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The 10 Best Cities in Pennsylvania

These 10 cities are the best Pennsylvania has to offer. Trust us, they do the Keystone State proud.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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Here at Movoto Real Estate, we’ve taken you to some of the smartest cities in America, we’ve looked at the most exciting, and we’ve explored our country’s best suburbs. And while these posts are all wonderful for these specific topics, they don’t quite answer the Big Question: Which cities are the best in general?

As part of an ongoing series, we’re going from state to state to learn which cities are the best. We’ve already looked at Michigan and Illinois, and today we’re moving onto the state that makes life better, Pennsylvania.

So what is the best city in Pennsylvania? According to our study, Mount Lebanon took the top spot, beating out stiff competition. Here are the top 10 cities in The Keystone State:

1. Mount Lebanon
2. Radnor Township
2. King of Prussia
4. Willow Grove
5. Scott Township
6. Bethel Park
7. Drexel Hill
8. West Chester
8. Greensburg
10. Upper St. Clair
10. Phoenixville

What’s so great about Mount Lebanon? How did we come up with this order? And where, oh where, is the City of Brotherly Love? Read on for a breakdown of our methodology as well as an in-depth look at each our our 10 best cities in Pennsylvania.

How Do You Measure Awesome?

Pennsylvania’s motto is “virtue, liberty, and independence.” While these are wonderful attributes, in order to come up with our list of the 10 best cities in Pennsylvania, we needed a more concrete way to measure each city. We settled on the following six criteria:

  • Amenities (shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.)
  • Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
  • Crime (percent above or below state average)
  • Education (high school graduation rate compared to state average)
  • Median Income (city’s average compared to state average)
  • Home value (percent above or below state average)

We started with a list of the 50 most populous cities and towns in Pennsylvania, then gave each city a rank from one to 50 in the individual criteria above based on the data, with one being the best possible score. Then, we averaged the criteria together for each city and gave it an overall score. The lower this number was, the higher the city ranked.

For a complete list of the 50 cities in our study, jump to the bottom of the post.

1. Mount Lebanon

Source: Mount Lebanon

Source: Mount Lebanon


Mount Lebanon may be a mere seven miles from Pittsburgh, but this town stands just fine on its own. In fact, one of the reasons Mount Lebanon scored so well on our list was because of the sheer number of amenities it has to offer, from restaurants and shops in Uptown to some of the most beautiful homes you’ve ever seen in Virginia Manor.

Of course, to get the No. 1 spot on our list, amenities wouldn’t cut it. Mount Lebanon also scored well in its low crime rate—70 percent below the state’s average, their median household incomes—56 percent above the state average, and their stellar high school graduation rates—14 percent above average. In fact, Mount Lebanon is known nationally for its high-ranking schools. Maybe that has something to do with their award-winning public library?

2. Radnor Township

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Radnor Township may be well-known for its colleges—Villanova University, Cabrini College, the Valley Forge Military Academy, and Eastern University are all located here, after all; but it turns out, Radnor should also be known for something else: its incredibly high home values.

Residents of Radnor stole the show (probably an open house) when it came to home values, averaging 283 percent higher than the rest of the state. This bodes well for current homeowners in Radnor, but what about people looking to buy? Fear not, as the median household income in this township is 91 percent higher than the state average. This is more than $95,000 a year.

2. King of Prussia

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Any town with a name like King of Prussia should be fabulous—and this town in Pennsylvania doesn’t disappoint. It scored particularly well for its low crime rate, 59 percent lower than the state average, and for its high median household income, 45 percent higher than the rest of the state.

But the real charm of this town lies outside of the numbers. Shoppers from all over the U.S. flock to the King of Prussia Mall, the largest mall in the country in terms of space. And foodies can eat like royalty here at restaurants like Blue Pacific, Creed’s Seafood and Steaks, and the Capital Grille.

4. Willow Grove

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Just north of Philadelphia, Willow Grove is an often overlooked gem—perhaps because it is so small, with a population of just over 15,000 people.

But don’t let that small number fool you: over the years, there has been a lot going on in Willow Grove, including one of the first amusement parks in the U.S., Willow Grove Park.

Today, Willow Grove may be a bit quieter than it once was when it was the “Music Capital of America,” but it is a safe and affluent area to raise a family. Willow Grove’s crime rate is 59 percent lower than the state’s average and their home values are an impressive 73 percent higher. If that doesn’t do it for you, just grab a pastry at Sam’s Italian Market and Bakery. You’ll be living in Willow Grove by the end of the month.

5. Scott Township

Source: Google Maps

Source: Google Maps


Scott Township came in at No. 5 on our list, particularly because of its low crime rate (30 percent lower than the state average) and for its high school graduation rate (5 percent higher than the state average).

