Salt Lake City skyline Utah at night.

9 Best Places to Live in the Northern United States in 2024

Entering 2024 means leaving some troubles at rest while facing new obstacles to overcome. The hectic lifestyle on an individual level begs for a calm environment to live in, with an attention towards accessing the outdoors. That said, no one wants to compensate for the perks of a quality life that comes with a high income and an affordable house, as well as vibrant work opportunities and play, at a perfect balance.

In the northern US, you don't even have to squeeze that hard to get the juices flowing. The first city feels like an exclusive society but with a fast-growing startup scene, an international community, and a spirit of inclusivity. Green Bay, Hartford, and Pittsburgh offer affordable housing below $350,000 to own in a safe neighborhood, while the coastal old neighborhoods of Portland, Maine, come with a price tag that many deem worthy, just like the mountain views when you live in Boise.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor.
University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor, a city of contrasts, blends rural and urban like no other place in the state. With a sporty and smart population of 123,827, it is as easy to find companions for stimulating conversation as it is to stay active outdoors. Nature abounds for the outdoorsy in the walkable “Tree Town,” with a robust public park system, low crime rates, and excellent public schools. Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor feels like a society of its own, with a fast-growing startup scene, an international community, and a spirit of inclusivity. The counterculture is high-tech, enjoying all the trappings of a stereotypical Midwestern college town and its diverse job market.

Having rapidly grown since the 1940s, Ann Arbor today, with a median age of 27.4 years, offers an average household income of $78,546, and despite a poverty rate of 23.34%, its historic main street and affordability make for a desirable townscape. Attracting all ages with bookstores, gift shops, and taverns, as well as cultural destinations and events, you can get all this for a very reasonable $471K or rent monthly for under $2,000. With a 7.9 score for life quality, over 90% of Ann Arbor residents live less than a 10-minute walk away from a public park for hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing in winter, as well as quick access to re-energized Detroit for even more opportunities.

Boise, Idaho

Capital and skyline of Boise Idaho with balloons in flight.
Capital and skyline of Boise, Idaho, with balloons in flight.

With spectacular peaks overlooking the city, Boise often makes it to the best places to live in the nation as an affluent and outdoorsy city in the Rockies foothills. Having rapidly grown since the 1960s to its present-day population of 233,860, with a median age of 37.9 years, all the nature around lends a unanimous feel with a love for the outdoors. Its smaller-town vibes and rurality on the outskirts make it popular for family life. This desirable city abounds in friendly attractions and amenities, like an airport, town greens, and Zoo Boise, while Boise State University and a thriving economy offer newcomers opportunities to study and work in major sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture, and tourism for a comfortable and stable life.

Boasting a median household income of $76,402 and a poverty rate of 11.13%, the largest metro area in the state and the 3rd most populous in the Pacific Northwest, the Boise City-Nampa metropolitan area encompasses a population of 620,000. Being more affordable than other Rockies destinations like Aspen, Boise's comparative median house price is $594,500, considering high salaries and low unemployment. The city on flat land is very manageable, with many hiking and biking trails starting on the proper and extending into the northeastern foothills, which offer stunning eastern views from Downtown Boise. The city features a fantastic network of trails, including the top-rated Esther Simplot Park, while Boise National Forest and Sawtooth National Forest are a short drive away for hiking, camping, and backpacking, often eliminating the need for a getaway.

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington, Vermont, USA at Church Street Marketplace.
Burlington, Vermont, USA, at Church Street Marketplace.

Comprising diverse neighborhoods as well as beautiful parks and trails for outdoor enthusiasts, this small town in Chittenden County is one of the most revered places to live and visit in the state. Homes for sale in Burlington range from $400K to $3M, where you can score a 3-bedroom at a listing price of $474.5K, making it a fantastic destination for starting a family. Having been rapidly growing, this thriving city of 45,000 may have one of the highest poverty rates in the state at 23.65%, but it also enjoys better job diversity than even the bigger cities, including biomedical and life sciences, clean technologies, food and beverage, and information and communications technology.

Rivaling any other with its services, attractions, and entertainment, Burlington is a real hub of Vermont, attracting outdoor lovers and remote workers among them, as well as many young professionals. With a median income of $64,931 and a median age of 27.4 years, there are also opportunities in professional fields and technical services. So, if you are determined and want to make it big and build a career with a stable work atmosphere, Burlington awaits you with good schools and plenty of things to do. The highly rated University of Vermont attracts both students and employers in all fields of education, while the relevant scene to unwind includes many restaurants and bars in this city, one of the best for singles, with a great, lively nightlife scene. 

