Arkansas, the Natural State. Most people who don't live there would probably best associate the 25th entrant into the Union with one William Jefferson Clinton, our 42nd President. Or maybe Walmart. Did you realize, though, that it's also the birthplace of such people as Johnny Cash and majestic fixtures of the American landscape as the Ozarks?  Well, it is, and it also contains within its 53,000-odd square miles some truly great places to live. Here at the Movoto Real Estate Blog, we've been busy determining just which places are the absolute best within each state, and, as you've no doubt guessed, our quest brings us today to Arkansas. We put this most natural of states under our Saturday Night Science microscope and dissected the data on its largest locales to produce this ranking, atop which sits the city of Bentonville. The full 10 best places in Arkansas are:

 

1. City of Bentonville
2. City of Fayetteville
3. City of Rogers
4. City of Bella Vista
5. City of Jonesboro (tie)
6. City of Siloam Springs (tie)
7. City of Springdale (tie)
8. City of Texarkana (tie)
9. City of Little Rock
10. City of Batesville

 

You're probably wondering what makes Bentonville best, or why Little Rock is such a big deal. Fortunately, we have answers to these questions (and more). In fact, we'll be going into more detail about each of our top 10 places right after we explain how exactly we made this ranking.

How We Created This Ranking

If this is your first time at one of our Big Deal List rodeos, here's how it works. We start with a list of all cities, towns, and Census Designated Places in a state with more than 10,000 residents-in this case that was 36. We evaluate them based on a set of criteria designed to determine how great they are, using data from the Census Bureau and business listings. These are:

  • Total amenities
  • 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)
  • Unemployment
  • Commute time
  • Weather (temperature and air quality)

Each place is given a rank for the various criteria, in this case 1 to 37, with the lowest score being the best. We then average these individual ranks into what we call our Big Deal Score, and the lowest one of those is declared the best place in the state. As we revealed above, that honor went to Bentonville. Want to see how all 37 places ranked? You'll find that info in the table at the end of this post. Now, let's take a closer look at what make each of our top 10 places stand out.

1. Bentonville

Bentonville, AR

Source: Flickr user Kevin Dooley

Remember how we mentioned Walmart up top? Well, Bentonville is where its founder got his start. Sam Walton opened his first discount store, which became Walton's Five and Dime, there in the 1940s and today it's a major downtown icon and visitor center. There's a lot more to Bentonville than that, though, as the city's 10th-place finish for amenities and fourth-place rank for quality of life attest. Residents enjoy attractions such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Museum of Native American History, and dining at the likes of Whole Hog Cafe (where there are seven BBQ sauces) or Tusk & Trotter, known for its risotto balls and bacon brittle ice cream. Or, you can just spend some time outdoors enjoying the first-ranked weather.

2. Fayetteville

Fayetteville, AR

Source: Flickr user Doug Wertman

Home to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville has the distinction placing first (in a two-way tie) for employment, with an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. The city also stood out with a fourth-place finish in total amenities (and third-ranked weather. Home values in Fayetteville indicate a strong desire to live there, and it placed second in this category with a median price of $174,100. Fayetteville is a big barbeque town, and residents flock to Penguin Ed's for their fill; non-carnivores tend to prefer the Greenhouse Grille. Everyone can agree that the quality of life in this city of close to 77,000 is great enough to earn it an eighth-place finish in that respect.

3. Rogers

Rogers, AR

Source: Flickr user Doug Wertman

Rogers, a city of nearly 56,000, is where Walmart really got its start (when the first store opened there in 1962). Fortunately, you don't have to be Sam Walton to enjoy a good quality of life there, as its third-place ranking in this category includes a cost of living 7 percent below the national average. It also placed third for employment, with an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. Rogers is ranked sixth for amenities, which include local favorites like Abuelo's. It's also home to the Daisy airgun museum; fitting for a place that really shot up our ranking.

