The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Most Relaxed Small Cities In America

Take a break, relax, and check out these 10 cities. Work can wait. (But seriously, if you get fired for reading this, don’t get mad at us. That’s stressful.)

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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Before we get going here, let’s just take a second to get comfortable—maybe put your feet up, take some deep breaths—you know, just relax.

Feel better? Good. Because it seems as though that may have been your only reprieve in an otherwise stressful day (or perhaps stressful life) if you live in places like Washington D.C., New York, or any of the other most stressed out cities in the country.

On the other hand, if you happen to live in one of the cities we’re focusing on today, you’re probably pretty darn relaxed already. That’s because the 10 cities below are the most relaxed small cities in the country, starting with our winner, Richland, Washington.

1. Richland, WA
2. Dubuque, IA
3. Manhattan, KS
4. Charleston, WV
5. Cedar Park, TX
6. Chapel Hill, NC
7. Georgetown, TX
8. La Crosse, WI
9. Normal, IL
10. San Marcos, TX

If you’re a regular reader of the Movoto Real Estate blog, you know we’re a pretty relaxed bunch. After all, our jobs consist mostly of creating awesome lists, maps, and fictional home listings. But aside from that, we sell houses, so if you’re interested in giving up the big city for one of the more relaxed places above, just get in touch.

First, though, let’s take a look at how we came up with this list in the first place.

Our Methodology

Okay, relax guys. We’re going to make this explanation as quick and easy as possible. After all, this isn’t our first Big Deal List, and by now, we’re all pretty familiar with the drill, right?

We started out with a list of all of the small cities in the U.S. between 50,000 and 60,000 people. Then, we analyzed each place using data from the U.S. Census, Areavibes, and business listings, in each of the following categories:

  • Commute Time (the lower, the more relaxed)
  • Unemployment Rate (the lower, the more relaxed)
  • Cost of Living (the lower, the more relaxed)
  • Crimes per 100,000 people (the fewer, the more relaxed)
  • Hours worked per week (the fewer, the more relaxed)
  • Population Density (the lower, the more relaxed)
  • Percent of Earnings Spent on Rent (the lower, the more relaxed)
  • Number of massage businesses per capita (the higher, the more relaxed)
  • Yoga studios per capita (the higher, the more relaxed)
  • Parks per capita (the higher, the more relaxed)

Once we omitted any places that didn’t have complete data, we were left with a grand total of 140 small cities, which we ranked with a score from one to 140 in each category. Cities with scores closer to one were more relaxed overall.

We then averaged each place’s rankings into one overall Big Deal Score, where again, the places with the lowest scores were the most relaxed.

Alright, chill out, we’re almost done here. If you’d like to see more than just these top 10, you can head to the bottom of the post to see the top 50 (at a leisurely pace, of course). Otherwise, kick back and have some chamomile tea or something as we take a closer look at our 10 winners.

1. Richland, WA

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user triconf

Anyone who has ever been to Washington knows that the scenery as at least relaxing, but this little city in particular offers more than just a beautiful (and by beautiful, we mean absolutely breathtaking) backdrop in which to zen out.

Richland had an adjusted income of $71,608—meaning the median household income of $68,744 was adjusted to account for the lower than average cost of living score of 96. Out of all of the places we looked at, Richland residents spent the seventh smallest percentage of this adjusted income on rent. In other words, less worrying about making that monthly payment.

Richland also had the 16th least densely packed population, which may not seem like that big of a deal—but hey, you try living in a place like San Francisco where your neighbors are practically in your bathroom. It’s stressful.

2. Dubuque, IA

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user Jason Mrachina

Here’s another city that seems to know how the whole rent thing should work (See, San Francisco?? Not ALL income must go to rent). Whoops, sorry. Back to Dubuque, which had the 12th lowest percentage of earnings go to rent.

Which is awesome because it leaves residents relaxed and free to enjoy some yoga (it ranked 38th in this category), explore the high number of parks, like Washington Park, per capita, or just revel in the knowledge that they have the 13th lowest cost of living and only work an average of 36.6 hours per week.

Now there’s your meditation mantra.

3. Manhattan, KS

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user Derek Stegelman

Unlike that other Manhattan, this one is actually quite relaxing. Let’s compare. Manhattan in New York City: Loud, crowded, everyone just struggling to make ends meet, constantly attempting to hustle across town against the traffic.

Manhattan, Kansas, on the other hand, has the sixth shortest average commute time (just 16 minutes!), an unemployment rate of just 4.30 percent (lower than 128 other places on our list!), and residents only work an average of 34.6 hours per week.

4. Charleston, WV

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user O Palsson

Here’s something that is sure to make any big-city readers out there green with envy. Charleston has a median rent price of just $625. This, plus an adjusted income of $51,720 (adjusted for the cost of living, that is), means that Charleston residents spend the sixth lowest percentage on rent out of all the places we looked at.