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Green Bay is a Large Town in Northern Wisconsin on Lake Michigan.
Green Bay is a large town on Lake Michigan in Northern Wisconsin.

Having been steadily growing since the turn of the 20th century, the city of Green Bay in Brown County, Wisconsin, and its county seat steadied out in the 2000s with its current population of 105,593. Some 100 miles north of Milwaukee, the metro population is 326,590, while the median age in Green Bay is 35.6. Offering an average household income of $59,174, its prices are also much more affordable than in many places in the Northern US, especially considering the manageable city size. Home to the NFL group Packers and avid sports fans with moderate views who enjoy entertainment after a good day's work, most ordinary things and costs correspond to work pay. 

You can join the hustle and bustle as a homeowner, where the median listing price is $339.9K, and snatch a house at the median price of $258.7K, the sale price! Green Bay is not just a greatly affordable place to live but a place to thrive while living a high-quality life. You can expect to spend only 20% of the median household income on housing, while goods and services cost less, which makes it easy to save up for a dream, start a family, or enjoy the wide opportunities to shop and play. The city offers a reliable transport system to get around conveniently, while the pleasant year-round weather without extremes and low chance of natural disasters lend peace of mind.

Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut, USA downtown skyline.
Hartford, Connecticut, USA downtown skyline.

With 1,213,324 people in the metro area, Hartford is full of amenities for urbanites, home to just over 120,000. Many of the oldest landmarks in the United States, with architecture abounding, lend a homegrown feel, pride, and sense of belonging. Once among the richest cities, it thrives on tourism with its status as one of the oldest metro areas in America, enriching lives with timeless charms. Hartford's illuminated history includes being the former home of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, while its present-day industries include financial services, aerospace, manufacturing, healthcare, broadcasting, and distribution. With a median income of $41,841 and an unemployment rate of around 4%, its poverty rate is 26.88%, and daily expenses on groceries and transportation are higher than the national average.

So, what makes Hartford a desirable place to live? Abounding in opportunities, with a median age of 33.1, it offers a median home price of $215K or a very doable $1,199 for rent per month. Nestled along the Connecticut River Valley, the ambient city is a heaven for nature lovers, with modern attractions concentrated in the historic downtown, while the surrounding suburbs offer affordability and tranquility for families. The wooded neighborhoods and the rolling hills invite exploration, with immediate access to leisure activities in Hartford's central business district. Blending nature and culture, you will never be bored out on town, including historic sites and entertainment venues. From the peaceful environment to cultural diversity, Hartford is a versatile home in every season for a balanced life, with after-work adventures to the nearby vineyards, state parks, and ski slopes.

Ithaca, New York

Overlook of Cornell University Campus from Uris Library.
Overlook of Cornell University Campus from Uris Library.

Ithaca, home to just over 33,000, a 9.53% increase since 2020, along the southern banks of Cayuga Lake, is a northern gem that often makes lists for being the best place to live in the whole US. The small city attracts students, families, and young professionals with its Ivy League school, Cornell University—a prestigious place to get an education that opens up doors. Not surprisingly, many stick around after studies, being an ultimate vacationland of the Finger Lakes region, with great city amenities like coffee shops, bookstores, and diverse cuisine, where it only costs a median of $405,000 to own against all the natural splendor! Ithaca's unemployment rate is only 2.8%, and food and groceries cost less than the state average while offering a median household income of $89,358 and a poverty rate of 11.1%.

The picturesque college town brings the phrase “Ithaca is gorges” to life, with stunning gorges and waterfalls around and just a 1% higher cost of living than the national average. With a prevailing sense of community despite the younger median age of 22.8 years, life revolves around the pillars of education and nature. Flocking for great academic influence, including Ithaca College, and a diverse job market with an air of innovative spirit, the young population enjoys the entertainment and cultural scene. From thriving art galleries to theaters and music venues, attractions are varied to stay active or unwind, including trails, wineries, and breweries. Families enjoy the safe city and access to nature, with rich soils around the Finger Lakes evident through markets and the culinary landscape, while the town gives back by focusing on sustainability like a well-oiled machine. 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA city skyline at dusk.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA city skyline at dusk.