But it may be for a different number entirely that residents love living there so much: 1 percent. That’s the percent residents pay on earned income tax, and it’s one of the lowest rates in the surrounding area. And with a median household income 14 percent above the state’s average in the first place, it’s no wonder people love Scott.

6. Bethel Park

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Bethel Park broke into our list at No. 6 as one of the least expensive cities to live in, and also one of the best educated, with a high school graduation rate 11 percent higher than the state average.

But that’s not the only reason Bethel Park is a great place to raise a family. In fact, it should probably be called Bethel Parks, because of the variety of outdoor activities this place offers. There is the Millennium Park, the Simmons Park, and 11 additional community parks around the area. And for those cold winter days, residents can just grab their kiddos and head inside for a stroll around the South Hills Village Mall, the area’s very first completely enclosed mall.

7. Drexel Hill

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Drexel Hill made our list for its high median household income of over $66,000 (33 percent higher than the state average), and for its high school graduation rate (9 percent higher than the rest of the state).

But beyond the numbers, this former Swedish Colony, once called New Sweden, is an idyllic town straight out of the past. The Swedish Log Cabin on Creek Road, for example, is possibly the oldest log house in North America. And other historic homes like Thornfield, where the famous abolitionist, Thomas Garrett once lived, are simply a part of everyday life in Drexel Hill. It’s no wonder their home values are 39 percent higher than the rest of the state!

8. West Chester

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


If Drexel Hill is like walking into the past, West Chester is like running into it at full speed wearing period costumes.

West Chester has all of the “good on paper” qualities to top our list—it has lots of amenities, a median house value 102 percent higher than the rest of the state, and it has the highest high school graduation rate at 26 percent above average; but it is this town’s undeniable, old-world charm that sets it apart from the rest of the state, and really, the entire country.

The entire West Chester Downtown Historic District has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, plus buildings dotted around town like the Bank of Chester County, the Butler House, and the Farmers and Mechanics Building.

If you are looking for that quintessential, old-world Pennsylvania, grab your horse and buggy and head to West Chester.

8. Greensburg

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Greensburg is not only the smallest municipality on our list, with a population of less than 15,000, but it is also the least expensive, with a cost of living 4 percent lower than the state’s average.

The living in Greensburg is also good; neighborhoods here are lined with trees and dotted with parks and green spaces.

They’re also close to amenities like the Five Star Trail, the Palace Theatre, the Robertshaw Amphitheater, and downtown’s shopping district.

For the golfers out there, Greensburg has one of the best courses in Pennsylvania, the Mt. Odin Golf Course, one of the only municipal courses in Western Pennsylvania. Talk about putting the green in Greensburg.

10. Upper St. Clair

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Our first of the two cities that tied for our final spot is Upper St. Clair. The city scored high because of its incredibly low crime rate—78 percent lower than the state average. But Upper St. Clair’s awesome factors go far beyond that. This town also came in first in their high school graduation rate—16 percent above the state’s average—and its median household income of 127 percent higher than the state average. That’s an average income of over $112,000.

If outstanding education, a low crime rate, and an incredible annual income aren’t exactly your thing, there’s this too: Upper St. Clair is the home to the only indoor/outdoor water slide park in western PA, at the Upper St. Clair Community & Recreation Center.

No wonder this place was rated one of the 10 best places to live in the U.S. by the U.S. News & World Report. The waterpark is reason enough!

10. Phoenixville

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Rounding out our list is Phoenixville, which tied with Upper St. Claire for No. 10. Once known as Manavon, this borough made our list thanks to a relatively high household income—23 percent higher than the state’s median household income. In addition to this, Phoenixville’s home values (42 percent higher than the median) are a bright spot.

Way More than Virtue, Liberty, and Independence

Well, Pennsylvanians, there you have it. We hope this settles any questions of which of your fine cities are the best of the best—or perhaps we’ve only raised more. Either way, one thing is for sure: you guys are way more than the land of virtue, liberty, and independence.

Best Cities in Pennsylvania List

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posted on: November 7, 2013
179,467 views, 36 comments

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36 Comments

  1. Roger Dukeman

    Willow Grove is a post office number…My mail is in the Willow Grove P.O. Area…I went to school and live in Upper Moreland Township!!!

    Willow Grove is not a city.

  2. John Ryan

    As a Realtor and a Movoto referral agent I have to say this is the most inaccurate and poorly researched article I have read about “cities” in Pennsylvania. This needs to be taken down and researched properly. I am serious, not even close, I am embarrassed that I am affiliated with this site.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to John Ryan

      Hey John,
      What criteria would you recommend to look at? A place with low crime, relatively low cost of living, high wages, and a well educated populous sounds like a pretty great place to me.

