we’d forgotten the Dakotas, did you? Well, with the 35th shortest average commute time and 15th lowest unemployment being in Sioux Falls, how could we.
This city had a low cost of living, an affordable average home and rent price, as well as the lowest taxes on our entire list.
In addition to those standouts, the weather here was fairly good, and each year people in the area can enjoy the Sioux Empire Fair for a bit of old-fashioned excitement.
10. Overland Park, KS
Overland Park may be the 10th best place in the Midwest, but it made it onto our list for some very important reasons. For starters, it had the 44th lowest unemployment at only 4.9 percent.
To push the point a little further, Overland Park had the 24th best weather and the 99th lowest crime rate on our entire list.
The most important number here was the 33rd best quality of life score. The city accomplished this with its low student-teacher ratio, a median household income of over $71,000, and a high median home price that reflected this spot’s desirability.
A Little Love For America’s Heartland
It doesn’t matter if you want to make snow angels, enjoy the Great Lakes, or bask in the city lights—the Midwest pretty much has it all. And you can get a little dose of everything you’re looking for in any of these 10 fantastic locales.
So congrats to our winners, and in case you want to move to one of these top spots, never fear. Movoto Real Estate helps people find houses, and we can definitely give you guidance in that department should you need it.