Offering diverse opportunities in the thriving economy in conjunction with a relaxed, laid-back lifestyle, this city attracts like-minded, easygoing new residents. Pittsburgh, home to approximately 300,000 people, enjoys an average household income of $60,187 despite a higher poverty rate of 19.43%. With a median age of 33.5 years, this city is full of young professionals and families, with attractions like the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh is devoted to professional sports, including the NFL's Steelers, NHL's Penguins, and MLB's Pirates, while its galleries infuse Pittsburgh with culture. Needless to say, there is not a boring sliver of time in the city, where locals enjoy Heinz Field, PPG Paints Arena, and PNC Park and happily battle through traffic to one of the games.

With a metro area population of 2,366,544, it is very affordable to live in Pittsburgh, with a median home price of only $216,000 or a monthly rent of $1,300. Call it Blitzburgh or Steel City; its old blue-collar reputation is no more, with major corporations in the hub for technology and education. Pittsburgh is on the verge of greater heights as the reinvention city, encompassing almost 2,000 acres of land designated for parks, with state parks and riverfront parks all around. The South Side reigns with the bar scene, while the Cultural District is a destination for dance and live music performances almost nightly. With job opportunities for both families and graduates, the affordable city with ample green space and a strong sense of community hosts cultural festivals like the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the St. Patrick's Day Parade. 

Portland, Maine

Congress Street in downtown Portland, Maine ME, USA. Photo Contributor.
Congress Street in downtown Portland, Maine, USA. Photo Contributor.

Ah, Portland, with maritime vibes and a seafaring history stretching into present-day culture and seaside attractions. No wonder it is one of the most popular choices to live in the northern US, given all the opportunities in work, education, entertainment, and nature, soaked in the sea breeze. Home to 68,304 and 532,075 in the metro area, the youthful city is trendy, with a polished type of charm and a median age of 36. It attracts the outgoing with a dynamic blend of creativity and the outdoors in an authentic and unpretentious environment. Quality life comes naturally, where experiences matter, but the household income of $71,498 is a nice perk. Despite a poverty rate of 11.76%, residents enjoy cutting-edge technology, glamour, and gourmet cuisine bounded by a strong sense of community, a "do it yourself" attitude, and pride in their small city. 

The old coastal neighborhoods host nostalgic and modern charms, like cozy pubs, artist studios, and celebrity chef-driven restaurants, as well as vintage shops and lively street entertainment. With unemployment at only 4.0% and a crime rate slightly above the national average, you can score a home at a median price of $524,544 or find rent for under $1,500 a month. From there, it is just a hop to the waterfront for lighthouses, cruises, and sunset strolls, part of Portland's intrigue-enriching life. Home to a determined population, half hold a college degree, and a fifth boasts a master’s, Ph.D., or professional degree. Even the 15% higher cost of living is manageable in the city on the leaderboards for high quality of life, with a stable job market, high school preparedness, and high-quality medical care, while family attractions and exceptional nightlife add a sense of general well-being.

Salt Lake City, Utah

A record-breaking snowpack in the Wasatch Mountains behind the downtown Salt Lake City skyline, Utah.
A record-breaking snowpack in the Wasatch Mountains behind the downtown Salt Lake City skyline, Utah.

Nestled in the Wasatch Range, a subdivision of the Rockies, Salt Lake City, or SLC, the capital and most populous city of Utah, offers a second-to-none location in the state. With a population of 211,641 and a median age of 32.5 years, its impressive median household income is $72,357. SLC is a beacon for its big-city amenities within beautiful surroundings, comprising one of the Great Basin's only two major urban areas, together with Reno, Nevada. SLC is a dense city, with 1,689 people per square mile, hosting the state's 6.75% of the total population in a vibrant atmosphere between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, with job opportunities abounding.

It is easy to make friends and enjoy numerous contemporary places and leisure pursuits, which excuses the higher cost of living, where the median home price listed is $550,000. Dozens of hiking trails start in the city proper, perfect for a morning jog that can stretch into a weekend camping trip to the mountains with biking and climbing. Resting in Salt Lake Valley, SLC is your ultimate base for adventures, including access to many ski resorts within one hour. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem is also part of a 120-mile development corridor along the Wasatch Front, while nearby Park City hosts the Sundance Film Festival, which tourists often enjoy in conjunction with visiting the state capital. 

The northern pocket of the United States boasts a diverse cultural and natural landscape, from the maritime Maine through the Finger Lakes and the farmlands of Pennsylvania. Full of attractions and amenities, each city on the list unites with a sense of belonging through its special traits, like the outdoorsy Boise or the polished Portland.

The historic and aesthetic downtowns host business districts and thriving economies, sometimes with mountain views and others with waterfronts. Hartford, Connecticut, is one of the oldest cities in the US, hosting many of the most historic landmarks in the country alongside modern comforts. 

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