      • John Ryan in response to Chris Kolmar

        Chris, I agree with the criteria. My problem with this is that I know these areas and the accuracy is at question. Where did they get the data? The numbers for the places I know make little sense.

        • Chris Kolmar in response to John Ryan

          We use FBI Crime Data, Census Data for education and income, and bestplaces.net for cost of living. Amenities comes from a variety of sources, but looks at things such as restaurants per person.

          • Jim in response to Chris Kolmar

            Chris, I would have to agree with John. While this may be how these towns, cities, and census designated areas rank in relation to each other. That is the extent of this list’s validity. Chester, PA is ranked by one website as the 19th most dangerous city in the country for 2013 (that’s down from 2nd place last year). How were these areas selected to be the top 50?

          • Chris Kolmar in response to Jim

            We choose the top 50 most populous cities/towns as the starting point, as the article explains. Chester is ranked in the bottom 20% for crime per our criteria (Crimes per 1000 people) and in ranks as the worst City of the 50 biggest cities in PA.

          • Jim in response to Chris Kolmar

            You did not choose the 50 most populous cities or towns. Some of these are not even municipalities. Take Drexel Hill for example. It is not a town or a city but a CDP with a population of around 30,000 that is wholly contained within the township of Upper Darby (which is not in the list) with a population of over 80,000. Basically your list is a list of randomly selected areas within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that you have chosen to rate.

          • Chris Kolmar in response to Jim

            Hey Jim,
            Not randomly selected at all, but the largest 50 CDPs in the state. If it’s good enough for the census, it’s good enough for us.

          • John Ryan in response to Chris Kolmar

            The data is definitely flawed and misleading.

            For example,

            Drexel Hill made our list for its high median household income of over $66,000 (33 percent higher than the state average), and for its high school graduation rate (9 percent higher than the rest of the state).

            But beyond the numbers, this former Swedish Colony, once called New Sweden, is an idyllic town straight out of the past. The Swedish Log Cabin on Creek Road, for example, is possibly the oldest log house in North America. And other historic homes like Thornfield, where the famous abolitionist, Thomas Garrett once lived, are simply a part of everyday life in Drexel Hill. It’s no wonder their home values are 39 percent higher than the rest of the state!

            Flaws in this statement. Home values are plumeting and most are underwater and can’t move. There isn’t a High School in Drexel Hill and more than 40% are bussed to private schools. The High School for this town in Upper Darby is over crowded and more than 200 kids a year drop out. Recently nine students were arrested for putting a teacher in the hospital who was trying to break up a fight. As far as the historic structures go, most of the residents couldn’t find them if you asked them and “simply a part of everyday life” is poetic license at it’s worse.

            Don’t even get me started on the rest of the top 50.

            If you are going to have people right stories from census data and fbi stats you may want to vet them before you publish. Hard enough selling homes to people relocating with accurate data because of peoples quick to judge mentality.

          • Chris Kolmar in response to John Ryan

            If you are going to argue that FBI crime data is flawed and census data is flawed, then we will have to agree to disagree. Additionally, using 1 example of a violent crime does not prove a point and just invokes recency bias.

          • Jim in response to Chris Kolmar

            I will not argue that census data or FBI crime data is flawed. What I will state is that the name of this article is misleading since, as other and I have stated, some of these “cities” and “towns” are not cities or towns but merely neighborhoods of other towns (larger towns that are not on the list) or comprised of parts of multiple municipalities. In light of these facts I will also argue that your analysis of the data is flawed due to the fact that the title does not reflect the reference frame you have chosen and larger cities and towns, such as Upper Darby, have been excluded from this list erroneously (seeing as you cannot seem to decide whether you are using CDPs or municipalities as your subjects.)

    • John Morris in response to John Ryan

      John, what company do you represent? I am thinking about opening a warehouse in Pennsylvania and am trying to figure out where makes the most sense.

  3. ANDREW

    Reading ranks higher than Philadelphia??? Bahahaha! You must not have spent time in many of these places….

  4. Suzy

    Your headline is misleading because you are implying that the best places to live within PA are only large cities. There are smaller communities that are wonderful places to live – like my town of Fox Chapel. So if you want to make a claim of the best cities you should look at all of the cities, towns, etc or change your headline and messaging.

  5. Squaregrouper

    There are 57 cities in PA and Greensburg was the only one on the list. The other nine are townships, boroughs and even communities that aren’t actual entities. EX- I grew up in “Colonial Park”, which doesn’t officially exist- it is the last exit on I83 before ending at I81. The actual municipality is Lower Paxton Twp. (Harrisburg suburbs).

  6. Matthew Gastgeb

    Doylestown is Travel and Leisure’s 13th favorite town in America and it doesn’t even break this list’s top 50 in PA. Fail.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Matthew Gastgeb

      Hey Matt,
      It only has a population of 8,600. That is too small to be considered a city and too small to be considered on our list. No doubt it is a great small town though.

