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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
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.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is a national online real estate brokerage. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes, CBS News, and The New York Times.