4. Bella Vista

Bella Vista, AR

Source: Flickr user G.R. Allen

Bella Vista's name in Italian means "beautiful sight," and there are quite a few things about this city-originally founded as a resort town-that look really good. Chief among those is its quality of life, which was good enough to rank first overall and includes the highest median rent ($1,104) and third-highest median household income ($57,929) of any place we looked at. Bella Vista also has the lowest crime rate out of the 36 placed we surveyed: 765 crimes per 100,000 residents. The city tied for first in weather with Bentonville, which makes sense considering its resort origins and natural beauty.

5. Jonesboro (tie)

Jonesboro, AR

Source: Flickr user Erich Licht

Our ranking has two cities at fifth place, the first of those is Jonesboro, home to just over 67,000 people and Arkansas State University. It's also home to amenities like local favorite Skinny J's which helped earn it a ninth-place finish in that category. Jonesboro's quality of life and crime came in at 20th and 21st, respectively, but the city earned points for ranking 10th in both weather and commute time. While it didn't move up the frank for these facts, we think it's pretty great that Hattie Caraway, the first female U.S. Senator, was  from there (so is John Grisham).

6. Siloam Springs (tie)

Siloam Springs, AR

Source: City of Siloam Springs

Sharing the No. 5 spot with Joneboro, Siloam Springs is a much smaller (only 15,000 residents) locale known for its, well, springs and waterway. It's also known for its annual Dogwood Festival, which attracts about double the city's population to the area. What we were most interested in was Siloam Springs' showing in crime rate (it ranked fourth-safest) and employment (it tied for third with an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent). The city's short commute time of 16 minutes was also a standout, earning it a second-place finish for that criterion.

7. Springdale (tie)

Springdale, AR

Source: Flickr user Doug Wertman

Nestled in the Ozark mountains, this other city with "spring" in its name is the first of two places we looked at to be ranked seventh overall. Recognized as the poultry capital of the world, Springdale's residents would probably rather have outsiders focus on things like the Art Center of the Ozarks and Shiloh Center of Ozark History. We'll focus on how Springdale tied with Fayetteville for first in employment (its unemployment rate is 5.2 percent) and its fifth-place finish for amenities, including hotspots like James At The Mill. The city also has crime rate low enough for it to place fifth in that criterion.

8. Texarkana (tie)

Texarkana, AR

Source: Flickr user Peter Dutton

The residents of Texarkana, AR (nearly 30,000 of them) have to share their fair city with those who live in Texarkana, TX, as this double-life-leading local straddles the state line. The Arkansas side, at least, boasts enough amenities for it to rank seventh in that category (and claim places like Hopkins Icehouse as its own). Texarkana's quality of life was also high enough to nearly make the top 10; it placed 14th, helped by a 15 to 1 student-teacher ratio and cost of living 21 percent below the national average.

9. Little Rock

Little Rock, AR

Source: Flickr user Sean Davis

Ah, there's the state capital and largest city in Arkansas (at nearly 194,000 people). Little Rock, famously where Bill Clinton served as governor before making the trip to the White House, also happens to have the second-best quality of life of any city we looked at-including a cost of living 13 percent below the national average. As a big city (by Arkansas standards, at least) crime is a larger problem in Little Rock, earning it a 32nd-place rank for the criterion. Fortunately, things like a first-place finish for amenities helped it zip back up the overall ranking (like a Flying Saucer. bar, a local favorite).

10. Batesville

Batesville, AR

Source: Flickr user Dave Thomas

Batesville rounds out our top 10 best places in Arkansas while also being the smallest of them at just over 10,000 people. Those residents are safer than most others in the state, seeing as Batesville ranked as the seventh-safest place we looked at. While small, it didn't finish last for amenities; it ranked 24th in that category. Batesville's natural beauty is also a standout, and the city managed a fourth-place rank overall for its weather, which averages a pleasant 77 degrees in the summer with air quality of 33 (on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being best).

A Natural Beauty, Mostly

As you can see, Arkansas boasts some excellent places, big and small. What about the other end of the scale, though? The bottom of our list is occupied by West Memphis, AR, which ranked near-last in many categories and last in crime. The remainder of our bottom five include, in descending order: Marion, AR, Helena-West Helena, AR, Camden, AR, and Blytheville, AR. Best Places In Arkansas

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