I know big cities always look so glamorous on TV and in the movies, but trust me when I say New York and LA are dead. Who am I kidding, I would saw off my right arm to live in the Upper West Side, but in today’s day and age living in one of these major cities is not always feasible. From the sky rocket high prices of living to the competitive job market, it might be a good idea to look toward some of these smaller cities to live, or at least visit. Cities you might have previously overlooked, but still possess their own unique culture, and offer just as much art, music, and award winning food and drink as big cities. There are plenty of beautiful small cities to live in all over the country, but here is a list of 10 small cities in America that hold spots at the top of my list.
Las Vegas isn’t the only city in Nevada where you can win big. Reno is a gamblers’ paradise, but besides being a casino hot spot, Reno or the “Biggest Little City in the World” is a great place to move for anyone who likes outdoor activities year-round. Plus Reno is less than an hour away from Lake Tahoe, which is always on my list of best small cities to visit. Positioned at the base of the Sierra Nevada, the Truckee River cuts right through Reno, so if you like water sports, hitting the slopes in the winter, and hiking through beautiful mountain ranges in the warm months, Reno is the small city for you. This small city of 471,265 (metro population) is also within three hours by car to Yosemite National Park. Can you say weekend road trip? Also if an outdoor lifestyle isn’t a big selling point for you, don’t write Reno off just yet because Reno’s nightlife is just as active and possibly more fun. Instead of wild-flower strewn hills, Reno’s neon-lit nightlife includes casinos, clubs, top ranking restaurants, and large cultural events. The most famous being Burning Man, the nine-day festival is the stuff of legend, where not just artists, but all kinds of people come together to create a multiverse that celebrates art, life, and culture. The 70,000-person festival is held 120 miles north of Reno in the Black Rock Desert.
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Sant Fe, New Mexico has a lot to be proud of. This 400-year old small city is not just the oldest capital in the country, but the highest state capital with an elevation of 7,000 feet. A charming city with the daring Sangre de Cristo Mountains as it’s backdrop, Santa Fe is a mix of Spanish, Native American, and Mexican influences. Santa Fe has earned its nickname “The City Different.” Santa Fe is home to more than 250 art galleries, and is known for its renowned Southern-western dining, and traditional pueblo architecture. Home to 150,056 metro area residents, this small city is perfect for many outdoor activities. Being close to the desert as well as the mountains, Santa Fe offers hiking, biking, fishing, and river rafting during summer, and skiing or snowboarding during winter.
3. Savannah, Georgia
I may be a little biased to this next one since I was lucky enough to call this charming city home for 5 years, but trust me when I say Savannah is a great small city to live in. Known for its unbeatable hospitality, Savannah is heavy on the history, and heavy on the drinks. One of the only cities in the country to have a liberal open container law, Savannah also has beautiful neighborhoods, and gorgeous moss covered squares. As of late Savannah has also gained a reputation for being a huge foodie town, besides the many historic sights, Savannah has a numerous of chef- driven restaurants to try. From good old fashion Southern home cooking to local seafood, you can find great eats in Savannah’s Historic District, Starland District, and spit and you’ll hit it, Tybee Island. One of the best restaurants in town though has to be the Grey, a downtown landmark of a restaurant, the Grey is southern-style cooking at its best thanks to the Grey’s creator and James Beard Award–winning chef Mashama Bailey. Fun fact the Grey was also built in an old Greyhound bus station.
Finally Savannah is also heavy on the art, mostly thanks to the Savannah College of Art and Design which has turned Savannah into an art hub. Besides good food, local music, and amazing art, there are more than 150 festivals annually, including the Savannah Music Festival, and the Savannah Food and Wine Festival.
4. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville has become one of the hottest small cities to move to in recent years, driven by its immense art, and music scene, this city with a bohemian spirit has become a hub for beer aficionados. Almost 50 beer companies, including New Belgium, Wicked Weed, and Sierra Nevada, have breweries in Asheville. Positioned close to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Trail, Asheville is not just known for its beer culture, but its many cultural events, and festivals. With a population of only 459,585, Asheville’s Downtown Art District is home to many galleries, museums, and perfect for hearing local musicians play to eager crowds. Finally Asheville has a top-rated nightlife. Asheville is a great place that celebrates its local music, and art. A few festivals in Asheville include Asheville Art in the Park, the Big Crafty, and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.