If that’s not reason enough to pack your bags and head to Charleston, maybe this will help: It’s also the fifth safest city we looked at, with fewer than 2,000 crimes per 100,000 people. Not worrying about being mugged every time you walk out the door? Now that’s relaxing.

5. Cedar Park, TX

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user Steve Miller

Cedar Park—the first of three small cities representing the grand state of Texas. And speaking of grand, it may come as no surprise that one of the main reasons Cedar Park ranked so well was for its high number of parks per capita. I mean, there’s tons of space for them after all.

There also seems to be a lot of room for other relaxing amenities, specifically, massage businesses and yoga studios. There’s Flow Yoga, Pure Bikram Yoga, gyms with yoga… And hey, if you really can’t find one you love, Austin is just a quick and stress-free drive away… providing you don’t hit Mopac at rush hour.

But then you can just turn on 90.5 and listen to the soothing sounds of Terry Gross. Everyone wins!

6. Chapel Hill, NC

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user Lee Coursey

Fun fact! The average resident in Chapel Hill, North Carolina works a total of just 33.5 hours per week. 33.5 hours per WEEK! That is pretty awesome, considering these days most people in the U.S. work well over 40.

And what to do with all that free time? Relax. Go to yoga—from Franklin St. Yoga Center to Triangle Yoga and everywhere in between, there are plenty of options to choose from (the 16th most per capita, in fact).

If you find your zen outdoors, there are also the 20th most parks per capita. And if you’d rather just find inner peace by making the long drive to work… well, too bad. Chapel Hill has an average commute time of just 19 minutes.

7. Georgetown, TX

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user Anne Worner

If you’re sensing a trend with our Texas cities, you’re on the right track… Georgetown is yet another small city just outside of Austin, which everyone knows is kind of the epitome of chilled out in the Lone Star State.

Georgetown has plenty of relaxed folks all on its own though, thanks to being one of the least densely-populated places on our list, with just 990 people per square mile. To put that into perspective, just take a look at another small city on our list, West New York, NJ. It has nearly 50,000 people per square mile—it’s no wonder it came in at No. 138.

Not only do Georgetown’s residents have plenty of space; they also have plenty of parks and jobs, ranking 13th and 12th in these categories, respectively. Really, it seems the only thing they’re lacking is crime.

8. La Crosse, WI

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user Sleepycat5

With studios like Root Down Yoga and the Yoga Place, just to name a couple, La Crosse has some of the most yoga studios per capita on our list. It also has the 18th most massage places. But what really makes this city relaxing for residents is not found in any business. No, the answer to their relaxation is much more complex…

Just kidding. It’s pretty simple, really. These guys work an average of just 33.9 hours per week, have a commute time of just 16 minutes, oh, and the cost of living? It’s 10 points lower than the national average of 100!

Turns out, less work + more play – expense = relaxation. Who knew?

9. Normal, IL

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user soundfromwayout

Oh, if only the Normal way of life was normal in the rest of the country, we’d all be a lot more relaxed and a lot less, you know, crazy.

Take this city’s average workweek for example. The average resident gets in the car, drives for just 16 minutes, and then proceeds to clock in approximately 32.5 hours… for the whole week. The only place with a shorter average work week was Corvallis, OR, with 32.3 hours!

It doesn’t end there, though. The average Joe in Normal earns about $57,771 per year (adjusted for the cost of living), and only spends $742 of that per month on rent, giving him/her one of the lowest percentages of income spent on rent.

Seriously, San Francisco: take notes.

10. San Marcos, TX

10 Most Relaxed Small Cities

Source: Flickr user rubengarciajrphotography

Last but certainly not least on our list is San Marcos—yes, yet another small city outside of Austin. Aside from there likely being something in the water that just makes residents in this area so much more relaxed (dark chocolate?), San Marcos pretty much aced it when it came to work/life balance.

The average work week here is just 32.8 hours, and just 3.40 percent of residents are unemployed! Compare that to, say, Porterville, CA where over 12 percent of people are jobless, and it’s no wonder SM made the cut (and Porterville came in at 86.)

But wait, there’s more! San Marcos also had the ninth lowest cost of living—a score of just 86, compared to the national average of 100. With a shorter work week and a lower cost of living, seems like you guys should have plenty of time for that massage (of which there are plenty.)

Simma Down Now

Hey now, if your hometown didn’t quite make the cut, there’s no need to get worked up. You can check the list below to see the 50 most relaxed small cities—or just skip it altogether, sell your home, and head to one of these top 10 for a more laid back lifestyle.

As Lao Tzu said, “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.” And that guy really knew how to relax.

Most Relaxed Small Cities

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posted on: August 4, 2015
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