      • Roger Dukeman in response to Chris Kolmar

        Chris, Your title should be top 50 CDP’s in Pennsylvania… I live in Upper Moreland Township…However, my post office/CDP is Willow Grove ranked #4…My question for you is the remaining part of Upper Moreland Township, how was that considered?
        Upper Moreland Township as a whole has a population of over 26k, should have been considered for your list and not broken up….
        Basing this on Census/post offices and not actual township governments is poor on your part and misleading.

  7. Rich

    Wilkinsburg, a ghetto that you avoid or lock your doors if you have to travel through, ranked #21 & get a 1 in ‘amenities’ cracked me up.

    • Alex in response to Rich

      youtube.com/watch?v=x1NRfjC_zlU

      The video above are some wilkinsburg residents taking you on a tour of the neighborhood. Note their weapons. You also should have included that wilkinsburg had 14 murders last year. 19 rapes…. 131 assaults….. you know… just 600 violent crimes total for one year, for about 15,000 population…in 2.3 sq miles. Over a hundred homeless children. Crunch those numbers and tell me me Wilkinsburg is the 20th best place to live in the state.

  8. SPSS MAN

    Did you perform any statistical analyses (e.g.ANOVA, Chi-Square, Levene’s, etc.) with these data? I’m not receiving a warm and fuzzy with this top 50 output data…

  9. tim dante

    How is Peters Twp not on this list?

  10. Mia

    I live in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Some of the top 50 cities you name in my area are truly laughable. I would not recommend some of them to my worst enemy! Wilkinsburg, Penn Hills & McKeesport!! No one in their right mind would buy residential real estate in these areas.

  11. Aaron

    Bethel Park also has South Park (large county park with a wave pool, ice rink, two golf courses, dozens of picnic groves, and acres of woods and meadows) as its eastern border.

    We also have a brand-new state-of-the-art high school and parklets in many subdivisions.

  12. no 19026

    Drexel Hill is #7! haha, have you ever been to Drexel Hill? That place is dump with the rest of Upper Darby! I finally got out of that place a few months ago. I couldn’t be happier.

  13. j wayne skynet

    This list is laughable, obviously the result of ridiculously sloppy research – done from a distance (in California), and without proper data checking. Keep in mind that your criteria only takes into account REPORTED crime. Many of these “cities” are crumbling ghetto ruins with failed or failing economies ( Wilkinsburg, Mckeesport, Johnston) – or residential-primarily or -only rural townships ( which should not be considered by the same criteria as urban centers or places with residential, industrial, and commercial areas). I have been to a number of these places myself. You should take this article down, it’s misleading, and i consider it insulting.

  14. Liz123

    This is the worst list ever. Drexel Hill is in one of the worst school districts in the suburbs of the Philadelphia area and most people that live there send their kids to private school. Not to mention the fact that Chester, PA even made the list… Whatever you do people don’t buy a house based on this list!

  15. John

    Why does Philadelphia only rank 26 for amenities? Please explain

  16. Mallory

    I agree with John Ryan, i am a freshmen at Upper Darby High, and i am so confused as to why Drexel hill is number 7 on this list. WE can barely afford to keep our arts programs going and we have an attention seeking-cop who makes everything seem worse then it really was. I am really distressing the need to remake this list because Drexel hill SHOULD NOT be in this list

  17. Richard Schmoyer

    Many pennsylvanians don’t know where they live. Tehy go by the local post office name, not necessarily the borough or township in which they reside. For example, somebody may have a Gettysburg address, but reside in Straban or Cumberland Township. There are people who would not know the nmae fo the poltical subdivion in which they reside. pennsylvania is the “alnd of local governemtn”. Their are 2,600 poltical jurisdictions.

  18. Daniela

    Wilkinsburg???

  19. Alexandra

    My family is relocating to PA for work and I’m trying to learn about the state. I was very confused by this article. Drexel Hill as one of the best… School ratings are awful compared to most of places in PA!
    Also, if you rate the best PA has to offer, I’d expect better looking into amenities, school rating, quality of medical care (hospital and doctor), children friendly/focused activities… We may gravitate around West Chester or Philadelphia were work will be, so if anyone wants to offer feedback on those please, I’ll check it!

  20. waqas masih

    nice states I like it but I have no money to seen this state

  21. tiyy

    your out of your mind with Willow Grove, its absolutely discusting and full of crime.

  22. Bob

    I agree with tiyy. Willow Grove would not make top 500 cities to live in. I lived there for many years it is a garbage dump. Crime is extremely high, anyone from this area would laugh at this list. I wouldnt put my family anywhere near these cities. Radnor? Are you kidding me? King of Prussia and Pheonixville? LOL

 

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