5. Anchorage, Alaska
This gorgeous port city is a great city to not just visit on a cruise ship, but live. For anyone who craves an outdoor lifestyle Anchorage is perfect for you, some outdoor activities you can do in Anchorage include but are not limited to skiing, hiking, salmon fishing, and kayaking. But don’t worry, both nature lovers as well as the artsy beer enthusiasts can rejoice because Anchorage is a hot spot for local bands, local breweries, and local art. This small city has a metro population of 399,148, and is about five hours in car to the famous Denali National Park (where you can go to check out the Northern lights, baby.) Anchorage is also home to the Alaska Museum of Science, Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the Anchorage Museum. Now hold onto your butts my foodie friends because in Anchorage you can also find kalua pig, salt-cured lomi salmon, and other Hawaiian, Samoan, and Tongan plates offered at restaurants all over the city. I suggest checking out Hula Hands first because of its kick ass food that you get to chow down on while enjoying a beautiful mountain view.
6. Boulder, Colorado
Most of you know Boulder from that song Closer by The Chainsmokers, “Of that mattress that you stole From your roommate back in Boulder”- yeah that one. But Boulder is so much more than that. One of the best small cities to live in, Boulder is positioned at the base of the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, and runs besides the banks of a rushing creek. Boulder offers 300 miles of hiking and biking trails that cover approximately 45,000 acres of open space. If living in Boulder gives you fomo because it’s not Denver, don’t worry Boulder is only 30 minutes from Denver by car. Boulder’s metro population of 326,078 has the luxury of enjoying mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and all other adventures year round. If you’re a fan of winter sports, then let me tell you about Boulder’s world-class ski resorts like Vail, Aspen, or Breckenridge, all only a few hours from Boulder. While the city features a plethora of outdoor activities, Boulder also has an impressive food and drink scene. Boulder has some of the best microbreweries and gourmet restaurants in the country.
7. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Just two hours north of Charleston where they film one of my favorite shows, Bravo’s Southern Charm, Myrtle Beach is a sleepy beach town located on South Carolina’s Atlantic coast. Myrtle Beach is home to 480,891 metro area residents. This small city is famous for being a top golf destination, with more than 100 golf courses to choose from. No wonder this small coastal city is a favorite vacation spot for many vacationers. To accommodate all these tourists, Myrtle Beach is packed with resorts, hotels, famous seafood restaurants like the crab shack, shops, and finally Myrtle Beach’s picturesque boardwalk partially over the 60 miles of white sand aka beachgoers’ heaven. If you end up moving to Myrtle beach, you will be sharing a home with turtles, alligators, and a multitude of native birds.
8. Trenton, New Jersey
Only 10 miles away from Princeton, not to mention a super easy commute to Philly or NYC. Trenton, New Jersey has earned a spot on my list because of its diverse metropolis, and top-rated restaurants.
9. Anna Arbor, Michigan
45 minutes from Detroit, academics and creatives alike can enjoy Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hometown to the University of Michigan (UM,) Ann Arbor is full of entertaining things to do. From college bars to family friendly eats, to Anna Arbor’s magnificent cultural museums. This small city situated on Hudson River offers a little bit for everyone. Plus Anna Arbor is nicknamed “Tree Town” due to the small city’s lush greenery, and who can’t appreciate that.
10. Napa, California
Living in the small city of Napa is a life of hikes filled with wineries galore, and world-class food. I’ll cheers to that. Wine Country or Napa Valley located in Northern California has amazing weather year-round, and beautiful country sides to match. Come for the wine, stay for the beautiful and luxurious city.
Wow, writing this makes me want to risk catching COVID and get on a plane, and visit one of these stunning cities. JK… maybe. Anyway I’m from a medium size city, St. Petersburg, FL which I consider one of America’s best kept secrets. But I’m sure there are so many more gems out there that I would love to know about, so feel free to comment, and let me know because I won’t be able to afford these cheap tickets forever!
writer, filmmaker, and hipster overlord